Benoit Pouliot

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PHT Power Rankings: Looking at the possible trade deadline candidates

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We are trying something a little different with our PHT Power Rankings for this week and taking a look at the players that could be on the move before the NHL trade deadline next month.

With so many teams still in the running for a playoff spot it really limits the number of potential sellers that are out there, but we still have a pretty good idea as to the names that might be available.

The Canadiens and Rangers might tear things down, while the Sabres, Oilers and Senators are among the few teams that are going to clearly be sellers.

Let’s take a look at the list!

1.  Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens — Pacioretty has since broken out after that miserable slump a few weeks ago and is back to scoring goals in bunches. It still seems like a long-shot that he is going to be moved, but the Canadiens seem to be open for business and Pacioretty’s name has been out there. They probably need to tear things down and start over, and dealing Pacioretty, who still has one more year left on his contract at a bargain basement cap hit for what he produces, would almost certainly bring a big return if they chose to go in that direction.

[Related: The Canadiens should probably tear it all down]

2. Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators —  The Senators are a disaster this season and they still have to figure out what to do with Erik Karlsson and his contract situation this summer. Hoffman has been mentioned as a possible trade chip and would be an intriguing target because he is not only a really good player, but also still has term left on his contract. It would probably take a huge offer to pry him away from the Senators — as it should.

3. Evander Kane, Buffalo Sabres — In terms of players rumored to be available Kane might be having one of the better seasons, and he is still in the prime of his career, but he is purely a rental at this point and the Sabres seem to have an extremely high price tag attached to him. How much are you willing to give up for a really good, but not great player you may only have for a few months?

4. Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers — The Rangers are reportedly considering “blowing it up” regardless of where they stand in the playoff race. McDonagh has struggled a bit in recent seasons and his possession numbers have cratered a bit, but in the right situation and right system he could rediscover his previous form.

5. Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings — Green’s value is almost entirely centered around his offense at this point. And while he is never going to be the 30-goal, 70-point threat he was earlier in his career he can still help a power play and provide some offense from the blue line.

6. Michael Grabner, New York Rangers — Grabner is a bargain against the cap and has been one of the top even-strength goal scorers in the league the past two seasons. In a league that is starting to become dominated by speed and skating, Grabner is still one of the fastest forwards going.

7. Patrick Maroon, Edmonton Oilers — The Oilers would probably like to keep Maroon but their salary cap situation is going to make that really difficult. He is not far off from the 27-goal pace he scored at a season ago and still has strong underlying numbers.

8. Thomas Vanek, Vancouver Canucks — For the second year in a row Vanek looks to be a potential rental candidate after signing a one-year deal. Just for a point of reference, his numbers at this point are almost identical to what they were a year ago at the same time for the Detroit Red Wings. He landed the Red Wings a third-round pick and Dylan McIlrath in a trade.

9. Rick Nash, New York Rangers — One of the many Rangers that could be on the trade block. A free agent to be after the season, Nash is having one of his worst seasons offensively but he is still probably going to end up with close to 25 goals while also playing strong two-way hockey. A rental that carries a big salary cap hit, he is still an extremely useful player.

[Related: The Rangers might be ready to blow it up at deadline]

10. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa Senators — Like Hoffman, another Senators player that still has term left on his contract that could be dealt. He might be an ideal fit for a team like Pittsburgh that is still in the market for a third-line center. Not a great offensive player, but he can be a tremendous shutdown defensive center and penalty killer.

11. Robin Lehner, Buffalo Sabres — There are not a ton of teams in the market for a goalie so there may not be a lot of options, but how could he not be an upgrade for a team like the New York Islanders, a team that can score as well as any team in hockey but can’t stop anybody?

12. Ian Cole, Pittsburgh Penguins — Cole’s situation is fascinating because he was such a reliable player on the past two Stanley Cup winning teams — especially the 2016-17 team that was decimated by injuries on the blue line — but he has clearly fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. He has played well when given an opportunity, but his days in Pittsburgh seem to be limited.

13. Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings — As an upcoming restricted free agent and playing a position where there may not be a huge market he is in a similar situation to Lehner. Could still be an attractive option for a team looking to upgrade its backup spot.

14. Thomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens — His offense has declined significantly in recent years but still a really good defensive center.

