Trade Grade: Timonen to Blackhawks 

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27

The deal

Blackhawks get: Kimmo Timonen

Flyers get: Blackhawks' second-round pick in 2015, conditional fourth-round pick in 2016. If the Blackhawks win two rounds in the playoffs and Timonen plays in 50 percent of the games, the pick becomes a third-rounder in 2016. If Chicago wins three rounds and he plays in 50 percent of the games, it becomes a second-rounder in 2016.

Next steps for Buffalo Sabres 

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
Nikita ZadorovAP Photo/Chris SzagolaThe Buffalo Sabres will be a fascinating team to watch this summer.
Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray is in full sell mode right now. While he hasn’t ruled out another deal like the Evander Kane trade, he set the odds at 80 percent that he'll sell his rentals compared to 20 percent that he'll make a pure hockey trade before the deadline.

“I don’t foresee a hockey trade, but then again, I didn’t foresee the Winnipeg trade until we did it,” Murray said when we chatted this week.

The interesting question for the Sabres is -- what happens next? At some point the selling ends and the building begins in earnest.

When the dust settles, the Sabres will be loaded with draft picks.

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Trade Grade: Clarkson to Columbus 

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
David ClarksonBruce Bennett/Getty ImagesDavid Clarkson hopes to provide an offensive boost for the Blue Jackets down the stretch.

The deal

Maple Leafs get: Nathan Horton

Blue Jackets get: David Clarkson

Columbus Blue Jackets: A

Stick with me here. The huge cheers from Maple Leafs fans as they carried David Clarkson and his $5.25 million salary-cap hit out of town suggests that the Blue Jackets got ripped off in some form for making this deal.

That’s not the case.

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Trade Grade: Jagr to the Panthers 

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26

The deal

Panthers get: Jaromir Jagr

Devils get: Panthers' 2015 second-round pick, 2016 third-round pick (Florida's or Minnesota's)

Florida Panthers: C

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Antoine VermetteChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesAntoine Vermette is among the best remaining "rental" options on the trade market.
And just like that, the rental trade market has thinned out considerably.

On Tuesday, the trade for Sean Bergenheim helped set the price for a rental, with the Florida Panthers getting a third-round pick while shipping a seventh-rounder to the Minnesota Wild along with the forward, who had asked out.

The other general managers took that bit of information on Wednesday and ran with it.

“I think the Bergenheim price motivated some sellers to take what they can get. That was not a great price if you’re a seller,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “The value -- I don’t think it was anywhere near what people were saying the market was going to be.”

That said, the price the Pittsburgh Penguins paid for Daniel Winnik was high, in part because he was one of the few rentals they could squeeze under the cap. And the Los Angeles Kings paid a nice ransom for Andrej Sekera, but get the double benefit of adding the best available rental defenseman and preventing him from going to Chicago.

In a span of two days, Bergenheim, Winnik, Sekera and Jiri Tlusty were removed from a market that also no longer contained Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli.

There are still useful options out there, but it moves the spotlight to the "hockey trade" market. This is the market in which contenders vie for a player who has more term on his deal.

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Trade Grade: Sekera to the Kings 

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25

The deal

The Kings get: Defenseman Andrej Sekera

The Hurricanes get: Kings 2015 first-round pick (becomes 2016 first-rounder if Kings miss the playoffs) and prospect Roland McKeown

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Trade Grade: Tlusty to the Jets 

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25

The deal

The Jets get: Jiri Tlusty

The Hurricanes get: Jets' 2016 third-round pick, 2015 conditional sixth-round pick (becomes a fifth-rounder if the Jets make the playoffs)


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Trade Grade: Winnik to the Penguins 

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25

The deal

The Penguins get: Daniel Winnik (Toronto retains 50 percent of his salary)

The Maple Leafs get: Zach Sill, fourth-round pick in 2015, second-round pick in 2016

Pittsburgh Penguins: C+

Daniel Winnik is a solid player. He can contribute on the third line and the penalty kill, and he can be useful for coach Mike Johnston. But he isn't necessarily worth two assets, which the Penguins paid in second- and fourth-round picks.

“I’m surprised [the Maple Leafs] got a second and a fourth,” said an Eastern Conference executive on Wednesday.

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With Kane hurt, Blackhawks need to add 

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
KaneJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesWith Patrick Kane out six to 10 weeks, GM Stan Bowman may have to add before Monday's deadline.
It was one fluke moment that could change the top of the playoff race in the Western Conference. Florida’s Alex Petrovic was called for a crosscheck on the hit that sent Patrick Kane into the boards, and Chicago Blackhawks fans into full panic mode, although replays suggest it wasn’t as egregious as that.

