NHL Rumors: Washington Capitals

Links from around the rink: April 11 

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
For six months, the St. Louis Blues cruised through the NHL season, never once losing three consecutive games and surpassing the Chicago Blackhawks atop the Central Division standings. Come the trade deadline, the Blues shored up their lone perceived weakness by adding goaltender Ryan Miller. Now on the threshold of a postseason in which St. Louis is expected to challenge for the Stanley Cup, it could all be falling apart at the worst possible time.

Thursday night marked the fourth straight loss -- the Blues' longest losing skid of the season -- this one coming at the hands of the Minnesota Wild, a potential first-round playoff opponent. But that scenario requires St. Louis to secure the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, which is far from a guarantee at the moment. As of Friday morning, the Blues stand level with the Colorado Avalanche in the Central Division with 111 points through 80 games, one point back of the West-leading Anaheim Ducks. And the Avs own the regulation wins tiebreaker over the Blues as well. If the Blues do fall back to the No. 2 spot in the Central, they would face the reigning-champion Blackhawks in Round 1 of the playoffs instead of the Wild.

[+] EnlargeMiller
Mark Buckner/Getty ImagesRyan Miller has slumped of late for the Blues.
The road back to the top of the division won't be an easy one. Not with the current instability in the the St. Louis net (four goals allowed in each of their four recent losses). Miller's play has been particularly questionable of late. He was pulled after allowing four goals on just 13 shots Thursday night, and owns an .813 save percentage over his past three starts. Meanwhile, across the rink in the Wild crease, 30-year-old John Curry stopped 43 shots to earn his third career win.

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Fantasy Grapevine: Week 23 

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeni Malkin & Henrik SedinGetty ImagesFinding replacements for injured superstars is critical both in reality and in fantasy.
As is customary this time of year -- Olympics or no Olympics -- the long regular season is beginning to wear on NHL rosters. With the playoffs just around the corner, most NHLers are, to some degree, bruised, banged-up and/or justifiably bushed. It seems we can’t go more than a few hours without hearing of another significant injury. So while the Washington Capitals await word on the health status of Nicklas Backstrom, two other clubs are already working around losing their own game-changing centermen. All of whom happen to be valued fantasy assets.

Backstrom is considered day-to-day following his premature departure from Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings. On the upside, the 26-year-old forward was not subjected to the league’s mandatory concussion testing after enduring the nasty fallout from a Drew Doughty hit. Coach Adam Oates says Backstrom was held out from returning to the game for precautionary reasons. Many suspect he’s nursing a shoulder injury, and since the Capitals don’t play again until Saturday, there’s hardly cause for panic here.

On the other hand, while the Vancouver Canucks insist on declaring Henrik Sedin day-to-day, word has it the club’s captain is more likely to miss a couple of weeks with a suspected left leg/foot problem. That leaves maybe a game or two before the 2013-14 regular campaign wraps up for good. Owners fighting for fantasy supremacy -- especially in redraft leagues -- are advised to cut Henrik immediately. As a substitute, center Shawn Matthias could continue to get time on a line with Daniel Sedin and Nicklas Jensen.

Then we have the Pittsburgh Penguins, who seem fairly open about the latest injury to shelve Evgeni Malkin. Coach Dan Bylsma concedes Malkin will miss two to three weeks -- the rest of the regular season -- with a bad right foot. Again, if you want to make a final charge in your non-dynasty league, and there isn’t an IR slot available, drop the Russian center outright. Why not? Owners in deeper leagues may like to know that Brandon Sutter is pegged to replace Malkin on the second line with wingers Jussi Jokinen and James Neal.

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Fantasy Grapevine - Week 18 

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
New York RangersAP PhotoMight we see Ryan Callahan wearing a different sweater this season?
Are the New York Rangers about to part ways with their captain? The latest scuttlebutt suggests we can add the name of Ryan Callahan to the growing list of potential trade candidates ahead of this season’s deadline. On Tuesday, ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun discovered contract talks between the pending UFA forward and the Rangers weren’t progressing all that smoothly:

"[This] led to some rumblings that the Rangers are exploring the trade market in case talks don’t produce a contract extension before the March 5 trade deadline ... You can imagine the reaction when Rangers GM Glen Sather called some teams over the past week to inform them that Callahan might be available. ‘That’s a pretty big name,’ one Western Conference source said."

