The Philadelphia Flyers have sometimes been in need of healthy goaltenders this season. Not currently however, as they now have four on the active roster. The team today recalled Brian Elliott from his conditioning stint and activated him from injured reserve, adding him to a group including Cam Talbot, Carter Hart and Mike McKenna on the active roster.
The New York Islanders made a handful of moves this morning, first sending Michael Dal Colle back to the minor leagues. The team has also recalled Andrew Ladd and Thomas Hickey from their respective conditioning stints, though neither have actually been activated from injured reserve yet. Dal Colle was one of the Islanders only waiver-exempt forwards, but his assignment still only leaves them with a single free roster spot. The team will have to make another move to open room in order to activate both Ladd and Hickey.
With the trade deadline now less than a week away, we continue our look at the situation for each team over the coming weeks. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs? As we continue previewing the Metropolitan Division, here is a look at the Washington Capitals.
Following their Stanley Cup victory, expectations were high for Washington heading into the season. However, while they’ve hovered near the top of the Metropolitan Division for most of the year, they’ve yet to really establish themselves as true contenders either. They’re within striking distance for the division lead but are also only three points up on a playoff spot. It’s not likely that GM Brian MacLellan will be satisfied with that so expect him to try to shake up the roster over the next week.
32-20-7, second in the Metropolitan Division
Deadline Cap Space
$1.1MM in a full-season cap hit, 0/3 used salary cap retention slots, 48/50 contracts per CapFriendly
Upcoming Draft Picks
2019: WSH 1st, WSH 2nd, WSH 3rd, WSH 4th, WSH 7th
2020: WSH 1st, WSH 2nd, WSH 3rd, WSH 4th, WSH 5th, WSH 6th, WSH 7th
Winger Andre Burakovsky’s name has been in trade speculation for months and remains their likeliest trade chip. While he’s only a couple of years removed from picking up a respectable 35 points in 64 games, he has steadily worked his way down the depth chart since then to the point where he’s averaging a career low in ice time and is logging just over 11 minutes a night. He’s still rather young having turned 24 earlier this month so between that and his previous success, there should be teams that have some interest. However, the fact that he’s owed a $3.25MM qualifying offer this summer may limit that interest. If MacLellan has eyes on adding anyone of significance over the next week though, Burakovsky will need to be moved.
As for others that could be in play, there has been a rotation on Washington’s fourth line all season long and winger Dmitrij Jaskin has often been the odd one out. He was a regular in St. Louis last year and plays with a physical edge which could interest teams looking to add some grit for the stretch run. With a $1.1MM cap hit, swapping him out for someone a bit cheaper would give the Capitals some much-needed wiggle room on the cap as well. Winger Riley Barber cleared waivers at the start of the season but has been quite productive with AHL Hershey. He’s eligible for Group Six unrestricted free agency in the summer so there may be a team that decides they’d like to take a look at him and assess his NHL upside over the final few weeks of the season.
1) Cap Space: Before even considering their needs, Washington needs to have some cap space to fill them. Right now, they can add a cheap depth player and nothing more. While that might be enough to add to their back end, that’s not going to be enough to push them forward and help secure a top-three spot in the division. That’s what makes Burakovsky likely to move as simply shedding his contract should free up enough cap room to add someone of significance. Looking ahead to next year, with nearly $69MM tied up in 14 players already, finding a way to add a bit more flexibility for 2019-20 wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
2) Offensive Winger: Washington is in good shape down the middle with Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Lars Eller as their top three centers. However, their depth on the wing isn’t as strong. Brett Connolly is having a career year but he’s better off in a tertiary scoring role rather than being utilized in the top six. Finding someone to fill that right wing spot and push Connolly down the lineup would certainly help improve an already strong attack. This was the role they envisioned for Burakovsky but he hasn’t been able to fill it consistently.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
With the trade deadline quickly approaching, we will be profiling several players in the weeks ahead that have a good chance to be dealt by February 25th.
Incremental fourth line upgrades are rarely exciting but several playoff-bound teams will be looking to make them over the next week. With that in mind, Detroit center Luke Glendening is once again in trade speculation and could soon find himself on the move.
