Your PHT trade deadline day primer

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The trade deadline hits at 3 p.m. ET Monday and it’s generally been a day filled with action big and small. This year’s deadline could be more of the same. Small tweaks or franchise-changing moves could happen just the same. Who might be on the move this year? Here’s a list of ten names you might see us writing about tomorrow.

Check out the PHT Trade Deadline Tracker

1. Rick Nash, RW – Columbus Blue Jackets
He’s the big prize to be had and with at least three teams (Toronto, San Jose and Philly) and perhaps other sneaky suitors (Nashville). His agent wants to see him moved and Nash wants this ordeal done. Whether or not Scott Howson bites and gets things done is the million dollar question.

2. Steve Ott, LW – Dallas Stars
Dallas’ sandpaper-like forward has earned a lot of interest of late. With Vancouver and Philadelphia appearing to be the front-runners for the 29-year-old and the Canucks in particular freeing up cap space recently, Ott could be had. Dallas hanging around in the playoff race might mean he doesn’t go anywhere which would suit Ott just fine.

3. Evgeni Nabokov, G – New York Islanders
Some teams could use some veteran goaltending help (Toronto, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay) and whether Nabokov signs a contract extension with the Isles will likely decide whether he can be had or not. If Nabokov is off limits, perhaps Tampa Bay’s Dwayne Roloson would make a nice booby prize despite his rough season.

4. Dustin Brown, RW – Los Angeles Kings
It was a bombshell when it was made known that Dustin Brown could be had via trade. After seeing him blow up for a hat trick and four points against Chicago, however, perhaps word of him being available was meant to be the kick in the butt he needed to get going and probably stick in Los Angeles.

5. Andrei Kostitsyn, LW – Montreal Canadiens
Is your team in need of a depth forward with scoring touch that’s tired of the rat race in Montreal? Kostitsyn is your guy. Nashville (where his brother Sergei is), Detroit, who’s sniffing around for forward depth, and others in need of scoring help could be in the mix here.

6. Bryan Allen, D – Carolina Hurricanes
With Carolina re-signing Tuomo Ruutu to a whopper of a deal and things not going as smoothly between these two sides, Allen is shaping up to be the guy headed out of town. We’ve already seen Niklas Grossman and Hal Gill get moved and Allen is the next in line to be had. He’s physical and a defensive-defenseman that will give you about 19 minutes a game. Don’t expect any offense here though.

7. Nikolai Khabibulin, G – Edmonton Oilers
If your team needs goaltending help, perhaps kicking the tires on this aging Stanley Cup winner is what would fit the bill. With the issues Toronto has had in goal, would Brian Burke dare deviate from the plan to pick up an old warhorse like the ‘Bulin Wall? (No, probably not)

8. Jonathan Bernier, G – Los Angeles Kings
Teams with long-term issues in goal (Columbus, Tampa Bay) might choose now to address those problems. While those teams would also covet Vancouver’s Cory Schneider and may wait til summer to make a run at him, Bernier is also a young and potential franchise goalie that will get attention, especially if there’s a scoring forward to be had in the deal.

9. Derick Brassard, C – Columbus Blue Jackets
Speaking of young players potentially on the move, Columbus’ Derick Brassard is believed to still be out there and available at the right price. It won’t be easy to pull him away, but with Columbus in “anything goes” mode, the right deal could net a team with a need at center a young playmaker.

10. Shane O’Brien, D – Colorado Avalanche
If there’s a team desperate for physical defense and wants a guy on an expiring contract, O’Brien could garner interest. He’s been on playoff teams before and has that experience. Problem here is that Colorado is still in the hunt for the postseason and may not want to sell too much.

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PHT’s Trade Deadline Tracker

Nasty hits, fights, and a blowout in Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens

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First, the Edmonton Oilers fell 6-3 to the Dallas Stars. Next: the Toronto Maple Leafs absolutely throttled the fledgling Montreal Canadiens in a game that was ugly even beyond the 6-0 score.

It’s been a bad day for embattled GMs of teams who’ve made polarizing moves in hopes of solidifying Stanley Cup contenders. The Oilers (7-11-2) and Canadiens (8-11-2) even finish the night with nearly identical records, just to really hammer home their parallel pains.

You almost wonder if something is in the air this week (spoilers: not love), as nastiness has really ratcheted up since the Calgary Flames – Detroit Red Wings line brawl. The Canadiens and Maple Leafs boast one of the NHL’s richest and bitterest rivalries, and it showed on Saturday.

As you can see from the video above this post’s headline, Nazem Kadri played a major role in one of the most explosive moments, taking his frustrations out on Shea Weber. Weber and Jordie Benn wasted no time in going after Kadri.

(Criticisms of the hit are totally fair, but it seems strange to go too heavy on “turtling.” Who would be able to stand up to both Weber and Benn? In the heat of the moment, I’d wager most people would go with flight over fight.)

That was the most bombastic moment, but there was also this seemingly unlikely bout between Nikita Zaitsev and Paul Byron:

This absolute dismantling comes after Claude Julien was steaming mad from a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. It’s tough not to read all of this as an indictment of the moves Marc Bergevin has made, especially considering the fact that their rivals dominated them for their sixth win in a row. If you’re the type to draw big conclusions from about a month of a season, you’d look at it as how to build a contender vs. how to waste Carey Price‘s prime.

That’s a little harsh … but either way, these are tough times for Bergevin.

