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Here we go!  The final two weeks of the season and the standings are nearly set in stone.  There will be some shuffling before it is all said and done, no doubt, but the playoff picture is getting clearer by the day.  For some teams it is just about seeding, others just want to clinch a spot, and yet a few are fighting for their lives.  I will give a quick run down of the contenders and pretenders of the Western Conference.

Contenders

1) Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks have to be considered a top contender in the West, especially after their historic start of 24 games undefeated in regulation.  Captain Jonathan Toews has been leading by example all season long with 44 points in 42 games and a respectable +27.  American sniper, Patrick Kane, is ranked 5th in the league in scoring (20 goals, 27 assists) for his best point-per-game totals to date.  These two studs are not alone in the offensive zone with Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland and newcomer Brandon Saad rounding out a lethal top six.  This team is starting to get healthy at the right time and there are not many teams that can match their skill.  I compare their young core a lot to that of the Pittsburgh Penguins in terms of overall talent and speed.  Even the defensive pairings are a strength of the organization, but much like the Philadelphia Flyers, goaltending will be their Achilles heel come playoff time.  If either Corey Crawford or Ray Emery can hold the fort, the Blackhawks should be able to get to the Stanley Cup finals.

2) Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks have battled through a slew of injuries, but on the bright-side centre Ryan Kesler has made his return.  The two way forward has only played 11 games this season and despite his excessive diving, can be a difference maker.  Coach Vigneault will rely heavily on Kesler to shutdown the opposition’s top line and provide secondary scoring.  This team has had its ups and downs over the past couple years, losing in the finals to Boston and then a first-round knockout by Los Angeles.  The twins, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, are at the pinnacle of their careers, time is running out, and it is important for them to win now.  Whether it is some kind of freak telepathy or just raw talent, the Sedins have been able to find each other with the puck on a consistent basis and dominate offensively.  It will be interesting to see who starts in net, Schneider or Luongo, as neither was traded and the circus continues.  In the end, I don’t see this as being a huge problem, two capable goalies for a long playoff run is always a plus.  I expect Vancouver will persevere, their past experiences will help them, and hopefully they can bring a cup back to Canada.

3) Los Angeles Kings

The Los Angeles Kings are fresh off a Stanley Cup win and unlike most championship teams; their lineup is very much in tact.  They have played themselves into a better position than last year and they are enjoying a successful second half to the season.  Jeff Carter has had time to gel with linemate and good friend Mike Richards again; their chemistry together has been remarkable as a second unit.  However, the first line of Kopitar, Brown, and Williams will need to be sharp and contributing on the regular.  All-star goalie, Jonathan Quick, has struggled after offseason surgery, but I believe he will step up his play to defend their title.  Quick is the most acrobatic goaltender in the NHL and his phenomenal play in last years finals resulted in a Conn Smythe trophy.  Coach Darryl Sutter recently stated that Drew Doughty should be nominated for the Norris.  Sutter is not the type of coach to pump tires and talk up his players publicly.  Doughty has impressed the coach with his steady play and offensive output while logging serious minutes.  The Los Angeles Kings proved last year that they are a force to be reckoned with, they will fight right to the end and repeat if all goes well.

Pretenders

1) Anaheim Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks are one of the most improved teams this year, after finishing near the bottom of the conference in the 2011-12 campaign.  They can breath a sigh of relief now that superstars, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, are signed long-term and producing at their usual level.  One of the biggest stories of the season was netminder Viktor Fasth coming over from the Swedish Elite League and stealing the starting job from Jonas Hiller.  He has cooled off a bit from his torrid start, but still remains reliable between the pipes on any given night.  Coach Bruce Boudreau has my vote for the Jack Adams award, getting everyone to buy in to the new system after a subpar season.  With pretty much the same personnel, Boudreau has coached this team from bottom to top of the division (and conference).  I am tempted to categorize the Ducks as a contender in the West, but I predict they will falter before the big dance.  Viktor Fasth may be a 30-year-old rookie, however, he has not experienced the immense pressure of the NHL playoffs.   They will lose to another contender with more desperation (such as Vancouver) and come back stronger next year.

2) San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks are currently in the 5th slot, pushing for home ice advantage in the opening round.  Not too long ago they were sellers at the trade deadline, sending depth defenceman Douglas Murray to Pittsburgh and power forward Ryane Clowe to New York.  The locker room does not appear to miss their departures and they are playing quality hockey at the moment.  Their offensive weapons consist of “Jumbo Joe” Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and young gun Logan Couture.  Eventually Couture should take the reigns from the old veterans, but it looks like they are going to take at least one more crack at it.  Martin Havlat is another San Jose Shark synonymous with goal scoring, but he has been relatively quiet with only 13 points.  Former cup winner, Dan Boyle, still quarterbacks the powerplay and produces opportunities as his old age. But perhaps the MVP of the team and a possible Vezina candidate is goalie Antti Niemi with a league leading 21 wins.  San Jose is built like a winner, looks like a winner, but they are huge underachievers.  Top sports minds have predicted them to win year after year and been wrong.  This year will be no different and these same sports people have lost interest.

