Need to upgrade your defense? Give Carolina a call


The Carolina Hurricanes have drafted a lot of defensemen in the last few years, and it’s put them in a great position to make some trades.

“I think everyone is always looking for D and we feel comfortable with our depth there,” GM Ron Francis told ESPN.com Thursday. “We’re always looking at all options to make our team better; if that’s an area of strength and you can address an area of weakness, we’d certainly look at those possibilities.”

As mentioned, the ‘Canes have made it a point to draft defensemen. Haydn Fleury went seventh overall in 2014 and is now finding his way in the AHL; Noah Hanifin went fifth overall in 2015 and has already played over 100 games in the NHL; and Jake Bean, still in junior, was the 13th overall pick in 2016.

Carolina has also discovered some gems in the later rounds, like Justin Faulk (37th overall), Brett Pesce (66th), and Jaccob Slavin (120th).

In a related story, there has been talk that the ‘Canes could be a dark horse to land Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog from the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs badly need to upgrade their blue line. No doubt they’re aware of Carolina’s riches.

So keep an eye on the Hurricanes. They’ve got the assets to make a deal. It’s just a matter now of finding the right one.


Ducks won’t trade young defensemen for rentals

Canucks could trade a defenseman for a scorer


Isles need to ‘play it like a playoff game’ against Rangers

A game against against the Rangers is always good motivation, but if the New York Islanders needed any additional incentive to play well tonight, they’re coming off a “humbling” 7-1 loss to Toronto and can’t afford to fall any further behind in the playoff race.

“We have a great opportunity Thursday and we should probably play it like a playoff game,” said coach Doug Weight, per Newsday. “A little harder, a little grittier, a little more determined.”

The Isles are not going to catch the Rangers in the standings. Their only hope of a postseason berth is through the second wild-card position. And though they’re only three points back of the Leafs for that spot, they’ll also have to leapfrog the Flyers while holding off the Panthers.


Tonight’s game will be the Isles’ 33rd of the season at Barclays, meaning once it’s over they’ll only have eight home dates left, versus 18 on the road. Next week, they’ll embark on a nine-game road trip — another challenge to overcome.

But they can’t worry about that now. The Rangers are on a roll, winners of six straight. It’s estimated the Isles will have to go around 15-9-3 down the stretch in order to make the playoffs. A tall task, but not impossible if they take care of business at home.

Pre-game reading: On Jaromir Jagr, who wasn’t always so beloved


— Up top, celebrate Jaromir Jagr‘s 45th birthday by remembering the day he was drafted fifth overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The four players selected before Jagr were Owen Nolan, Petr Nedved, Keith Primeau, and Mike Ricci. That year, 1990, was also the year Keith Tkachuk (19th), Doug Weight (34th), and Peter Bondra (156th) were drafted.

— Those old enough will know that Jagr wasn’t always such a beloved player. His stint with the Washington Capitals was certainly a forgettable one, as Jonas Siegel of the Canadian Press recalls. “Capitals management took the whole experience as a lesson that it was better to build around young players and draft picks than expensive superstars in free agency. They traded Jagr to the Rangers in January 2004, his Washington tenure lasting less than 200 games including the playoffs.” (Canadian Press)

— Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg isn’t quite Jagr’s age, but at 36, he’s no spring chicken in a young man’s league. Neither for that matter is teammate Niklas Kronwall, also 36. “It’s getting end of the road here for us, and you’ve just got to enjoy it as much as you can,” says Zetterberg. “And not be as down as you’ve probably been before when you haven’t played as good enough. Or, when the team’s not doing well, you’ve got to find the good things and the happy things and try to keep your head up.” (Sports Illustrated)

— Sticking with the “old guy” theme, here’s something by Pierre LeBrun on 39-year-old Jarome Iginla, a pending unrestricted free agent. “Could a reunion with his former Calgary Flames coach/GM Darryl Sutter be a possibility? A source told ESPN.com that the Los Angeles Kings have kicked around the merits of that idea given that history between their coach and Iginla. Whether the Kings actually decide to act on it and call Colorado about it remains to be seen.” (ESPN)

— Retired goalie Corey Hirsch opens up about his battle with OCD, writing in The Players’ Tribune: “I can still recall the exact moment that my brain started lying to me.” It’s an excellent piece, well worth the read. Though most of it is quite dark, Hirsch ends on a hopeful note, for those who may be suffering from the same affliction. (The Players’ Tribune)

— The Montreal Gazette’s Jack Todd thinks Claude Julien is the right man to coach the Habs. “I’ve dealt with every Canadiens coach since Pat Burns and to me, Julien and Alain Vigneault are numbers 1A and 1B when it comes to honesty, decency and character. In my world, character matters. Julien has character. He’s the real deal, salt of the earth, a standup guy, whatever you want to call him.” (Montreal Gazette)

Enjoy the games!