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski passed along an interesting take from Julien, who wishes he could bag skate his bumbling players. OK, then.

Auston Matthews was definitely part of the fun for Toronto in his return from injury, including scoring this goal:

(You almost wonder if Mike Babcock was rolling the dice even having his star players out there amid all that carnage, but that goal was a sweet reward.)

[MORE: Why Toronto needs Matthews back for a tough stretch]

Yes, this is an 82-game season, and we’re only at about the first-quarter-mark. Still, teams like the Oilers and Canadiens came into 2017-18 with big expectations and big questions, and so far fans and management can’t like the answers.

By the way, asking for a well-dressed GM: what’s the opposite of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”

Yikes.

Ovechkin returns after being badly bloodied by puck to face

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It’s still relatively early on Saturday night, and both the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals could eventually provide further updates that derail this optimism.

With that out of the way, at the moment, the theme of the night might just be teams dodging big injury bullets, even if the star players in question can’t dodge actual damage.

In the case of Corey Crawford, he bounced back for the Blackhawks after Evgeni Malkin‘s thigh area clipped him in the head. Maybe it looked worse than it was?

Now, any time you see people scrape blood off the ice, you get a reminder of how dangerous – and yeah, occasionally strange – hockey can be. That only becomes more disturbing when that blood is coming from a player as important as Alex Ovechkin:

Remarkably, Ovechkin is returning for the third period of the Capitals’ game against the Minnesota Wild.

So:

  • This is a reminder that Ovechkin is tough, in case you foolishly think he isn’t because … his teams have lost in big games or something? Considering how recklessly he often throws his body around, and how infrequently he misses games due to to injury, you’d think that debate would have died a long time ago. Moments like this make it seem that much sillier.
  • Ovechkin must really want to help the struggling Capitals turn things around.
  • Maybe he wants to hang an L on his old boss Bruce Boudreau?

Anyway, PHT will keep an eye on these situations. Sometimes there are more answers the night of events, and sometimes it takes a little longer.

Right now, it’s reasonable for Capitals fans and Blackhawks fans to feel some relative, even if it’s only in the interim.

Update: The Capitals ended up winning 3-1, thanks in large part to Braden Holtby‘s strong night.

Ovechkin logged 8:18 TOI in the third period, so it seems like he’s OK. This post will be updated if he shares a nasty battle scar.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Crawford avoids injury, helps Blackhawks beat Penguins

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The Chicago Blackhawks have been up-and-down so far in 2017-18, but Corey Crawford has been brilliant almost every night he’s been in net. It’s to the point that he might be a little underrated, as people assume that Chicago will keep finding ways to win, possibly missing how big a part he’s playing in its successes.

Crawford’s been able to clean up a lot of messes, so Saturday brought a scare, as he seemed to take head contact from Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

You can see the contact in the video above. It seemed like quite a collision, as part of Malkin (thigh? middle-boy) seemed to connect with Crawford at a fairly high speed.

The penalty call drew at least some complaints from Penguins fans, but the important thing either way is that the Blackhawks took a look at Crawford before allowing him to return to the game.

Now, we’ve seen players return to action only to miss games in the future, so it’s still worth monitoring Crawford. Considering how important he is to the Blackhawks, they have to hope that it was one of those plays that looked more painful than it actually was.

Also, with some justifiable complaints about players not going through concussion protocol lately, a lot of people are pleased with Chicago for at least assessing Crawford. We’ll see if anything changes, but right now, this seems like a dodged bullet (but not a dodged Malkin).

Update: Not only did Crawford stick with it, he made a big difference in the Blackhawks beating the Penguins 2-1, including making this save:

Chicago sure seems to have an edge on Pittsburgh lately, by the way:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Coyotes are (gasp) on a winning streak

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As of this writing, the Arizona Coyotes have the least standings points in the NHL (11) despite playing a league-leading 22 games.

Things could change for this young team, but for now, it’s about small victories, which makes actual wins that much bigger. Perhaps what they really needed was this road trip through Canada?

After losing to the Jets in Winnipeg 4-1 on Nov. 14 (no real shame, really, as everyone’s losing to the Jets lately … just ask the Devils), the Coyotes left Claude Julien and the Montreal Canadiens fuming by getting their first regulation win of 2017-18 by a score of 5-4.

Arizona couldn’t make it consecutive wins in regulation, but when Anthony Duclair completed a hat trick with the overtime game-winner, they did something rare: the Coyotes won back-to-back games. Yes, gang, those scrappy kids now have their very own winning streak after today’s 3-2 OT win against the Ottawa Senators.

They wrap up this run of Canadian games by facing the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Monday.

Just like any self-respecting sports team, the Coyotes get to participate in a ceremony after wins.

One would guess that Zac Rinaldo got the “championship belt” stemming from the rough stuff between the Coyotes and Canadiens, which included a Rinaldo fight (no surprise) and Tomas Plekanec‘s first NHL bout (in his 941st career game).

The Coyotes want to bounce back from their bad start, while Duclair hopes to shed the weight of a lousy 2016-17 season.

At 4-15-3, Arizona might already be in too big of a hole to make any waves. Even so, they can gain some respect, and show that they’re not as bad as their record indicates. Heck, a win in Toronto would give them an undeniably successful road trip, something that’s not always a layup even for established, contending teams.

Now, now, all of that aside … it might be a little too early to take them seriously.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.