By Steve Silverman
The trade deadline is at 3 p.m. ET Monday, and nobody truly knows how it’s going to play out. There will almost certainly be a plethora of deals, but will they involve big names who are on expiring contracts, or are they more likely to involve depth players who can chip in with a big hit, a big assist or a game-winning goal in overtime during the playoffs?
Big names that could be on the move include Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh of the Rangers, and Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens.
Karlsson is probably the most talented offensive defenseman in the league, and he proved that last year during Ottawa’s playoff run last year when he was landing pinpoint passes left and right and supercharging the Senators’ offense. The 27-year-old Karlsson has won two Norris Trophies in his nine-year career with the Sens.
The team is going nowhere this year and owner Eugene Melnyk has been quite vocal about his team’s bottom line, so a trade involving Karlsson seems legitimate.
Karlsson has one year left on his contract, so it’s not just a rest-of-the-season rental. The Senators can probably move Karlsson and get multiple prospects/first-round picks, as well as a productive player.
Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion has been taking multiple calls on Karlsson, but talking about parting with the Swedish defenseman and actually doing it are two different things. Karlsson still appears to be bothered by foot problems, so any team that is serious about acquiring him has to understand that he may not be 100 percent.
The Rangers are clearly in the reloading mode – notice we didn’t say rebuilding – and they already traded defenseman Nick Holden to the Boston Bruins Tuesday.
Nash and McDonagh are the big prizes, and the Tampa Bay Lightning are clearly interested in McDonagh and are at least interested in Nash.
McDonagh would probably cost a young and promising regular player, and the Lightning may be willing to meet New York’s needs. Veteran NHL reporter Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal reports that the Rangers and Bruins have been talking about McDonagh and the Rangers want Boston rookie Jake DeBrusk involved in such a deal.
If Tampa Bay general manager GM Steve Yzerman wants McDonagh badly enough, he will give the Rangers a young player who may exceed DeBrusk.
Earlier in the year, it appeared the Rangers wanted a first-round pick for Nash. That does not seem likely to happen, and general manager Jeff Gorton and team president Glen Sather may have to lower their expectations quite a bit.
Max Pacioretty has been the Canadiens’ top sniper for years, and he has proven he can score big goals after scoring 39, 37, 30 and 35 goals the past four seasons. However, the Habs are floundering badly this year and Mad Max has just 16 goals and a woeful minus-16 rating.
Pacioretty has one more season on his contract, and there is an excellent chance the Canadiens could get a strong offer for him from several teams, and one of them is the St. Louis Blues. The Blues have a couple of key prospects in Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou, and they would definitely have to part ways with one of them as part of a package.
With the Blues setting the market, the rest of the league knows what they will need to do to get a deal done – or at least started.
Hall living up to potential for Devils
If the New Jersey Devils make it to the playoffs, they will have to thank Taylor Hall for strapping them to his back and getting them there for the first time since 2012.
The Devils made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final this year before losing to the Los Angeles Kings, and they have rarely even been close to a playoff spot since.
Hall is having a monster year with 25 goals and 38 assists, a plus-12 rating, 14 power-play goals and five game-winners. He has fired 200 shots on goal for the Devils – 65 more than teammate Nico Hischier — and he is connecting on 12.5 percent of them.
Hall was the much-ballyhooed No. 1 pick in the 2010 NHL draft of the Edmonton Oilers, and while he has performed adequately throughout his career, he has not reached the superstar level that was expected.
Actually, Hall became the scapegoat for Edmonton during the last couple of seasons of his six-year run, and the Oilers shipped him to New Jersey for defenseman Adam Larsson.
The Devils have won that trade in a big way, as Hall has turned into an express train when he has the puck in the offensive zone.
Hall has scored at least one point in 18 straight games and has thrown his name into the Hart Trophy discussion.
Hall, 26, has become a more mature individual, taking responsibility for leading the team. That was something that he was reluctant to do in Edmonton. He was not interested in talking and taking charge – he just wanted to play.
Hall has become a true leader and is on the best run of his career.
Donato has a choice on his hands
While the United States hockey team did not make it to the medal round in the Olympic hockey tournament, the Americans had a legitimate breakout star in forward Ryan Donato, who fired home five goals and was clearly the most dangerous player on the team.
Now that the Americans have been eliminated, Donato has a choice on his hands. Does he go back to Harvard and finish the season with the Crimson, or does he takes his pinpoint shot to the NHL and play with the Bruins?
Donato was Boston’s second-round pick in 2014 and he is ready for prime time. He could play a key role on the team’s first power play unit with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Torey Krug – manning the same spot on the half wall that Ryan Spooner currently has.
This is not an insult to Spooner, who is adequate, but Donato is simply better and more dangerous.
Boston general manager Don Sweeney and head coach Bruce Cassidy may be salivating about this young prospect, and what he decides could influence what happens at the trade deadline and throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Bruins proved last spring that they will not hesitate to take a college star and put him in the lineup at the most crucial time of the year. They did that with defenseman Charlie McAvoy last year and it will be interesting to see if that happens again with Donato.