James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Re-introduce yourself: Sparks makes nice save in Leafs return

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The Toronto Maple Leafs might be packing it in for next season, but there are plenty of players who have a chance to make an impression on management.

Goalie Garret Sparks is one of them, especially playing against a quality team like the Tampa Bay Lightning with a skeleton crew in front of him.

He has a while to go to make a lasting impact, but providing a highlight here and there doesn’t hurt. Sparks generated one early against the Bolts tonight, as you can see above.

Wild get David Jones from Flames, who take Niklas Backstrom’s contract


During TSN’s Trade Centre coverage, NBC’s Pierre McGuire expressed disappointment in the Minnesota Wild’s quite deadline work.

David Jones might not be enough to sway such an opinion from McGuire and others, but at least he’s something.

The Wild received Jones from the Calgary Flames, who will reportedly absorb the contract of goalie Niklas Backstrom (and get a sixth-rounder for their troubles), according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Chris Johnston.

The Flames now have 10 picks in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Jones is having a quiet season for the Flames, with zero points in his last five games and just one goal since Jan. 16.

The Wild are looking at past successes in hopes of getting something out of him: he generated two 20+ goals during his Avalanche days and managed 14 last season for the Flames.

Nothing spectacular, yet Minnesota would gladly add some support scoring to its lineup as the Wild claw for a playoff spot.

Backstrom, 38, has not played since the 2014-15 season. His current cap hit is $3.42 million, likely easy to manage for a Calgary team that cleared out a lot of salary during this week.

Flyers will be without Jakub Voracek (lower body) for about two weeks

Tough news for the Philadelphia Flyers on deadline day: Jakub Voracek is expected to miss about two weeks with a lower-body injury.

Philly currently sits one spot outside of the East’s wild card picture, with 67 points in 61 games played. The Pittsburgh Penguins are the closest playoff team ahead of them: 70 points in 60 games played.

That’s far from insurmountable, although that task looks a lot tougher without Voracek.

Voracek struggle with just three points in 10 October games, but he’s been close to a point-per-game guy since then.

Some wonder if Voracek might miss a little more than that estimated two weeks, too.

The Voracek-less Flyers face off against the … several players-less Calgary Flames tonight.

Jared Cowen won’t play for Leafs, who plan on buying him out


Jared Cowen won’t play for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season, and the plan is to buy him out during the off-season.

That’s what GM Lou Lamoriello told the media as he discussed the trade deadline on Monday.

This announcement comes from reporters including ESPN’s Craig Custance:

Here’s the press conference itself, which touches on other issues.

If that buyout goes as planned, here’s the expected cost:

Cowen was part of the trade that sent Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators.

It’s been a tough season for Cowen, who obviously lost favor toward the end of his time with the Senators. At 25, he has time to turn things around … it just won’t happen with the Maple Leafs.

Winners and losers of the 2016 NHL trade deadline


At this point, those last-minute deals have just about trickled in, so let’s do that thing where we hastily grade how general managers handled the trade deadline.

Check out PHT’s trade deadline tracker here, in case you want to do a little research before you make weirdly angry comments.


Flames: Calgary produced a resounding bounty for Jiri Hudler and Kris Russell, two players who were likely to walk in free agency anyway. The Flames now have seven picks in the first four rounds of the 2016 draft, and they received some nice pieces, including already-quite-experienced defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka.

Hurricanes: Another seller yielding huge returns, maybe the best of any team. Much like the Flames, Carolina gained a ton of futures for three players who only had months left on their deals. As many have mentioned, Eric Staal could return next summer, which would remove much of the discomfort from the toughest move.

Sellers, in general: The Leafs were quiet on the deadline day itself, and some aren’t happy about that.

Even so, they grabbed some assets, and sellers who managed to pull the trigger were rewarded more often than not. The Buffalo Sabres didn’t sell like they have before, but they still have 19 draft picks between 2016 and 2017.

Blackhawks: They didn’t need to break the bank to add Andrew Ladd, a legitimate first-line forward who brings rare familiarity for a rental. No team has more benefit of the doubt when it comes to enjoying short-term gains for some long-term pain.

Rangers, in 2015-16: It’s a hefty price, yet Staal has the ability to help the Rangers take another step as contenders. They remain in “win now” mode.

Panthers: They spent a lot of picks. That said, collecting some rentals (Jiri Hudler in particular) rather than merely getting one could increase the odds of one or more actually paying off.

Ducks: Brandon Pirri isn’t spectacular and might be a little banged up, but a young guy coming off a 22-goal season for just a six-round pick? Not a bad bargain.

Jamie McGinn also adds some depth to the Ducks’ mix, although he doesn’t stand as the same sort of value.

The phrase “standing pat:” A frustrating theme for anxious fans.

Lee Stempniak‘s landlords/real estate agents: He’s been moved three straight deadlines and the Bruins stand as his 10th team.

It’s probably inaccurate to label Stempniak as a loser or winner, really, as he does join a slightly more promising team.

On a similarly cheesy joking front, a few travel agents lost on Monday:


People who took off work: An annual tradition. Seriously, this joke makes it into basically every winners/losers list.

Even so, this specific deadline day was as slow as ever.

Jonathan Drouin: Yes, it’s true that the Lightning can technically trade Jonathan Drouin (he just wouldn’t be eligible to play), but it sure looks like he’s in limbo.

In Drouin’s case, limbo translates to “suspended in carbonite like Han Solo.” (Bonus loser: timely pop culture references.)

Canucks: Maybe you can give Jim Benning a partial pass for failing to move Dan Hamhuis, who exercised the powers of his no-trade clause. Either way, not finding an acceptable price for Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata stings for a franchise that isn’t contending and isn’t doing much to build for the future.

Vancouver likely has the most unhappy fans from a deadline perspective.

Stars: Kris Russell adds another piece to the Stars’ scary attack, but sheesh, what a price for a so-so rental. That’s an “oops, I have a month-long late fee at Blockbuster” type of price tag.

(Yeah, timely references are definitely another loser.)

All kidding aside, it’s not necessarily their fault that they missed out on Dan Hamhuis, but Jim Nill paid a lot for a marginal improvement.

Jyrki Jokipakka: He seems really sad.

Bruins: Much like the Stars, you can make a winner argument for the Bruins … but each team gave up so much to maybe only make a moderate step forward. Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles could help out a bit on defense, yet are they worth a bucket of picks? Was it really the best move to keep Loui Eriksson?

A first-round exit would make this a very costly week. Consider this more of a C- than a F grade, though.

Rangers’ future: Another annual tradition? The Rangers will now lack a first-round pick for four straight years, and they cleaned out some second-rounders, too. People thoroughly mock the Rangers for giving up guys like Anthony Duclair, so will these playoff pushes be worth it?

At some point, one would assume that the Rangers will pay for “mortgaging their future.”