Blue Jackets Send Carter to Kings; Reunited With Old Drinking Buddy

Written by Mike Salerno on .

A prominent Blue Jackets forward now has a new home, but it may not be the one you thought. Thursday night, Columbus general manager Scott Howson dealt Jeff Carter to Los Angeles in exchange for defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round pick.

While Rick Nash had dominated most of the trade rumors throughout the week, it ended up being Carter who was traded. Though the price for Nash was far greater than just Johnson and an early draft choice, Dean Lombardi chose to address his team's scoring issues by reuniting Carter, a former-40 goal scorer, with his old pal Mike Richards.

Capitals In Free Fall, Dale Hunter Losing Friends By The Day

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Things are going from bad to worse in the nation's capital, and fast. Washington, mired in a 2-5-1 stretch that's seen them drop from first to third in the ever-changing Southeast Division, is having enough problems on the ice.

Now it seems like those problems have spilled over into the locker room. After last night's 5-2 loss to Ottawa, which came just a day after a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the last-place Hurricanes, head coach Dale Hunter publicly criticized the play of his starting goaltender.

Via Katie Carrera of The Washington Post, we find that Hunter was less than pleased with Vokoun's effort a day after pulling him less than six minutes into the game in Raleigh:

After the defeat Coach Dale Hunter repeatedly placed blame on the shoulders of goaltender Tomas Vokoun, largely without prompting from reporters.

“They jumped on us. Tomas would like a few of them back,” Hunter said when first asked about the Capitals’ tendency to fall behind early in games. “He wasn’t as sharp as he should have been, and it’s in the back of our net.”

Asked directly if he believed the team’s bad start was indicative of Vokoun’s performance, Hunter didn’t mince his words.

“We need some big stops early that’s part of the game and tonight we played a good, solid road game and we lose,” he said. “Goaltending is a big part of the game and we need good goaltending.”

This comes just nine days after Hunter bluntly described his reasoning for starting recent call up Braden Holtby in favor of Michal Neuvirth when Vokoun was out with the flu, saying “It’s one of those things that if he was standing on his head every night, would Braden be playing? No."

Though Vokoun wasn't available for comment, Allan Walsh, his oft-outspoken agent, chimed in last night criticizing Hunter's "excuses."

“I’m not going to comment directly on what someone may have said after a game,” Walsh said in a text to Carrera. “I will point out though that hockey’s great coaches throughout history never resorted to publicly singling out a particular player, blaming him for a loss. Where I come from, you win as a team and lose as a team. The oldest, most tired excuse in the book is to blame the goalie.”

Hunter, who was brought in to whip a stale, yet uber-talented, Caps lineup into shape, has guided the team to a 17-17-4 record since taking over. Similar to the frustrations of his predecessor, nothing seems to be working. Now, he's going through the media to get his point across, something that will echo in a room full of veterans.

Or will it? An argument could very well be made that he's lost the attention of his players already.

His decision to scratch defenseman Roman Hamrlik, the subject of recent trade rumors, for last night's game against Ottawa didn't exactly go over very well. Hamrlik, who is in his 20th NHL season, was less than pleased with the coach's reaction to a penalty he took in Tuesday's loss to Carolina, and voiced his frustration with CSN's Chuck Gormley:

So no, Dale Hunter hasn't exactly made a bunch of friends in Washington since taking over for Bruce Boudreau in late November. There also seems to be a disconnect with Alex Ovechkin, who left the morning skate after eight minutes yesterday and was scratched from the lineup due to a "lower body injury."

The former architect of the OHL's London Knights is learning quickly the difference between coaching 17- and 18-year old kids and seasoned NHLers. Fans and writers have already begun to wonder if he was the right choice to succeed Boudreau, or if there's a bigger problem with the makeup of this team.

Though the Capitals are still just two points behind Florida for the Southeast Division lead and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, things could not seem more dire. Talk of blowing up the team has dominated the radio airwaves after years of playoff disappointment followed by this season's vast underachievement through 60 games.

Like many teams around the league, the Capitals still aren't sure if they're buyers or sellers as the trade deadline approaches. With movable parts like Mike Knuble and Hamrlik garnering interest from teams looking to strengthen their lineups, they're in an unenviable position.

But the bind George McPhee finds himself at the trade deadline may pale in comparison to the one he's looking at in the offseason. His first order of business will likely be to assess Hunter's ability to yield results from his players, which so far has been less than stellar.

