Tampa Bay Lightning at the deadline

Steve Yzerman and Guy Boucher have turned this rebuilding team into one that’s ready to win now and Yzerman’s been making the moves so they can do so. While the acquisitions of Simon Gagne and Dan Ellis this summer didn’t exactly go as planned, there are many other things that went right for this Lightning team. They are in first place in the Southeast, have the league leader in goals and they already made a few trades this season to address needs. The question is where do they go from here?

In terms of what the Bolts could do at the deadline, you first have to look at their roster and how much cap space they have to play with, which is about at $9 mil. They are a team that’s done just about everything well this year except for goaltending, which was worst in the league at one point. Yzerman fixed this by trading for Dwayne Roloson, who has played well with a .924 save percentage at even strength. He also boosted the team’s defensive depth by acquiring Eric Brewer for the Blues in exchange for Beau Beukeboom and a 3rd rounder. I thought this was a good deal for Tampa Bay since Brewer had solid corsi numbers and a positive rating in St. Louis while taking a lot of defensive draws and playing against somewhat tough competition. The Lightning had the cap space to absorb his contract so it was a good move to make at the time. The fact that they traded Dan Ellis for Curtis McElhinney makes me think that another move is on the way since that was basically a salary dump, same thing with waiving Mike Smith.

The Big Picture
Top 3 Forwards: Lecavalier, St. Louis, Malone $17,852,273
Middle 6 Forwards: Downie, Moore, Tyrell, ???, ???, ??? $3,795,833
Top 4 Defensemen: Kubina, Ohlund, Hedman, Clark $12,457,143
Goaltending: ???, ???
Bottom 8 Players: Thompson $900,000

UFA: Roloson, Smith, McElhinney, Brewer, Hall, Bergenheim, Gagne
RFA: Stamkos, Purcell, Lundin, Smaby

First off, I don’t think there is any chance that Steven Stamkos won’t be re-signed. They will work out a contract before the season is over. The Lightning do have a lot of money invested in Malone, Lecavalier and St. Louis but they do have a good amount of contracts coming off the books next year and still have cap space to play with so I don’t think they need to worry about money now. I’m not sure if Simon Gagne will be re-signed seeing how he’s been hurt for a good chunk of the year and underwhelming when healthy. They might offer Roloson a one-year deal to not rush Cedrick Desjardins/Dustin Tokarski or find someone else to address their goaltending situation. Teddy Purcell’s been playing well with good linemates so he might stick around, as well. The rest of the holes in their bottom-8 will probably be filled with AHL call-ups or free agents. Carter Ashton might have a chance to make the team out of camp next season so that’s one solution.

Depth Chart:
St. Louis-Stamkos-Downie
Gagne-Lecavalier-Purcell
Bergenheim-Moore-Hall
Bergeron-Thompson-Tyrell

Hedman-Clark
Kubina-Smaby
Jones-Brewer
Lundin (inj.) Ohlund (inj.)

Roloson
McElhinney
Smith (AHL)

Very lethal top-six and solid depth with the next three forwards but the fact that they have Marc-Andre Bergeron playing as a forward could be a problem. I could see Stevie Y making a couple other small moves at the deadline for a depth forward or two but nothing huge. Like I said, I think he traded Dan Ellis to clear some cap space so that might be foreshadowing another trade. Mattias Ohlund’s injury apparently isn’t anything serious so they won’t have to worry about replacing him for now. I think that’s why they acquired Brewer in the first place though since he makes their defensive depth look a lot better. This Tampa team will be dangerous in the playoffs with the potential they have but you have to wonder if Yzerman thinks he can make a good roster even better.

