The Chip ‘n’ Chase: Rampant trade speculation, hockey is hard to predict, the bubble Canucks, and more

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This is a new thing we’re trying. Every Wednesday, we’ll publish a little back-and-forth we have via email. We’re calling it the Chip ‘n’ Chase. Yes, it’s a terrible name. Enjoy.

Jason Brough: Hey buddy, so I was thinking after Kris Versteeg got traded back to Chicago, imagine how lame it would be if teams couldn’t eat salary. With half the NHL right up against the cap? It would be gridlock out there. I predict we’re going to see a lot more salary-eating before the March 5 deadline. And I guess we should thank Brian Burke for the new rules. The ability to retain salary was something he was trying to push when he was still in Anaheim. As a blogger who traffics in rampant speculation, I heartily concur with his opinion that trades are “healthy for our business.”

Mike Halford: Yeah, I want teams eating paper like a wonky fax machine. It just opens up so many more possibilities. The Florida situation is a great example, because it allowed Tallon to shake things up after he’d exhausted all the other conventional methods, like firing his coach and offering up Ryan Whitney via mass email. (Can you even believe that? Mass email? I bet some GMs got it and thought it was like a Nigerian banking scam. “Good day friend, I am manager general Tallon of Panther. Interested you R. Whitney, defender? Price is free.”) Now I’m trying to think of other guys who could be traded a la Versteeg. If Calgary’s willing to retain a good share of Mike Cammalleri’s $6 million hit, a lot of teams could be in the running for a proven sniper who’s off to a pretty hot start.

source: Getty ImagesJB: Absolutely. I already tried to stoke some Cammalleri speculation here, but it didn’t exactly set the comments section on fire. What, nobody cares about the Flames or something? Fine, let’s try another candidate: Ryan Miller, whose cap hit is $6.25 million. I’ve already mentioned a couple of times I think the Blues should see about adding him. I know they’ve already got Jaroslav Halak; I just don’t trust him to stay healthy. Besides, I think Miller is better, and the time is now for that team. The Blues are ridiculously loaded on defense, their forwards are actually scoring. If they got Miller without losing a significant roster player, I’d probably change my Stanley Cup pick from L.A. to St. Louis.

MH: Ah yes, Jason Brough’s famed Stanley Cup pick, the prediction by which all GMs set their rosters. I can just see Doug Armstrong scrambling to call Pat LaFontaine in a desperate attempt to get your endorsement…before realizing you picked Edmonton to make the playoffs. Anyway, since you’re floating the idea of Miller getting traded to a team that’s already loaded with goalies, let’s keep with the crazy and discuss the idea of Shea Weber getting dealt to Edmonton, which you wrote about last week. Oilers GM Craig MacTavish said a “big stud defenseman” would help his club “immensely,” but here’s my question: after losing Ryan Suter to free agency, could the Preds really ship out Weber — clearly the face of the franchise — and do it after paying him an ungodly amount of money in salary and signing bonuses? Could make for a lot of disappointed fans.

JB: Ah yes, the old “face of the franchise” argument. It’s the same one I read here. I don’t buy it. If the Preds traded Weber to the Oilers, you realize it wouldn’t be for Luke Gadzic and Tyler Pitlick, right? Unless David Poile somehow loses his mind, it would have to include one of Edmonton’s young stars. Now, suppose that’s Taylor Hall, a recent first overall pick who would instantly become the most exciting player in Nashville franchise history, save for possibly Paul Kariya, who was only there for two seasons. The Preds’ marketing department couldn’t drum up some buzz for a future with Hall and Seth Jones? Look, I never said this was going to happen. It probably won’t. I just wouldn’t be totally shocked if it did, because unlike most blockbuster trade scenarios that get floated on the interweb, it makes some semblance of sense. At any rate, the Oilers have won two straight, including last night’s 7-0 blowout of Columbus, so maybe this isn’t the best time to discuss this. Almost as bad as our timing yesterday, when we talked about the Avs getting a “reality check”…about an hour before they went out and smoked the defending Stanley Cup champs. Is there any sport tougher to predict than hockey?

source: Getty ImagesMH: Based on the fact I predicted Joel Quenneville would be fired last season, I’m going to answer no to that question. Makes me feel a bit better about myself. Let’s get back to the Avs for a sec. Yes, they hammered Chicago last night, but they also got outshot, 37-23. This team still has a lot to prove in the next few weeks. Look at their next five games: at Phoenix, at Los Angeles, versus St. Louis, then a home-and-home against Minnesota. I know a lot of people are focused on the injuries to Duchene/Tanguay and expecting Varlamov/Giguere to come back to earth, but how about the smoke-and-mirrors on defense? Call me a skeptic, but a unit comprised of Jan Hejda, Erik Johnson, Andre Benoit, Cory Sarich, Nate Guenin and a rotating No. 6 will eventually get exposed.

JB: Well, I can tell you one team that hopes you’re right: the Canucks. According to Sports Club Stats, after yesterday’s shootout loss to Florida, Vancouver has a 34.1 percent chance of making the playoffs. So basically a one-in-three shot. Now, I’m not totally sold on that site’s methodology, and obviously there’s a ton of time to get back into the top eight, but it’s totally fair to call the Canucks a bubble team now. Frankly, I was absolutely shocked to hear Henrik Sedin say last night that Vancouver hung back in the third period when the game was tied. “You look at the clock,” he said. The Canucks wanted to get the point, he said. At home. Versus the freakin’ Florida Panthers! What’s the opposite of swagger? Because that’s what the Canucks have right now. Now imagine they lose at home to Columbus on Friday. There will be lava flowing through the streets of Vancouver, courtesy one Mount Tortorella.

