Tonight's games: New kids off the block

To extend my “trade deadline is like Christmas for hockey fans” analogy, tonight’s games are essentially the moment when you hook up that NES and start shooting fireballs at turtles in Super Mario Bros. Of course, if your team made bad trades, it might be more like receiving “E.T.” for your Atari.

Let’s take a look at tonight’s heavy schedule of nine games.
Tonight’s Best

Colorado Avalanche (36-21-6, 78 pts) at Phoenix Coyotes (37-22-5, 79 pts) – 9:00 PM ET

Two of the most surprising teams in the league have plenty to play for in this one as the Coyotes hold a one point lead over the Avs for fifth place in the West. This is the second game of a back-to-back and the third game in four days for the scrappy Avalanche. It would be a great letdown for Phoenix if they don’t take advantage of this fortuitous situation.
Los Angeles Kings (38-20-4, 80 pts) at Nashville Predators (34-23-5, 73 pts) – 8:00 PM ET

The Kings are absolutely on fire right now (8-1-1 in their last 10 games) while the Predators continue to defy conventional logic by sticking around in the playoff hunt. It will be interesting to see how well new Kings Fredrik Modin and Jeff Halpern are integrated tonight.
Rest of the games after the jump


Toronto Maple Leafs (19-32-11, 49 pts) at Boston Bruins (27-23-11, 65 pts) – 7:00 PM ET


If you just look at these teams’ records, you’d think this would be a dud. However, the Phil Kessel trade means that this game has more than just playoff implications for the Bruins. The more times Boston beats Toronto, the better draft pick they’ll get. Cue the Brian Burke scowl.
Ottawa Senators (36-24-4, 76 pts) at Carolina Hurricanes (25-30-7, 57 pts) – 7:00 PM ET

Despite the Cinderella match between Phoenix and Colorado, this game receives my “head scratcher” award. The Senators are, somehow, 13-3 since January 14. Carolina’s been awful this year but now they’re on a six game winning streak. I … just don’t get these teams.
Pittsburgh Penguins (37-22-4, 78 pts) at New York Rangers (29-27-7, 65 pts) – 7:00 PM ET

Sidney Crosby has a habit of beating teams in red-white-and-blue jerseys. There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and Marian Gaborik injuries.
Tampa Bay Lightning (26-25-11, 63 pts) at Washington Capitals (42-13-8, 92 pts) – 7:00 PM ET

One of the perks of being the Washington Capitals is feasting on sub-standard Southeast Division fare. They are 13-2 against their division so far this season.
New York Islanders (26-29-8, 60 pts) at Atlanta Thrashers (27-24-10, 64 pts) – 7:00 PM ET

The Thrashers are still in the Eastern Conference playoff mix alongside the Habs, Bruins, Rangers and Lightning. Could they make the playoffs without Ilya Kovalchuk?
St. Louis Blues (29-25-9, 67 pts) at Dallas Stars (28-22-12, 68 pts) – 8:30 PM ET

The Stars are a very home dependent team (18-7-5) so they need to get every point they can in Dallas. They face a Blues team back in the picture because of a four game winning streak.
Montreal Canadiens (30-28-6, 66 pts) at San Jose Sharks (40-14-9, 89 pts) – 10:30 PM ET

With the Eastern Conference playoff bubble quite congested, the Habs would really benefit from upsetting the Sharks. San Jose needs to keep pace with the Blackhawks.

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    With DeKeyser locked up, Holland still has work to do in Detroit

    Ken Holland
    AP
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    There’s nothing too flashy about Danny DeKeyser‘s game.

    “Basically,” he told reporters today, “my game, I just try to move the puck well, play solid defensively, chip in some points or goals here or there when I can, and just try to be a good team player and do things that help the team win.”

    For that, the Red Wings gave the steady defenseman a six-year, $30 million contract, avoiding an arbitration hearing in the process. Yes, it’s a significant amount of money for a d-man that doesn’t contribute a ton of offense, but as we’ve already seen this offseason, players like DeKeyser have significant value. The Edmonton Oilers gave up Taylor Hall to get one.

