Senators fire sale? Five other players that might draw trade interest

The Ottawa Senators deal sending Mike Fisher to Nashville for a first round pick and a conditional third rounder was perhaps GM Bryan Murray’s way of letting it be known that the Senators are open for business. The Senators are sunk near the bottom of the NHL, just two points ahead of the Oilers who have the fewest points in the league. The Sens are packed with aging players and devoid of organizational depth at virtually every position. It’s a grim outlook.

The way to fix that is to start dealing off players that are worth something to a playoff contender looking for that missing piece of the puzzle. While the parts as a whole aren’t working out for the Senators, they can send those pieces elsewhere to help build for the future. As for who could draw interest elsewhere, there’s a few candidates that can get it done before the trade deadline on February 28.

Alex Kovalev – Forward

The NHL veteran has had a rough go of it this season in Ottawa and a change of scenery would likely help him snap out of his moribund funk that’s plagued him all year. He’s always been a goal scorer and this year he’s got 11 goals and 12 assists. He’s just two seasons removed from scoring 26 goals and racking up 65 points and could give a team in need of a scoring winger on the second line a lift. Kovalev would love nothing more than getting out of Ottawa and away from coach Cory Clouston but it’s possible his temperamental style be enough to scare teams away.

Chris Phillips – Defenseman

Phillips is an impending unrestricted free agent after this season meaning that teams just looking to get instant help for a playoff run this year could acquire him and then not think about re-signing him in the off-season. Phillips has been a steady but not flashy defensive defenseman throughout his career in Ottawa. He’s got just four assists on the season so if a team is looking for a point-producer on the blue line, he’s not it. If you’re looking for a guy that can play solid enough defense to shore things up for a Cup run he might be the guy.

Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu – Forwards

Neil is certainly not a favored guy around the league and neither is Ruutu. They’ve both got reputations for being agitators and dirty-hit-throwers. Some teams feel they need a player like that to win. Ruutu has been in Clouston’s dog house lately and Neil, despite his questionable fight choices and generally nasty demeanor has a little bit of talent for a third line guy. You may not like them, but they’re the sort of player that you’d rather have on your own team than your opponent’s roster. With things being as dour as they are in Ottawa now, the Senators subtracting one or both of these guys might be addition by subtraction.

Jason Spezza – Forward

He has to be mentioned because he’s the youngest of the most talented guys on the roster. Daniel Alfredsson won’t go anywhere and Spezza has had his share of ups and downs in the last year in Canada’s capital city. Spezza is also the guy that could bring the most usable instant return in a trade.

The problem for any team that might want to acquire Spezza is that the ransom to do so would be sky high and Spezza’s cap hit isn’t very friendly at $7 million a year until 2014-2015. It’s an extreme long shot that Spezza would be traded but if the Senators are going to burn it all to the ground to rebuild, the guy that would help accelerate the process through trade immediately is Spezza.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.