Sleeper

Nobody predicted the St. Louis Blues to take such a huge step back this year.  They were the Central Division champions last year and that was supposed to be the beginning.  They are a big-bodied team that plays well as a cohesive unit with stingy defence and goaltending.  Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk started off the season on the right foot, great fantasy picks, but couldn’t keep up the pace.  Apparently, St. Louis management was not confident in the remainders of their defensive pairings.  GM Doug Armstrong, maybe unwisely, went on a shopping spree for the top available talent at the position.  He reeled in Jordan Leopold of Buffalo, Wade Redden of Boston, and most significantly Jay Bouwmeester from Calgary.  If you were concerned about their defence before, it is absolutely stacked now.  Captain David Backes is no slouch as the top line centre, not as offensively gifted as some, but he makes up for it with leadership and grit.  The Blues have a lot of depth throughout the roster and even a budding star in Vladimir Tarasenko.  I would not take them lightly in a first round matchup and they could pull off an upset or two.

By: Andrew Smith – Lead Hockey Writer

Photo Credit: http://www.NHL.com

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The combination of a condensed 48 game season and the modern-day three point game (caused by overtime) has resulted in a mad dash to the finish.  With roughly 8 games left for each NHL team, there have been only two teams to clinch a playoff berth and very few completely out of the picture.  A hot streak down the stretch can buy a ticket to the first round, but a cold streak in these final games can be devastating.  It’s time to break down the Eastern Conference, revealing the contenders, and exposing the pretenders.

Contenders

1)  Pittsburgh Penguins:

The Pittsburgh Penguins sit atop the conference, a lock for the playoffs, but not guaranteed any favourable position in the top eight.  A week ago at the trade deadline I would have said they were the most dangerous team in the league.  Sydney Crosby had returned to form as an MVP candidate and GM Ray Shero was wheeling and dealing for players like Jerome Iginla.  However, the team has recently suffered from the injury bug and many of their stars have been sidelined.  Crosby himself is recovering from a broken jaw, James Neal has been concussed, and Kris Letang has had an ailing lower body injury.  This team will always be a threat with a “second line centre” to fill the void like Evgeni Malkin and a veteran goalie tandem in Fleury and Vokoun.  They should have an easy match-up in the first round, but if they expect to go the distance it will depend largely on the return of their injured players.  A healthy lineup will surely be a dominant force and favourites for the cup.

2)  Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins might be the strongest, most well-rounded, opponent in the East.  Their GM, Peter Chiarelli, was definitely outdueled at the trade deadline by Ray Shero, but the team added experienced sniper Jaromir Jagr and has tremendous depth.  Tuukka Rask has played well enough to earn Vezina honours and backup Anton Kudobin has even looked steady behind the Boston defence.  Zdeno Chara on the back-end with his enormous frame and hockey stick can make life difficult on even the best forwards.  A key injury to watch is forward Patrice Bergeron, a top two-way centre, who is currently out with a concussion.  Bergeron has a history of concussions at the NHL level, he is crucial to the Bruins’ success, and there is no indication of a return anytime soon.  I think that this team has got what it takes to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, with or without Bergeron.  The East is lacking the balance of the West and the Pittsburgh Penguins are likely their main obstacle to the Finals.  If Pittsburgh cannot get over their current injury woes or play to their true potential, a team like Boston could walk all over them.

3)  Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens have had a bounce back year, placing 15th in the conference last year, and now hold the Northeast division lead.  The resurgence of Andrei Markov as a premiere blue liner is a pleasant surprise and teammate PK Subban is in the running for a Norris trophy.  Goaltender, Carey Price, has had some off nights throughout the year but he is an elite puckstopper that deserves credit as well.   First-year GM, Marc Bergevin, has done an excellent job turning around this franchise in a short time.  Notably, he added gritty role players like Brandon Prust, shed some extra baggage (as in Gomez), and drafted a young superstar in Alex Galchenyuk.  His initial moves as general manager in the NHL, while some obvious, have paid dividends and the team is heading in the right direction.  Everything seems to be clicking for this group and they impressively won their season series with the Boston Bruins 3-1.  They could do damage in the postseason and at least move past the opening round or two.  If Boston and Pittsburgh falter early on, Montreal has the team to step up and make a run for it.

Pretenders

1)  Washington Capitals

The Washington Capitals were struggling all season, their offence wasn’t producing, and their goaltenders couldn’t stop a puck to save their life.  Now they are one of the hottest teams in the NHL with an 8-1-1 record in the last 10 games.  They went from a team that could get a very high draft pick to a division leader in the weak Southeast.  New coach Adam Oates received a lot of the blame for a slow start, but has since been praised for his work with Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals.  Alex Ovechkin has arisen from the dead and is actually competing with Steven Stamkos for the Art Ross trophy.  The team has the top ranked powerplay and is 7th in goals for, but they have polar opposite penalty kill and goals against stats.  I think this hot streak will be short-lived and might cool off before season’s end.  If they maintain their status in the division, they will benefit from their high-ranking in the standings, but will soon be defeated by a quality team such as Boston or Pittsburgh.

2)  Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs have had their best season in years, they may just break the longest playoff drought in the NHL.  In fact, I am going to make the bold statement as a Leaf fan that they will make the playoffs.  They are sitting in 5th place at the moment with plenty of breathing room on the fringe playoff teams.  Nazem Kadri is having a breakout season with 40 points in 40 games and James Reimer has asserted himself as the number one starter.  Coach Randy Carlyle has really had a positive affect on this youthful bunch, holding everyone accountable and evaluating players on their play and not their salary.  Mike Komisarek and Tim Connolly will suit up for the Toronto Marlies until their contracts are up or bought out.  The players that remain are devoted to the game plan and realize a playoff berth is at stake.  The Toronto Maple Leafs have become more defensively responsible, consistent in scoring, and most importantly tougher to face.  However, there will be a lot of growing pains and playoff experience is necessary before any real push can be made.