 

Florida Panthers at the deadline

Personally, I thought it was apparent before the season started that the Florida Panthers would be a team that would be selling at the deadline. In fact, I saw them being destined for a lottery pick and having the worst record in the Eastern Conference. While they haven’t been as bad as I expected them to be, they aren’t exactly a good team and will probably end up with one of the bottom-five spots. Especially with the upswings the Islanders and Devils are on. With a roster full of impending free agents that might work well on other teams, GM Dale Tallon has already started dealing by shipping off Michael Frolik, Bryan McCabe and Cory Stillman, all for much lower costs than they probably should have gone for.
The organization made a statement last year that they would start rebuilding for the future and you would have to think that they would continue that with the potential free agents they have and the fact that they aren’t a team that spends to the cap. However, I felt that Florida sold really low on a couple of trades they made so far and the biggest one was with the Blackhawks that sent Michael Frolik and goalie prospect Alexander Salak away in exchange for Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman and David Pacan. Frolik is a former first round pick and has scored 21 goals in two straight seasons with Florida. This year, his numbers are way down (8 goals, 29 points) and they figured it would be a better idea to sell low. Who did they get in return? A forward who has only scored 12 goals in 81 games and rarely plays more than 10 minutes a night, a former highly touted defensive prospect who has yet to play an NHL game and a forward who the Hawks drafted in the 6th round two years ago. The fact that they traded Salak indicates two things to me; 1. They will call up Jacob Markstrom next season or 2. They intend to re-sign Tomas Vokoun for at least next season because Scott Clemmensen is still under contract through 2011-12. Either way, I do not like this trade at all for Florida. The McCabe trade wasn’t as bad but I was kind of surprised that they didn’t get at least a 2nd round pick for him. Instead, they got a 3rd rounder and Tim Kennedy. I know that McCabe is basically a rental for the Rangers but he’s still a very capable powerplay quarterback and I thought Florida could have gotten a little more from him. The return they got for Stillman wasn’t bad (5th rounder + Ryan Carter) since I don’t think Stillman’s value is that high even though he’s a good penalty killer.
As I noted earlier, Florida has quite a few expiring contracts on their roster and a couple of them are decent trade bait but there’s a lot of others who are signed for longer that could be dealt. Let’s take a look at how they are set up for next year.
Big Picture:

Top 3 Forwards: Booth, Olesz, Weiss $10,475,000

Middle 6 Forwards: Reinprecht, Dadonov, ???, ???, ???, ???$3,375,000

Top 4 Defensemen: Wideman, Allen, Kulikov, Weaver $9,062,500

Goaltending: Clemmensen, ??? $1,200,000

Bottom 8 Players: Timmins, Garrison, ???, ???, ???, ???, ???, ??? $1,426,667

RFA: Bernier, Repik, Matthias, Bitz, Santorelli, Skiille

UFA: Dvorak, Higgins, Reasoner, Hordichuk, Carter, Thomas, Sulzer, Callahan, Vokoun

Florida has quite a bit of money invested in their top three forwards and one of them (Olesz) is grossly overpaid. Stephen Weiss’ name has been in trade rumors for the past couple seasons and it’s sounding like it’s very possible he could be moved but there’s a few things standing in the way of that. The biggest thing is that he has a NTC and the Panthers have reportedly not asked him to waive it unless they get an offer they can’t turn down. He’s also signed at a fairly decent contract ($3.1 mil for 2 more years), which is what makes him a great target at the deadline. Tallon’s done some confusing things ever since joining the Panthers so I don’t know what an “offer he can’t turn down is” considering he traded a 20+ goal scorer and a solid goalie prospect for two draft busts and the equivalent of a late round pick. My first thought is that Tallon is planning to keep a few players around for the team to build around (Booth, Weiss, Allen and possibly Vokoun come to mind) and he will try to get what he can from the rest of his players. The holes in the roster will be filled with cheap, one-year contracts. They will probably want to re-sign Mike Santorelli, Michal Repik and possibly Chris Higgins or Jack Skille. I think that they will only trade Vokoun if they can get a first rounder or a great prospect back but we’ll see what happens. He’s actually having a down year for his standards so who knows if a team will be willing to give up that much for him. Marty Reasoner and Radek Dvroak should be able to fetch a mid-round pick to a team looking for a penalty killer.

