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With the Devils playoff hopes crashed, Zach Parise may be close to returning

After the Devils 4-1 loss to Boston last night, their shot at making the playoffs after an incredible run in the second half of the year was essentially ruined. After all with just nine games left to play and nine points back of the eighth spot in the standings, reality has settled in in New Jersey. Devils fans will wonder what could’ve been for a lot of reasons and one of them would be, “What if Zach Parise was healthy this year?”

Turns out, the Devils might get an idea of how things could’ve been before the season wraps up. Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record tells us about how Zach Parise’s skating regiment of late might lead us to seeing him on the ice before the season is over.

Parise has been skating on his own for nearly three weeks as he continues to recover from Nov. 2 surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. When asked if Parise would practice with the team today or Thursday, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello replied, “Who knows?” The Devils later decided to take today off.

So if Parise were to practice with the team this week, it would have to be Thursday. It seems unlikely he’d be ready to play in the team’s next game Friday night in Pittsburgh. He has not played since Oct. 30 in Los Angeles.

You have to love Lou Lamoriello because he never tips his hand. Ever.

That said, with less than ten games to go and the chances of making the playoffs being slimmer than they have been in a couple of months, getting Parise out on the ice to play to wrap up the season makes for a nice teasing treat for the fans. Parise is one of the top talents in the league and while his season started off slowly and ended in an injury nightmare.

Missing the playoffs will be a blow to the Devils for sure as hopes were sky high heading into this season, but giving fans a glimpse of hope heading into the offseason and onto next year would make for a great rallying point for the fans. Of course, heading into the offseason not knowing if Jacques Lemaire will be returning and with Martin Brodeur being another year older makes the future uncertain.

There’s also the fact of Parise being a restricted free agent at the end of the season to consider here as well. The Devils would ideally like to see where Parise’s at in game action before sitting down at the negotiating table to decide on a long term deal. After all, giving a guy coming off a brutal knee injury a long, cap-straining contract doesn’t sound appealing to most anyone.

Giving Parise the chance to show he’s over it and able to play the way he used to, albeit in an abbreviated schedule, could be important for both sides in this situation.

Mumps hit Wild as Parise, Pominville will not play vs. Kings

ST PAUL, MN - MAY 5: Johnny Oduya #27 of the Chicago Blackhawks falls onto the puck as Jason Pominville #29 and Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild attempt to get the puck during the first period in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 5, 2015 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Add the Minnesota Wild to the unsettling pattern of teams affected by mumps this season.

In their case, two significant players will at least miss Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings (on NBCSN, by the way): Zach Parise and Jason Pominville have been sidelined with that condition.

It’s not clear how much time they might miss nor is it clear if anyone else on the team is dealing with symptoms. Here’s a release via the Wild:

Members of the organization that have symptoms are being tested immediately and placed in isolation for a five-day period. Team doctors recently provided players and staff an MMR vaccination and the organization will continue to work closely with the NHL, NHLPA and the Minnesota Department of Health to help prevent further infection. 

Uh oh.

Martin Hanzal and Ryan White are set to make their debuts tonight. Their presence could be especially welcome if this becomes a more widespread issue for Minnesota. (You may remember the Wild dealing with an outbreak in 2014, too.)

Tyler Graovac and Jordan Schroeder are expected to be in Minnesota’s lineup tonight, according to the Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo. Russo indicates that assistant coach Scott Stevens may also be dealing with mumps.

WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings at Minnesota Wild (featuring Hanzal)

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The beauty of the Los Angeles Kings’ goalie situation is that they can now roll with two experienced, respected goalies. It makes it tougher to tell if Ben Bishop will make his Kings debut tonight or at a later date, however.

(Update: Quick starts on Monday.)

While that fun bonus nugget is in doubt for Los Angeles, it sure looks like Martin Hanzal and Ryan White will play for the Minnesota Wild for the first time. That’s especially welcome, as it sounds like Jason Pominville and Zach Parise might miss tonight’s game.

… Hopefully not with the mumps (update: Yes, sadly that’s the case … ):

Uh oh. If Bishop plays, he might look a little out of place, even from a purely aesthetic standpoint.

Hey, sometimes it’s a work in progress to get used to trades.

Whether it’s Bishop or Quick vs. Hanzal and a possibly under-the-weather Wild team, Monday’s game should be interesting. Check it out on NBCSN, online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

Canucks GM says he isn’t done after trading ‘heart and soul’ guy Burrows

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24: Jim Benning of the Vancouver Canucks attends round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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As well-received as the move has been in many quarters, it’s clear that the Vancouver Canucks didn’t take trading Alex Burrows lightly. Even so, it sounds like the Canucks are prepared to make more moves if other opportunities arise.