Sleeper

The New York Rangers are still a powerhouse, but their dismal season makes them my sleeper pick for the playoffs.  It is shocking that the top team in the Eastern Conference last year has regressed since the acquisition of power forward Rick Nash.  They will be a sneaky low seeded team, similar to Los Angeles, and could hit their stride at the right time.  The problem was that they tried to win it all with superstars and sacrificed the “foot soldiers” (a.k.a. Brandon Prust).  GM Glen Sather addressed the situation by trading sniper Marian Gaborik, and bringing in Ryane Clowe, Derick Brassard, and Derek Dorsett.  The 2011-12 Vezina trophy winner, Henrik Lundqvist, is a difference maker and has the ability to steal games.  I wouldn’t worry too much about these guys, the season was fun, but the playoffs are for champions.

By: Andrew Smith – Lead Hockey Writer

Photo Credit: http://www.NHL.com

Trade Alert

Below is a list of all the trades that happened leading up to the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline.

Friday March 29th, 2013

Edmonton trades Tobias Rieder to Phoenix for Kale Kessy

Edmonton gives up a pretty decent prospect in forward Rieder (85 points in 60 games last year for the Kitchener Rangers-OHL) for a physical player to potentially play on their fourth line in Kessy. (151 PIM last year for the Medicine Hat Tigers-WHL)

Saturday March 30th, 2013

Detroit trades Kent Huskins to Philadelphia for a 2014 condition 7th round pick

The Flyers blue line has been horrible this season, and although this trade doesn’t address the need for a high-end defenceman, the trade does provide depth for the Flyers and they only give up a 7th round draft pick in 2014.

Buffalo trades Jordan Leopold to St. Louis for a 2013 2nd and 5th round picks

The Sabres are trying to sell off any asset for draft picks. In the next two years, the Sabres now have 5 second round draft picks with this trade. Leopold goes to a Blues team that has a huge hole on defence and if he can play as well as he has in previous seasons, will be a solid pickup by the Blues as they battle to make the playoffs.

Monday April 1st, 2013

Philadelphia trades Harry Zolnierczyk to Anaheim for Jay Rosehill

Anaheim acquires a depth forward in Zolnierczyk while the Flyers add a fighter in Rosehill.

San Jose trades Michal Handzus to Chicago for a 2013 4th round pick

This is a very nice acquisition for the Blackhawks, as they acquire a depth forward that can play in their top 9 in Handzus, while the Sharks get a fourth round pick and shed some cap space.

Calgary trades Jay Bouwmeester to St. Louis for Mark Cundari, Reto Berra, either a 2013 or 2014 1st round pick & a 2013 4th round pick

Bouwmeester is a huge pickup for the Blues, as injuries and horrible play on the Blues blue line has them struggling to keep pucks out of their net this season. Although the Flames are getting a first and fourth round draft pick, they are also acquiring two prospects that are not well-known as to how talented they are. Clearly, the Flames are looking to re-build.

Buffalo trades Robyn Regehr to Los Angeles for a 2014 second round pick and a 2015 second round pick

What a steal for the Kings. The Kings have been hurt by injuries on their blue line this season, and with Willie Mitchell now expected to miss the remainder of the season, the Kings are giving up two future picks for a solid defenceman in Regehr who is nasty to play against.

Tuesday April 2nd, 2013

Buffalo trades Marc-Andre Bergeron to Carolina for Adam Hall and a 2013 7th round pick

This is a very nice deal for Carolina as they are able to acquire a veteran defenceman that will be a nice piece for the Hurricanes blue line, while they give up very little in return in Hall. For Buffalo, this trade was to clear cap space as they prepare for a massive rebuild.

Washington trades Matthew Clackson to Phoenix for Joel Rechlicz

Phoenix acquires a tough guy in Clackson (193 PIM last year for the Chicago Wolves-AHL) to provide some fourth line depth while Rechlicz goes to the back to the Capitals organization after a brief stint with them in 2011-12.

Dallas trades Derek Roy to Vancouver for Kevin Connauton, and 2013 2nd round pick

This trade is huge for the Canucks, as it gives them a depth center to play on the third line once Ryan Kesler returns from injury next week. They didn’t give up a lot in return for Roy, as only a 2nd round draft pick and prospect Connauton goes back to Dallas. For Dallas, its more about getting the draft pick as they are clearly in a rebuild mode.

Dallas trades Jaromir Jagr to Boston for Lane MacDermid, Cody Payne, conditional 2nd round pick

This trade is a bit surprising, as it was rumoured that Jagr was looking to re-sign in Dallas. This trade continues with the trend of getting younger and looking more to the future, as another 2nd round pick (which turns into a first round pick if Boston makes it to the Eastern Conference Finals) and some prospects come back to Dallas.

Washington trades Garrett Stafford, to Edmonton for Dane Byers

Edmonton acquires an offensive defenceman in Stafford for Byers who is a depth forward for the Capitals.