15. Erik Gudbranson, Vancouver Canucks — A polarizing player because old time hockey guys love his blood-and-guts style of play, but there is really nothing outstanding in his performance. Still, it only takes one team to see him as a necessary addition for playoff style hockey.

16. Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets — Johnson requested a trade from the Blue Jackets but it is hard to see there being a huge market for him. His role has been greatly reduced in Columbus compared to what it used to be, and it’s unlikely he is going to find a team that is going to give him a bigger one than the one he currently has with the Blue Jackets.

17. Benoit Pouliot, Buffalo Sabres — A few years ago he was a favorite of the analytics community for his ability to drive possession, and he was an outstanding depth player that could play a variety of roles up and down your lineup. His play has regressed quite a bit since then. As a rental he might be worth taking a chance on down the stretch in the hopes that somebody can catch lightning in a bottle.

18. Radim Vrbata, Florida Panthers — He is having a miserable year for the Panthers offensively, but he is just one year removed from scoring 20 goals and being a 55-point player.

19. Mark Letestu, Edmonton Oilers — He can chip in some offense but is probably best suited for a fourth-line role on a contending team.

20. Brad Richardson, Arizona Coyotes — The Coyotes don’t expect to be busy at the deadline, and there is hope that they can re-sign Richardson, but it only takes one phone call and offer to make a team change their mind. They could always flip Richardson for a pick or a prospect and try to re-sign him over the summer as a UFA.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Buffalo Sabres at New York Rangers

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Buffalo Sabres

Benoit PouliotJack EichelKyle Okposo

Evander KaneRyan O'ReillyJason Pominville

Zemgus GirgensonsEvan RodriguesSam Reinhart

Scott WilsonJohan LarssonJordan Nolan

Marco ScandellaRasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabeJustin Falk

Josh Gorges — Casey Nelson

Starting goalie: Robin Lehner

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Rangers; Penguins vs. Kings]

New York Rangers

Rick NashMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich

Mats ZuccarelloJ.T. Miller — Vinni Lettieri

Jimmy VeseyDavid DesharnaisPaul Carey

Michael Grabner — Peter Holland — Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonaghNick Holden

Brady SkjeiKevin Shattenkirk

Brendan SmithSteven Kampfer

Starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

WATCH LIVE: 2018 Winter Classic – Rangers vs. Sabres

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Rangers

Rick Nash/Mika Zibanejad/Mats Zuccarello

Michael Grabner/Kevin Hayes/J.T. Miller

Pavel Buchnevich/David Desharnais/Jimmy Vesey

Paul Carey/Boo Nieves/Vinni Lettieri

Ryan McDonagh/Nick Holden

Brendan Smith/Kevin Shattenkirk

Marc Staal/Brady Skjei

Startling goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

Rangers, Sabres take advantage of Winter Classic distraction

Sabres:

Zemgus Girgensons/Jack Eichel/Sam Reinhart

Evander Kane/Ryan O'Reilly/Kyle Okposo

Benoit Pouliot/Evan Rodrigues/Jason Pominville

Johan Larsson/Jacob Josefson/Jordan Nolan

Marco Scandella/Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe/Zach Bogosian

Josh Gorges/Nathan Beaulieu

Startling goalie: Robin Lehner

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.

Rangers, Sabres prepared for cold, windy Winter Classic conditions

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NEW YORK – Jordan Nolan of the Buffalo Sabres wasn’t sure how effective his eye black would be should it be sunny during Monday’s Winter Classic against the New York Rangers at Citi Field. One thing he was sure about, though, was how cool he thought it looked.

Eye black. Lotion. Heated benches. Toques. Layers upon layers of clothing. These are some of the tools available to players when they take part in these outdoor games. The forecast for Queens, New York on New Year’s Day calls for a high around 16 degrees with a windchill making it feel like 1 degree.

As the game goes along, the players will be able to adjust to the elements, but early on, things such as sun, snowflakes and wind, which are expected to be around 16 mph, could affect play.

“All those elements are going to come into play,” said Sabres head coach Phil Housley. “Hopefully the wind will be at our back for three periods. I know that’s not going to be the case but we’re going to put a good game plan together just using other coaches’ experience here, being in this game and what it’s all about. We’ll be ready to go.”

Both teams got to experience the elements and adjust to their surroundings on Sunday during practice day at Citi Field. The cold was obvious, but wind was a noticeable factor, one that will play a role when puck drops on Monday afternoon.