Depth Chart

Higgins-Weiss-Repik

Booth-Santorelli-Dvorak

Olesz-Reasoner-Bernier

Hordichuk-Timmins-Thomas

Skille (inj), Dadonov (inj), Matthias (inj.)
Wideman-Allen

Sulzer-Kulikov

Garrison-Weaver/Callahan
Vokoun

Clemmensen

Markstrom (AHL)

For the rest of the year, Florida’s not exactly looking like they’ll be making a playoff push. Their roster is injury depleted (Olesz and Higgins were recently put on the IR yesterday) and this just doesn’t look like an impressive crop of forwards and it will look even worse if someone is traded. They do have some great prospects waiting in the wings with Erik Gudbransson and Nik Bjugstad but I don’t know when the latter will be with the big club. Gudbransson was supposed to be with the Panthers this year but they couldn’t agree on a contract, which kind of says something about how much they can/are willing to spend. I’m not expecting Florida to contend next year but maybe they’ll be a little more fun to watch once Evengey Dadonov has another year in the NHL under his belt and when Gudbransson is on the team. Panthers fans should be thankful that the worst thing that Tallon’s done so far this season is the Frolik trade. Imagine if he sent Weiss or Vokoun off for that package. Yeesh. Anyway, you can probably expect a few more moves from the Cats this deadline and knowing Tallon, you should probably expect the unexpected.

Capitals-Islanders Recap

For the first 20-some minutes of this game, it looked like a repeat of yesterday’s beatdown to the Rangers. Caps were outshot 14-5 in the first period, had an unsuccessful powerplay and were grossly outplayed by the Islanders. They only trailed 1-0 at the end of the period thanks to the efforts of Michal Neuvirth and a few missed opportunities for the Isles. That continued for about half of the second period until Bruce Boudreau called a timeout to either fire up the team or calm them down. Whatever he said it worked.  After that, and a Brooks Laich tally, the Caps looked a lot better and eventually mounted a comeback. In the larger scale of things, this isn’t a critical win but I’ll take a victory on the road after getting blown out the previous night. Especially since we had a lot of action off the ice today.

Observations/Notes

– 10 blocked shots for the pairing of Jeff Schultz and Scott Hannan and they weren’t on ice for either of the Islanders goals. Hannan also led the team in ice time with 24:37. He’s definitely come along nicely in the last couple of months and looks more like the solid, stay-at-home d-men we traded for. Him and Schultz have been a solid defensive pairing for the past couple of weeks, too which is what we have needed for awhile.

– Conversely, John Carlson and Karl Alzner have been continuing to make rookie mistakes. There was Alzner continuing to skate back into Neuvirth and screening him while not even challenging Kyle Okposo at all which allowed him to score an easy goal. Then there was Carlson’s turnover which led to Travis Hamonic’s goal which probably should have been stopped.

– More teams are figuring out that the Isles are no longer a team they can walk all over like they’re used to doing. This team is loaded with great, young goal scorers. Michael Grabner was close to having two goals tonight. Both of which didn’t happen due to unlucky bounces. Frans Nielsen’s line was the most effective tonight. On ice for both goals and played well territorially.

– When I saw the line combinations for tonight my first thought was “you’ve got to be kidding me.” Splitting up Ovechkin and Backstrom usually doesn’t work and that proved to be the case tonight. Marcus Johansson seemed to constantly turn the puck over when he was playing with Ovie and Knuble which is probably why Boudreau changed things up and went back to putting Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom on a line. That also led to a goal. Let’s keep things that way, Bruce.

– Brooks Laich definitely redeemed himself after a brutal start to the game. Washington’s first goal came from him charging the net and then drilling one through Montoya’s five-hole. Second one came from him doing the same thing only Knuble banged in the rebound.

– Neuvirth played well on his third consecutive start. 29 saves on 31 shots tonight and was the reason Washington stayed in the game early on. Great rebound after last night’s debacle.

– I’ve made a few jokes saying that we should start declining powerplays. We had a powerplay in the 3rd period which was negated 3 seconds in. Be careful what you wish for?

– Alexander Semin can be incredibly frustrating at times and there’s so many games where he looks like he’s mailing it in. Then we see that he is still a huge impact player and lethal goal scorer. All that does is make it worse, really.

A nice win and we’ll see what happens once Marco Sturm is thrown in the lineup on Tuesday. Maybe with a couple other new team members as well? I have a feeling that McPhee has a move coming sooner or later since Perreault was sent back to the AHL.