Jets’ Enstrom undergoes second knee surgery in 12 months

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There’s not much left for Winnipeg to play for — just five regular-season games left, and no playoffs on the horizon — so today’s news that Tobias Enstrom has undergone season-ending knee surgery isn’t a crippling development.

Can’t be good, though.

Enstrom’s had a difficult year health-wise and, at the time of surgery, was dealing with a concussion suffered on a Tom Sestito hit back in early March. Prior to that, he missed time while attending to a family matter in his native Sweden and, prior to that, was shut down late last season to undergo knee surgery.

It’s unclear if today’s procedure was related to the one Enstrom had last March.

It is worth noting that, at the time of last year’s surgery, head coach Paul Maurice noted the 32-year-old had been dealing with the injury for months.

“He’s been able to get through it because of blocks of days off. If he can get a two day block, he’d get a little better and it’s just getting worse,” Maurice said, per Global News. “It got to the point that he’s not recovering and he hasn’t been. He hasn’t been for almost a month now. He’s not recovering enough on his days off for the pain ever to subside.”

All told, Enstrom appeared in 60 games this year, scoring 14 points while averaging just under 22 minutes per night. Next season will be the last of a five-year, $28.75 million deal that carries a $5.75 million cap hit.

Lundqvist will start four of five remaining games

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Henrik Lundqvist has had two tough starts since returning from injury.

The 35-year-old allowed five goals in his first game back, a 6-3 loss to Anaheim Sunday, and five more in his second game, a 5-4 OT loss to San Jose Tuesday.

But Lundqvist is still the No. 1 in New York, and for that reason he’s scheduled to start four of the Rangers’ five remaining regular-season games, with the hope he’ll be able to play his way back into form in time for the postseason.

Lundqvist was not happy after Tuesday’s loss to the Sharks, even though the point the Rangers gained earned them a playoff berth.

“I’m extremely disappointed right now,” he told reporters. “I’m glad we’re in, but I want to get the job done. I want the win. We found a way to lose this one at the end.”

With the loss, Lundqvist’s save percentage fell to .911 on the season. If it finishes at that number, it would be the lowest save percentage of his NHL career.

Antti Raanta‘s save percentage, meanwhile, sits at .922. In his last start, he shut out the Kings in Los Angeles.

The Rangers host Pittsburgh tomorrow and Philadelphia Sunday. Next week, they’re in Washington Wednesday, Ottawa Saturday, and then they close out their schedule at home to Pittsburgh Sunday.

Raanta will start one of the final two games.

The Rangers are likely to face Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs.

Reinhart suggests benching was a stretch

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Two days after Sam Reinhart was bolted to the pine for the entirety of Buffalo’s 3-1 loss to Columbus — his punishment for showing up late to a team stretch — Reinhart discussed the incident, and didn’t sound overly thrilled about how it played out.

“It’s a coach’s decision. It’s a management decision,” Reinhart said, per the Buffalo News. “From my perspective, I would have rather battled it out with my teammates.

“I don’t think five minutes in the morning is going to influence my preparation for a game, but it was a team stretch and I should have been there on time.”

Reinhart also had this to say:

Discipline of this nature is pretty common, though the way Reinhart’s played out was a bit more dramatic. Rather than park him in the press box as a healthy scratch, the Sabres — who didn’t have an extra forward, as Kyle Okposo was out sick — dressed the 21-year-old, then sat him for the entire 60 minutes.

The Buffalo News said the move “would seem to send a deeper message than merely being scratch,” adding that “there has been friction between players and [Sabres head coach Dan] Bylsma throughout the season.”

In the club’s defense, Reinhart is hardly the first young player to be punished for lateness. Nikita Zadorov had repeated issues with punctuality and, after being suspended, was eventually traded to Colorado. Evander Kane was parked for a game last season after sleeping in and missing a practice.

Of course, each situation is unique and some will argue showing up five minutes late for a stretch isn’t on par with what Zadorov and Kane did. Which is fair. That could be why Bylsma said the club might consider a policy change.

And that could by why Reinhart’s teammate, Jack Eichel, tried to put things in perspective.

“We’re obviously not going to hold it over his head here,” Eichel said, per the News. “He didn’t really do too much wrong.”

North Dakota’s Poolman turns pro, signs with Jets

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Another day, another North Dakota departure.

Having already lost freshman Tyson Jost (signed with Colorado) and sophomore Brock Boeser (signed with Vancouver), the school has now learned that junior blueliner Tucker Poolman has signed an entry-level deal with the Jets.

Poolman, 23, was taken by Winnipeg in the fifth round (127th overall) at the ’13 draft. From the Free Press:

UND’s top defenceman was playing between 25 and 30 minutes per game and was the fourth-highest scoring blue-liner in the NCHC. He finished the season with seven goals, 30 points, 14 penalty minutes and a plus-18 rating in 38 games.

Poolman’s final campaign ended on a sour note. He suffered a shoulder injury during the NCHC championship game and was unable to play in North Dakota’s season-ending loss to Boston University in the NCAA championships.