It sure is. However, by recent scoring standards, Callahan is experiencing only a ho-hum season. Averaging 0.54 points per game on a line with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin, Callahan is off his average mark of 0.73 points per game over the past three regular seasons. It won’t surprise you to know his ice time is down significantly, as well. Perhaps a change of scenery would inspire the 28-year-old winger to rediscover his productive magic of old.

Spoken for in 79 percent of ESPN.com leagues, Callahan hasn’t exactly charmed his fantasy owners in 2013-14.

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NHL Daily Links - Jan. 24 

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
With the Olympic trade freeze (Feb. 7) just around the corner and the official NHL deadline (Mar. 5) on the horizon, the potential for more wheeling and dealing grows by the day.

Forward Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers has been one popular target for such talk, to the point members of TSN’s Thursday broadcast panel suggested trading the 23-year-old winger would be the best move for the Oilers (although Darren Dreger recommended the team wait until the offseason). However, both GM Craig MacTavish and owner Daryl Katz have insisted they have no interest in moving Eberle.

Other current chatter features the case for trading defenseman Mike Green of the Washington Capitals, and why dealing defenseman Kris Letang might not be such a lousy idea for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Also, ESPN Insider Craig Custance expands on the upside of trading for F/D hybrid Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets. The next few weeks should be good fun for those who relish a meatier variety of trade talk.

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NHL Daily Links - Jan. 21 

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
When Steve Mason agreed to a contract extension over the weekend, it eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers as a potential buyer for a goaltender after the season. Our Craig Custance takes a look at how recent transactions involving prominent goalies will impact the summer market for netminders.

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NHL Daily Links - Jan. 6 

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
With the trade deadline less than two months away, the Pittsburgh Penguins' Ray Shero does not like a GM looking to rent a player, says Rob Rossi. As of last week, Rossi says Shero and Winnipeg's Kevin Cheveldayoff had not talked about Evander Kane, who has four years left on a contract that counts $5.25 million annually against the salary cap.

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NHL Morning Links - Dec. 17 

December, 17, 2013
Forward Shawn Thornton is opting to roll the dice. According to the player’s agent and the NHLPA, the Boston Bruins veteran is appealing his 15-game suspension for attacking Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik on Dec. 7. Next up is a hearing with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. If the suspension still sits at six games or more after Bettman makes his call, Thornton can then take his appeal to an independent arbitrator. Of course, Thornton also runs the risk of seeing his suspension increased. TSN legal analyst Eric Macramalla suggests odds are slim the punishment is altered by either the commissioner or, if it gets that far, a neutral authority. Also, Macramalla proposes the entire process should pass rather quickly.

As for Orpik (concussion symptoms), there’s word the Penguins defenseman is feeling better. Welcome news, considering how devastated the Pens’ blue line is by injury. While Kris Letang (undisclosed upper-body injury) and Rob Scuderi (broken ankle) aren’t due back until after the Christmas break, Paul Martin (broken leg) isn’t scheduled to return until mid-January. ESPN Insider Craig Custance looks into whether the Penguins can keep up their winning ways with some many key figures hurt. Forward Evgeni Malkin is also listed as day-to-day.

In other suspension-related news, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Corey Potter has been told to sit out two games for boarding forward Nick Bonino of the Anaheim Ducks. And Deryk Engelland (Penguins) has an in-person hearing with the NHL's discipline department set for Wednesday after elbowing Detroit Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader in the jaw.

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NHL Morning Links - Dec. 6 

December, 6, 2013
After Thursday’s frightening scene in Montreal, news that Johnny Boychuk was cleared to fly home with his team is most welcome. The Boston Bruins defenseman was unable to get up off the ice on his own after being hit into the boards by Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty. Boychuk was eventually stretchered off and taken to hospital. According to Bruins forward Jarome Iginla, Boychuk suffered a back injury when he was hit. In any case, the valued D-man will likely miss a fair amount of time. General consensus is Pacioretty won’t receive supplemental discipline from the league for the hit. The forward was handed a two-minute minor penalty at the time of the infraction.

The Detroit Red Wings can’t seem to get far ahead of the game on the injury front. Shortly after hearing that Pavel Datsyuk was nearing return, word emerged of the latest injury to hobble Darren Helm. The center is ruled out for the weekend with a suspected shoulder strain or sprain. While Stephen Weiss is favored to center the Red Wings’ second line in place of Helm, a returning Todd Bertuzzi could sub in (for Weiss) on the top unit with Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist. But coach Mike Babcock hasn’t promised anything.