Glendening is in the second season of a four-year, $7.2MM deal that’s slightly front-loaded. The total salary over the final two years of the deal is $3.2MM. There isn’t any form of trade protection in the contract.
Heading into the season, it seemed likely that Glendening would bounce between the third and fourth lines and play his usual checking role. Instead, he has been asked to play a more substantial role as he has been a fixture on the third line while even dabbling in Detroit’s top six from time to time. As a result, he’s on pace for career highs across the board offensively while still being one of the stronger players at the faceoff dot in the league; he ranks tenth league-wide in faceoff percentage (56.2%) among players with at least 500 draws taken this season.
60 GP, 9 goals, 11 assists, 20 points, +8 rating, 15 PIMS, 84 shots, 15:47 ATOI, 41.6 CF%
With two years left on his deal after this one, Glendening is someone that non-contenders could, at least in theory, look to add to upgrade their bottom six with an eye on next season. That said, the likeliest suitors are those that are looking to win now and want a faceoff/penalty kill type of specialist.
In the East, Toronto has been linked to Glendening already and had interest in him last season as well. Their fourth line center situation hasn’t been the greatest this season with rookies Par Lindholm and Frederik Gauthier having varying degrees of success in that role. Head coach Mike Babcock is also familiar with him from his days in Detroit. However, a $1.8MM AAV without any sort of offset may be too much of a premium for a team that’s pegged to be very tight to the Upper Limit beyond this season. Columbus has had all sorts of issues with center depth as of late and could certainly view him as some stability at that spot. Boston hasn’t really replaced Riley Nash (who is now with Columbus after leaving as a free agent) and while their eyes are set on more of an impact pivot at this stage, that could change if the top names go elsewhere.
Out West, Colorado isn’t interested in rental help but would like to make some sort of upgrade. They’re near the bottom of the league at the faceoff dot and would slot in nicely on their fourth line. Dallas could be in the market for depth down the middle with Martin Hanzal potentially done for the year and Jason Spezza (who has seen some time at center this season) set to become a free agent this summer. With St. Louis all of a sudden looking like possible buyers, Glendening could be the type of small upgrade they target while leaving the core parts of their roster intact.
Likelihood Of A Trade
Between his faceoff prowess and positional versatility, Red Wings GM Ken Holland should be fielding quite a few calls on Glendening if he hasn’t done so already. However, the odds of a trade getting done will likely come down to whether or not they’re willing to pay down part of the contract (they can retain up to 50%) or take a player back to offset money that way. While the 29-year-old would certainly help some contenders, his cap hit is high for someone that’s primarily going to be a fourth liner on those teams. If Detroit’s willing to do that, there’s a good chance he’ll be on the move with the Red Wings picking up a pretty good return for Glendening’s services.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Holland was a first round pick (15th overall) of Anaheim back in 2009 but has not lived up to his draft billing. Instead, he has become somewhat of a journeyman in recent years as this will be the fifth organization he has been with since December of 2016. He has been quite productive at the AHL level in 2018-19, tallying 49 points (20-29-49) in 52 games which puts him in a tie for sixth overall in league scoring. He’ll head to AHL Rockford where he will serve as a potential call-up for Chicago down the stretch; he last saw NHL action last season when he suited up in 23 games with New York. Holland carries a cap hit of $675K and will be an unrestricted free agent in July.
As for Raddysh, he’s in the first season of a two-year, entry-level contract after the Blackhawks upgraded his AHL deal to an NHL one back in May. He was a dominant offensive presence with OHL Erie back in 2016-17 with 81 points (16-65-81) in just 62 games and while he hasn’t come close to those numbers in the minors, he’s in the midst of a decent season offensively with eight goals and 18 assists in 54 games with AHL Rockford this season. With Chicago having several quality defensive prospects that will be turning pro in the near future, Raddysh will likely have a better shot at making it to the NHL with the Rangers although he will remain at the minor league level for now.