Three Stars

1. Brooks Laich

2. Michal Neuvirth

3. Kyle Okposo

Rangers-Capitals preview

I think I speak for all Caps fans when I say that this game better not go to a shootout. There’s three reasons for that. 1) Three-point games are killer when you’re chasing teams in the standings like these two are right now. 2) The Caps are 2-5 in shootouts this season. 3) The Rangers are 7-2 in shootouts and that’s how they beat us last time with a largely injured forward corps. While players like Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan are back there are two Caps-killers that will be out of the lineup tonight for the Rangers; Marc Staal and Marian Gaborik. Staal has always played Ovechkin’s shadow in the team’s past meetings and Gaborik always seems to get on the scoresheet against Caps no matter who he plays for. Still, a win over the Rags tonight will be a very good leap forward for this Capitals team as they try to reclaim 1st place in the Southeast.

Know your enemy: New York Rangers edition

The Rangers have been battling injuries all season but have seen good play from younger players and are getting goals from unexpected sources which has kept them in the playoff hunt. Brian Boyle’s shocking season has continued as he has 19 goals and the acquisition of Wojtek Wolski has also helped. Rookie Derek Stepan is also quietly having a good season with 16 goals and 34 points. I feel like I haven’t heard many people talk about him this year but he’s definitely been solid. They also play a very responsible game under John Tortorella and that has helped them a lot this year. Having a goalie like Henrik Lundqvist and one of the more underrated 1-2 defensive pairings, in my opinion.

Matchups/Game Notes:

– Michal Neuvirth will be getting the start tonight for Washington and he stopped 25 of 28 shots against New York the last time he played him. He is also coming off a 39 save shut-out. Henrik Lundqvist will be starting for the Rangers and I’m sure Caps fans already know all about him. He’s had some of his best games against Washington along with some less-than-stellar outings.

– The line getting the Carlson-Alzner treatment from New York will probably be Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan. Three young and dangerous forwards that have all done serious damage against Washington in past games. Hopefully these two are ready.

– With Staal out, it will put a lot of pressure on rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh who I expect to be paired with Dan Girardi for the Rangers. Not having #18 on the ice every time our top line is will be a relief but Girardi is a good defenseman and McDonagh’s definitely going to be looking to prove himself so let’s see what happens. Alex Ovechkin should be able to have a little more room to work with in this game, though.

– Still no Mike Green which means Sloan and Erskine will get another night paired together. Why do I have a feeling that Brian Boyle will score his 20th goal? Ugh.

– Rangers have the 25th ranked powerplay in the league and 5th ranked penalty kill. Caps are 22nd and 5th in those respective departments. Expect another low scoring game.

– Caps have had a different goalie in net every time they played the Rangers this year.

– Having a hard time guessing who will score the first goal in this game considering we’ve had Brandon Prust, Matt Hendricks, John Erskine and Derek Boogaard all score goals in the series this year. I’m going to go out of left field and say that Scott Hannan will score his first goal for the Caps. That’s required he shoots the puck, though which most of our defenseman haven’t done this season.

Line combinations/guesses

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble

Laich-Johansson-Semin

Chimera-Perreault-Bradley

Hendricks-Steckel-Gordon

Alzner-Carlson

Hannan-Schultz

Sloan-Erskine

Rangers

Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan

Wolski-Stepan-Zuccarello

Prospal-Christensen-Avery

Fedotenko-Boyle-Prust

McDonagh-Girardi

Eminger-Sauer

Del Zotto-Gilroy

Carolina Hurricanes at the deadline

The Hurricanes are in an interesting spot. They are hanging onto a playoff spot by 3 points, have benefited from a bit of luck this season and have loads of expiring contracts on the roster which they could get a decent amount of value for. Canes GM Jim Rutherford is going to have to make a decision on whether or not he wants to trade players like Erik Cole and Joni Pitkanen for future considerations or keep them and see if the Canes have another Cup run in them. One things for sure, the Canes need to have better special teams if they are going to go anywhere in the playoffs.