Coach Alain Vigneault thinks all of his defensemen stink except Ryan McDonagh. Ok, maybe that wasn’t exactly what the New York Rangers coach said recently, but he definitely wants a greater effort from his corps of blueliners. Vigneault wasn’t shy about his preference for John Moore over Michael Del Zotto either. You get the sense Del Zotto wouldn’t see any action at all these days if he wasn’t being flaunted for a trade.

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NHL Morning Links - Dec. 2 

December, 2, 2013
It was a disastrous holiday weekend for the New York Islanders, who lost three home games in four days and are 2-10-1 in their last 13.

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Fantasy Grapevine - Week 9 

November, 27, 2013
Martin Erat, John-Michael LilesGetty ImagesMartin Erat and John-Michael Liles may both get a change of scenery soon.
Now that the leverage-less Washington Capitals have little choice but to trade a disenchanted Martin Erat, where does the 32-year-old end up?

ESPN's Pierre LeBrun proposes the Vancouver Canucks are among a gaggle of teams intrigued by the idea of dealing for the proven winger. The point is, there is interest. And, wherever he lands next, Erat's fantasy value is set to grow considerably.

A square peg that never fit comfortably into coach Adam Oates' lineup template of round holes, Erat stands an excellent chance of reclaiming his productive touch elsewhere. History tells us as much. This is a guy who succeeded in putting up good numbers, consistently, for the Nashville Predators (not the most explosive team on offense, right?) over nearly eleven seasons. That talent and skill set combo doesn't just dissolve overnight.

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NHL Morning Links - Nov. 26 

November, 26, 2013
The lockout last season wiped a full slate of games off the November schedule, which may have been good news for the New York Islanders. The Islanders are 4-8 this month and 9-22-5 in their past three combined Novembers. ESPN Insider’s Craig Custance asks if Jack Capuano’s squad has enough left to salvage the season.

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Fantasy Grapevine - Week 8 

November, 20, 2013
Schenn/Del ZottoUSA TODAY SportsBrayden Schenn and Michael Del Zotto could be off to new teams, if rumors are to be believed.
If the latest popular scuttlebutt evolves into reality, a couple of promising young NHLers would soon be on the move. Here's a speculative look at two figures who feature prominently in ongoing trade gossip -- forward Brayden Schenn of the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto -- and the fantasy fallout from a couple of potential transactions.

While the 22-year-old center isn't being actively shopped, TSN's Darren Dreger reports the Flyers have "quietly" informed other teams that Brayden would be available if the "right deal" is on the table. First and foremost, Philly craves quality blue-line help (one good game from an aging Kimmo Timonen doesn't cure all that ails). If GM Paul Holmgren can gain a good, young puck-moving defenseman, and possibly also offload salary cap burden and roster dead weight Andrej Meszaros as part of the package, the loss of Brayden should prove worthwhile.

Pursing that thread, Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos proposes a deal sending the younger Schenn brother to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman Jake Gardiner. Considering the lack of depth at center (see: Dave Bolland on LTIR) and excess of offensive defenseman (see: Morgan Rielly, and John-Michael Liles in an emergency), the Maple Leafs might be willing to make this move. Especially since Leafs management has reportedly been sweet on Brayden since before he was even drafted (2009).

From a fantasy perspective, such a move does Schenn's owners no favors, at least in the short term. Skating at left wing on a Flyers line with Vincent Lecavalier and Wayne Simmonds, the natural centerman has been all a-blaze, particularly of late (three goals and three assists in five games). A move to Toronto, for example, may result in Schenn battling Nazem Kadri for the second-line centerman's role (assuming Tyler Bozak is fit enough to play on the top unit). However, in the long run, Schenn projects to be a top-six center just about anywhere. Otherwise, center Sean Couturier is likely to most benefit from Schenn's prospective departure.

As for Gardiner (owned in five percent of ESPN.com leagues), a move out of Toronto would undoubtedly bolster the young D-man's fantasy value. Ranked behind Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson on the Leafs' fantasy depth chart, the 23-year-old would benefit from playing a more prominent role elsewhere, predominantly with the man advantage. A team like the Flyers wouldn't pay the price necessary to snag Gardiner unless they had big plans.

