Nashville Predators v New Jersey Devils

New Pens winger Steve Sullivan: “This could be my best year yet”

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It may have taken 17 years, but Steve Sullivan is in the best situation of his 890 game career. The speedy winger has racked up 266 career goals and is rapidly approaching 700 points, but he’s never been on teams that were expected to do damage in the playoffs. In fact, since he was drafted in the 9th round of the 1994 Entry Draft, the 37-year-old Sullivan has only played in a grand total of 44 career playoff games. For a little perspective, the Boston Bruins have played in 38 playoff games in the last 15 months. He and his Nashville Predators made it to the second round last season—it was only the second time he’d made it past the opening round ever. He’s had a very good career, but he’s never really been on elite teams expected to compete for the Stanley Cup.

All of that changes in September. When he starts the season next to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins, he’ll be on a team with the highest expectations he’s ever faced. As he spoke to Daniel Perry of The Daily Press, it’s apparent that he understands his opportunity (s/t to Kukla’s Korner):

“”I’m very excited about playing in Pittsburgh. It’s a first-class organization. Best team on paper I’ve ever played with, from top to bottom. I’m really looking forward to it.

“Whenever you get a chance to play with the best player in the world, you have to be excited. I have high expectations and my hopes are big. This could be my best year yet.”

(snip)

“I’d love to be a reliable top-nine forward for them that can play in all situations. They already have a great core of players, so I’m hoping I can be extra piece to their puzzle and help them win the Cup again.”

As usual, the Penguins will enter the season with a plethora of talent down the middle. Assuming both Crosby and Malkin are ready for the season, the pair along with Jordan Staal will be one of the most formidable center trios in the NHL. Sullivan will join the likes of James Neal, Chris Kunitz, and Pascal Dupuis as guys who are expected to play alongside the talented centers and keep the pressure on the opposition. If Sullivan can stay healthy and Neal can pick up where he left off with the Dallas Stars last year, the Penguins could have two of the best wingers they’ve had in recent memory. They’ll both look to help the Penguins improve upon their 25th ranked power play—an unbelievable stat considering the talent on the ice.

The most important thing for Sullivan will be to stay healthy for 82-games next season. The 2009 Masterton Trophy winner is still an extremely productive offensive player when he’s on the ice, but that’s been easier said than done. He missed 38 games last season, 41 games in 2008-09 and the entire 2007-08 season. But before missing the 2007-08 season, he was a point-per-game player for the Predators. He may not be the same point-per-game player that he was a few years ago, but he’s still capable of keeping up with Crosby and having a career year if he can stay on the ice.

Hopefully we’ll be able to see what he’s able to do on a team with high expectations for an entire season next year.

Report: Leafs in process of acquiring Brian Boyle

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 13:  Brian Boyle #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates a goal against Detroit Red Wings during a game at the Amalie Arena on October 13, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are buyers.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Leafs are in the process of acquiring forward Brian Boyle from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The deal hasn’t been finalized yet, so no word on a return for the Bolts.

Boyle, 32, is a pending unrestricted free agent. Given the Lightning are fairly well back of a playoff spot and have a number of young pending RFAs — including Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Jonathan Drouin — it makes sense for GM Steve Yzerman to trade Boyle now, a la Ben Bishop.

Boyle has 13 goals and nine assists in 54 games this season. He also has a ton of experience, having appeared in 100 postseason games for the Rangers and Lightning.

The Leafs are not assured of a playoff spot quite yet. Barely clinging to the second wild-card spot in the East, they kick off a three-game California trip tomorrow in San Jose.

Another Canadian team, the Edmonton Oilers, was also reportedly interested in Boyle.

Trade: Wild and Coyotes pull off another, as Pulkkinen heads to Arizona

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 23:  Teemu Pulkkinen #17 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on October 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders defeated the Wild 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Chuck Fletcher and John Chayka might want to consider a friends and family phone plan.

For the second time in as many days, the Minnesota and Arizona GMs have combined on a trade, as the Coyotes have acquired winger Teemu Pulkkinen from the Wild in exchange for future considerations.

Yesterday, in a much more significant deal, the Wild acquired forwards Ryan White and Martin Hanzal in exchange for a package of draft picks.