I always thought Carolina had a solid team and the only reason they were out of the playoff race last year was due to a horrible start where the team was riddled with injuries. It’s tough deciding whether the biggest blow was either to Eric Staal or Cam Ward. This year, if the Canes didn’t have Ward, I am willing to bet they would be in the same position as the Leafs are right now in the East. Ward has a marvelous .922 EV save percentage and he plays on a team which is outshot regularly. Taking nothing away from Staal as he’s having another really good season and will probably have at least 80 points by the end of the year. The play from the two of them along with rookie Jeff Skinner has the Canes in a good position to make a playoff run but what separates them from the other teams trying to make the playoffs and is it worth not selling at this deadline? Last season, Rutherford traded away a lot of players for prospects and picks but it’s not looking like it will happen this year even though it would be a good time to do so.

Big Picture:
The Canes haven’t spent close to the cap this season and have about $10 mil in space right now and will have a lot more next season with all of the potential free agents on the roster. All of the holes for the middle and bottom-6 forwards will probably be filled by re-signing Sutter, Tlusty and Bodie. They will probably call-up Zach Boychuk next year and there are some solid prospects waiting in the AHL like Riley Nash, Zac Dalpe and Oskar Osala that might be called up, as well.

Top 3 Forwards: Staal, Ruutu, Skinner $13,450,000
Middle 6 Forwards: ???, Boychuk, ???, ???, ???, ??? $1,708,333
Top 4 Defensemen: Gleason, Corvo, McBain, ??? $5,850,000
Goaltending: Ward, Peters $6,825,000
Bottom 8 Players: Lawson, Samson, ???, ???, ???, ???, ???, ??? $552,500

UFA: Cole, Samsonov, Larose, Jokinen, Carter, Dwyer, Pitkanen, Harrison
RFA: Carson, Joslin, Sutter, Tlusty, Bodie

One question going around Canes Country this whole season is whether or not the team is “re-building. It’s hard to say that they weren’t last season with all of the trades they made and the young talent on the roster but I don’t think they are in full rebuild mode right now. If the Canes were losing then I would think they would try to deal players like Cole, LaRose and Pitkanen in a heartbeat, especially since they’re UFAs but that isn’t the case so it’s hard for me to judge what they will do. Out of the players that are UFAs, the ones who I think they could get the most value for are Pitkanen, Cole and Jokinen, but I think that they will re-sign Jokinen since he’s still young and is a good fit on their first line. The Canes didn’t do much in free agency last off-season because they were saddled with a lot of these contracts but it will be the opposite of that this summer so I think they will be more active this time around. This deadline will be a different story, though. They already dealt Ian White to the Sharks for future considerations and they traded for him earlier in the year for Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopolous, clearing some salary cap room. They also tried to help their penalty kill by trading for Ryan Carter of the Ducks but it hasn’t helped too much since they are still 22nd in the league on the PK. Let’s look at their depth chart to see what moves they can make that would boost their chances of making the playoffs.

Jokinen-Staal-Cole
LaRose-Ruutu-Skinner
Tlusty-Sutter-Samsonov
Samson-Dwyer-Bodie
Boychuk (AHL), Carter (Inj.)

Corvo-Pitkanen
Gleason-McBain
Harrison-Carson
Joslin
Lawson (AHL)

Ward
Peters
Pogge (AHL)

Those first two lines are very good at putting the puck at the back of the net as they’ve combined for 105 goals between the six players. After that, there isn’t much aside from Brandon Sutter, who is a very underrated two-way player. Sergei Samsonov is probably the most overpaid player on the team but you could argue that Tuomo Ruutu is also overpaid even if he’s been solid on the powerplay. Pitkanen is always among the NHL leaders in ice time but his production on the PP isn’t there. Only 9 assists and that’s it. Joe Corvo, on the other hand, has been quietly having a good season and I think they will hang onto him. Rookie defenseman Jaime McBain is also coming along nicely but it helps that he plays with someone like Tim Gleason and doesn’t exactly spend a lot of time on the PK. Cam Ward has been the one keeping them in most games and I think that’s how it will be for the rest of the season.