The Buffalo Sabres have sent Kyle Okposo home to be evaluated by team doctors. Okposo left Friday’s game after taking a hard punch from Anthony DeAngelo, and ended up missing Buffalo’s next match against the New Jersey Devils. Head coach Phil Housley could not provide any update after practice.
The last thing anyone wants to hear with regards to Okposo is that he has suffered a head injury, given his recent history. In April 2017 Okposo was hospitalized and moved to the Neuro Surgical ICU at Buffalo General Hospital after suffering a concussion and experiencing severe symptoms. The next year, in March 2018, Okposo was diagnosed with another concussion that kept him out for nearly two weeks. On Saturday, the team announced that Okposo had not suffered a concussion this time around, hopefully a diagnosis that is still true after this latest development.
The Sabres are back in action tomorrow night in Florida, and won’t be back in Buffalo until Saturday night. Okposo leaving the team would suggest that he at least will not be available for the next two games, though it is not clear how long he will be out after that. The 30-year old forward has 22 points in 59 games, including just seven in his last 32.
The Edmonton Oilers have officially activated Andrej Sekera from long-term injured reserve after clearing enough cap space with this weekend’s Cam Talbot trade. In order to fit him on the roster though, the team has moved Jujhar Khaira and Jesse Puljujarvi to injured reserve. Josh Currie, who has been dominating of late in the AHL, has also been recalled.
Edmonton has also waived Brandon Manning with the intent of burying his cap hit in the minor leagues, giving them some additional flexibility as they head into the upcoming trade deadline. Sekera’s return should strengthen the blue line, though there is no guarantee the 32-year old defenseman will be able to bring his former level of production. It’s been more than ten months since Sekera last played in an NHL game, and his similar comeback in the second half of last season was not exceptional. There was a time when he could be relied upon as one of the team’s most consistent two-way defenders, but the team will hope they can squeeze out even a fraction of that effectiveness down the stretch.
This was the first time the team had even suggested that Puljujarvi is dealing with an injury, and it comes at perhaps the most inopportune time given the recent reports about his availability in trade. The young forward has still not been able to establish himself as a full-time NHL presence, and would likely benefit from some more development time in the AHL. That can’t happen for at least a few days, as even backdating the injured reserve period to his last game—Puljujarvi played 9:31 in Friday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes—would keep him out for this week. Interestingly, Mark Spector of Sportsnet reported that Puljujarvi was a healthy scratch for Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders, apparently not knowing about any injury either. Spector has been told now, as he tweets that the young forward has a lower-body injury that shouldn’t keep him out too long.
While it will be overshadowed by the other news, this is a huge step for Currie who has not yet played an NHL game. The 26-year old forward went undrafted out of the QMJHL but battled his way through minor league contracts and eventually landed an NHL deal with Edmonton last summer. Playing on three ECHL teams across three seasons, he eventually found success in the AHL and is now the Bakersfield Condor’s leading goal scorer with 24 in 49 games this year including 15 in his last 17 contests.
The NHL has released their three stars for last week, and Nikita Kucherov finds himself on top once again. The Tampa Bay Lightning forward now has 94 points on the season to lead the entire league and has recorded at least two in each of his last four games. That gives Kucherov 28 multi-point games this season and makes him a near lock for his second consecutive 100+ point season. The 25-year old has become an almost unmatched offensive powerhouse the last few seasons and will likely be a finalist for (if not the outright winner of) the Hart Trophy this year.
Fellow Russian sniper Vladimir Tarasenko took home the second star for his ten-point effort, another reason why the St. Louis Blues are the NHL’s hottest team. Tarasenko was included in trade rumors at one point this season, but is now on pace to come close to his career-high in points of 75. Third place went to Sidney Crosby who is having another incredible season even without some of the usual fanfare. Crosby has 72 points in 56 games and will likely continue his streak of point-per-game seasons that has lasted his entire career.