Pulkkinen, 25, has been a terrific scorer at the AHL level, but hasn’t seen that form carry over to the NHL. Detroit, the team that drafted him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, waived him just prior to the start of this season. He was claimed by the Wild, but only appeared in nine games before getting waived again, and then spent most of the year in Iowa.

True to form, Pulkkinen played very well in the American League, and made this year’s All-Star team.

With the Coyotes, Pulkkinen will get another look at the NHL level, as he’ll join the team in Boston rather than report to their AHL affiliate in Tucson. Chayka has tried to find similar reclamation projects this year — Peter Holland, Alex Burmistrov — and the Coyotes could end up needing bodies should they continue to sell off veterans.

Radim Vrbata could be moved by Wednesday’s deadline, as could captain Shane Doan.

Shattenkirk has to look out for himself

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the St. Louis Blues skates against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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If the St. Louis Blues can’t turn Kevin Shattenkirk into something significant, don’t expect a warm reception whenever he returns to Scottrade Center as a member of a different team.

The 28-year-old defenseman is a pending unrestricted free agent who’s not expected to re-sign with the Blues. He may be traded prior to Wednesday’s deadline. If not, he’ll likely walk away for nothing this offseason.

Given the above, Shattenkirk understands why many Blues fans were upset that he nixed a trade with Tampa Bay by turning down the Bolts’ contract offer.

That being said, this is a big decision for the high-scoring d-man. He’s in line for a huge payday, and he wants to make the right call for the sake of his future.

“It’s not trying to hold things up or hold anything back from these guys,” Shattenirk told the Post-Dispatch, “but that’s where the tough part of this decision comes, doing what’s best for yourself and what could be your only chance with this opportunity in your entire career.”

The Blues, of course, lost two players to free agency this past summer when David Backes signed with Boston and Troy Brouwer with Calgary.

Earlier this month, after Ken Hitchcock was fired as head coach, GM Doug Armstrong said he felt the Blues had turned into a group of “independent contractors.”

“One of the things I’ve learned about being around St. Louis is the Cardinals,” Armstrong said. “They don’t have independent contractors. When they do, they get rid of them.”

It’s hard now not to see a relation between that comment and Shattenkirk’s situation, given the nixing of the trade with the Lightning apparently came a couple of weeks before Armstrong made the remark.

Trade coming? Devils healthy scratch Quincey

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 21:  Kyle Quincey #22 of the New Jersey Devils skates during an NHL hockey game against the Ottawa Senators at Prudential Center on February 21, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey. Senators won 2-1.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
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The writing’s on the wall for Kyle Quincey.

Quincey, the veteran defenseman on a one-year deal in New Jersey, will be a healthy scratch for tonight’s game against Montreal.

As is often the case for healthy scratches around the trade deadline, many are assuming this is a safety precaution and precursor to a move. You can count Quincey among those thinking it.

“It’s not done yet, that’s kind of where we’re at right now,” said Quincey, per NorthJersey.com. “Whatever happens, it’s out of my control. I’ve been through it. It’s another day.

“I’ve had a great year with these guys. It’s not over yet but, if it is, I’m very thankful for the opportunity with the boys here.”

Quincey, 31, carries a modest $1.25 million cap hit — that comes off the books this summer — and has been good value for the Devils this year. He’s scored four goals and 12 points through 53 contests, averaging 18:38 TOI per night, and is an ideal defensive depth addition for playoff-bound clubs.

What’s more, Quincey’s appeared in 54 career postseason contests.

Among the teams rumored to be looking at defensive help? Edmonton, and it’s worth noting that head coach Todd McLellan was an assistant in Detroit when Quincey broke in during the 2005-06 campaign, and the pair spent three seasons together.

What’s more, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has a history from his Boston days of adding depth d-men at the deadline — Andrej Meszaros in ’14, Wade Redden in ’13, Greg Zanon/Mike Mottau in ’12 and Tomas Kaberle in ’11 — and McLellan did say the club could use another body on the blueline.

Don’t forget Chiarelli has history with Devils GM Ray Shero, as the two pulled off the Taylor Hall-for-Adam Larsson trade last summer.