Jan Rutta

Getty Images

Should Winnipeg Jets stand pat at trade deadline?

5 Comments

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang

There are whispers that the Winnipeg Jets could stand pat at the trade deadline and get away with it.

It’s not necessarily the most popular opinion, but one that has gained a small following given how their season has shaped up to this point.

The growth of rookie forward Kyle Connor, who scored his 21st goal of the season on Sunday, has been impressive. Connor went from a mediocre training camp that saw him begin the season in the American Hockey League to play a vital role on Winnipeg’s top line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.

Jack Roslovic began the season in the AHL and was only called up recently to fill in the gaps as Winnipeg’s health began to deteriorate. Now, Roslovic, a dynamic player with speed and play-making ability, has performed so well that he likely won’t see the minors again.

The Jets are also anticipating the return of towering center Adam Lowry (out with an upper-body injury) and defenseman Jacob Trouba (out with a lower-body injury) by the time the playoffs roll around, turning into quasi-trade deadline additions.

The Jets, who have scored 13 goals in their past two games, are as good as any other team in the league when they’re firing on all cylinders. A recent adjustment to their lines — one that included putting 20-plus goal scorers Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine on the third unit — has diversified Winnipeg’s top-nine to a scary extent.

The Jets have three lines that are capable, at the moment, of putting up a lot of points on any given night. So the argument that the Jets don’t need to add someone to their top-six, or even their top-nine, has some merit.

That said, as the old sports cliche goes: there’s always room to improve. The Jets could still use some depth on the fourth line. Matt Hendricks, while a good presence in the room and a decent penalty killer, isn’t the quickest player on the ice. Joel Armia shows flashes of brilliance and then goes on long stretches where he’s mostly invisible. The return of Brandon Tanev from injury will be useful in that regard. But adding a budget center could be the shrewd move general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff needs to solidify a solid fourth-line combo.

On defense, Ben Chiarot has played admirably in place of Trouba but he may be a surplus to requirements when Trouba returns. One wonders what Cheveldayoff is thinking when it comes to Toby Enstrom, however. The diminutive defenseman had a tough outing in the physical department during the Jets last playoff appearance — their only visit since returning to Winnipeg — during the 2014-15 season. And his injury history should have the Jets thinking about at least shoring up that possibility.

The Jets could turn to Chiarot’s size and physicality in a similar scenario or could turn to the trade market for another option.

This is a good headache for any general manager. The Jets are one of the top teams in the NHL without having made a trade thus far this season.

Their goaltending has been spectacular, their power play has been lethal and their penalty kill is up near the top. Bell MTS Place has become a place teams go to die and the Jets, at the moment, would have home-ice advantage in the first round.

It makes for an interesting week leading up to Monday’s trade deadline.

Here’s a look at what the Jets could be/are considering:

Forwards

Rick Nash: A pricey rental player that would add size and scoring to the Jets top-six. But pricey is the key word here and it’s unlikely the Jets want to dig into the farm to own a guy for a couple months.

Mike Hoffman: Skilled and quick with the ability to score. He would be a good fit for the Jets, but as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on the weekend, Hoffman has a limited no-movement clause and Winnipeg is on the list. With term left on his deal, the price wouldn’t be cheap either.

Patrick Maroon and Mark Letestu: Two depth forwards that would bolster Winnipeg’s bottom end. Maroon isn’t the fastest guy around, and he’s not scoring 27 goals like he did last season playing with Connor McDavid. But a fresh start after not getting a contract in Edmonton might be just what Maroon needs to get his confidence up and running. Letestu, meanwhile, offers bottom-six depth up the middle. Matt Hendricks, currently occupying the fourth-line center role, didn’t play in last year’s playoffs for the Oilers. He could make way again depending on what the Jets do at the deadline. These would be cheaper options.

Ryan Hartman: It would be odd for the Chicago Blackhawks to trade a 23-year-old budding forward to a divisional rival, but stranger things have happened. Hartman had 19 goals in his rookie season last year and is playing on a very poor Blackhawks team this year. The price tag is likely high on him as well.

Mats Zuccarello: The New York Rangers announced they were holding a yard sale, and Zuccarello is a name that’s been thrown around when it comes to the Jets. Zuccarello is a good penalty killer and plays a game, not unlike Mathieu Perreault, who the Jets covet. Zuccarello also comes with an extra year on his contract. and could help the Jets beyond this season.

Defenseman:

Nick Holden: Continuing with the Rangers fire sale, Holden could be an option. He’s a left shot defenseman that could fill in for an injury to Enstrom. Holden’s possession metrics don’t jump off the page, but he’s a serviceable third-pairing guy who can play bigger minutes in a pinch.