- When Marian Hossa stepped away from the NHL in 2017 due to a mysterious skin condition, many struggled to accept his explanation. That was because it happened to coincide with Hossa’s salary dropping dramatically, meaning he wasn’t leaving very much money on the table by essentially retiring. Now, in an incredible interview with The Athletic’s Scott Powers (subscription required), Hossa opens up about the condition and how it affected his life and playing career. After a trade from Chicago, Hossa’s contract remains on the Arizona Coyotes books and will until 2021 when it eventually expires. He won’t be playing hockey again, but his health and life have returned to some level of normalcy.
- While Powers was busy releasing a feature on Hossa, Athletic colleague Scott Wheeler was releasing his midseason draft rankings (subscription required). Wheeler continues to have Jack Hughes as an easy choice in the top spot and doesn’t see it as “a 1A and 1B” draft with fellow top prospect Kaapo Kakko. Arthur Kaliyev, who scored two more goals today for the Hamilton Bulldogs to give him 47 on the season, sits at 13th and is the top OHL player available. As Corey Pronman of The Athletic points out on Twitter, Kaliyev is in rare (and impressive) territory in terms of draft eligible goal scorers from the OHL.
It was all starting to come together for Jake Virtanen, but he’ll now miss a good chunk of the season thanks to injury. The young Vancouver Canucks forward will be out a month with a fractured rib according to head coach Travis Green. Green also indicated that Chris Tanev is seeing a doctor today to determine the length of his injury timeline. Virtanen had already been placed on injured reserve.
Virtanen, 22, has already set career-highs this season with 12 goals and 22 points. As he starts to become the power forward the team envisioned when they selected him sixth overall in 2014, the Canucks have begun to give him more responsibility and ice time. Virtanen has responded well, recording 119 hits in 58 games while still posting positive possession statistics.
The injury, likely sustained on an open-ice hit from Ryan Getzlaf, will put a temporary end to all the progression Virtanen has experienced this season. After already missing the team’s last two games, another month would mean a total of 13 contests lost. It would also mean that the young forward won’t be able to help the team push for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, something that is just barely out of reach. The Minnesota Wild currently hold the second wild card position with 60 points, while the Canucks sit at 59 and fourth in the Pacific Division.
All eyes are on a handful of teams as the trade deadline approaches. If a front office isn’t calling the Ottawa Senators about Matt Duchene, there’s a good chance they’re on the phone with the Columbus Blue Jackets given the uncertain futures of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. The pair of pending unrestricted free agents are almost certainly going to market in the summer if the Blue Jackets keep them through the end of the season, meaning they have to see what is available for them in trade before making a final decision. Aaron Portzline of The Athletic (subscription required) breaks down the entire Blue Jackets trade deadline situation including the most likely trade pieces if the team decides to go out and add a player for a potential playoff run—Duchene being the most recently linked option.
Of those potential trade pieces, Sonny Milano stands out as an interesting option. Portzline lists the 2014 first-round pick as a potential “sweetener” in any deal, explaining that it appears as though Milano no longer “factors into their plans.” If that’s true, and Milano is available as a sort of throw-in there will no doubt be teams interested.
Selected 16th overall in 2014, Milano had been part of an outstanding US National Development Team alongside players like Jack Eichel, Alex Tuch and Dylan Larkin (and even younger stars like Auston Matthews, Noah Hanifin and Zach Werenski for a time). The 17-year old Milano trailed in scoring only to Eichel, and would end up selected just between Larkin (15th overall) and Tuch (18th) in June’s draft. A jump to the OHL was a successful one, and Milano then transitioned to the minor leagues with immediate results.
Unfortunately, that success hasn’t quite translated to the NHL level. Through 70 games over four seasons, Milano has recorded 24 points but struggled to impact the game in various ways or consistently crack the Blue Jackets’ top-six. He’s played just eight games with the big club this season, instead spending most of the year with the Cleveland Monsters where he has 21 points in 24 games. Portzline writes that it was notable when Columbus did not recall the young forward when Nick Foligno was unavailable for a week last month.
For any acquiring team, there is also the issue of Milano’s pending free agency. The 22-year old will be a restricted free agent this summer but luckily is still not eligible for salary arbitration.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images