Coyotes Acquire Antoine Vermette from Columbus

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

It appears as if the Phoenix Coyotes just announced themselves as buyers for the upcoming trade deadline. Earlier today, the Coyotes announced they have acquired veteran center Antoine Vermette, from the Blue Jackets in exchange for goaltender Curtis McElhinney, a second-round draft pick and a conditional fifth-round pick.

It would have been ludicrous to consider the Coyotes as buyers just a few short weeks ago, however, an 8-1-1 record over the course of the past month could change things now, can't it?

When the Coyotes started their torrid pace at the end of January, they sat in 12th place in the Western Conference, and fourth in the Pacific Division--eight points behind division-leading San Jose.

Fast forward three weeks, and the Coyotes are tied with the Sharks for first place, and seventh in the West.

The 29-year-old Vermette, although experiencing a down year as far as offensive production is concerned, should help the Coyotes' offense down the middle. Not only is he a modest offensive option, he should also fit seamlessly into coach Dave Tippett's defensive approach to the game.

Through 60 games with Columbus this season, Vermette has only mustered up eight goals and 19 assists. To be fair, it's not his fault as it's pretty hard to be offensively productive when you're playing 90-percent of the game in your own zone.

Unlike most players shipped to new cities around this time of year, Vermette is not an expiring contract.

Vermette is in the second season of a five-year, $18.75 million contract. His deal came on the heals of a career year, when he netted 27 goals and 38 assists for the Blue Jackets in 2010.

The second-round pick that the Coyotes sent to Columbus is the pick acquired in the Kyle Turris deal, while the fifth-rounder will turn into a fourth-round pick, should the Coyotes advance past the first round of the playoffs.

Quincey's Impact on the NHL Trade Market

Written by Brian McCormack on .

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The Tampa Bay Lightning stayed busy on Tuesday with their third move in the span of a week. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman dealt Dominic Moore to the San Jose Sharks last Thursday, moved Pavel Kubina to the Philadelphia Flyers the next day, and then yesterday picked up Kyle Quincey from Colorado in exchange for Steve Downie, before dealing Quincey to Detroit for a first round pick just minutes later.

Hats off to Yzerman, who is now holding two first-rounders and three second-rounders in the upcoming draft. The Lightning will have all kinds of trade clout in the offseason, likely for goaltending, in addition to their ability to build through the early rounds of the draft.

The picks could even come in handy this week, as despite the handful of deals already done, Yzerman claims that the Lightning will be deadline buyers.

Regardless of Yzerman's plans, the real question raised by yesterday deal comes from Detroit. How on earth is Kyle Quincey worth a first-round pick?

Kyle Quincy Traded To Tampa, Then Flipped to Detroit

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Stevie-Y is at it again.

Having already traded the expiring contracts of Dominic Moore and most recently Pavel Kubina in advance of this year's trade deadline, the Lightning general manager shipped Steve Downie to Colorado for defenseman Kyle Quincy, as per TSN's Bob McKenzie on Twitter.

But wait, there's more. Just minutes later, Yzerman then flipped Quincey back to his old stomping grounds in the Motor City for a Detroit's first-round pick in 2012.

So, ipso-facto, Steve Yzerman just traded Steve Downie for a first round pick. This guy's good.

Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman might be hoping Downie arrives in Colorado with a hankerchief so he can wipe the egg off his face. Tampa's acquisition of a first-round pick for Quincey only amplifies the fact that Colorado is no longer in possession of their first rounder. They traded it to Washington on July 1 for Semyon Varlamov, another move that drew the ire of Avs fans.

When the dust settles, Quincey will ultimately return to the team that drafted him in the fourth round of the 2003 NHL Draft. He spent parts of three seasons with Detroit and their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, recording one goal in 13 games. He also played in 13 games in the 2006-07 playoffs for the Red Wings.

While this may seem like the latest head-scratcher for Colorado, who gains very little, if anything, with this deal, consider this: the Avs have only seven players signed through the end of the season. It wouldn't exactly be going out on a limb to suggest there will be a lot of new faces in Colorado next season.

Quincy was one of five Avalanche defensemen making over $1 million who is scheduled to be a free agent at season's end. Concerns over whether they could afford to keep his services at his modest $3.8 million cap hit.

The abrasive Downie, who will also be a restricted free agent at season's end, comes with a much more modest price tag at $1.85 million.

Downie, who is sixth in the league with 121 penalty minutes, certainly adds some grit to the Colorado lineup. He had 12 goals and 16 assists.