Los Angeles trades Drew Drewiske to Montreal for a 2013 5th round draft pick

This trade is simple from the Los Angeles point of view; clear a roster space for newly acquired defenceman Robin Regehr. For Montreal, Drewiske will be a nice depth defenceman for the Canadiens.

Dallas trades Tomas Vincour to Colorado for Cameron Gaunce

Vincour moves to Colorado to play on their fourth line at center while the Stars acquire a depth defenceman who has a little bit of offensive upside in Gaunce.

Tampa Bay trades the rights to Kirill Gotovets to Chicago for Philippe Paradis

Chicago acquires the rights to college prospect Gotovets, who is a speedy puck moving defenceman while the Lightning acquires a depth forward/AHL’er in Paradis.

San Jose trades Ryane Clowe to the New York Rangers for a 2013 2nd and 3rd round pick, and a conditional 2014 2nd round pick

Prior to the trade, the only thing that the Rangers were hoping for in Clowe was for him to provide a physical element to the Rangers lineup. However, Clowe scored two goals in his debut for the Rangers on Wednesday night. The Sharks load up on draft picks in return.

Wednesday April 3rd, 2013

Boston trades Maxime Sauve to Chicago for Rob Flick

This trade opened Wednesday’s group of trades, as Boston and Chicago traded minor leaguers. Flick moves to Chicago and adds a physical element to the Blackhawks in their depth chart.

Florida trades Jerred Smithson to Edmonton for a 2013 4th round pick

Big day for Smithson, as his first-born child was born and gets traded to the Oilers. He will most likely play on the Oilers 4th line at center.

Nashville trades Scott Hannan to San Jose for a 2013 conditional 7th round pick

Hannan returns to San Jose and is a nice depth defenceman for the Sharks while for Nashville this trade simply clears a roster space.

Carolina trades Jussi Jokinen to Pittsburgh for a 2013 conditional pick

Jokinen moving to Pittsburgh provides some speed to the team’s bottom 6 forward core and a shootout specialist.

Ottawa trades Ben Bishop to Tampa Bay for Cory Conacher and a 2013 4th round pick

For both teams, this is a very solid trade. The Senators acquire a nice speedy forward in Conacher, which will add to their top 6 forward core while Tampa acquires an up and coming goaltender to battle for ice time with current number one Anders Lindback.

Columbus trades Steven Mason to Philadelphia for Michael Leighton and a 2015 3rd round pick

This move makes little sense from the Philadelphia perspective, as they acquire a struggling goaltender and in return give Columbus a solid veteran backup as they push for a playoff run. Maybe Mason will rebound into the great goaltender that everyone saw in his rookie season, but don’t count on that occurring in a market that eats goaltenders alive. Leighton to Columbus is a solid move, as he will reunite with Sergei Bobrovsky and provide a veteran backup to an up and coming Columbus group.

New York Rangers trade Marian Gaborik, Blake Parlett and Steve Delisle to Columbus for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, John Moore and a 2013 6th round pick

This is probably the biggest trade of the day. Although the Blue Jackets are giving up three players, adding Gaborik provides some scoring for a team that has been struggling to score as they creep towards a playoff spot. The Rangers get three depth players to help round out their roster. I like Brassard moving to the Rangers as I think he is a very nice fit. Parlett and Delisle move to the Blue Jackets to assist with roster sizes.

Minnesota Wild trade Matt Hackett, Johan Larsson, 2013 1st round draft pick and a 2014 2nd round draft pick to Buffalo for Jason Pominville and a 2013 4th round draft pick

Good trade for the Wild as they acquire a veteran right-winger who will fit nicely into their top 6 forward group. Pominville also brings veteran leadership to the Wild as well. In Buffalo, it appears that they are preparing for the end of the Ryan Miller era by acquiring Hackett, who is a solid goal-tending prospect for the Sabres. Also, it appears that the Sabres will be rebuilding as they were able to acquire a first round pick along with a 2nd rounder in 2014. Although I do like the trade from both teams’ perspectives, I do wonder if Minnesota gave up too much for Pominville.

Calgary trades Blake Comeau to Columbus for a 2013 5th round draft pick

The Flames simply acquired something for a player that they deemed expendable, while Columbus gets Comeau who will provide some depth for their forward group.

San Jose trades a 2013 3rd round draft pick to Phoenix for Raffi Torres

San Jose lost a lot of grit when they traded Ryane Clowe to the Rangers, and Torres will fill that role. For Phoenix, it’s a trade in order to help rebuild their team.

Toronto trades a 2014 4th round draft pick to Colorado for Ryan O’Byrne

Toronto gets O’Byrne who will be able to fit into their lineup right away while only giving up a future draft pick. Very nice addition by the Leafs as O’Byrne is a Randy Carlyle type defenseman; big and physical. Only problem for the Leafs with this trade, pushes star in the waiting Jake Gardiner further down the depth chart.

St. Louis trades Wade Redden to Boston for a 2014 7th round draft pick.

If Redden can even be half of what he used to be in Ottawa earlier in his career, this will be a very solid move by the Bruins to add some quality depth to their blue line. Should be interesting to see if Redden can crack the lineup and play with former Senators teammate Zdeno Chara.

Phoenix trades Matthew Lombardi to Anaheim for Brandon McMillan

Anaheim needed a depth centerman while the Coyotes get a player with size to their lineup.