Shattenkirk heads list of UFA d-men who could be traded


The Washington Capitals made a minor trade today, adding defenseman Tom Gilbert from the Los Angeles Kings in return for future considerations.

It’s a common transaction at this time of the year, with the trade deadline just two weeks away. Contenders like the Caps know injuries can hit in the playoffs, and an extra veteran d-man is a nice insurance policy. Last year, Roman Polak, John-Michael Liles, Kris Russell, Justin Schultz, and Jakub Kindl all found new teams in the run-up to the postseason.

This year, the list could include New Jersey’s Kyle Quincey, Carolina’s Ron Hainsey, Colorado’s Fedor Tyutin, Philadelphia’s Mark Streit, Buffalo’s Cody Franson, Buffalo’s Dmitry Kulikov, and Arizona’s Michael Stone. All are pending UFAs on teams currently outside the playoff picture.

Kulikov and Stone are the youngsters in that group, each just 26 years old. The former, however, may make suitors hesitant, as noted below by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of interest comes GM Tim Murray’s way forDmitry Kulikov. The defenceman has had a nightmare year since suffering a back injury when pushed into an open bench door during the pre-season.

“I’ve never been through anything like this,” Kulikov said last weekend. “But I really don’t want to talk much about it.” Are you healthy now? “Yes,” he answered, although coach Dan Bylsma says Kulikov won’t practice every day. He’s also a free agent, but teams don’t really have a handle on where his game is.

Of course, the big UFA d-man is Kevin Shattenkirk. Back in January, St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong said he’d consider trading the puck-mover if the Blues were still stumbling through their season at the deadline.

“We don’t want to keep players here, hope to sneak into eighth place and get hammered in the first round,” said Armstrong.

Armstrong has since fired head coach Ken Hitchcock and replaced him with Mike Yeo, who seems to have the Blues headed in the right direction. Shattenkirk has four assists in his last four games, all St. Louis victories. The 28-year-old remains a big part of the Blues’ offense.

It begs the question: what kind of message would Armstrong be sending his players if he sold Shattenkirk for picks and/or prospects? After all, the Western Conference is pretty wide open this year, and Jake Allen is stopping the puck again. In the entire league, only four defensemen have more points than Shattenkirk’s 39.

“If something happens, then it happens,” said Yeo, “but until then, he’s on this team and he’s a real important player for us and he’s proven that.”

NHL scoring leaders: defensemen







On Jagr’s 45th birthday, Panthers begin crucial California swing


The Florida Panthers are rested and healthy and ready to make a run.

But a three-game journey through California could just as soon doom their playoff hopes. They’re in San Jose tonight (on NBCSN), Anaheim Friday, and Los Angeles Saturday. Then, on their way back to Florida, they have to make a stop in St. Louis to take on the revitalized Blues.

“We know these games are very important to us to start climbing the standings and get ourselves into a playoff spot,” defenseman Aaron Ekblad said, per the Miami Herald.

wild-cardThe Panthers are coming off a 7-4 victory in Nashville on Saturday, an encouraging bounce-back after that bye-week “hangover” loss to the Kings.

But in order to make the playoffs, it’s estimated the Panthers (24-20-10) will have to go around 16-9-3 in their remaining 28 games. With a full lineup, including Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, that’s doable. Any extended losing streaks, however, and it will be tough to recover.

Of note, today is Jaromir Jagr‘s 45th birthday. The ageless wonder is by far the oldest player in the NHL. The next oldest is Shane Doan, who’s 40.

The fifth overall draft pick in 1990, Jagr played for the Pittsburgh Penguins as an 18-year-old rookie. At the time, the oldest player on the Pens was Bryan Trottier, who is now 60.

What’s been the key to his longevity?

“When they’re talented and skilled, if players in any sport decide that they can work as hard as anybody else, then they can play forever,” Jagr said, per the Sun-Sentinel. “They’ll always have the edge. … You can’t take a day off. Once you do you lose it very quickly.”