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Should Winnipeg Jets stand pat at trade deadline?

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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

It’s Anaheim Ducks Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Anaheim Ducks.

It’s becoming an all too familiar story for fans of the Anaheim Ducks: solid regular season followed by disappointment in the playoffs.

For a third consecutive season, Anaheim finished the regular season as the top seed in the Pacific Division. And for a second consecutive year, the Ducks owned the best record in the Western Conference (51-24-7).

However, just like they did during the 2014 playoffs, the Ducks fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, losing in seven games to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Ducks did make some strides – they hadn’t been to the conference final since winning the franchise’s only Stanley Cup in 2007.

Newcomer Ryan Kesler gave the Ducks a nice 1-2 punch down the middle. The 30-year-old finished third in team scoring behind Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry with 20 goals and 47 points in 81 games.

Anaheim also got career years out of forwards Jakob Silfverberg, Patrick Maroon and defenseman Sami Vatanen.

Matt Beleskey, who has since signed with the Boston Bruins, added a career-high 22 goals for a Ducks team, which finished 11th in the league in goals-for per-game (2.78).

In goal, Frederik Andersen shouldered the load going 35-12-5 with a 2.38 G.A.A and a .914 save percentage while making 54 appearances in his second NHL season. His 35 wins were good for eighth in the league.

John Gibson also made 23 appearances in the Ducks’ crease going 13-8-0 to go along with a 2.60 G.A.A. and a .914 save percentage. The 22-year-old struggled last season battling with injuries and inconsistencies.

Off-season recap

The Ducks are clearly in a win-now mode.

GM Bob Murray added a veteran presence on the team’s blue line by acquiring Kevin Bieksa from the Vancouver Canucks.

Up front, the Ducks acquired Carl Hagelin and signed free agents Shawn Horcoff and Chris Stewart.

In goal, Murray acquired Anton Khudobin in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes to challenge Andersen and Gibson.

With the likes of Jiri Sekac, Rickard Rakell and Chris Wagner up front, and Simon Despres, Hampus Lindholm and Vatanen on the blue line all due contract extensions after next season it’s unlikely Murray can keep his young nucleus together.

Both Andersen and Gibson will also require new deals as well while Khudobin is an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Anaheim’s time to win is now before Murray and his staff begins the process of creatively re-tooling the club next summer.

Of course: ‘Hawks, Ducks’ back-and-forth series is going to Game 7

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It just seems appropriate.

In a Western Conference Final where the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks have each had their moments to shine, where neither squad has been able to keep the other down for long, it would have been almost anticlimactic if we were given anything less than the full seven games. Chicago guaranteed that we’ll get that deciding contest by earning a 5-2 victory tonight.

After losing Game 5 in no small part due to their terrible start, the Blackhawks came out strong tonight. They were initially dominant on the draw and had some great scoring chances, but Anaheim held on to maintain the scoreless tie through 20 minutes.

It wasn’t until midway through the second period that Chicago’s efforts were finally rewarded with Brandon Saad’s breakaway goal. Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane followed that up with a pair of goals, giving Chicago three markers in the span of less than four minutes. Duncan Keith assisted on all of those goals to tie his career-high, per the NHL’s Communications Department.

As both sides should be well aware at this point though, a 3-0 lead isn’t safe. While the final score was ultimately one-sided, Anaheim nearly came back as Patrick Maroon netted a power-play goal at 14:13 of the second period and Clayton Stoner added a controversial marker early in the third period.

The final frame was largely dominated by the Ducks, but the Blackhawks managed to hold on until Andrew Shaw provided them with some much needed insurance.

Shaw also collected an empty netter to bury this game.

That marks the first time Anaheim has lost in regulation since the playoffs began. Chicago needed to go to triple and double overtime to beat them in Games 2 and 4 respectively.

Game 7 will be played in Anaheim on Saturday. For Chicago to win this series, it will have to become the first team to earn back-to-back victories in the 2015 Western Conference Final.

Video: Maroon stays hot in playoffs, gives Ducks hope

The Chicago Blackhawks broke out in the second period by scoring three goals within the span of four minutes, but Patrick Maroon was able to give the Ducks reason to hope going into the final frame.

With the man advantage late in the period, Maroon got into position and deflected Cam Fowler’s shot past goaltender Corey Crawford to narrow Chicago’s lead to two:

Maroon has been a pleasant surprise for Anaheim in the playoffs. After scoring nine goals in 71 regular season games, this was his seventh in 15 playoff contests. He’s found the back of the net in three of the Ducks’ last four games.

Anaheim still has an steep uphill climb ahead of it though. Including the regular season, Chicago is 30-0-0 when leading through 40 minutes.

Video: ‘I got bumped the whole game,’ says Crawford

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It appears the Anaheim Ducks have made it their mission to make life as unpleasant as possible for Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.

On both Anaheim goals in a Game 3 win over Chicago on Thursday, Corey Perry was standing directly in front of Crawford, providing the perfect screen on shots from the point.

Patrick Maroon scored on a deflection, and Simon Despres got his shot past a helpless Crawford, who didn’t move over to his left in time and it can be argued that was because of Perry in front.

“Just came down to one play, I guess,” Crawford said, as per CSN Chicago. “I got bumped. I got bumped the whole game. It wasn’t enough to get called, but it was enough on that one (to be) a little distraction. I’ve got to find a way to not get caught up, I guess.”