New Jersey trades a 2013 7th round draft pick to Phoenix for Steve Sullivan

Sullivan returns to the team that drafted him in 1994 while for Phoenix it was simply about clearing a roster spot.

Nashville trades Martin Erat and Michael Latta to Washington for Filip Forsberg

Forsberg is a highly sought after prospect and I do not get why Washington was willing to trade him for a player that is towards the end of his career in Erat. Yes, Erat will provide some depth upfront for the Capitals and I do like Latta and think that may be a decent fit in Washington, but I do not understand why Forsberg was traded as he is undoubtedly going to be a superstar in the league.

Penguins trade Patrick Killeen to Columbus for future considerations

A simple minor league deal between the two clubs where the Blue Jackets acquire a goaltender in Killeen that has bounced between the AHL (Wilkes-Barre Penguins) and the ECHL (Wheeling Nailers) the past few years.

Anaheim trades Jeff Deslauriers to Minnesota for future considerations

This trade is simple, the Wild are looking to go deep in the playoffs and this trade is to make sure that if either of their two goaltenders go down to injury, Deslauriers will be able to be called up and play.

By: Danny Amodeo – Hockey Writer

Photo Credit: The Toronto Sun

Deal or No Deal…That Is The Question

Posted: April 1, 2013 by dannyamodeo in Uncategorized
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As the NHL trade deadline approaches, there are many rumours surrounding possible trades and what teams are looking for. A team that seems to be front and center is none other than the beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.

James Reimer and Ben Scrivens have been playing extremely well for the Leafs, especially Reimer lately who has solidified himself as the Leafs starting goaltender. While there have been some stumbles in each goaltender’s development, both goaltenders have played well for the Leafs this season.  Both Reimer and Scrivens have no significant NHL experience, which leads many to wonder if the Leafs are going to make a deal at the deadline for an experience goaltender.  Many analysts wonder if the Leafs will be able to survive a playoff run with inexperienced goal tending.  It certainly holds true that the more experience in goal, the better!

Miikka Kiprusoff and Roberto Luongo are two goaltenders who offer the experience the Leafs are looking for in goal.  But as we will show, bringing in one of these all-stars may actually do more harm than good.

Bringing Luongo to the Leafs comes with his $5.333 million cap hit to the Leafs as well which would last until 2022.  Furthermore, Luongo will turn 34 years old this Thursday and is heading towards the tail end of his career. Obviously the large cap hit also has huge implications to the teams’ structure moving forward. Lastly, due to the length of his contract and how Luongo will probably retire before fulfilling his entire contract, this presents a problem to any potential Luongo dealer. If a player is to retire prior to the conclusion of his contract, a percentage of his final season’s cap hit will continue on the a teams’ cap number moving forward!  Furthermore, by bringing Luongo in it appears that he would be the starting goaltender, which stunts the development of both Reimer and Scrivens. Also, it appears that the Canucks are still seeking a center, a top draft pick and a high-end prospect in exchange for Luongo. If I was Leafs GM Dave Nonis, the last thing I would do is give up that much for an aging goaltender in Luongo.

In terms of the Kiprusoff rumours, the cap hit for Kiprusoff is $5.833 million a year he is only signed through the 2013-14 season and wouldn’t affect the Leafs cap situation after next season. If Kiprusoff was to come to Toronto, we would likely see a 1a/1b type of situation between Kiprusoff and Reimer, as both goaltenders would battle for ice time. Kiprusoff, like Luongo has been to the Stanley Cup finals and therefore has playoff experience which would help the Leafs this season. Ideally, the Leafs would use Kiprusoff to help Reimer mature as Kiprusoff would be able to provide his experience in the league to help the Leafs up and coming goaltender.

The main problem in acquiring either one of these top goaltenders is the fact that the development of Reimer and Scrivens will undoubtedly be stunted. If either goaltender was traded to Toronto, Scrivens would be left in limbo. The Leafs would be stuck with either demoting Scrivens to the AHL Toronto Marlies or trading him.  Neither of which are particularly attractive options. Acquiring Kiprusoff or Luongo would also cut Reimer’s ice time, which would stunt Reimer’s development as a number one goaltender. Most importantly though, if the Leafs were to acquire Kiprusoff or Luongo, one of these two stars would be the starting goaltender in the playoffs for the Leafs. If the Leafs deem Reimer as their goaltender of the future it would be important to get him as much playoff experience this season as possible. That being said, the main goal for the Leafs is to win.  If Luongo or Kiprusoff do end up in Toronto they would arguably give the team the best chance at winning.  It is imperative that the Leafs focus on winning now if they can instead of preparing for wins three or four years down the road.

Another important factor when analyzing the Leafs goal tending situation is that Reimer and Scrivens combined have a cap hit which is far less than either Luongo or Kiprusoff individually. This is important because if the Leafs continue to use the Reimer and Scrivens combo in goal, they give themselves more cap room to acquire other needed pieces like a veteran defenceman to assist in reducing the number of minutes Leafs captain Dion Phanuef is playing.

It will be very interesting to see what the Maple Leafs do moving forward. GM Nonis did state at a press conference earlier today that although he would like to acquire a veteran goaltender, it isn’t a top priority. Although he is probably saying this simply to help keep his team in a strong bargaining position, there is no doubt Nonis will be making calls to other NHL GM’s about their goal tending situation at the trade deadline. Although it may be a difficult decision, staying put and using Reimer and Scrivens in goal in the playoffs is not only the right move for the organization, but is the right move for each player’s development.

