Dan Hamhuis of the Predators and Tomas Holmstrom of the Red Wings collide allong the boards. (Photo by Tom Turrill/NHLI via Getty Images)
A selection of the best images from April 12..
Dan Hamhuis of the Predators and Tomas Holmstrom of the Red Wings collide allong the boards. (Photo by Tom Turrill/NHLI via Getty Images)
A selection of the best images from April 12..
One of the Wild’s greatest strengths heading into the final stretch of the season is their depth, and going out and landing Martin Hanzal at the deadline made an already deep Wild team that much deeper.
Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said the acquisition of Martin Hanzal was one that put his teams’ “chips in the middle of the table,” per NHL.com. There really isn’t any other way to look at it after Minnesota anted up and shipped three draft picks — a first in 2017, second in 2018 and conditional selection in 2019 — and Grayson Downing to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for the 30-year-old unrestricted free agent to be. It’s a steep price to pay for what will very likely be a rental player, but the Wild aren’t messing around when it comes to their shot at hoisting the Stanley Cup this season. The willingness to do what was necessary to land Hanzal is proof of that.
Acquiring Hanzal has some clear cut positives for the Wild, of course. At 6-foot-6, 226 pounds, he’s a massive pivot who can play up and down the lineup and provide some offensive punch. He has 16 goals and 26 points across 51 games this season, putting him on pace for the best goal scoring campaign of his career. Minnesota’s scoring depth throughout their lineup was already one of the team’s strong suits, and adding Hanzal only serves to improve that. Being able to match lines and roll all four units can make or break a playoff series, and you’d be hard-pressed to find another team who can match the Wild line for line with the post-season coming.
It’s also a move that’s somewhat reminiscent of a deal made in recent years by arguably the Wild’s top adversary for the Western Conference crown, the Chicago Blackhawks. During the 2014-15 campaign, with Patrick Kane on the shelf, the Blackhawks went out and made waves with a deal that sent a first-round pick to the Coyotes, along with prospect Klas Dahlbeck, for center Antoine Vermette.
The two trades, the Wild’s Hanzal acquisition and Blackhawks’ trade for Vermette, have their differences, to be sure. The biggest is that acquiring Vermette was only possible because Kane was on the shelf with a broken clavicle whereas the Wild are at full strength at the time of their acquisition of Hanzal. That said, the two deals are nearly identical in that acquiring the piece from the Coyotes serves only to add to the depth, and the only real way for either deal to pay off is for the season to end with a Stanley Cup victory. Chicago made that a reality, and now the Wild will seek to do the same.
What the Wild need out of Hanzal is also similar to what the Blackhawks needed out of Vermette. While Hanzal’s aforementioned scoring ability makes him a valuable piece, the fact of the matter is Minnesota needs him primarily for his two-way ability. When Chicago acquired Vermette back in February 2015, they were ninth in the league in goals for and among the best defensive teams, allowing the fourth-fewest goals against. Getting one of the coveted pieces wasn’t something that was supposed to help the offense, but rather one that provided additional depth at a time when it’s at a premium. That’s almost exactly the situation the Wild find themselves in, except Minnesota happens to be slightly better at both ends of the ice.
As of Monday, Minnesota ranks fifth in goals for, potting 195 this season, and the only team that has allowed fewer goals is the league-leading Washington Capitals. A massive part of that has been the play of goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who has to be the frontrunner to win the Vezina Trophy this season. But going hand-in-hand with Dubnyk’s play is that there’s never a time when a unit on the Wild is all that overpowered. Now imagine that same lineup with Hanzal, a veteran two-way pivot who can take heavy defensive zone starts and kill penalties.
This is a team that has gotten so much firepower out of its lineup and one that has seen its offense spread almost equally across all four lines. The Wild boast 10 players with 10 or more goals, and Hanzal is the 11th 10-plus goal guy in the lineup. So while he might add a few goals here or there, he won’t be required to come in and be something he isn’t. He can play tough defensive minutes, skate against top opponents and chip in here or there. If he happens to score, that’s a bonus, but the fact he can also make plays with his body and his stick in the defensive zone will be just as important.