Regardless, it’s a hit that Blackhawks fans won’t forget for a while.

Chicago reporters have become experts at reading the tea leaves when it comes to interpreting Joel Quenneville’s postgame comments, so when Quenneville was already ready to concede that Kane would miss “some time,” as reported by ESPN Chicago’s Scott Powers and others, it doesn’t bode well for hopes that he will return to the ice quickly.

As of Wednesday morning, the report from Powers is that Kane will miss six to 10 weeks, and it certainly changes the landscape of the trade deadline for GM Stan Bowman.

First and foremost, it creates a hole in the lineup that is irreplaceable.

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Same old story for the Kings? 

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24
KingsDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesThe Kings' seven-game win streak has put them in third place in the Pacific Division.
It’s so easy from the outside not to stress about the Los Angeles Kings. It’s so easy to look at that team, excuse their annual early-season issues and just wait for them to pull it together and make their spring run.

Kings GM Dean Lombardi doesn’t have that luxury. He couldn’t assume anything. When his team was sitting outside a playoff spot as the calendar flipped to 2015, he couldn’t laugh it off like the rest of us and just assume it would work itself out.

He stressed. He didn’t even like the suggestion that the Kings would eventually work things out. He’d point out deficiencies, how this team was different from those in the past. As he tends to do, he analyzed it every possible way.

At one point, he seriously considered making a trade that would shake things up, send a message. But he couldn’t. Those aren’t the type of trades he’s made in his career. He makes trades to improve the team, and the thought of making one when that wasn’t the singular goal didn’t sit well. So he waited.

When you win as much as the Kings have in recent seasons, there’s a trust that builds between the general manager and the players. Lombardi watched his team closely, and at no point during their struggles was there any finger-pointing in the dressing room. He saw the opposite. He saw a team that understood its issues well.

“There was never any blaming of the coach, blaming other players,” Lombardi said when we chatted Monday. “The one thing this group has always been good at is critiquing themselves. I don’t think there was any doubt we all knew we weren’t being ourselves.”

That especially hit home following a loss to the Panthers on Feb. 5. Lombardi meant no disrespect to the Panthers when he said it, but that’s the game that looked like rock bottom for the Kings.

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Boston Bruins Icon Sportswire/AP ImagesThe Bruins put six pucks past Blackhawks goaltenders in their win on Sunday afternoon.
The road trip could have been an absolute disaster. One more loss and the Bruins would have been in full crisis mode arriving back in Boston.

The Bruins didn’t mind how they played Friday against the Blues -- but it was a 5-1 loss. Nobody wants to hear about process after a 5-1 loss. It was also the Bruins' sixth consecutive loss as they looked determined to hand over the playoff cushion they had built up over the Panthers and the suddenly charging Flyers.

After a practice Saturday in Chicago, Milan Lucic summed things up this way: “No better time than now to get it going.”

As far as understatements go, that was a pretty good one.

Then the Bruins went out on Sunday and steamrolled the Chicago Blackhawks, a team with its own issues.

If the Bruins pull things together and straighten out their season, this will be the game pointed to as the difference. It was a 6-2 win in which everything looked perfectly normal if you believe the Bruins are an Eastern Conference contender. Patrice Bergeron was great, with a goal and assist to go with his usual 200-foot game. Dougie Hamilton scored his 10th goal of the season. Reilly Smith was flying.

Sure, there were too many penalties and Tuukka Rask lost his cool for a moment, but that’s OK. They can’t be perfect.

Games like this make the Bruins such a hard team to judge this season -- and you can add the Kings and Blackhawks to that group too.

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Atkinson's unique value in trade 

February, 20, 2015
Feb 20
Cam AtkinsonJamie Sabau/Getty ImagesTeams looking for more than a typical rental are calling the Blue Jackets about Cam Atkinson.
Cam Atkinson didn’t register a point during the Columbus Blue Jackets' win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, and that’s noteworthy because it’s an anomaly lately. It was just the second time in his past seven games that he was held off the scoresheet, a stretch in which the talented Connecticut native has four goals.

Colleague Pierre LeBrun was the first to report that Atkinson may be available ahead of the March 2 trade deadline, with the Boston Bruins mentioned as an interested team -- but they’re not alone.

According to an NHL source, the Blue Jackets aren’t actively making calls on Atkinson, but they are listening when approached. And they’ve been approached frequently. The belief externally is that if the Blue Jackets get a package they like for Atkinson, they’ll move him.

There’s a debate to be had on whether that’s wise, and naturally that all depends on the return. But there’s no doubt he has value.