By: Danny Amodeo – Hockey Writer

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On Wednesday night, several reliable sources informed the hockey world that Jarome Iginla was traded to the Boston Bruins.  It was rumoured that the package going the other way would include collegiate prospects Matt Bartkowski, Alexander Khokhlachev, as well as their 2013 first round pick.  This was hardly a king’s ransom for the Calgary Flames’ all-time scorer, but it was a steep price for a rental player in the last year of a contract.  However, this information was misleading and should not have been released so prematurely to the public.  All signs pointed toward a done deal between Boston and Calgary, as the pieces in play were healthy scratches for their game that night.  The problem was that Jarome Iginla possessed a no-trade/no-movement clause and essentially had the final say in any decision.  Jarome originally listed four teams that he would approve, Boston included, but when push came to shove there was only one team he wanted to join.  The Pittsburgh Penguins swooped in with a similar offer and put the Calgary Flames in an awkward position.  Their star captain was only going to accept a trade to one place and GM Jay Feaster pulled the trigger.  The official report is that the Calgary Flames traded Jarome Iginla to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Kenneth Agostino, Ben Hanowski, and their 2013 first round pick.

This trade garnered mixed reviews from everyone.  The Pittsburgh Penguins and their fan base are delighted to have Jarome Iginla for the upcoming playoffs.  The team had already traded for veteran winger Brenden Morrow and steady defenceman Douglas Murray earlier in the week.  The latest addition of Iginla to an already stacked offence has solidified the Penguins as the top contender.  The Calgary Flames, on the other hand, are broken-hearted even days later and some fans wish Feaster had asked for more.  It is always a tough pill to swallow when the face of the franchise is traded and your favourite team realizes its time to rebuild.  In my opinion, the Flames have waited too long to trade their assets for a significant return, but at least they are getting the picture now.  More than any other team in the league, Calgary has had a stubborn belief that their team can contend and they were unwilling to admit defeat.  Hopefully this is the start of a full-scale rebuild, similar to their provincial rivals, and Iginla might even resign with them at the end of year.  The Boston Bruins camp are just dazed and confused over the whole ordeal.  Their GM, Peter Chiarelli, held a press conference to address the media on the subject and stated that he thought a deal with Calgary was done.  Boston will continue to point the finger at people to blame, but really they should refocus and prepare for the trade deadline.  The Penguins have made several moves in a short period of time while their Eastern Conference foes remain idle.

Sydney Crosby was a huge factor in Jarome Iginla’s decision.  It helps that Pittsburgh has the best player in the NHL and the pair have played together at the international level.  Coach Dan Bylsma has been adamant that the Kunitz – Crosby – Dupuis line stay in tact.  The trio have found excellent chemistry in the shortened season with a combined 49 goals in 34 games.  However, I would drop Dupuis to the second line to allow the newcomer Iginla a spot on Crosby’s right wing.  Sydney Crosby has the innate ability to bring out the best in his teammates and he has not played regularly on a line with someone of Iginla’s talent.  The second line would be composed of Neal – Malkin – Dupuis for another fearsome group.  The scary thing is that both lines would be a top line on any team in the league; they will make life extremely difficult for opposing coaches.  It was always tough to find defensive matchups for the Crosby and Malkin lines, but now each superstar has elite players around them.  Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero wanted to find a better winger for Sydney Crosby, since their top winger James Neal was having success with Evgeni Malkin.  I think Jarome Iginla fits that mold perfectly and also brings other intangibles like toughness and leadership.

Where does that leave Brenden Morrow?  Well, Morrow is not the player he used to be as his best days are behind him.  Morrow – Sutter – Cooke will round out a solid third line used from checking and shutting down the other teams top line.  They also pose a threat in the offensive zone as they all have the skill to score and chip in once and a while.  And lastly, the fourth line should be Glass – Adams – Kennedy that will bring energy when needed and play responsibly until the big boys are rested.  The primary and secondary powerplay units have many options; I expect Bylsma will play with it until he finds a good balance.  It is possible that he could load up the first unit and have them play the majority of the time.  If that were the case then we have Crosby at centre with Neal and Iginla for support, with Letang and Malkin quarterbacking from the blue line.

It has been four years since the Pittsburgh Penguins have won the Stanley Cup (2009).  Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have gone through some serious injuries and that has hurt their chances of retaking the throne.  Both players have overcome their health issues and GM Shero recognizes there is a window of opportunity to dominant the NHL.  He has made some tactical and some obvious moves to go for it this year.  It would be epic to see Jarome Iginla lift the Stanley Cup high above and return to the Calgary Flames to retire a champion.  If anyone has followed his career in Calgary, with 11 straight 30+ goal seasons, this man deserves it!

By: Andrew Smith – Lead Hockey Writer

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins making three solid trades this week, most notably last night acquiring Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames for a first round draft pick and two prospects, it appears that the trade front is beginning to heat up in the NHL. The Penguins made three great moves this week, acquiring Brandon Morrow from the Dallas Stars for Joe Morrow and the Penguins 5th round draft pick in this year’s draft. The Penguins then acquired depth defenceman Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks for a second round draft pick and a conditional draft pick. On Wednesday, the big trade was the aforementioned Iginla trade.