Jan Rutta: One player the Blackhawks may be willing to part ways with is defenseman Rutta, who is on a one-year entry-level deal that’s set to expire at the end of this season. Rutta shoots right and has better possession metrics than Holden.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks

Getty

Watch Live on NBCSN

PROJECTED LINES

Minnesota Wild

Forwards

Tyler EnnisEric StaalZach Parise

Jason ZuckerMikko KoivuJoel Eriksson Ek

Chris StewartCharlie CoyleMikael Granlund

Marcus FolignoMatt CullenDaniel Winnik

Defense

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Jonas BrodinMathew Dumba

Mike ReillyNate Prosser

Starting Goalie: Devan Dubnyk

NHL On NBCSN: Blackhawks, Wild meet in Wednesday Night Rivalry Central Division Clash

Chicago Blackhawks

Forwards

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsVinnie Hinostroza

Ryan HartmanNick SchmaltzPatrick Kane

Patrick Sharp – David Kampf – Alex DeBrincat

Lance BoumaTommy Wingels

Defense

Duncan KeithJordan Oesterle

Gustav ForslingJan Rutta

Michal KempnyConnor Murphy

Brent Seabrook

Staring Goalie: Anton Forsberg

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.

Blackhawks defense drama: Brent Seabrook scratched

Getty
18 Comments

On Monday, the Chicago Blackhawks put Cody Franson (fancy stats darling) on waivers. A day later, it was revealed that (frequent analytics punching bag) Brent Seabrook will be … a healthy scratch.

Wow.

There’s no denying that Seabrook, 32, has struggled recently. In some circles, he’s been a target of criticism for quite some time, with middling possession stats making for a toxic mix alongside his problematic contract.

Even so, it’s startling to see it actually happen in 2017-18, with his $6.875 million cap hit running through (gulp) 2023-24. For context, that contract runs one season beyond those of Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Patrick Kane, who all see their deals expire after 2022-23.

It’s all a lot to take in for a Blackhawks team that will need to battle to make the playoffs, and one that seems to be suffering from some stark salary cap realities.

“I want to get back to being more consistent,” Seabrook said after learning about being scratched, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I think I’ve had good stretches and bad stretches.”

With Franson headed to the AHL – at least for now, if a trade isn’t coming – after clearing waivers, the Blackhawks’ already-suspect defense now seems to be in disarray. Joel Quenneville might roll with a combination of Keith, Jan Rutta, Gustav Forsling, Jordan Oesterle, Michal Kempny, and Connor Murphy. (Erik Gustafsson is also available.)

Lazerus notes that Rutta, Forsling, Oesterle, Kempny, and Murphy combine for about $7.1M in cap space, barely eclipsing Seabrook’s $6.875M. That’s … not really good for anyone, really.

Now, it’s important to realize that Coach Q indicates that Seabrook may not spend much time as a healthy scratch. That’s fair, because if you can manage to put aside Seabrook’s play relative to his contract, the Blackhawks should probably use him in some fashion.

With back-to-back games (at Ottawa tonight, against the Wild in Chicago tomorrow), this could very well be a short break for Seabrook.

If this works out, it could be a wake-up call to the team as a whole, not just a fading veteran who has plenty of moments that should stand out to Blackhawks fans. He scored big goals, often in overtime, in helping the Blackhawks win three Stanley Cups.

Still, it’s one of those moments that makes sense in theory but is startling in reality.

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.

Blackhawks tweaks include putting DeBrincat with Toews

Getty
6 Comments

Even in October, it’s tough to deny just how long an 82-game NHL season can be. (Especially when you check back in January.)

Sometimes you need to shake things up, and that’s especially true when the results aren’t coming. The Chicago Blackhawks’ offense has been a little hit-or-miss lately, so as NBC Sports Chicago’s Tracey Myers and others report, Joel Quenneville is getting out the fabled line blender.

As you can see from this eye-friendly set of lines via Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times, this marks an interesting opportunity for Alex DeBrincat, while Ryan Hartman gets bumped down to the fourth line:

(The defense is also seeing tweaks, as Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith won’t be attached at the hip for a while. Keith looks primed to roll with Jan Rutta while Seabrook’s partner is Gustav Forsling.)

It’s also intriguing that, despite having some success with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad, Richard Panik gets a look with Patrick Kane. But it’s especially fascinating to ponder how pint-sized wonder DeBrincat could fare with Toews and Saad.

If talk of line blenders didn’t make it clear enough, it’s unclear how long this might last.

“We’re just looking for some change, some excitement,” Quenneville said, according to Lazerus.

Fantasy hockey types might cringe after hopping on the Hartman bandwagon. The 23-year-old has nine points in 10 games, although half of those points came when the Blackhawks rampaged against the Pittsburgh Penguins to start the season with a 10-1 win. Hartman hasn’t generated a point in three straight games and only has a goal in his past five.

DeBrincat has been awfully quiet in his own right, too, as he adjusts to the NHL game. So we’ll see if these changes stick for a while; even if they do, these forwards probably shouldn’t rely too much on a specific combination, although coaches do tend to prefer at least keeping certain pairings together these days.