The other underrated element of the deal, one that Fletcher copped to, is that acquiring Hanzal ensures that no other team who could have used him to bolster their middle-six is going to be able to get him now. Per NHL.com, Fletcher said that the Wild’s goal was “to have him play for us and also to keep him away from other teams in the West.”
It’s not easy to work your way to the Stanley Cup final, and in a wide-open Western Conference, this might have been the best year in recent memory where going all-in could carve a team a path through the playoffs. Blocking other Western teams from potentially landing a piece that could have strengthened their roster in time for the post-season is a clever move. Some will call it an overpay, some will call it foolish, but with the position the Wild are in right now, leading the Central Division and tops in the Western Conference, not making a move on Hanzal now may have looked equally foolish down the line if one of the other Western contenders scooped up the pivot and he paid off in the post-season.
According to the Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo, Fletcher said this is a deal that sends a message to both the players and the fans. This is the Wild “taking a swing” and seeing if this can be their year. And with an already stellar roster and a team that’s performing as well as they ever have, adding Hanzal to bolster the depth gives Minnesota a better shot as of Monday than they had on Sunday before the trade. And even if Hanzal isn’t an offensive stud for the Wild, what he does up and down the ice could make all the difference.
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Martin Hanzal and Shane Doan. Image by: Norm Hall/Getty Images
The salary cap system that was supposed to help downtrodden franchises such as the Coyotes has done nothing to help them. It instead forces them to spend to a floor and the exodus of players continues.
It takes an awful lot to piss off Shane Doan. But when he was interviewed between periods Sunday night about his team’s decision to trade center Martin Hanzal, you get the impression that the fact he is a devout Christian and was on live TV were the only things preventing him from cursing a blue streak. Take a look at how red his neck is. That wasn’t only because he had just played a period of hockey.
Shane Doan: "It's hard to understand" Coyotes trade of Martin Hanzal and Ryan White to the Wild. pic.twitter.com/CeKoFrRItm— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) February 27, 2017
“You just can’t replace (Hanzal) and the fact that we just continue to, uh, seem to go, I don’t understand,” Doan said. “It’s hard to understand. I mean, you understand people’s hands are tied and you just don’t get it.”
Doan has every right to be upset. So do Coyotes fans and the good people of Glendale, who have backed this complete boondoggle with their hard-earned tax money, only to have the Coyotes probably leave. They have the right to be upset because they’re being sold a bill of goods by an organization that simply can’t afford to pay the freight to be competitive in the best league in the world and a league that is selling them a different bill of goods, one that makes their fans believe that teams like the Coyotes will one day be able to punch above their weight and put together a perennial contender.
On a conference call Sunay night, Coyotes GM John Chayka said the word “miserable” three times and basically summed up the franchise’s annual fire sale by saying he was, “just trying to make the best of a bad situation.” He also talked about “never, ever, having to do this again.”
Good luck with that one, John. More than any other thing, sports teams sell hope and no team has done that better than the Coyotes have over the years. Fulfilling that hope has been another matter entirely. Two years ago, they peddled hopes and dreams in the form of Keith Yandle and Zbynek Michalek. Last year it was Mikkel Boedker and this year it was Michael Stone and Hanzal.
And with the exception of Michalek, all those players who were dealt away were players who were drafted, developed and cultivated by the Coyotes. So the scouts did their jobs and the minor league and NHL coaches did their jobs, but these players who were franchise fixtures were dealt because the organization couldn’t afford to keep them. And here’s where the big ruse comes in. Remember when we all missed a season of NHL hockey in 2004-05 because the NHL was intent on forcing a salary cap on the players? Of course you do. And what was one of the NHL’s primary justifications for ensuring cost certainty? Well, a huge component was that small-market/non-traditional teams such as the Coyotes were supposed to be able to hang onto the talent they had worked so hard to cultivate when it came time for those players to be paid.
What a crock. Instead of helping teams such as the Coyotes, it instead forces them to spend to a floor and the exodus of players continues. Meanwhile, the Coyotes are able to jerrymander the cap by taking on contracts belonging to Chris Pronger, David Bolland and Pavel Datsyuk, the two former of which are largely paid for by insurance and the third one not paid at all because the player is suspended. When you look at the Coyotes’ list of contracts, their salary cap and their depth chart, it is a clear and unadulterated case study on everything that is wrong with the salary cap in the NHL and how miserably it has failed in its primary objective.