With the Penguins reloading and the trade deadline set for Wednesday April 3rd, 2013, this article will look at who might be moved prior to the deadline. But first, I am going to re-visit my original trade bait article published on March 1st and look at what has changed and stayed the same.

In my previous article, I discussed the Calgary Flames possibly looking to sell Iginla and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. I was accurate in the assumption that Iginla would be moved prior to the deadline however it does not appear that the Flames will be able to deal Kiprusoff. Kiprusoff has threatened to not report to any team that acquires him in a trade, which is largely based on his new-born child and rumoured complications with the child’s health.  As one could expect, Kiprusoff wants to remain as close to his family as possible. If the Flames are unable to trade Kiprusoff, one still must believe that the Flames will be looking to revamp their organization and sell off pieces in order to acquire prospects and draft picks. Possible players that could be moved out of the Flames origination include Mike Cammalleri, Alex Tanguay, Jay Bouwmeester, and Mark Giordano. If General Manager Jay Feaster is going to start anew in Calgary, he would be wise to trade these aging veterans and look to get younger and begin to re-build through the draft.

I also previously discussed the situation in Toronto, as they are heading to the deadline with some aging veterans that could be moved. It does not appear that John Michael Liles will be moved, partly due to his ankle sprain that he suffered last week.  In addition, he has been playing fairly well for the Leafs when healthy.

Another player I mentioned in my previous article is Mike Komisarek.  He has since been sent down to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL since my previous article, and its rumoured the move was to get Komisarek some games in order to prove that he still is NHL worthy. The Leafs also have Tim Connolly in the minors as well who could be moved. However, the Leaf rumours lately have been based around pending UFA’s Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur. With the Leafs cruising for a playoff spot and considering the chemistry that Bozak and MacArthur have shown with their respective line mates this season, it seems highly unlikely that the Leafs will rock the boat and trade these players. Instead, I would expect the Leafs to attempt to re-sign these players moving forward. If the Leafs do make a move, I would imagine that they would attempt to package a few of their younger defenseman, such as Mike Kostka, Korbinian Holzer, and Jesse Blacker, for a top three shutdown type defenseman. Connolly and Komisarek could still be moved, but one would assume that they will not get too much in return for these players, especially considering their high cap hits. If the Leafs are able to move any pieces, it appears that their needs are a top 3 shutdown defenseman or a veteran backup goaltender to help James Reimer down the stretch and towards a possible playoff run.

Previously, I also mentioned the Winnipeg Jets who are looking to upgrade in goal. However, Ondrej Pavelec has turned his season around, and has been playing extremely strong in net for the Jets who have risen to third in the Eastern Conference standings. With the play of Pavelec, it appears that if the Jets are looking at the deadline to improve, it would be to acquire a top 10 forward with some toughness to provide energy and depth to the organization as they head towards the playoffs.

Another Canadian team that I have previously made mention about was the Ottawa Senators. I predicted that the Senators would keep their captain Daniel Alfredsson moving forward, and it appears that the captain will remain in Ottawa. The Senators do still have a log jam in goal, with three solid goaltenders in Craig Anderson, Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner. The Senators would like to trade one of these goaltenders in hopes to find a defenseman that has some playoff experience in order to replace the loss of star defenseman Erik Karlsson.

The Vancouver Canucks are another team with a situation where they would like to move a goaltender. As mentioned in my previously article, the Canucks would like to trade Roberto Luongo and clear his $5 million plus cap hit off of the books. However, the asking price, rumoured to be a first round draft pick, a current NHL player and a high-end prospect, seems to be too high, hence Luongo has not been moved yet. With the injury situation in Vancouver and the need to improve at the center position with the injury to Ryan Kesler, it appears that the Canucks are still looking to move Luongo for a depth center.

In my previous article, I also made mention about the Los Angeles Kings looking to improve on defence due to the injuries to Rob Scuderi, Alex Martinez, Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene. It appears that the Kings are going to continue to run with their current crop of defenseman, which includes the surprisingly solid Jake Muzzin. Muzzin has been a nice story for the LA Kings this season as he has been a solid addition to the Kings blue line. The Kings still have goaltender Jonathan Bernier who they would like to move before the deadline. It appears that if the Kings are able to move Bernier, it would be for a prospect, draft pick or a depth defenceman.

Now I will add teams that I have not previously discussed to the mix as we inch closer to the deadline.  First off, I will address some teams that are looking to be sellers prior to the deadline.

With the trade of Douglas Murray, the next rumoured San Jose Shark to be traded will be Ryan Clowe. Although Clowe has not scored this season and only has 10 assists, he is a solid physical forward that teams heading towards the playoffs would love to add to their top 9.

In Edmonton, it appears that the Oilers are looking to part ways with a few of their veterans to continue their youth movement. Rumoured names to be traded out of Edmonton include veteran forward Shawn Horcoff and veteran defenseman Ryan Whitney. Whitney will attract a lot of possible suitors if the Oilers decide to move him, as he would fit well into teams’ top 4 defenceman.

Similar to the Calgary Flames, another team that may be looking to get younger and begin to move some of their veterans is the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres have several assets that could attract buyers at the deadline, including goaltender Ryan Miller, defenceman Robyn Regehr, Jochen Hecht and Jordan Leopold.