As I mentioned earlier, the Canes are going to be looking for powerplay and penalty kill help them over the next couple of months. The two who they will get the most for are Cole and Pitkanen but I could see a few teams looking at Jokinen as well even though I don’t think the Canes will trade him. The problem with trading with someone like Pitkanen is that they will be looking for the same thing the Canes are right now; special teams help, which Pitkanen has only been delivering on the PK this year. Corvo would also generate a nice return even though he’s pretty valuable to the Canes right now if they’re going to be buyers. Cole is also having a nice year so far and one plus with trading him would mean that Skinner would get bumped up to the first line with Staal and that could be a lethal combination. It would take away from the team’s depth, though. Ultimately, I think the Canes will be quiet this deadline and we’ll see a few moves to get some bottom-six forwards or a depth defenseman that can help on the PK. Special teams are going to be what decides if this team will sink or swim in the next few months. That and if Ward can continue being his usual self.

Atlanta Thrashers at the deadline

Like the Oilers blog, Copper and Blue is doing with the Northwest division, I’m going to look at teams at what teams in the Southeast Division might do this trade deadline. First I’ll review their season a bit to see where they stand and whether or not they will be buyers or sellers. Starting off alphabetically with the Atlanta Thrashers, who I saw possibly making the playoffs this year and for most of the season, it looked like that would happen. However, they have been falling out of the picture lately and sit 4 points out of the #8 spot in the East. Sportsclubstats.com had their playoff odds at 75% only 25 days ago and now it’s down to 10%. What exactly happened here?

Atlanta’s been surrendering a lot of shots all season long and they are currently last in the league in shots allowed per game. 2011 hasn’t been kind to Atlanta at all. They are 5-10-4 in Janurary and February so far after going 20-15-6 for the first three months. You can attest a lot of it to the play of goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who still has an impressive even strength save percentage of .934 but over the last two months, his save percentage has only been .876, a noticeable drop off.

Atlanta gives up a lot of shots, but they also generate a considerable amount of offense as they are 11th in goals per game and 14th in shots per game. Evander Kane is on pace for at least a 20 goal season (17 goals, 35 points right now) and Atlanta’s top six has been pretty solid all year at getting the puck moving in the right direction

NAME        Ozone% Fin Ozone%
KANE        52.3    54.8
LITTLE        54.0    54.0
LADD        47.7    51.9
ANTROPOV    47.9    51.8
BERGFORS    47.0    51.7
PEVERLEY    47.2    50.2

All of these forwards also have at least 10 goals even Nic Bergfors, who has been a disappointment in my opinion. However, while they are getting offense from their top six, are they getting enough? Like I said, I thought Bergfors would have more than 11 goals at this point. Same goes for Bryan Little who only has 14. Andrew Ladd, however, has been very good as he has 21 goals, 44 points and he takes a lot of defensive zone draws. One player who isn’t listed is Anthony Stewart who has 14 goals. He’s been a nice surprise but the zone start/finish differential for him isn’t too convincing as he takes a lot of offensive zone draws and usually can’t keep the puck in.

On the back end, their most publicized player is Dustin Byfuglien, who they recently gave a 5-year $26 mil contract. I do not think Byfuglien is a Norris candidate and what Atlanta gave him is a huge overpayment but I do give the Thrashers credit for one thing; they know his strengths and use them to the team’s advantage. Byfuglien has a big shot and was really effective in Chicago because he had good linemates. Atlanta mainly uses Buff on the powerplay and at even strength almost as a fourth forward. Nearly all of his zone starts are in the offensive zone but he has done a solid job of creating offense all season from the blue-line. He’s definitely one of the reasons why their powerplay is 8th in the NHL. Early in the season, this method worked very well but it’s cooled down as of late. In 2011, Byfuglien only has 5 goals in 19 games. Still, the Thrashers have a great top 4 defensive corps with him, Enstrom, Bogosian and Oduya but after that, it gets ugly which might explain the acquisition of Stuart. He’s definitely a slight upgrade over Ron Hainsey and Brent Sopel, at least.

