Martin St. Louis

PHT Morning Skate: Rangers battle to return to Stanley Cup Final

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It was less than a week ago that the Chicago Blackhawks had a 1-0 series lead in the Western Conference Final and were up 2-0 against Los Angeles late in the second period of Game 2. The Kings overcame that deficit with six unanswered goals and haven’t looked back since.

With a 5-2 victory last night, the Kings have a commanding 3-1 series lead for the first time in the playoffs.

We’ve seen them excel with their backs against the wall during their 2014 postseason run. The question now is if Chicago will be able to give them a taste of their own medicine or if the Kings will eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions just one year after Chicago did the same thing to them.

While the Kings and Blackhawks get ready for a critical Game 5, the Rangers and Canadiens will play in a key contest of their own.

Game 5: Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers [Rangers lead series 3-1] (8:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

When Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price was eliminated from the series after just one game, it was fair to wonder if Montreal’s chances of advancing to the Stanley Cup Final were going with him. In desperation they turned to Dustin Tokarski, a 24-year-old with just 10 games worth of NHL experience, in the hopes that he could at least hold his own against a world-class netminder like New York’s Henrik Lundqvist.

Tokarski has risen to the challenge, but as it turns out, that alone might not be enough to save the Canadiens’ season.

Following the Rangers’ 7-2 blowout victory in Game 1, each game has been decided by two or fewer goals and the last two contests have gone to overtime. However, the fact that the Rangers have been winning by the skin of their teeth doesn’t make the situation any less dire for Montreal.

Martin St. Louis, the overtime hero in Game 4, has been superb and former Canadiens draft pick Ryan McDonagh has frustrated Montreal. Even Rick Nash has finally been clicking finally ended his goal scoring drought earlier in the series.

With the Rangers’ best looking sharp, the stage seems to be set for them to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994. At the same time, they know how little it would take for everything they’ve built to fall apart.

“This is far from over,” Rangers forward Brad Richards said after Game 4. “I remember sitting in here down 3-1 against Pittsburgh. They will feel bad tonight, but tomorrow they will wake up in front of their home crowd and once that game starts, 3-1, you throw that out the window and it is back in the battle again.

“We have to realize the longer it goes the more life and more belief they get, so it’s going to be a very important start to the next game.”

We’ve seen so many remarkable comebacks already in the 2014 playoffs. Montreal would certainly like to give us another.

Preds add some scoring, get Parenteau from Devils

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 12:  PA Parenteau #11 of the New Jersey Devils in action against the Buffalo Sabres at the Prudential Center on November 12, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Sabres 4-2.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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New Jersey and Nashville got together on a trade for the second time this month, with the Preds acquiring veteran winger P.A. Parenteau in exchange for a sixth-round pick, per TSN.

Earlier, the Devils sent veteran center Vernon Fiddler to the Preds for a fourth-rounder.

Parenteau, 33, joined the Devils after getting scooped off waivers from the Isles at the start of the campaign. He’s produced well, with 14 goals and 33 points in 55 games, but there have been ups and downs in New Jersey, including a healthy scratch in mid-December.

Parenteau carries a modest $1.3 million cap hit, so it’s a minimal financial commitment for the Preds. He’s also got a bit of playoff experience — 15 games, split between Montreal and Colorado — which will help a Nashville club currently sitting third in the Central Division.

Lightning keep dealing, send Filppula to Flyers for Mark Streit

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 18:  Valtteri Filppula #51 of the Tampa Bay Lightning backhands a shot against Florida Panthers during the overtime period at the Amalie Arena on October 18, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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With the Tampa Bay Lightning mired in a disappointing season, general manager Steve Yzerman has spent the past couple of days selling off his upcoming free agents, including Ben Bishop to Los Angeles and Brian Boyle to Toronto.

On Wednesday, he managed to clear a significant amount of salary cap space for next season.

That is when the Lightning sent forward Valtteri Filppula, a 2017 fourth-round pick, and a conditional 2017 seventh-round pick, to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for defenseman Mark Streit.

Both players had no-trade clauses in their contracts and had to OK the deal. It came after it was reported that Filppula had rejected a trade to Toronto. Streit is an unrestricted free agent after this season. The Flyers are also picking up 10 percent of Streit’s remaining contract for this season.

The key to this deal for Tampa Bay should seem pretty obvious: Clearing salary cap space in the future.

He is having a nice enough season for the Lightning offensively with 34 points in 59 games, but he still carries a $5 million salary cap hit for next season. That presented a significant problem for a Lightning team that has a ton of key players in need of new contracts — including restricted free agents Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin — and not a lot of cap space to take care of them all. The Lightning needed to find a way to shed some salary to ensure they can keep them.

With Streit’s contract expiring after this season, the Lightning just opened up $5 million in cap space for next season and all Yzerman had to do was give up a couple of late round draft picks to do it.

The Flyers, meanwhile, have spent their deadline day adding a lot of salary to next year’s cap. Along with picking up Filppula’s deal, they also re-signed forward Piere-Edouard Bellemare and goalie Michal Neuvirth to two-year contract extensions.

PHT’s 2017 Trade Deadline Tracker

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Here’s the full list of deals made prior to the Wednesday, March 1 3 p.m. EST trade deadline..