Moving on to Del Zotto, our own Pierre LeBrun reports the Ottawa Senators are among a group of five or six teams that have interest in acquiring the struggling Rangers blueliner. Unsatisfied with the play of Patrick Wiercioch and, well, any other offensive defenseman not named Erik Karlsson, the Senators are understandably willing to roll the dice on somewhat unpredictable talent.

Such a move would do wonders for the 23-year-old's tumbling fantasy value. Failing to impress new coach Alain Vigneault, Del Zotto has spent significant time in the press box this season, and his role has been diminished when on the ice. The former first-round draft pick (2008) could undeniably use a change in address, whether that involves joining the Sens, Edmonton Oilers, or another squad altogether.

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Fantasy Grapevine - Week 7 

November, 13, 2013
Nail YakupovAndy Devlin/NHLI via Getty ImagesHow would Nail Yakupov's fantasy value be affected if he was traded?
Judging from recent comments made to the media, Craig MacTavish wouldn't care much for this post.

Exasperated by the "distracting" talk of a potential trade shipping Nail Yakupov out of Alberta, the general manager of the Edmonton Oilers insists the former No. 1 overall draft pick (2012) isn't going anywhere.

That may very well be true (TSN's Darren Dreger believes as much). But after the young forward did little this week to extinguish reignited trade chatter inspired by his agent Igor Larionov, this particular state of affairs may only become more disruptive. If so, and if pushed, MacTavish & Co. may end up cutting ties with the talented youngster after all. You know, when the right, too-good-to-refuse, offer comes along. It wouldn't be the first time a team does a quick about-face on the trade front after pledging to keep a firm grasp on a certain player.

So, wading into more speculative waters, where could Yakupov conceivably land? Talk of a potential deal involving the New York Rangers has echoed the loudest to date. Considering the Oilers' desire for a skilled, power forward and an upgrade on defense, you can imagine Chris Kreider and Michael Del Zotto tick a lot of boxes. And there's little chance that Ales Hemsky alone can land the Edmonton club either Kreider or Del Zotto in return.

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NHL Morning Links - Nov. 1 

November, 1, 2013
Forward Steve Downie is a member of the Philadelphia Flyers once more. Traded from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forward Maxime Talbot, Downie wasn’t all that surprised at being moved, in light of his expiring contract. Expected to draw into the Flyers’ lineup Friday versus the Washington Capitals, Downie may skate on the top line with Vincent Lecavalier and Claude Giroux, replacing Michael Raffl. There’s also a chance the 26-year-old winger, who’s adept at playing on both sides, could slide in on a line with center Sean Couturier.

Talbot was apparently more shocked than Downie at hearing news of the deal. Avalanche coach Patrick Roy reveals Philadelphia "wanted Steve Downie back, and we felt it was the price to pay to get Talbot”. The 29-year-old forward is roundly admired as a top-notch penalty-killer and proven playoff performer. Talbot is pegged to slide in on the wing– on the Avs’ third line, maybe – to start.

As for Thursday’s Insider content, Craig Custance assembles an “All-Underrated” NHL starting six; the cream of the under-appreciated crop, if you will. And Corey Pronman ranks top prospects in the AHL.

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Fantasy Grapevine - Week 5 

October, 30, 2013
Nazem Kadri #43 of the Toronto Maple Leafs Claus Andersen/Getty ImagesNazem Kadri was recently promoted to the Maple Leafs' top scoring line.
The next couple of weeks will be huge for two young centermen, as the NHL world looks to be their oyster. Subbing into more prominent roles for injured teammates, Brandon Pirri and Nazem Kadri, of the Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively, are already taking advantage of recent promotions within their own lineups. But while one is universally available in ESPN.com leagues, the approach to the other is more complicated for fantasy owners.

Competing in place of Michal Handzus (minor upper-body injury) on a Blackhawks' second scoring line with Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane, Pirri has two assists in two games. More importantly, Chicago's head coach is open to permanently awarding the promising young center the top-six gig.

"We're still looking for who's going to be that guy," Joel Quenneville said this week. "It's an opportunity for [Pirri] to hopefully grab that. We certain feel he can play there. At what point are you comfortable giving him that chance? We're comfortable giving him that chance here, and I think he'll do fine."

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