Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
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Wild didn’t just get Hanzal — they kept him away from the rest of the West

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In acquiring Martin Hanzal on Sunday, Minnesota built itself a formidable quartet of centers — Hanzal, Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Erik Haula — but also did something else in the process.

It didn’t let Hanzal go to a competitor.

This, perhaps, is equally important to what the 30-year-old brings to the team. Hanzal’s big, he’s physical, he’s got sound defensive awareness and good offensive instincts — the kind of attributes you want heading into the playoffs.

And the kind you don’t want your rivals acquiring.

In Sunday’s trade call, GM Chuck Fletcher acknowledged as much when asked if he made trades with other teams in mind. In the case of Hanzal, the question was asked specifically about Chicago — a team that had been occasionally linked to the ex-Coyotes center, and one with a history of swinging for the fences at the deadline.

“Obviously everyone knows Chicago has won three Stanley Cups over the last six or so years,” Fletcher said, per the Star-Tribune. “Clearly in the West they’re always the team you have to go through and you have to beat to get anywhere you want to go to.”

To be fair, Fletcher — like his counterpart in Chicago, Stan Bowman — also has a long history of wheeling at the deadline. The Hanzal trade didn’t come out of the blue. This marks the fifth consecutive year the Wild have gone out and acquired a forward, acquisitions which have ranged from minor pickups (David Jones, Chris Stewart) to prominent ones (Jason Pominville).

In each instance, Fletcher’s goal was to make the team better. But this year, things were a little different. Whereas acquisitions likes Jones and Stewart were designed specifically to impact the Wild and only the Wild, yesterday’s trade took something significant off the table for other teams.

Fletcher realized the Western Conference is wide open and that Hanzal, arguably the most impact player available, would be a difference maker.

And not just in Minnesota. The reverberations of this trade will be felt.

“Of all the guys with expiring contracts, we thought he, at forward, would have the biggest impact on any roster,” Fletcher explained. “So certainly our goal was to have him play for us, and also to keep him away from other teams in the West.”

Mumps outbreak hits Canucks, five players affected

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The mumps are back.

Three years after a league-wide outbreak sidelined a slew of players, the Canucks have announced that d-man Troy Stecher has been diagnosed with mumps, while four other players — Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Mike Chaput and Markus Granlund — have presented symptoms.

More, from the club:

The team has worked from the outset with the Vancouver Health Authority, NHL, NHLPA and BC Centre for Disease Control to minimize transmission of the illness.

In keeping with BC Centre of Disease Control and Vancouver Coastal Health guidelines, players presenting symptoms are immediately being tested and quarantined in isolation for a five-day period from the onset of symptoms or until test results prove negative.

Vaccines are also being administered to minimize further risk of contraction along with universal preventative hygiene measures as recommended by Vancouver Coastal Health including disinfecting all dressing room areas.

Vancouver’s in the midst of its bye week. Saturday’s home date against the Sharks will be its first since a 3-2 loss to Philly on Sunday.

Given that Stecher’s out and the other four are being quarantined, the Canucks project to be severely undermanned tomorrow. Tryamkin, Chaput and Granlund have all been ruled out, and Tanev is questionable.

GM Jim Benning said two recalls from AHL Utica — d-man Evan McEneny and forward Alex Grenier — are on their way to Vancouver.

Following Saturday’s game, the Canucks are back in action again on Tuesday, when they host Detroit.

Bickell to play first game since MS diagnosis

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Carolina Hurricanes forward Bryan Bickell is expected to skate in his first hockey game since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

The Hurricanes assigned Bickell to their AHL affiliate in Charlotte on Friday and say he’s expected to play for the Checkers on Saturday night.

The move came a day after he was placed on waivers in a procedural move that allowed the team to send him to the minors.

Bickell, 30, has been out since October, was diagnosed with MS in November and was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 11.

The three-time Stanley Cup winner with Chicago has been practicing with the Hurricanes for the past month.

Rutherford says Schultz extension ‘definitely a priority’ this summer

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Justin Schultz‘s career has done a virtual 180 since joining Pittsburgh at last year’s trade deadline, and the Pens have made it clear they’d like to keep him around beyond this season.

“We have not [discussed an extension with Schultz],” GM Jim Rutherford said, per the Post-Gazette. “But he will definitely be a priority for us in the offseason.”

Acquired for a third-round pick last February, Schultz proved to be one of Rutherford’s best moves (part of the reason why Rutherford captured NHL GM of the Year). The former Oilers rearguard had seven points through 18 regular-season games and then thrived once getting into the playoff mix, helping Pittsburgh win the Stanley Cup.

He was signed to a modest one-year, $1.4 million extension last summer, which has turned out to be another Rutherford masterstroke.

Schultz has been vitally important for a Pittsburgh defense decimated by injury. His TOI is way up — 19:15 per game — and his offensive contributions have been outstanding. The 26-year-old has nine goals and 39 points through 56 games, putting him tops among all Pens d-men (and tied for seventh among all NHL blueliners).

Schultz is a pending RFA, and in line for a pretty big raise. The Post-Gazette suggested it could cost Pittsburgh $4-$5 million annually to keep him around, meaning Rutherford will have his work cut out. Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino and Trevor Daley are all pending UFAs, while fellow d-man Brian Dumoulin is also restricted come July 1.

Rutherford will also need to deal with the Marc-Andre Fleury issue, specifically how to mitigate Fleury’s $5.75 million cap hit.

Neuvirth ‘scared’ Flyers will trade him at deadline

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At the 2014 trade deadline, Michal Neuvirth was traded from Washington to Buffalo.

One year later, the Sabres flipped him to the Isles.

So it’s understandable, then, that Neuvirth — a pending unrestricted free agent — is plenty worried the Flyers might ship him out by next Wednesday.

“For sure, I’m scared,” Neuvirth said, per the Courier-Post. “The last three deadlines I’ve been traded twice. For sure, I’m scared, yes.”

The 28-year-old is probably right to be frightened. With an affordable $1.625 million cap hit and a history of solid stretches — including last year, when he went 18-8-4 with a .924 save percentage and 2.27 GAA — Neuvirth is a classic “upgrade your backup” option.

Like in 2015, when Isles GM Garth Snow wanted an improvement on Chad Johnson.

“Chad played some very good games for us over the course of the season,” Snow said at the time, per the Daily News. “But seeing Michal Neuvirth performing, especially in the last 30 days playing at an extremely high level, obviously goaltenders are hard to get in the NHL and the Eastern Conference.

“It was an opportunity for us to make a move and get a little better at the position.”

For a playoff-bound team, Neuvirth is a tantalizing add. His career postseason numbers are excellent — .933 save percentage over 13 appearances, with a pair of shutouts. (Yes, it’s a relatively small sample size.)

He was also terrific in last year’s opening-round loss to Washington, stopping 103 of 105 shots faced.

As for the Flyers, they’re in a precarious situation, sitting five points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They’d need to leapfrog Florida, Boston and the Isles to get there, and GM Ron Hextall hasn’t publicly identified himself as a buyer or seller.

What’s more, Hextall doesn’t want to address his goalie situation until the offseason. Steve Mason‘s a pending UFA as well, and there’s some believe neither will be back with Philly next year.

As for landing spots, one has to wonder if Boston will kick tires on Neuvirth. GM Don Sweeney said the club could try to solve its longstanding backup goalie problem at the deadline.