In a way, it feels like the trade deadline frenzy was kicked off Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Kings dealt Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson. At first glance that might seem like an odd deal as it swaps two overpaid veterans that have seen better days, but even if Phaneuf isn’t the offensive force he once was, he’s still a physical defenseman that should slot in well on the Kings’ second unit.
I won’t go too deep into that trade because I already discussed it in Wednesday’s Daily Dose, but the more I think about it, the more I really like the deal from the Kings’ perspective. I also didn’t really discuss Gaborik in my initial remarks on the trade and I am interested to see how he does in Ottawa. He didn’t really have much of a role anymore with Los Angeles (he averaged just 14:19 minutes per game) and this fresh start might help bolster him offensively. Of course, Gaborik is 36-years-old with an extensive injury history so anyone betting on his revival is going to be taking a big risk, but there certainly is some potential there.
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The floodgates haven’t opened just yet though. Some teams are probably still trying to figure out where they stand. The Anaheim Ducks are an example of that as their current 27-20-11 record puts them just outside of a playoff spot. Is it worth it for them to make a push for the playoffs? Should they focus on the future? The remaining three games on their road trip might help define the Ducks’ plans.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks might just be sellers after losing seven consecutive contests. At this point Chicago has a 24-25-8 record, which puts the squad 12 points behind in the playoff race. It seems hard to believe that there’s any real hope of the Blackhawks making the postseason at this point. It would be the first time they’ve come short since 2008, though Chicago hasn’t gotten past the first round since 2015.
Obviously, being forced to play without Corey Crawford since Dec. 23 has been a significant blow to Chicago, but a big part of the problem has been the squad’s ongoing cap issues. The Blackhawks have constantly had to make sacrifices in the name of staying under the ceiling and that’s caught up with them. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews alone are consuming a combined $21 million in cap space annually through 2022-23.
Another major story that’s cropped up over the last few days has been Seattle officially starting the process to become the NHL’s 32nd team by filing the paperwork and providing a $10 million down payment. It reminds me of something Pierre LeBrun said a month ago: “Worst job in hockey soon? Seattle GM if indeed the NHL expands there. That person will be spending the first 24 months on the job convincing the market that what happened in Vegas isn't normal and shouldn't be duplicated. Serious managing of expectations in Seattle.”
To an extent I don’t think that managing expectations will be that hard given that history shows us that Vegas – who currently own a 37-15-4 record – are an incredible exception to the rule. Even still, Seattle will likely be subject to the same expansion draft rules that the Golden Knights enjoyed so there will doubtlessly be some saying, “Okay, maybe we won’t have a Conference-leading team in Year 1, but with those expansion draft rules, we should at least be a competitor for a playoff spot, right?”
Even that might be a stretch as NHL clubs will be savvier when managing such an expansion draft after the lessons of Vegas. One such change? LeBrun suggests that teams will be less inclined to make side deals to protect extra players than they were with Vegas.
Of course, we might be getting ahead of ourselves here. While it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see a Seattle franchise in the NHL within a few years’ time, nothing is official yet. We’ll have to see how the process goes.
We also saw Sidney Crosby score his 400th and then 401st career goal on Feb. 11. He became the 95th player to reach that milestone and is now just a goal behind Shane Doan, Paul Kariya, and John Ogrodnick on the All-Time list. Crosby is also the hottest player in the league right now with five goals and 29 points in his last 16 contests. No player has more points than him from Jan. 5 to present.
As long as we’re talking about major goal scoring milestones, Ovechkin is just nine away from 600. He’d be the 20th player to ever reach that milestone and of course he’s just 32-years-old so he has a lot of time left to climb up that list. I’ve talked before about the possibility of Ovechkin someday surpassing Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 goals and the short of it is that it will come down to how much longer Ovechkin continues to perform at or near this level. He leads the NHL this season with 33 goals and if he can keep this up then this will be his fifth Richard Trophy in the span of six seasons.
One last thing I wanted to touch on is Brent Burns in San Jose. With the Sharks missing Joe Thornton (knee) and now with Tomas Hertl day-to-day, Burns might end up being used as a forward. It wouldn’t be the first time Burns has been used in that role, although he of course is typically a defenseman and is the reigning Norris Trophy winner. He’s a significant offensive force either way, but him playing as a forward might create even more opportunities there in the short-term.