By Steve Silverman
The NHL trade deadline is February 26, but the Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators kicked things off with a pre-Valentine’s Day special Tuesday night.
The Kings sent talented forward Marian Gaborik and center Nick Shore to Ottawa for defenseman Dion Phaneuf and hard-nosed forward Nate Thompson.
On the surface, the playoff-hopeful Kings are the winners of this trade. In addition to getting a defenseman who will fit into their top four, Thompson a bit of an x-factor because he will gladly take a hit to make a play for his team. His numbers aren’t impressive – four goals and seven assists in 43 games – but he always plays hard.
Gaborik is a talented player who regularly fails to live up to his billing because of his injury history. The 25-year-old Shore is still trying to feel his way in the league.
“I’m going to a team that’s won, that has had a lot of success, and I just want to go there and do everything I can to help that team,” Phaneuf said. “I’m very, very excited about where I’m going. Right now, it’s a lot. To be honest with you, standing here, there are a lot of different emotions, but for me, I’m really excited about where I’m going.”
Phaneuf will likely play with Alec Martinez as one of the Kings’ best defense pairings, and since they also have Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin, this is a major area of strength for Los Angeles.
“He should fit into our defense well,” Kings general manager Rob Blake said. “We have [three] real good defensemen.”
The Kings are currently one point out of a playoff spot, and they clearly control their own destiny. The Senators are in a near-hopeless position as they are 16 points out of playoff spot and they would have to climb over seven teams to make it.
They will not be playing postseason hockey in Ottawa this spring.
The Senators made the deal to save cash, and that’s just what owner Eugene Melnyk wants to do. Many thought Phaneuf’s seven-year, $49 million contract was unmovable, but general manager Pierre Dorion found a way to do it.
Melnyk has gone public with his desire to turn the Senators’ financial situation around. The Phaneuf trade helps with that situation.
It looks like the Senators are going into the rebuilding process. They could be a very busy team at the trade deadline, and Stanley Cup contenders like Tampa Bay, Nashville and Winnipeg – we refuse to call the expansion Vegas Golden Knights a true Stanley Cup-worthy team – could be sniffing for Senators in the coming weeks.
Death of a dynasty
The Chicago Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups since 2010, and stars like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have brought glory to a team that was sleepwalking for the better part of the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s.
But after a brutal four-game sweep at the hands of the Nashville Predators last spring, the alarm bells went off in the Windy City. The team supposedly refocused in the offseason, and the real Blackhawks were going to show up this season.
Well, the real Blackhawks are in dead last in the Central Division with a 24-25-8 record, and they have lost seven straight games. They are 0-6-1 in the month of February, and they are 0-3 on their current road trip.
They were blanked 3-0 by the Wild last Saturday, and they followed that game with a 6-1 devastating loss to the Arizona Coyotes. The ’Yotes have the worst record in the league, yet they bounced the Blackhawks around like they were a bunch of kindergartners.
Angry after that loss, the Blackhawks tried to turn up the intensity Tuesday night in Las Vegas. They led the upstart expansionists 2-1 at the start of the third period, but they were outscored 4-0 in the final 20 minutes and suffered a 5-2 loss. Uff-da.
The Blackhawks have scored two goals or less in 12 of their last 15 games.
Toews looks like an ordinary player at this point in his career as he’s lost a step or more. The defense has suffered dreadfully as Duncan Keith is no longer dominating and Brent Seabrook has struggled badly.
Corey Crawford’s mysterious injury has hit the Blackhawks hard between the pipes. While he has returned to practice and could play shortly, the Blackhawks are going nowhere.
Will head coach Joel Quenneville or general manager Stan Bowman have a job with the team next season? Those are legitimate questions as the once-formidable Blackhawks have fallen down – and they are not getting up anytime soon.
Kreider could be valuable trade asset
Speedy left wing Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers has been out since December 27 after a blood clot was discovered that required a rib resection.
He has returned to practice and could be back in the lineup in another week. That means he could be on the move by the deadline.
Kreider had 11 goals and 11 assists in 37 games before his injury, but if the Rangers choose to move him, he could be a solid asset for a true Stanley Cup contender. Kreider has an explosive first step and he can get around the defense like few others.
While Alex Galchenyuk, Mike Hoffman and Patrick Maroon are all likely to be on the market, a healthy Kreider might be the most dangerous trade asset of all.
Numbers, we have numbers …
Alex Ovechkin is nearing the 1,100-point mark. He has 1,096 points in his career, and the Capitals left wing has five points in his last four games. … Connor McDavid is hot right now, having scored 10 points in his last five games. Taylor Hall and Claude Giroux lead a group of six players who have scored eight points in their last five games. … Boston center Patrice Bergeron has scored five goals in his last five game, while Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has eight assists in his last five games. … The Tampa Bay Lightning are scoring 3.54 goals per game to lead the league. The streaking Boston Bruins are allowing a league-best 2.38 goals per game.