“I’m not done for the day,” GM Jim Benning said. “I have some calls to make and if deals make sense for us, we’re going to do them.”

Well, isn’t that interesting.

Benning didn’t provide any hints on who might be dangled in possible trade situations, possibly because there’s a considerable array of possibilities. Do you try to move a bigger, longer deal like Alexander Edler‘s or (gasp) one/both of the Sedins? Maybe something lower impact like a pending free agent?

Could Jannik Hansen be the next to go?

It’s tough to imagine Vancouver finding a taker for Ryan Miller‘s significant cap hit, but then again …

Either way, it’s clear that the Canucks understand the gravity of moving a fixture of better days like Burrows; Benning describes Monday as a “tough day” in which they moved a player who was the “heart and soul of this franchise.”

Perhaps more tough (but necessary) decisions will come?

Conditional trades ‘in vogue’ in the NHL

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 17: Patrick Eaves #18 of the Dallas Stars skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on January 17, 2017 in New York City. The Stars defeated the Rangers 7-6.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The NHL trade deadline can make for some conflicting interests come playoff time.

No one outside Minnesota is cheering harder for the Wild than the Arizona Coyotes because they get a second-round pick if Martin Hanzal helps Minnesota reach the third round. The Tampa Bay Lightning would love nothing more than Ben Bishop leading the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup Final.

Conditional trades based on a team’s playoff success, and a player’s part in it, are all the rage right now in the NHL.

Already, four pre-deadline deals include draft picks contingent on how far a team goes in the playoffs. There were 13 such trades combined at the past four deadlines.

“It’s in vogue,” Florida Panthers president of hockey operations Dale Tallon said. “It’s a creative way of doing things. If you have success, you don’t mind paying more. If you’re successful and go deeper, you don’t mind giving up an extra asset or more of an asset.”

Trades conditional on playoff success sometimes happen in the NFL, like when the Minnesota Vikings acquired quarterback Sam Bradford from the Philadelphia Eagles last year, but they’re virtually nonexistent in other North American professional sports leagues outside of protected picks in the NBA. They’ve become commonplace in the NHL, in part because they’ve worked out swimmingly a few times.

When the Chicago Blackhawks won it all in 2015, they didn’t mind sending an extra second-round pick to the Flyers for Kimmo Timonen for reaching the Cup Final and the defenseman playing in at least half their games. A year earlier, the Kings gave the Columbus Blue Jackets an extra third-round pick to complete a trade for Marian Gaborik after the winger helped them win their second title in three seasons.

The Kings could give up as high as a second-round pick if Bishop wins them the Cup this season but wouldn’t surrender much of anything if they miss the playoffs. GM Dean Lombardi, who also made the 2014 Gaborik trade, called it a “common sense” way of getting a deal done.

“If I was making a deal here or something and (someone) says, `I’m giving five first-rounders and you’ll win the Cup,’ you’ll do it,” Lombardi said. “You don’t mind paying if your team has success.”

The same is true of the Anaheim Ducks, who would give the Dallas Stars a first-round pick instead of a second for Patrick Eaves if they reach the Western Conference final and the winger plays 50 percent or more of their games. After some haggling, Dallas GM Jim Nill said that was the final piece of getting the trade done.

The idea of contenders gambling on themselves makes all the sense in the world. But trade deadline sellers also like the concept.

The Coyotes were looking to get the best deal for Hanzal , so they bet on him contributing to the Wild’s success.

“We believe strongly that with Martin, Minnesota has a chance to do some things that could be pretty special, and we want to share in some of that upside,” Arizona GM John Chayka said. “We share in the risk, we share in the upside. It’s just a creative way to try and bridge the gap and get a deal done.”

Lombardi would love to make salaries and salary-cap hits contingent on playoff success because if a team goes further it’s also making more money along the way. But the league doesn’t allow that.

Maybe that’s for the best because these kinds of trades make things complicated. Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee, who sent a conditional pick to Florida in 1998 for Esa Tikkanen the year his Washington Capitals made the Cup Final, pointed out that those trades freeze a lot of potential draft picks that could be pieces of other trades.

“The difficulty in doing that is it ties up a lot of picks,” McPhee said. “If they’re encumbered you can’t use them.”

That hasn’t stopped the trend, though, with teams hedging their bets and playing it safe.

“You give yourself a little bit of a protection, too, if you don’t quite go as far as you think you will,” Tallon said.