Trades:
Ben Eager to San Jose for a 5th rounder

Rich Peverely ($1.325 for 2 years) and Boris Valabik ($800k for one year) for Blake Wheeler ($2.2 mil for one year) and Mark Stuart ($1.675 mil for one year)  BOS 3.45 mil, ATL $3.875 mil

It’s a tough to say who “wins” that Peverley trade now but I have to give the edge to Boston since they acquired a solid, cheap forward in Peverley. I actually think Atlanta trading him was a bad move since he’s been fantastic at generating offense and is very versatile. He also plays tough minutes on the team and gets matched up with opponents top lines often. Wheeler still has a lot of potential but he has been kind of a disappointment since his rookie season. He is also a RFA at the end of the season, so if he impresses the Thrashers for the rest of the year, then they can lock him up for a couple more years. Now, that’s depending on if Atlanta want to lock him up or not because this is the same organization that let Maxim Afinogenov walk after a good season. Stuart and Valabik don’t matter much to me in this trade other than Boston getting rid of a contract. Stuart might be useful to the Thrashers since he was a solid penalty killer for the Bruins and Atlanta has the worst PK in the NHL. Stuart’s injury issues are a concern, though. As far as the money involved goes, Boston saves about $400k overall.

I’m not entirely sure what this indicates about Atlanta’s position at the trade deadline since they are only 4 points out of the #8 spot in the East and clearly aren’t done yet but I think Atlanta wants to take a chance on Wheeler and thought they could get some value out of Rich Peverley since Boston wanted him. It’s kind of an odd move considering Peverley’s given a lot to Atlanta for what they are paying him but the gamble could work in their favor if Wheeler plays well.

The Big Picture:
Top 3 Forwards: Antropov, Kane, Little $9,545,833 (28% of total salary)
Middle 6 Forwards: ???, ???, Burmistrov, ???, ???, Slater $2,500,000 (7% of total salary)
Top 4 Defenders: Byfuglien, Enstrom, Oduya, Hainsey $16,950,000 (50% of total salary)
Goaltending: Pavelec, Mason $3,000,000 (9% of total salary)
Bottom 8 Players: Cormier, Stapelton, ???, ???, ???, ???, ??? $1,379,166 (4% of total salary)
Total:
$33,374,999

Pending free agents:
UFA: Modin, Thorburn, Boulton, Sopel, Stuart, Meyer
RFA: Ladd, Wheeler, Bergfors, Machacek, Stewart, Bogosian

I have to think that the Thrashers will be buyers at this deadline even with the recent skid they’ve been on. It wouldn’t make much sense for the Peverley/Wheeler trade to be one made for the future considering Wheeler’s contract expires next year. As it stands right now, Atlanta would be nowhere close to the salary floor next season if they let all of their free agents walk. If they were having a fire sale (which they aren’t), I would think they would try to get value out of guys like Bogosian and Ladd but I think they will probably re-sign those two if anything. Bogosian’s been in trade rumors but Atlanta will probably only trade him if they can get a big return even if he’s having a down season. He will probably want a raise from the $3.5 mil he’s making this season and Atlanta already has half of their salary next year tied up in their blue line thanks to Byfuglien and Hainsey’s ridiculous contracts. Atlanta has more than enough cap space right now but they might be better off spending the money on their shallow forward corps or re-signing players like Ladd, Bergfors or going the free agency route. I have to think that Stewart will at least get a one-year extension to see if he can build on this season.

Antropov is also someone I could see being traded but he’s 31, having a rough season and has kind of a bad contract so I don’t think he would generate a big return. We’ve had some weird trades this deadline like the Avs/Blues trade involving Erik Johnson so Atlanta moving Bogosian wouldn’t be completely out of the question. Regardless, I see the Thrashers possibly being a bubble playoff team next year as well. Pavelec is still young and hasn’t reached his peak yet but I think he played over his head to start out the year and the Thrashers give up too big of a shot total for him to keep up that level of play. It would definitely help if Kane keeps improving and if Burmistrov has a great sophomore season. He has shown flashes of greatness but his numbers are definitely underwhelming. This is a solid team which struggles with consistency.