“If you trade Cam, you’re trading a 20-goal scorer,” said one source.

He’s also just 25 years old. Where it gets a little complicated is that he’s a restricted free agent after this season and can be an unrestricted free agent after 2015-16. His price tag is about to jump considerably.

But right now, he’s a very reasonable $1.15 million cap hit, which is a major consideration for contending teams squeezed against the cap.

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How Sharks can compete and rebuild 

February, 19, 2015
Feb 19
inline: Marc-Edouard VlasicTrevor Hagen/The Canadian Press/AP ImagesThe Sharks' roster includes a mix of veterans and rising young talent.
San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan felt the need to come out and say it because his players needed to hear it. The Sharks, he said, are a playoff team. And the coaches, players and everyone else will be held accountable based on that expectation.

To him, it was an important reminder since there’s also a rebuild going on in San Jose.

“I came out and made the comment that we’re a playoff team: Why did I do that? I believe we’re a playoff team,” he said during a Wednesday afternoon phone conversation. “We have the ability, personnel and skill to be a playoff team. Our players needed to hear that or accept it.”

San Jose is in the unique position of simultaneously trying to rebuild and maintain itself as a playoff contender. As currently constructed, this isn’t one of those Sharks teams you look at and tell yourself that they could make a Stanley Cup run. But they also don’t have the luxury in that market of bottoming out, nor could they with the talent on the roster that isn’t going anywhere.

So they’re in between. Upstairs is a general manager executing a long-range plan that started with the trades of Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe at the trade deadline two years ago.

Behind the bench is a coach saying that the long-term plan isn’t a built-in excuse to slide down the standings.

“At times, they hear we’re rebuilding this or that,” McLellan said. “If they hear that as a way out, it gives themselves permission to not be elite. That’s not what I want. We want them to play to a certain standard and to push for it.”

With the Kings surging, the Sharks are currently on the outside looking in at a playoff spot, which sets up games against Dallas and Los Angeles that could go a long way in deciding where the Sharks are playing this spring.

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Most common no-trade destinations 

February, 18, 2015
Feb 18
Ben Scrivens(Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI/Getty ImagesThe Edmonton Oilers are at a disadvantage when it comes to evolving through trade.
It was a conversation that took place before GM Kevin Cheveldayoff pulled off his monster Evander Kane trade. The debate was whether criticism of Cheveldayoff’s lack of notable NHL trades was warranted.

Of course, it wasn’t. Other general managers hadn’t made any trades of note during the time of Cheveldayoff’s tenure as GM, but that wasn’t the defense this Cheveldayoff supporter took.

Instead, he pointed out something hockey fans might not realize: Winnipeg may be the most commonly listed team on a player’s no-trade clause.

There are three ways to build a team: draft and develop, which is the Jets mode of preference, plus free agency and trades.

But if players don’t want to be traded to Winnipeg, they certainly aren’t picking the Jets as a free-agent destination. It can limit the options of a team trying to improve its roster.

Turns out, this isn’t just a Winnipeg problem.

To discover if this Jets defender was correct, 10 agents were asked to send the three most commonly listed teams when players with no-trade clauses submit their list of banned destinations.

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The hidden value of a second-round pick 

February, 17, 2015
Feb 17
Jacob De La RoseFrancois Lacasse/NHLI/Getty ImagesJacob De La Rose's role continues to expand during the Canadiens' drive to the playoffs.
It’s interesting to watch, as the Montreal Canadiens fight for position at the top of the Eastern Conference, the ice time grow for prospect Jacob De La Rose. The 19-year-old Swede isn’t lighting things up offensively, but he is clearly earning the trust of coach Michel Therrien -- who doesn’t just hand out ice time to teenagers. He went from 9:23 against the Bruins to 11:49 against the Flyers and currently finds himself in the 14-minute range the past two games.

He brings some size to a team that needs it and also plays with smarts beyond his years. It’s impressive, and it’s also a reminder that these draft picks being thrown around right now as trade fodder eventually become players. Really, it doesn’t take all that long.

De La Rose joined the Canadiens organization with the second-round pick the team acquired in the Feb. 27 deal that sent Andrei Kostitsyn to the Predators in 2012.

That was the same season the Predators acquired Paul Gaustad for a first-rounder, a pick that eventually turned into Zemgus Girgensons when the Sabres spun it into a higher pick in that draft.

In later years, the Predators did well to restock their system with young players, but teams are well aware of the importance of young players constantly coming in their system. It’s why prying a first-round pick for a rental is harder than ever, and some teams are even hesitant to move a second.

“The second-round pick has become the currency of choice on deadline day,” said one Western Conference executive.

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