There are a few teams looking to buy prior to the deadline as well. The Boston Bruins would like to add a piece prior to the deadline, as they seem to be searching for a top 9 forward. With Iginla being traded to Pittsburgh, it appears that the Bruins will target the Sharks in order to acquire Clowe who would be a great fit in Boston. Expect the Bruins to give up either prospects or picks in order to acquire a player such as Clowe.

The Nashville Predators have had a tough time scoring this season, and will be looking to acquire a sniper prior to the deadline. A team in a similar situation to the Predators will be the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets have been rising in the Western Conference standings due to improved play and like the Predators would like to add a scorer to their lineup to provide an offensive spark down the stretch.

With hockey nation being less than a week away to the trade deadline, it will be very interesting to see what happens prior to the deadline. While some are predicting a quite deadline, I fully anticipate a lot of teams looking to make moves prior to the playoffs/end of the season. As a hockey fan, I hope that I’m right.

By: Danny Amodeo – Hockey Writer

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The top two players on the Anaheim Ducks, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, were slated to become unrestricted free agents in the upcoming off-season.  They were drafted 19th and 28th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, regarded as one of the best drafts in NHL history.  They have eclipsed the careers of many picked before them and have flourished on Anaheim’s top line for years.  Not only have they put up stellar statistics each season, but they have also each collected a respectable amount of hardware.  They won the Stanley Cup in 2007, a gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics, and Corey Perry was awarded the Maurice Richard and Hart trophies in 2011.  On the open market, both players could command mega-bucks as their talent is rare with so much time left to play at only age 27 (born 6 days apart).  Although the sport has gained ground in the state of California, the Anaheim Ducks are not your prototypical hockey market.  The team does not have the money to spend like those of the “Original Six”, and many speculated that at least one of these premiere forwards was on the way out.

If either player were to stay, it was rumoured to be Ryan Getzlaf, who had grown accustomed to life on the West Coast.  Corey Perry, on the other hand, grew up in Ontario and always wanted to be on the big stage for Hockey Night in Canada.  In order to get back to the big hockey markets, he would most likely have to be traded or signed to a team in Western Canada or the Eastern Conference.  On March 8th, 2013, Ryan Getzlaf accepted a new contract with the Anaheim Ducks for the maximum length of 8 years and $66 million.  This seemed a steep price for the two-way centreman at a cap hit of $8.25 million per season, especially with a salary cap reduction coming in the next year.  However, their top line centre was now locked up for the foreseeable future and management could then focus on getting a Corey Perry deal done.

Over the past five seasons, Corey Perry is ranked second in goals scored in the NHL to Steven Stamkos.  As mentioned earlier, he was also the Most Valuable Player and Top Goal Scorer in the 2011 season.  Without a doubt, Corey Perry could make upwards of $9 million with his next contract, but Anaheim would be the only team allowed to sign him to an 8-year term.  The rest of the league would have to extend offers of a maximum 7 years due to the new collective bargaining agreement.   It was an unfortunate situation for the Anaheim organization, since they were battling with the Chicago Blackhawks for top seed in the Western Conference.  The possibility of a trade or a sign and trade would have to be looked at closely if Corey Perry refused to sign a contract before the trade deadline.  It was only last year that New Jersey and Nashville held onto their star UFAs for a playoff run and then lost them for nothing in free agency.  Zach Parise and Ryan Suter packed their bags and left for the Minnesota Wild.  Also, there was the whole Justin Schultz debacle in the off-season, where their top prospect walked away and signed with the Edmonton Oilers.

This past Monday night (March 18th, 2013), Corey Perry re-signed a similar contract with the Anaheim Ducks for 8 years and $69 million.  It was originally thought that the Getzlaf contract would tie up too much money to sign Perry, but it actually acted as a catalyst to the whole process.  Ryan Getzlaf was in constant conversation with his teammate regarding his future contract considerations and influenced his decision to stay.  Corey Perry felt much more comfortable signing long-term with the Ducks knowing that they were committed to retaining other skilled players.  Besides, it doesn’t hurt to make millions playing hockey on indoor ice rinks with the beautiful weather, women, and beaches outside.

Some people think this move by Anaheim is financially irresponsible, given that 25% of the salary cap has been devoted to two players (with a 23 player roster).  I disagree, this was the only option for management to make and it was best settled before playoff time.  The Anaheim Ducks have a legitimate chance at the Stanley Cup this year and for many years to come.  They can now fully prepare for the last stretch of the season and their dynamic duo will lead them to another playoff berth.  The salary cap shouldn’t be an issue going forward, as players like Koivu and Selanne are retiring.  There is also a talented group of youth and a phenomenal rookie goaltender under reasonable contracts.  Even their prized 2nd overall pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Bobby Ryan, is under contract for this season and the next two years at $5.1 million.

I honestly don’t see a problem with the Anaheim Ducks loosening the purse strings and keeping both Perry and Getzlaf.  In fact, it would be detrimental for the franchise to let them go.  The American markets are extremely fragile and they need superstars to attract the fans and grow the business.  I expect the salary cap will slowly increase in the coming years as the business stabilizes and the teams in unprofitable markets are relocated.  The Anaheim Ducks will be successful in the sunshine state, much like the Los Angeles Kings, if they continue their winning ways and retain their own.

By: Andrew Smith – Lead Hockey Writer