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Boston trades Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart to Atlanta for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik

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Boston wasn’t done today after acquiring Tomas Kaberle from Toronto, they were busy elsewhere helping to change things up to chase the Flyers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston swung a deal with the Atlanta Thrashers involving  forward Blake Wheeler and defenseman Mark Stuart going to Atlanta in exchange for forward Rich Peverley and defenseman Boris Valabik.

Boston is able to get a playmaking center they miss with Marc Savard out for the season with a concussion. Peverley’s ability to set plays up and help others get the puck is something the Bruins were severely lacking without Savard. Peverley’s been a bit disappointing this year for Atlanta though. With 14 goals and 20 assists his offense will be welcome in Boston, but his -16 rating is a bit jarring to see. If there’s anyone that can help coach a guy into being a bit better defensively it’s Bruins coach Claude Julien. Don’t expect to see Peverley’s minus ways continue.

As forValabik, he’s likely to wind up in Providence in the AHL as he was in the minors with Atlanta. If the B’s are in need of another large, physical presence on defense though, they’ll have to put Valabik through waivers to call him up. At 6’7″ the thought of him teaming up with his idol Zdeno Chara is immensely terrifying.

For the Thrashers, it’s a decidedly big change for them in adding Wheeler and Stuart. The fun part here for Atlanta is that they’re two guys that coach Craig Ramsay is very familiar with after working as a Bruins assistant coach before coming to Atlanta. Wheeler is a big guy teeming over with talent that hasn’t quite put it all together. At 6’5″ 205 he’s a load to handle but offensively he’s struggled this year with 11 goals and 16 assists. If Ramsay can get through to him and help him break out, the deal is a huge winner for the Thrashers.

Adding Stuart to their blue line gives them a solid defensive presence and a guy who thrives on playing hard in the defensive end. He’s due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but being in Atlanta will give him a chance to show off what he can do there to win a new deal. Coach Ramsay is a big fan and he’ll be happy to have to a more defensive-minded guy there.

A lot of Atlanta’s success in this deal depends on what comes of Wheeler. If he can break out and thrive with the Thrashers and help lead them to the playoffs, the deal is a huge success for them. For Boston, getting Peverley in town is a solid pickup and should help their offense out a bit with Peverley’s ability to control the puck and make passes for his wingers. The Bruins should be all done with dealing now and getting done before the deadline crush on the 28th is smart for them.  The last thing a contending team needs to do is make a panic deal. Getting everything set ahead of the blitz just makes good sense.

Of course, if things break well for both teams there’s a possibility they meet up with each other in the playoffs. Mark that down for a future storyline just in case.

Pre-game reading: NHLers sound off on poor ice conditions

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— Up top, Danny Briere recalls that famous line brawl between the Flyers and Penguins in the 2012 playoffs. The two Pennsylvania rivals meet again Saturday, outdoors at Heinz Field.

— It has not been a good year for NHL ice, and a number of players are starting to get fed up. For example, Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, who said, “It’s been awful. I don’t know what it is. Even in our building this year. I thought it was really good [when we came] back for World Cup and right after that for the first little bit. But the last little bit, it’s been so bad. The puck’s all over the place.” Guess we know how he’ll be filling out his survey. (ESPN)

— The days leading up to the trade deadline can be pretty stressful for players who may get moved. And if they do get moved, the days after can be pretty tough, too. “I saw my daughters four days out of three months when I went to Pittsburgh,” said Hurricanes forward Lee Stempniak, who’s been dealt three straight years at the deadline. “When I was traded to Winnipeg, I didn’t see my daughters for the two months or more I was there because of the schedule.” (The News & Observer)

— On the 2017 NHL draft, which may not have the star power of the last two drafts, but will still have some pretty good players available. Especially centers. (USA Today)

— San Jose’s Brent Burns is trying to become only the second defenseman in NHL history to win a scoring title. With 64 points, Burns is only three points back of Connor McDavid for the league lead, with Sidney Crosby in the mix as well. Bobby Orr won the Art Ross Trophy twice, the last time in 1974-75 when he piled up 135 points in 80 games for the Boston Bruins.  (Canadian Press)

— Another Shark, Joe Thornton, is just two assists from 1,000 in the NHL. Only 12 players have accomplished that, with Wayne Gretzky’s 1,963 helpers leading the way. Joe Sakic’s 1,016 are the closest to Thornton’s 998. (The Mercury News)

Enjoy the games!