So it’s all well and good for Chayka to stand up and proclaim that he’s only doing what’s best for the long-term future of the organization, but all he’s doing is continuing the cycle. It’s not his fault. He probably thinks that the Coyotes will be a powerful team one day. But riddle me this. What happens when these young players such as Max Domi, Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, Jakub Chychrun and Clayton Keller are in the same position that players such as Hanzal, Stone, Boedker and Yandle were in before they were traded?
If history is any indication, they’ll be shipped out for more promising young players and draft picks who will be put through the same cycle. The question is, when does it ever end with this franchise, the one that is looking for a new home and has been turned down by the Arizona State University? The salary cap, the one that was supposed to help downtrodden franchises such as the Coyotes, has done nothing to rectify this. And it’s because salary caps can’t prevent greedy owners from building arenas on the wrong side of town and it can’t make people who don’t relate to hockey somehow gravitate to it.
It’s all getting a little old. Just ask the Coyotes. And despite Chayka’s claim that he never wants to be in this position again, just ask them again this time next year. And the year after.
Brian Boyle. Image by: Getty Images
In the middle of a close playoff race, the Maple Leafs managed to secure a playoff-proven center with size without wavering from their mandate of building for the future.
The day Mike Babcock was hired to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs, team president Brendan Shanahan was asked whether he’d abandon the franchise rebuild if Babcock came to him saying they needed a veteran to help them make the playoffs, but it would cost a prospect and a second-round pick.
“I can tell you that was one of Mike’s questions for us and it was the opposite,” Shanahan said at the time. “It was, ‘If we’re four points out, are we still willing to stick to the plan?’ That was an important answer for him to get, especially from our board.”
Things were a little different Tuesday when the Leafs made a deal that netted them veteran center Brian Boyle. First of all, the Leafs aren’t four points out of the playoffs. They’re clinging to the last spot, one point behind the Boston Bruins with a game in hand for third place in the Atlantic Division. It’s a race that will likely go to the dying days of the season. And even though they did give up a second-rounder, it’s pretty safe to say Byron Froese isn’t really considered a prospect. (Although Babcock did seem to have a strange fascination with him last season when the Leafs were tanking the season.)
This is a deal that looks as though it has Babcock’s fingerprints all over it, but the best part of it is that they managed to secure a playoff-proven center with size without wavering from their mandate. And they can thank their work at last year’s trade deadline for that, when they dealt Roman Polak and Nick Spaling to the San Jose Sharks for a second-round pick in 2017 and picked up another from the Ottawa Senators in the Dion Phaneuf trade. One of those picks is now going to Tampa Bay and another is going to the Anaheim Ducks as part of the Fredrik Andersen trade, which still leaves the Leafs with one second-rounder.
And in return, the Leafs get a player who can play down the middle for them, complementing a center ice corps that now looks formidable with Auston Matthews, Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak and Boyle. The 6-foot-6 center has played exactly 100 playoff games, 95 of them over the past five seasons. In fact, no NHL player has seen more post-season action than Boyle has since 2012.
The Leafs are flush with prospects and young players and had a plethora of second-rounders, which seems to be the going rate for big-name rentals these days. In addition to the three they had in 2017, they also have two in 2018. With the success rate for second-round picks varying wildly, it was a small price to pay for a team that needed an upgrade on the Frederik Gauthier/Ben Smith tandem on the fourth line.
More importantly, it gives the Leafs an experienced player who knows what it’s like to play in meaningful games. Whether the Leafs ultimately make the playoffs or not, their young players will be exposed to crucial, tension-filled and important games down the stretch. And when was the last time anyone could say that? And if they make the post-season and expose their young stars to that level of competition, all the better. And not only will Boyle be instrumental in leading the way, he’ll also be able to offer some sage counsel to those players if the Leafs do find themselves in the chaos known as the playoffs.
The Atlantic Division is really weak. Spectacularly weak, actually. And if the Leafs can somehow find themselves in the No. 3 spot, they might be able to position themselves for a bit of a run. If not, they’ll find themselves playing the Washington Capitals in the first round and will almost certainly get trounced, but be all the better for having experienced the post-season.