Caps-Pens recap

After tonight’s 1-0 shutout of the Penguins, the Caps are 10-0-2 in their last 12 regular season games against Pittsburgh. Pretty impressive but that’s not taking the playoff series from 2009 into account. Either way, as a Caps fan it was very nice to see them shutout the Pens in back-to-back games and to do it in on the road was even better. Of course, you have to take into account that the Pens were forced to dress players like Ryan Craig, Brett Sterling, Joe Vitale, Brian Strait and a couple other guys many haven’t heard of before. It was an ugly win and we really have to thank Michal Neuvirth for the win, but I will take it. The victory gives the Caps a solid 3-2-0 on the road trip.

– The happiest guy on the team right now has to be Michal Neuvirth. 39 save shutout tonight and back-to-back shutouts against the Penguins. Last game, he said that “he had to shut these guys out” after hearing Dan Bylsma’s comments about him on 24/7. Well, I can imagine that Disco Dan isn’t happy that his team was shutout twice by a “shaky goaltender who isn’t very good.” Yep, his “poor rebound control” was in full force tonight as he managed to hang onto every shot the Pens threw his way. Probably his 2nd or 3rd best performance of the season. I only say that because I’m sure there was a game from October where he was better. That and he may or may not have gotten lucky on a couple shots that went off the post. Cough.

– The whole Vs. crew definitely let it be known that the Caps are playing a more defensively responsible game and they did tonight for the most part. Here’s what I want to know; why is it that this strategy seems to work only against the Penguins and no one else? Oh I know why, the Penguins didn’t try to crash the net. At least from what I observed they didn’t. Watch what the Sharks and Ducks did compared to what the Pens and Sabres did the last two games and you’ll notice a huge difference. Our forwards and defensemen did a great job of blocking shots and getting into passing lanes but the Pens would have had a lot more scoring chances if they went to the net and crowded the crease like the Ducks and Sharks did.

– The team’s zone entries are still kind of brutal to watch, especially in the 1st and 3rd period. Outshot 18-7 in the first and 14-3 in the third. Granted, the Pens were on the PP for most of the first period, but the third was played all at even strength and it felt like the ice was tilted towards our end the whole time. The team defended most of the Pens attacks well but they couldn’t establish a solid forecheck for 60% of the game.

– Powerplay was 1/3 tonight and I think the Pens had more chances than we did. The goal that was scored was just Ovechkin being himself and the more of that, the better. 1/3 sounds a lot better than 0/3, doesn’t it?

– Ovechkin was responsible for most of the offense tonight from what I watched and he was the best player tonight not named Michal Neuvirth. 8 shots on net, 20:36 of ice time and a goal. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of that in the next couple of months.

– The entire NHL is probably saying, “Matt Bradley, you are the man” right now after his huge hit on Matt Cooke. I was disappointed when I saw that Matt Hendricks was scratched tonight due to illness but Bradley did a fine job of sending Cooke a message with that hit. He also had a solid fight with Ryan Craig and was a trending topic on Twitter. Solid night, Brads.

– Zbyneck Michalek and Brooks Orpik give me a headache with their shot blocking. It helps that they are really good at it.

– You know what also gives me a headache? The defensive pairing of Tyler Sloan and John Erskine. I love what Erskine brings to the team but shit always seems to hit the fan when the duo are paired together. They gave up more chances tonight combined than any other defensive pairing and I lost count of how many times Sloan fanned on a shot. Can not wait until Mike Green is back.

– It looked like Mathieu Perreault hurt himself tonight, which is something we really don’t need right now. On the bright side, Marcus Johansson had a solid night and had an assist tally.

– You know the Penguins get under the team’s skin when Nicklas Backstrom almost fights Jordan Staal.

– Boyd Gordon got away with a bad interference call in the third and he knows it.

– These games are so much more enjoyable when Dave Strader calls them instead of Mike Emrick. Don’t you agree?

So we’re done playing the Pens this year and have a few nights off before Friday’s showdown with the New York Rangers. Let’s hope we can keep the wins coming and possibly score a couple more goals while we’re at it.

Three Stars

1. Michal Neuvirth

2. Alex Ovechkin

3. Matt Bradley