Mar. 1

To Tampa Bay: D Mark Streit
To Philadelphia: F Valtteri Filppula, ’17 4th-round pick, ’17 conditional 7th-round pick (link)

To Montreal: F Andreas Martinsen
To Colorado: F Sven Andrighetto (link)

To Columbus: D Kyle Quincey
To New Jersey: D Dalton Prout (link)

To New York Rangers: F Taylor Beck
To Edmonton Oilers: F Justin Fontaine (link)

To Tampa Bay: G Mike McKenna
To Florida: G Adam Wilcox (link)

To Los Angeles: F Jarome Iginla
To Colorado: ’18 conditional 4th-round pick (link)

To Montreal: F Dwight King
To Los Angeles: ’18 4th-round pick (link)

To Florida: F Thomas Vanek
To Detroit: ’17 3rd-round pick, D Dylan McIlrath (link)

To Colorado: G Joe Cannata
To Washington: D Cody Corbett (link)

To Colorado: F Brendan Ranford
To Arizona: F Joe Whitney (link)

Feb. 28

To Montreal: F Steve Ott
To Detroit: ’18 6th-round pick (link)

To San Jose: F Jannik Hansen
To Vancouver: F Nikolay Goldobin, ’17 conditional 4th-round pick (link)

To Edmonton: F David Desharnais
To Montreal: D Brandon Davidson (link)

To Chicago: D Johnny Oduya
To Dallas: F Mark McNeill, ’18 conditional 4th-round pick (link)

To New York Rangers: F Daniel Catenacci
To Buffalo: D Mat Bodie (link)

To Ottawa: F Viktor Stalberg
To Carolina: ’17 3rd-round pick (link)

To New York Rangers: D Brendan Smith
To Detroit: ’17 3rd-round pick, ’18 2nd-round pick (link)

Feb. 27

To Washington: D Kevin Shattenkirk, G Pheonix Copley
To St. Louis: F Zach Sanford, F Brad Malone, ’17 1st-round pick, ’19 conditional 2nd-round pick (link)

To Ottawa: F Alex Burrows
To Vancouver: F Jonathan Dahlen (link)

To Montreal: D Jordie Benn
To Dallas: D Greg Pateryn, ’17 4th-round pick (link)

To Toronto: F Brian Boyle
To Tampa Bay: F Byron Froese, ’17 2nd-round pick (link)

To Arizona: F Teemu Pulkkinen
To Minnesota: Future considerations (link)

Feb. 26

To Minnesota: F Martin Hanzal, F Ryan White, ’17 4th-round pick
To Arizona: ’17 1st-round pick, ’18 2nd-round pick, ’19 conditional 4th-round pick, F Grayson Downing (link)

To Los Angeles: G Ben Bishop, ’17 5th-round pick
To Tampa Bay: G Peter Budaj, D Erik Cernak, ’17 7th-round pick, ’17 conditional pick (link)

Feb. 24

To Anaheim: F Patrick Eaves
To Dallas: ’17 conditional 2nd-round pick (link)

To Chicago: F Tomas Jurco
To Detroit: ’17 3rd-round pick (link)

Feb. 23

To Pittsburgh: D Ron Hainsey
To Carolina: F Danny Kristo, ’17 2nd-round pick (link)

Feb. 20

To Calgary: D Michael Stone
To Arizona: ’18 3rd-round pick, ’18 conditional 5th-round pick (link)

Feb. 18

To Toronto: F Sergey Kalinin
To New Jersey: D Viktor Loov (link)

Feb. 15

To Washington: D Tom Gilbert
To Los Angeles: ’17 conditional 5th-round pick (link)

Feb. 4

To Nashville: F Vernon Fiddler
To New Jersey: ’17 4th-round pick (link)

Hansen adds more speed to Sharks, who were already faster

RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 16: Jannick Hansen #36 of the Vancouver Canucks carries a puck during their NHL game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on January 16, 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
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The San Jose Sharks couldn’t handle the Pittsburgh Penguins’ speed.

And so, after losing the Stanley Cup Final in six games, the Sharks decided they had to get faster.

First came the signing of winger Mikkel Boedker, whose “tremendous speed is his best attribute,” said GM Doug Wilson on July 1.

The Sharks also signed defenseman David Schlemko, who brought “puck-movement speed” to the third pairing, in the words of head coach Pete DeBoer. 

Then, when the season started, there was a quasi-youth movement, as players like Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier received opportunities with the big club.

And finally, last night, the Sharks acquired right winger Jannik Hansen in a trade that sent Nikolay Goldobin to Vancouver.

“Jannik is a versatile, gritty player who plays with speed and is talented on both sides of the puck,” said Wilson. “We think he is a perfect fit for the style of our team, which has earned the right for us to make this move and add to our NHL roster as we push towards the playoffs.”

Wilson probably undersold Hansen’s speed a touch. Even at 30 years old, Hansen is still very fast.

Where DeBoer puts his newest player remains to be seen. On the third line with Tomas Hertl is one possibility. That could bump Joel Ward down to the fourth line, which may be a better spot for the 36-year-old who’s struggled offensively this season.

The thing about Hansen is that he’s versatile enough to play up and down the lineup. In Vancouver, he started out as a checker. Eventually, he was skating with the Sedins on the top scoring line.

The Sharks’ next game is tomorrow at home against, of all teams, the Vancouver Canucks.

Related: The Penguins played great defense their own way