And in case you haven’t noticed, the Leafs have been known to be woeful in two areas of the game – defensive zone coverage and holding onto leads late in games. Boyle will help immeasurably in both of those areas. To be sure, you just know Babcock will feel a lot better being able to put Boyle out for a defensive zone faceoff in the final minute of the game in which his team is clinging to a one-goal lead.
And don’t be surprised if the Leafs and Boyle make this a more long-term affair. Boyle is 32, but he actually doesn’t have a ton of NHL miles on him because he didn’t become a full-time NHLer until he was almost 25 years old. And it’s not as though the Leafs are going to be asking him to do more than an over-30 player is capable of doing. If he can provide them with two or three more years of quality defensive play and leadership, they’ll be happy to take that.
Largely because of Auston Matthews and Babcock, the Leafs have become a destination. Don’t be surprised if Boyle sees it that way, too.
Welcome to NHL trade deadline central 2017. Stay tuned to THN.com for up-to-minute analysis of every trade, as it happens.
Our team of experts will break down every trade, as they happen. As has become the case the last few years, several NHL teams got an early start on the trade front. So we decided to get the tracker going a little early. All the notable trades from the last few days are here. You can also check out a list of every trade made over the last year and beyond season in the Trade Log on our transactions page.
TO WASHINGTON: D Kevin Shattenkirk
TO ST. LOUIS: 2017 first-round pick; 2018 conditional second-round pick; LW Zach Sanford
THN's Take: The Capitals are going all in for a Stanley Cup with this move, as we wrote here.
TO OTTAWA: LW Alexandre Burrows
To VANCOUVER: C Jonathan Dahlen
THN's Take: Well, we can at least give the Senators points for guts. The Burrows trade likely won't go over too well with the diehard, educated fan base – and it shouldn't. It's not like Burrows was a rental, acquired for a pick, as was the case with Brian Boyle and the Leafs. The Senators doubled down by extending Burrows for two more seasons at a $2.5-million cap hit. He turns 36 April 11. He'll be 38 when the deal ends. I get that the Senators have major injury woes to overcome on their wings, and that the Atlantic Division playoff race is wide open, but…yikes. Worse yet, the Sens surrendered left winger Jonathan Dahlen to Vancouver as the return. Dahlen, 19, rates as Ottawa's fifth-best prospect in our soon-to-be-releaseed Future Watch 2017. Dahlen was highly regarded enough to go 42nd overall in what was, keep in mind, a stellar 2016 draft class. It seems odd now that owner Eugene Melnyk balked at the Colorado Avalanche's asking price for Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog – only to mortgage an A-minus prospect for an agitator in Burrows. – MATT LARKIN
TO MONTREAL: D Jordie Benn
TO DALLAS: D Greg Pateryn; 2017 fourth-round pick
THN's Take: We knew a defenseman acquisition for the Montreal Canadiens was likely, but Jordie Benn seems underwhelming. He has decent size and grades out as average defensively in the possession game. He's a legit NHL defenseman. But that's about it. He's just a tiny bit better than Greg Pateryn, not to mention smaller and older than Pateryn. Benn is also a left shot, and the Habs already have Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin and Nathan Beaulieu as left shots, but Benn had played on the right side in Dallas with Dan Hamhuis on the left lately. Benn can do it and will likely play on Beaulieu's right, but it's not like the right side is Benn's natural fit, so it's a bit of a curious add. From the Stars' perspective, fans should hope Pateryn doesn't take a regular shift with the sinking squad – and that top prospect Julius Honka finds his away into the lineup instead. He showed some amazing possession numbers earlier this season when given 10 games at the NHL level. – MATT LARKIN
TO TORONTO: C Brian Boyle
TO TAMPA BAY: C Byron Froese; 2017 second-round pick
THN's Take: We wrote about the Leafs going for it here.
TO MINNESOTA: C Martin Hanzal; RW Ryan White; 2017 fourth-round pick
TO ARIZONA: 2017 first-round pick; 2018 second-round pick; 2019 conditional pick; C Grayson Downing
THN's Take: We wrote about Hanzal makes the Wild that much deeper here.
TO LOS ANGELES: G Ben Bishop; 2017 fifth-round pick
TO TAMPA BAY: G Peter Budaj; D Erik Cernak; 2017 seventh-round pick; 2017 conditional pick