The Blackhawks host the Predators on Friday and face the Avalanche in Colorado on Saturday, so getting a little burst from these tweaks could be helpful during a back-to-back set.

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.

Fantasy adds and drops: Anthony Mantha is off to a good start

Getty

The fine folks at Pro Hockey Talk will start doing their best to help you win your fantasy hockey leagues.

The “fantasy adds and drops” column will aim to aid fantasy hockey general managers make tough decisions when it comes to picking up players that are available in the majority of leagues and dropping players that have performed below expectations.

We’ll be using Yahoo! Sports fantasy data as the base for this column.

Here’s a list of players that are all owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues that I’d consider picking up this week:

Anthony Mantha-LW/RW-Detroit Red Wings (owned in 49 percent of leagues)

Mantha has picked up seven points in five games this season. He’s been held off the scoresheet in two of five games, but he’s made up for it by recording two three-point games already. Mantha is averaging over two minutes of ice time per game on the power play.

–Jesper Bratt-LW/RW-New Jersey Devils (owned in 41 percent of leagues)

Bratt was arguably the biggest surprise in the league during the first week of the regular season. No expected this former sixth-round pick to score six points in his first three games, but that’s exactly what happened. In his last two games, he’s failed to record a point, and that’s a little concerning.

Ryan Hartman-LW-Chicago Blackhawks (owned in 35 percent of leagues)

Hartman has eight points in five games so far this season, but keep in mind that five of those points came in one game. His offensive production will definitely dry up, but his ability to rack up penalty minutes make him an intriguing addition in leagues that award point for PIM.

Mikko Rantanen-LW/RW/-Colorado Avalanche (owned in 20 percent of leagues)

The 10th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft is off to a good start this season, as he has one goal and four assists in six games. He’s played over 17:30 in three of his last four contests, which means the Avalanche coaching staff believe they can rely on him. He needs to be owned in a lot of dynasty leagues, too.

[More Fantasy: Check out RotoWorld’s weekly Waiver Wired column]

Sven Andrighetto-LW/RW-Colorado Avalanche (owned in 12 percent of leagues)

Avalanche GM Joe Sakic has been criticized for a lot of the moves he’s made, but getting Andrighetto from Montreal for Andreas Martinsen was one of his best. Andrighetto is an undersized, speedy forward with offensive ability. He’s up to six points in six games already this season. He won’t continue on a point-per-game pace, but he’s good enough to a productive NHLer. I’d rather have Andrighetto than Nail Yakupov on my fantasy team.

Jan Rutta-D-Chicago Blackhawks (owned in 29 percent of leagues)

Rutta’s NHL career is off to a fantastic start. He’s accumulated two goals, two assists, a plus-6 rating and six penalty minutes in six contests. The 27-year-old rookie has averaged 18:59 of ice time, which isn’t insignificant for a first-year blue liner.

Connor Hellebuyck-G-Winnipeg Jets (owned in 47 percent of leagues)

The goaltending picture in Winnipeg wasn’t exactly clear going into the season. Hellebuyck was supposed to be the goalie of the future, while Steve Mason was going to be the short-term solution. Well, the future appears to be now. Hellebuyck has done well for the Jets and although Mason isn’t out of the picture, the youngster will be the go-to option for now.

[Fantasy Podcast: RotoWorld on Ovechkin’s hot start]

Here are a list of players that are owned in more than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues that could be dropped:

Milan Lucic-LW-Edmonton Oilers (owned in 76 percent of leagues)

At this point, most hockey fans know what Lucic brings to the table. He’s a tough customer that can chip in offensively every so often. His offensive numbers would be better if he’d be lining up with Connor McDavid, but he’s not. So unless you’re getting points for penalty minutes, you can drop Lucic in most leagues.

Andre Burakovsky-LW/RW-Washington Capitals (owned in 63 percent of leagues)

Burakovsky tends to get off to slow starts, and that’s been the case this season. Some Caps players have been filling up the net, but he hasn’t been one of them. He has two assists in six games so far this season.

Robin Lehner-G-Buffalo Sabres (owned in 63 percent of leagues)

Many expected the Sabres to be one of the more improved teams in the NHL this season, but they’ve disappointed so far. The disappointment doesn’t all fall on Lehner’s shoulders though. Unfortunately, when a team doesn’t win, it impacts their goalie’s fantasy value.

Jakob Silfverberg-RW-Anaheim Ducks (owned in 58 percent of leagues)

It’s been a disappointing start to the season for the Ducks forward, who has just one assist in six games. He’ll get his offensive totals up at some point, but he’s still never hit the 50-point mark in his career, so there’s a cap to his upside.

————

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

PHT Power Rankings: Making sense of the early standings

Plea to the NHL: You can nix the All-Star Game, just keep skills competition