Having already made a pair of big moves by acquiring Jaroslav Halak’s and Dan Boyle’s negotiating rights — the former worked out, the latter didn’t — Snow is reportedly working the phones hard in the early stages of the UFA contact period.
Talking to agents and other hockey folks today, really get the sense the Isles have been among the most aggressive teams since period opened
Richards, who became an unrestricted free agent just a few days ago following his buyout from the Rangers, is coming off a solid-if-unspectacular campaign in which he finished third among all Blueshirts skaters with 20 goals and 51 points. While the 34-year-old was a lightning rod for criticism given his $6.6 million cap hit, Richards will generate interest at a lower price point.
Niskanen, arguably the top UFA defenseman available on the open market, is coming off a career-best 46 points. Given he’s only 27 years old and a right-handed shot, it’s expected there will be a large line of suitors looking to secure his services, and that Niskanen’s in line for a big bump (having made $2.3 million annually on his last deal.)
Regardless of what money Richards and Niskanen will command, it’s not surprising to hear Snow wants in on them and other impact UFAs as well. By keeping this year’s fifth overall pick and forwarding next year’s first-rounder to Buffalo (from the Thomas Vanek deal), Snow runs the risk of giving away a potential lottery ticket to the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel sweepstakes in ’15 should the Isles finish out of the playoffs. Having a good year is critically important.
What’s more, Snow and the Isles are at a crossroad. Are they more like the team that rallied to make the playoffs in 2013 and pushed Pittsburgh in a lively opening-round series? Or are they more the team that finished 26th in the NHL last year with a minus-42 goal differential? This upcoming campaign is an opportunity to find and, not coincidentally, the final season before the Isles move to Brooklyn.
It’s also worth noting that, while they’re not a spend-to-the-cap team, the Isles are $27 million away from the ceiling…and Snow has been given the green light to make aggressive moves in the past.
Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers
McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.
With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:
1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP
As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.
Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.
The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.
Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.
Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)
Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.
Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.
McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).
The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.
They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.
The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.
Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.
The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.
The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.
Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style