The five biggest trade deadline losers

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While Joe took a look at the five biggest winners of the 2011 Trade Deadline, it’s my assignment to rain on parades and be a downer. Fortunately, soiling the happiness of others is one of my accidental skills, so this should feel pretty natural. Click here for the full rundown of today’s trades, if you need a memory refresher.

Here are the five biggest losers from Monday’s anti-frenzy*, in order of increasing badness. (Keep in mind this is taking February 28th into consideration rather than a surprisingly stout month of pre-deadline deals.)

5. Detroit Red Wings just extend Jimmy Howard’s contract

While some of these other teams would get a grade ranging from a C- to a big red F, the Red Wings probably would get a flat C or just an “Incomplete.” It’s not like they needed to do anything; after all, they remain a very dangerous team and re-signing Howard still stands as one of the day’s best moves.

That being said, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski aren’t getting any younger and even some of the guys in their “prime” years have a lot of mileage for players in their early 30s. Why not swing for the fences while you’re still at full power rather than settling for a walk?

4. Chicago Blackhawks fork over a conditional second round pick for … Chris Campoli?

Look, it’s obvious that GM Stan Bowman was in a tough spot being that the ink wasn’t even dry on Jordan Hendry’s injury report from Sunday, but he paid a hefty toll for a mediocre blueliner.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Campoli cannot help the Blackhawks more than an AHLer – he can skate well and has some offensive upside – but he’s an adventure at best in his own zone. One scouting report described him as a “riverboat gambler” on defense. That’s not exactly the kind of guy you want on your side in the zero-margin-of-error West race, especially at the cost of a (conditional) second round draft pick.

3. Montreal Canadiens remain old, small and just good enough to lose early in the playoffs.

One of the biggest gags of another Twitter-dominated deadline involved a fake reporter account spitting out a rumor that involved Dustin Penner going to the Habs. As fraudulent as that report ended up being, you cannot blame some Montreal fans for getting excited. After all, Penner might be the antithesis of most Canadiens forwards. He’s huge and young; they’re old and small. The only common thread Penner and many of the Habs forwards share is inconsistency.

Instead of adding size or at least finding another quality forward for their playoff run, Montreal opted to cross their fingers and hope that they can repeat last year’s “go into turtle mode and pray that our goalie bails us out” trick. Carey Price has done a great job of making Montreal fans forget about Jaroslav Halak, but asking this team to luck out again is like gambling your mortgage on lightning striking twice.

Then again, perhaps Montreal’s management team has a secret “Reset Button” plan. Of their current roster players, only six forwards, two defensemen and one goalie remain under contract after this season. We’ll see if that ends up being a good thing or a disaster waiting to happen.

(If this deadline was any indication … well, let’s hope it’s not an indication.)

2. The Minnesota Wild sit in neutral.

It’s tough not to admire the Wild’s guile as they fight valiantly for a playoff spot without their backbone, center Mikko Koivu. But considering how passionate (and patient) Minnesota fans have been, why couldn’t the Wild’s front office throw them a trade deadline bone?

You can make excuses all day, but the long-term outlook of this team isn’t particularly peachy. Their two top players (Koivu and goalie Niklas Backstrom) are making market value money, but most of their remaining players are either on overpriced deals or bargains set to expire in the next season or two.

It’s hard to imagine the Wild progressing beyond their current bubble team/seventh or eighth seed ceiling … and they’re even getting a remarkably healthy season from talented but fragile winger Martin Havlat. How much longer will Minnesota fans tolerate a front office that seems quite satisfied with mediocrity?

1. And the biggest loser: anyone who took off work for the deadline.

Hey, with all those medium-sized to flat-out big deals in the weeks leading up to the deadline, there had to be at least some hint that today might not be a buffet of outlandish trades. Right?

On some level, the hockey media and all fans fall loosely into this category, but the people with the reddest cheeks took a precious vacation day from soul-draining cubicle jobs for this? Hopefully those cheeks were red because of a blissful mid-day buzz, because if you took off work to see a trade afternoon headlined by Penner, it’s tough to rationalize that as anything but a big loss.

* There were only 16 trades during today’s deadline, the lowest total since there were only 12 in 2000.

Karlsson is back skating, but ‘we don’t want him to get too excited,’ says Boucher

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The good news? Erik Karlsson hit the ice to skate with his Ottawa Senators teammates on Saturday.

“Back at it,” is what the star defenseman wrote in an Instagram post, which included a photo of him on the ice in a blue jersey.

It’s certainly an exciting development for the Senators and their fans. Karlsson was a dominant player for Ottawa during the Stanley Cup playoffs despite playing with a foot injury that later required surgery, with an expected recovery time of four months.