Despite all this, the Avs trail Calgary by just three points for the final Western Conference playoff spot. However, unlike the Flames, it would seem as though Colorado is much more hesitant to be "going for it."

A Tale Of Two Blowouts: Islanders, Capitals Fall Flat

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Just four teams were in action on Presidents' Day around the NHL, but in reality, it seemed like only two showed up to play. The Islanders and Capitals each had their doors blown off yesterday in what was a critical game for both squads in their quest for an Eastern Conference playoff berth. However, while the result was ultimately the same, one team was simply outworked by the opposition, while the other's biggest opposition was themselves.

First, the Senators walked into Nassau Coliseum and handed the Isles a 6-0 drubbing in a game that was hyped as the potential launching point for the Islanders playoff push. Starting goaltender Kevin Poulin lasted 95 seconds before allowing a pair of goals and getting the hook.

Whoops.

Now, let's give credit where credit is due. The Senators played a nearly flawless game. Craig Anderson made 28 saves for his third shutout of the season, Jason Spezza had two goals and an assist fresh off being named the NHL's Third Star of the Week last week and Erik Karlsson continued his run as the only real Norris Trophy candidate with a four-point (2 G, 2 A) performance.

Karlsson, at 20 years old, now has 12 goals and 45 assists in 60 games this season. The kid's on another planet.

As for Spezza, with the game already out of reach, he may have fired the most lethal shot of the NHL season to this point. On the power play midway through the third period, Spezza, while standing still, unleashed an unholy rocket over the shoulder of Al Montoya. Take a look for yourself, and please keep the water bottle's family in your prayers:

The Southeast Division race has been anything but ordinary this season. The Capitals, who were widely regarded as the NHL's strongest team heading into the season (and this writer's prediction to win the Stanley Cup) have failed to find an answer after firing Bruce Boudreau in late November.

Yeah, sorry about that Bruce. Guess it wasn't all your fault after all.

The upstart Florida Panthers, who've epitomized the word "overachiever" so far, were clinging on to a one-point division lead over Winnipeg. They also led the Capitals by two points. Why is the divisional crown so important, you ask? Well, for one, that team will get an extra game at home in the playoffs. Oh yeah, also, if the season ended today, they would be the only representative from the Southeast who would be playing any games in the playoffs. Yeah, it's gotten that bad down south.

Heading into Raleigh for a matchup with the 15th-ranked Hurricanes, the Capitals did what they've been doing best through the first 60 games: confuse everyone, especially themselves. They hardly showed up as the Canes handed them a spectacular 5-0 whoopin'.

Tomas Vokoun was also pulled early on after he allowed goals to Justin Faulk and Anthony Stewart on broken plays 5:09 into the game. Michal Neuvirth, who hasn't exactly been head coach Dale Hunter's favorite person of late, didn't fare much better.

But it was hardly the goaltenders' fault on this night. The Capitals were extremely charitable with the puck, especially in their own zone, with 12 first-period giveaways. In fact, four of Carolina's five goals came directly as a result of one of their 20 takeaways.

The Capitals managed to fire just 17 shots on Justin Peters, who recorded his first career shutout. When Alexander Semin leads your team in shots, well, there's not much else to be said.

The Islanders will be back at it tonight in Buffalo in what has become essentially a must-win game for their dwindling playoff hopes, while the Capitals will travel to Ottawa to face the scorching Senators.

Are The Islanders Inching Closer To A Playoff Spot? Wait, What?

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Presidents' Day, for many teams around the league, is often a day to reflect not only on the history of America's most newsworthy leaders, but to rest up and take stock in their current positions in the standings as the trade deadline approaches.

For the Islanders though, this year represents an opportunity for hope. For change. For a chance to move within striking distance of the playoffs.

The Isles will play host to the Ottawa Senators at 1 p.m. today, the first of games in consecutive days against teams in a similar situation. As of now, New York sits in 12th place in the East, six points behind Toronto for the last playoff spot with one game in hand.

Today's game against Ottawa and tomorrow's game against Buffalo may very well decide if the Islanders are buyers or sellers this time next week in the final hours before the NHL's trade deadline.

Wins in both games, depending on how Toronto fares at home against the red-hot Devils on Tuesday, could bring the Isles within three points of the Leafs.

Despite getting miniscule production from Nino Niederreiter and Josh Bailey, supposed pillars of this obnoxiously drawn out "rebuild" project Garth Snow has committed to, the Islanders remain very much alive in the playoff race.

