Are the Lightning eyeballing Flyers forward Simon Gagne?

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simongagne3.jpgAside from the Ilya Kovalchuk circus that continues to plod along, the Simon Gagne trade rumor side show is this off-season’s other entertaining show. While Gagne has acknowledged that he’s indeed a target for trades, where he could be headed is a bit wide open for speculation. While Los Angeles, should they fail to land Kovalchuk, has been mentioned, could the Tampa Bay Lightning be interested? Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times thinks out loud for us.

The Lightning apparently has interest in acquiring Flyers left wing Simon Gagne. It’s tough to tell how serious it is because no one within the organization has said so publicly, but it would be naïve to believe otherwise.

Put another way, why wouldn’t Tampa Bay at least inquire about a proven goals and points producer who is being shopped by a team desperate to clear cap space? And to put it even ANOTHER way: Why wouldn’t general manager Steve Yzerman be salivating over the possibility of having his top two lines be (left to right) Gagne-Vinny Lecavalier-Marty St. Louis and Ryan Malone-Steven Stamkos-Steve Downie?

Acquiring Gagne, 30, who in the past three seasons in which he was healthy scored 47, 41 and 34 goals, would make the Lightning automatic playoff contenders. It would spike ticket sales. It would make Tampa Bay relevant again in a market where it has been the butt of jokes the past two years. And, besides, what’s the harm in a little short-term gain while Yzerman decides what direction to take the team in the future?

After taking a look at what those first two lines could look like, would you argue against the Lightning instantly being in the mix for the playoffs? In the slightly more simple Eastern Conference, it’d be hard to say that the Lightning couldn’t be a playoff team. You would essentially be replacing Alex Tanguay, who was beyond miserable last season, with a proven scorer in Simon Gagne on that first line with Lecavalier and St. Louis.

Now, sure, I can temper things well by pointing out that Tampa’s third and fourth lines would be more than questionable as far as what they could do. Chances are those two lines would be a never-ending cycle of players being juggled about to see who can develop chemistry. But Tampa’s defense looks quite solid and their goaltending will be more than admirable with a duo of Dan Ellis and Mike Smith. So.. Why not go for it if you’re Steve Yzerman? Cristodero figures that out for us.

So, let’s assume Yzerman makes a move. What can he give back? Philadelphia is not looking to take on a lot of salary, so the Lightning likely would not include any of its major assets. But it does have eight defensemen with one-way contracts, so there is depth there from which to deal. The organization also is deep in attractive, high-end goaltending prospects. There also are the obligatory draft choices.

Then the question is, does Gagne, who has a no-trade clause, want to come to a rebuilding team? But if Gagne signed on, wouldn’t that time line get a little shorter?

More questions to be asked than answers, but then again, he’s just spitballing ideas as it is, and they’re good ones. The Lightning have the cap room, they don’t have to make a long-term investment and they have the pieces in place to help the Flyers out. There’s a lot to like about the possibilities here but you’d have to assume that, perhaps, Yzerman is maybe listening in on at least one available Russian free agent left wing (Alex Frolov) while another one (Ilya Kovalchuk) figures out what he wants to do with his future and break the free agency/transaction gridlock.

Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
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Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
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You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

Ryan Johansen
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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.