Bolts rule out Callahan indefinitely following second hip surgery

Ryan Callahan
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Tampa Bay forward Ryan Callahan, who’s only played 18 games this year while recovering from offseason hip surgery, has undergone a follow-up procedure and will be sidelined indefinitely.

The Bolts made the announcement on Wednesday, just hours after a big 4-1 win over Edmonton. Callahan wasn’t in the lineup to face the Oilers — he hasn’t played since early January, when he skated just under 15 minutes in a loss to Philly.

The nature of this ailment has to be concerning.

Callahan, who turns 32 next month, is in the third of a six-year, $34.8 million deal with a $5.8M average annual cap hit. And this lingering hip problem comes on the heels of a disappointing ’15-16 campaign, in which Callahan scored just 10 goals and 28 points — the lowest marks since his rookie campaign.

As such, Tampa Bay is now bracing for an immediate future without a huge part of its leadership group. Captain Steve Stamkos has resumed skating, but there’s no set date for his return from major knee surgery.

Callahan, who’s been an alternate captain in each of the last three seasons, won’t be playing anytime soon either.

 

Kadri ‘not worried’ after Chiarot predicts revenge for big hit (Video)

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Toronto forward Nazem Kadri drew the ire of Jets d-man Ben Chiarot on Tuesday night for a big — albeit questionable — hit in the Leafs’ OT win.

Chiarot was visibly displeased following the game and alluded to getting even.

“It’s not the right time or place to chase him down, but there will be a time down the line,” he said, per Sportsnet. “Might not be this year, might not be next year.

“But there will be a time where the shoe will be on the other foot.”

Today, Kadri responded.

“I’m not worried at all,” Kadri said, per TSN. “I’ll be here for hopefully a few years. But like I said, if that was one of my teammates getting hit like that, I probably wouldn’t be too happy, so I expect that kind of reaction.”

Kadri’s hit, which went unpenalized, drew the ire of Chiarot’s head coach as well. Jets bench boss Paul Maurice was also visibly displeased following the game.

“He’s six inches in the air when he makes contact,” Maurice said, per Sportsnet. “In my mind, from the rear view, the first thing that moves on Benny is the helmet. Didn’t like it.”

Kadri’s been involved in a few high-profile collisions this season. He pasted Sabres captain Brian Gionta in a game earlier this month, and avoided suspension for a controversial hit on Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin back in November.

Have the Blackhawks finally found their first-line LW?

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A three-point night for Nick Schmaltz, which included a nifty pass to Jonathan Toews for the game-winner, must have Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman wondering how to approach the trade deadline.

The way the 20-year-old rookie has been playing, does Bowman really need to add a first-line left winger before next Wednesday?

It’s a valid question. Only a month ago, Bowman was reportedly sniffing around the likes of Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist.

But Schmaltz has since caught fire, with two goals and five assists in his last six games. The rookie from Wisconsin had one goal and two assists in Tuesday’s 5-3 victory over Minnesota.

“He’s been really good,” head coach Joel Quenneville said, per the Chicago Sun-Times. “[Tuesday] was the most we’ve ever seen him with the puck. I don’t know how many times he evaded coverage, and all of a sudden he loses the guy on him and a play develops. That play against the grain to [Toews] was spectacular.”

Toews, of course, has been through a whole host of linemates this season, and only in the last month has the captain really started to produce offensively. Richard Panik and Marian Hossa are two veteran options to skate on his right side, but the left side has been a running audition.

Schmaltz, a first-round draft pick in 2014, only got called back up to the NHL in mid-January.

One month later, Toews is liking the chemistry that’s developed between himself, Schmaltz and Panik.

“We’ve been given the chance to spend a few games together, get some consistency, get some feel and some confidence,” said Toews. “The biggest thing for the three of us is if we go through a game without scoring, we’re given a chance to go out in the next game and try and redeem ourselves and contribute offensively.

“It’s a lot of fun, because I think we’re feeling it. [Schmaltz and Panik] are playing so well at both ends of the rink. They’re playing with a ton of confidence with the puck.”

The ‘Hawks have two games left before the March 1 deadline. They host Arizona tomorrow and St. Louis Sunday.