Jeff Carter, Justin Falk

Jeff Carter performs well in Columbus debut, not enough as new look Jackets fall in opener

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Fans were excited to see what the new era in Blue Jackets hockey would look like. For the first time in Rick Nash’s career, he’d have a center who could keep up with him. At least that was the plan when we looked at the team on paper in the offseason. So what would it look like when the idea was put into practice in a regular season game?

Pretty good. Pretty darn good.

Columbus lost their first game of the season against the rival Nashville Predators, but it wasn’t due to lack of production from the Jackets new look top line. Newcomer Jeff Carter had a pair of assists in his Jackets debut, Vinny Prospal had a goal and assist, and captain Rick Nash had a goal and assist as well. Pretty good numbers considering the Predators feature the best defensive pairing in the league and one of the best goaltenders.

Unfortunately for Columbus, the rest of the team failed to get anything done and they fell 3-2.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Jeff Carter was upset about his trade out of Philadelphia. Most will remember that in the days immediately following the trade, Carter was nowhere to be found as he let the deal digest. But all that is in the past:

“It’s exciting to get out there and play a real game. It seems like the trade didn’t happen all that long ago, but now here we are, ready to go.”

Two assists are certainly a good way to get off on the right foot. The next step will be for the Blue Jackets to put a W in the win column—but Carter and his linemates undoubtedly did their part. Carter finished the game with his two assists (both at even strength), a +1 rating, 6 shots on goal, and won 77% of the draws he took in his first game. His 20:40 of ice time was second among Blue Jackets forwards—only behind captain Rich Nash. So much for easing the new guy into his new role.

Jackets head coach Scott Arniel acknowledged that he hoped that chemistry would develop quickly on his new top line and was happy with their effort in their first game. Even the opposing netminder acknowledged the play of the Carter-Nash-Prospal line:

“Every time they’re on the ice, they seem to have at least one scoring chance,” Rinne said. “Or at least they try to shoot and try to create every single shift. If you’re a goalie or a defenseman, it’s challenging…”

It was a good start for Carter in Columbus, but now the team as a whole will need to improve to start posting some wins. The first place to improve is on the power play. Despite the strong play from the big guns, the power play that struggled last season struggled during stretches again. Arniel counted eight chances on the power play—but the number that matters the most is 0. As in 0 for 5 on the power play. That’s not going to cut it for the team that finished 29th in the league with a 14% power play last season. But if the trio continues playing like they did tonight, those numbers are bound to turnaround.

For the first night in Columbus, Carter and his linemates gave fans something to look forward to. Now he’ll just need to get a little help from his friends. They’ll have 81 more games to show they’re capable of stepping up their game.

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.