“It’s in play,” said Sabres forward Kyle Okposo. “It depends which way you’re going. If it’s a crosswind it kind of blows your stick a little bit [and] makes you miss a pass by that much. [It’s] definitely a little bit of a factor but it’s the same thing for both teams.”

The first Stadium Series game at Yankee Stadium in 2014 between the Rangers and New Jersey Devils was delayed due to a sun glare. Even with eye black, glare combined with the unique sightlines a hockey rink in the middle of a baseball stadium brings can provide plenty of tough moments for both goaltenders and skaters. Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner called the sun “a little challenging,” while Ryan O'Reilly added that a few times he had difficult seeing while carrying the puck up ice.

Outdoor games are never a typical hockey experience, which is why most teams try to keep their game plan simple: get the puck in deep, get it out quickly, capitalize on mistakes. “The goals that happen are usually bang-bang plays,” said Sabres forward Kyle Okposo, who played in the 2014 Stadium Series at Yankee Stadium.

Between the Sabres and Rangers, 22 players have participated in at least one NHL outdoor game. There will be plenty of newbies experiencing the pomp and circumstance that Monday afternoon will bring and then you’ll have someone like Benoit Pouliot, who will be suiting up to play outside for the fifth time in his career.

Another outdoor game vet is Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqivst, who will be playing in his fourth. He’s won all three that he’s started and by this point he’s pretty well-educated on how to handle whatever conditions Mother Nature throws at him.

“It’s about layering up and understanding what you need to be wearing,” Lundqvist said. “The ice was great, really fast. I really enjoyed practice. It got a little cold in the end during the family skate. Overall, it felt to be out there. A little windy, but we’ll see [Monday]. I think it’s going to be a great hockey game.”

More 2018 Winter Classic coverage:
Sabres’ Jason Pominville ready for third outdoor game experience
Mike Emrick on calling the first Winter Classic, his favorite outdoor game venues (PHT Q&A)
Sabres hoping to use Winter Classic to jump-start positive second half

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Sabres hoping to use Winter Classic to jump-start positive second half

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NEW YORK — The climb in front of the Buffalo Sabres as the calendar turns to 2018 is a daunting one. Currently 16 points out of a playoff spot, playing any hockey beyond game No. 82 in April is unlikely, but as they prepare for the Citi Field Winter Classic game against the New York Rangers, the players are looking at it as an opportunity.

Playoff hopes may be lost, but after a very tough first half the Sabres have shown some signs of life. They’re still dead last in the Eastern Conference, but head coach Phil Housley’s message is sinking in and beginning to pay off.

“If you look at our games recently in the last two weeks we’ve played solid hockey, especially against really good competition, teams in playoff positions,” Housley said Sunday morning after the Sabres practiced at Citi Field. “I think our team is moving in the right direction, but certainly having this opportunity on the world stage can hopefully give our team a boost because we have been playing better as of late. Obviously, we’d like to be in a better position at this point in the season, but it is what it is and we’re going to try to bring our best [Monday] against a very good hockey team and another team that in a playoff position.

The final 44 games of the season will prove to be a vital evaluation period for Housley and general manager Jason Botterill. As the Sabres eye a top lottery selection in June’s entry draft, there are a number of pending unrestricted free agents who could end up as trade bait before the Feb. 26 deadline. That bait could bring in assets that will help the franchise’s turnaround over the next several seasons.

Evander Kane, who’s tied for the team lead in goals with 15 and is second on the Sabres in points with 34, is set to become a UFA on July 1. Same goes for forward Benoit Pouliot, defenseman Josh Gorges and backup goaltender Chad Johnson. Kane will most likely be gone by the end of February, but until then he’s be a part of the roster that would love to use a Winter Classic victory to jump-start a positive second half.

After a November that saw the Sabres win three of 13 games, they picked up 13 points in 14 games in December, which included five overtime defeats. Progress is there in Housley’s eyes and as January approaches — a month that features their bye week and the All-Star Break — the hope is that the climb continues to an uphill one.

“Any team is lucky to be part of something like this. I think we’ve been playing better,” said goaltender Robin Lehner. “It’s a good opportunity for us on a big stage to hopefully go out and get a win, keep the momentum going.”

More 2018 Winter Classic coverage:
Sabres’ Jason Pominville ready for third outdoor game experience
Mike Emrick on calling the first Winter Classic, his favorite outdoor game venues (PHT Q&A)

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.