Head coach Guy Boucher, however, offered some cautionary words on Karlsson’s status. Basically, it’s exciting, but Boucher doesn’t want anyone — Karlsson included — to get too far ahead of themselves right now.

“It’s a positive thing, but we don’t want to get too excited. It’s a second step,” said Boucher, according to NHL.com.

“The first step was to let the therapists tell us when it was adequate to put him on the ice, because you need to get the flexibility and the strength off the ice before we could put [him] on the ice. Yesterday they apparently put the skates on to see how it felt and [went] very lightly on the ice, and they felt he was able this morning [to] get dressed and be with the boys.

“Basically, this is the second step, but there’s quite a few steps before we get to him playing. We don’t want him to get too excited.”

His status for the Senators’ season opener against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 5 has been up in the air since he underwent the operation. Karlsson admitted earlier this month that he wasn’t sure if he’d be ready for that game.

Ottawa is dealing with a few injury situations right now, with four preseason games remaining on their schedule. Karlsson is one of the best defensemen in the entire NHL and given how important he is to the Senators, there is absolutely no need to rush him back into the lineup if he’s not ready.

 

NHL suspends Tom Wilson two preseason games for interference

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Capitals forward Tom Wilson has been suspended for two preseason games for interference, after his late hit on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas during Friday’s exhibition game.

The incident occurred early in the third period, as Wilson caught Thomas with a heavy and late hit along the boards at the Blues bench.

“Over a full second after Thomas loses control of the puck, well past the point where Thomas is eligible to be checked, Wilson comes in from the side and delivers a forceful body check, knocking Thomas to the ice,” stated a member of the NHL Department of Player Safety in a video explanation of the suspension.

“In addition to the lateness of the hit, what elevates this hit to the level of supplemental discipline is the predatory nature and force of the hit. Wilson tracks Thomas for some time and alters his course to ensure he is able to finish his hit. Then, with the puck long gone from Thomas’ control, Wilson finishes the check with force.”

The Capitals continue their preseason schedule Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. They also play the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday.

Letang set to return to Penguins lineup vs. Blues on Sunday

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For the first time since February, Kris Letang is expected to be in the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup when they face the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

Letang hasn’t played since Feb. 21. He underwent neck surgery in April and missed the entire Stanley Cup playoffs as a result. Despite the absence of their best defenseman, which is a huge loss in Letang, the Penguins were able to overcome that and emerge as champions over Nashville.

According to Pens Inside Scoop on Saturday, head coach Mike Sullivan said Letang will play in Sunday’s Kraft Hockeyville game between the Penguins and St. Louis Blues.

That wasn’t the only Letang news Saturday:

Getting Letang back into the lineup will provide a huge boost to an already strong Penguins team, with his ability to log heavy minutes and act as a catalyst in Pittsburgh’s offensive attack.

“I want to be the same player I was before. I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be able to do that,” said Letang. “Hopefully everything goes well and I go back to the old way, playing over 25 minutes and in all situations.”

But what is most critical is having Letang healthy, and Sullivan this offseason has stressed to the star defenseman to recognize situations when he should make a simple play rather than risk taking an unnecessary hit.

“When people try to dissect all of that, they make assumptions that they understand, but they don’t,” Letang told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“Mike and I have a clear understanding of what he wants me to do. I think I’m tired of hearing people around it because I had a talk with Mike and Jim. It’s just a way of avoiding those unnecessary hits. It’s not going to be reducing ice time or anything like that. It’s taking a different approach on certain plays.”

Related: Letang isn’t interested in getting less ice time now that he’s healthy

Canucks’ Horvat out a week with upper-body injury

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The Canucks will resume their preseason schedule on Thursday, although it appears right now that Bo Horvat will likely not be in the lineup.

Just prior to puck drop against the L.A. Kings on Saturday, the Canucks announced that Horvat is expected to be out a week with an upper-body injury.

Per Dan Murphy of Sportsnet, the injury occurred on a hit from Drew Doughty during the first game of the two-game exhibition series between the Canucks and Kings in China.

The good news for the Canucks is that their regular season schedule begins on Oct. 7, which would give Horvat two weeks to get fully healthy and ready for the opener against Connor McDavid and the Oilers.

The 22-year-old Horvat enjoyed a 20-goal, 52-point season in 2016-17, emerging as the team’s leading scorer and one of the few bright spots during another disappointing season for the Canucks. As a result, he signed a six-year, $33 million contract extension earlier this month.

Related: Horvat believes he is ‘just scratching the surface’