    Re-signing DeKeyser is not expected to stop GM Ken Holland from trying to add to his blue line. The Wings have a surplus of forwards, and Holland has said he’d “love to get a top-three defenseman” prior to the start of next season.

    If Holland can’t swing a deal, Detroit’s pairings could look something like this:

    DeKeyser — Mike Green
    Jonathan Ericsson — Niklas Kronwall
    Brendan SmithAlexey Marchenko
    Xavier Ouellet

    It’s not a particularly young group. Kronwall is 35, Ericsson is 32, and Green is 30. The Red Wings chose not to re-sign veteran Kyle Quincey, and so far he has not been replaced. In June, they drafted a defenseman in the first round, but Dennis Cholowski is a ways away from playing in the NHL; he’s off St. Cloud State in the fall. There are a few other young blue-liners in the system, like Joe Hicketts, Ryan Sproul and Robbie Russo, but they all still have some developing to do.

    At the very least, Holland now has some cost certainty with DeKeyser. The next step will be getting Petr Mrazek‘s deal done, possibly with the aid of tomorrow’s arbitration hearing. After that, it’ll be working to get that defenseman he covets.

    Related: Blues GM says he might just keep Kevin Shattenkirk

    Nugent-Hopkins trying to ignore trade rumors — ‘If it happens, it happens’

    BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 14:  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on December 14, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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    2 Comments

    The Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trade speculation may have died down since it peaked at the draft in late June, but it’s not entirely dead.

    The 23-year-old former first overall draft pick was asked to address the ongoing rumors Monday at an Oilers charity golf tournament.

    “I try not to pay attention too much,” Nugent-Hopkins said, per the Edmonton Journal. “If it happens, it happens. I know it’s definitely a different group than the one we finished with last season.”

    Indeed it is. Most notably, Taylor Hall is in New Jersey now, traded for defenseman Adam Larsson. The Oilers also signed Milan Lucic and drafted Jesse Puljujarvi.

    What’s still lacking is an offensive defenseman who can run the power play, which is why the names Tyson Barrie (Avalanche) and Matt Dumba (Wild) have been floated as potential targets.

    The Wild in particular could use a good, young center like Nugent-Hopkins, and the expansion draft is looming for a Minnesota club that already has defensemen Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Marco Scandella locked up in long-term contracts.

    Barrie, meanwhile, has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Friday.

    Blues d-man Kevin Shattenkirk is another name that’s come up; however, he can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, and whether he’d re-sign in Edmonton is in doubt.

    Flyers reportedly avoid arbitration with Manning, sign him for two more years

    5 Comments

    Chalk up another arbitration hearing that won’t be required. This time it’s Brandon Manning‘s. The 26-year-old defenseman has agreed on a two-year, $1.95 million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, according to CSN Philly.

    Manning’s hearing was scheduled for next Tuesday. He was the last restricted free agent on the Flyers, after Brayden Schenn re-signed Monday.

    Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the Manning signing.

    Manning played 56 games for the Flyers in 2015-16, his first full season in the NHL. He had one goal and six assists while logging an average ice time of 16:32.

    Report: Blackhawks, Rundblad agree to terminate contract

    DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 09:  David Rundblad #5 of the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period at American Airlines Center on October 9, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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    The Chicago Blackhawks are reportedly parting ways with defenseman David Rundblad. The two sides have agreed to a contract termination, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

    Rundblad, 25, was set to earn $1.1 million this season, per General Fanager. His cap hit was $1.05 million, meaning the ‘Hawks will gain $100,000 in cap space by not having to bury his contract in the AHL next season.

    Rundblad was unlikely to make the Blackhawks in 2016-17 — not after the additions of Brian Campbell and Michal Kempny, and also the re-signing of Michal Rozsival.

    It remains to be seen where Rundblad will end up. One possibility is back in Switzerland, where he spent part of last season before dressing three times for the ‘Hawks in the playoffs.