Now, this space has done a fair job of taking shots at the Islanders over the past few months. We admit that. And we're probably not done, either. Look, if you put a ball on a tee for Tiger Woods, expect him to hit it 300 yards. After all, who doesn't enjoy a good Rick DiPietro joke?

But in the time we've spent snickering at the franchise, the Islanders, behind the strong play of John Tavares and the resurgence of Evgeni Nabokov as a bonafide number one goaltender, have climbed from the Eastern Conference cellar and now joined the conversation of teams that are vying for the final postseason berth.

Matt Moulson is on pace for his third consecutive 30-goal season and career highs in both goals and points. He currently leads the team with 25. P.A. Parenteau continues to be a revelation on Long Island, ranking fifth in the NHL in assists, trailing only the likes of Erik Karlsson, Pavel Datsyuk, Claude Giroux and Henrik Sedin with 41. That's probably a bit more production than Snow figured he'd get when he picked him up essentially off the scrap heap before the 2010-11 season.

These Islanders may just be for real, but you wouldn't know it by going to a game. They've ranked either 29th or 30th (which would be dead last, for those of you scoring at home) in average NHL attendance in every season since 2007-08, and remain mired in a quest for a new home. However, success over the next two days may pique the interest of the casual fan and bring them back to Nassau Coliseum in droves.

With their hated rival sitting comfortably atop the Eastern Conference, a potential seven-game date with the Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs would certainly get their attention, no?

These next 48 hours will go a long way in determining if we can start to get excited about the first all-New York playoff matchup since 1994. But more importantly, it will also determine just where this team stands among its peers.

BREAKING: Flyers Acquire D Kubina

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

For the second consecutive day, a defensemen has found a new home. According to multiple sources, the Flyers have acquired defensemen Pavel Kubina from Tampa Bay in exchange for second and fourth round draft picks and AHL forward Jon Kalinski, pending League approval.

The Lightning will acquire the pick given to the Flyers in exchange for Kris Versteeg from the Florida Panthers. Additionally, Florida has the option to choose between this year's second rounder and next year's. The Flyers fourth round selection is from the 2013 draft.

This move, in addition to Hal Gill being sent to Nashville from Montreal yesterday and Dominic Moore moving to San Jose earlier in the week, have been the only trades of significance thus far in an otherwise boring trade deadline.

Kubina, who will hep solidify the Flyers' defensive corp with a right-handed shot which they desperately coveted (Andrej Meszaros is their only other), is set to be an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

In addition to his offensive ability, the 34-year-old veteran--who was third on the Lightning with 100 blocked shots--will help the Flyers keep some rubber away from their netminders, as they once again let up a significant amount of goals this afternoon, losing 6-4 to Pittsburgh.

The Flyers will mark the fourth team (including two tours in Tampa Bay) Kubina has played for during his 13-year NHL career.

Kubina, who has a no-trade clause, was asked to present a list of teams where he would be willing to move, to Tampa GM Steve Yzerman earlier this week, as the Lightning have fallen out of serious contention, despite a wide-open Southeast Division.

Predators Add Gill, Geoffrion to Montreal

Written by Brian McCormack on .

 

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We've seen the first big-name defenseman move for this year's deadline, but not to Philadelphia or Chicago as we expected. Instead the strong get stronger.

The Nashville Predators acquired Hal Gill from the Montreal Canadiens, as well as a conditional pick in 2013, in exchange for Blake Geoffrion and forward Robert Slaney.

Blackhawks Avoid 10-Game Skid, Defeat Rangers, 4-2

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

When the Blackhawks watched the final seconds of the clock tick away en route to their 3-2 loss to Nashville, Tuesday night, it was all but certain their nine-game losing streak would elongate to a nice round 10 by the time they left the ice Thursday night, in Manhattan.

The Rangers, fresh off a 3-0 dismantling of the defending Stanley Cup champions, welcomed the struggling 'Hawks into Madison Square Garden earlier tonight. Much like Chicago, the Rangers were amidst a streak of their own: a four-game winning streak. With the Rangers winning eight of their previous 10 games--the only hiccups occurred during a couple of controversial games against New Jersey--coupled with Chicago's horrific slump, Thursday's matchup had everything in the making for a massacre.

And then this happened...

Not only was this of great importance because it got the Blackhawks on the board early against a stingy Rangers team, but, it was critical because of the man who scored it: captain Jonathan Toews.


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