With a big Sunday game against the Los Angeles Kings coming up, the Winnipeg Jets regain a key reinforcement as Blake Wheeler was activated from IR.
The 28-year-old last played on Feb. 21 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s been a big part of Winnipeg’s most dangerous line alongside Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little, generating 16 goals and 44 points in 61 games.
While the Jets and Kings are separated by divisional and wild card brackets at this very moment, Los Angeles is essentially a bubble opponent for Winnipeg, so today’s game serves as a key matchup. Winnipeg has to be delighted to get one of its key forwards back as they strive to put a little distance between themselves and the pack (especially since a team like the Kings holds two games in hand, making a three-game standings deficit quite deceptive).
The Jets demoted Carl Klingberg to the AHL to make room for the American winger.
If David Clarkson can get traded, anybody can get traded.
That message was delivered on Thursday and re-iterated shortly thereafter, when Sabres GM Tim Murray told WGR 550 Radio one of the trade calls he recently received caught him completely off guard.
“I had a call like that today that I never thought I would get on a guy,” Murray explained. “He actually said, ‘Can you believe I’m calling you on this guy?’
“I said, ‘No, I can’t. But let’s talk.'”
It’s easy to see why someone would ring up Murray with this kind of offer, as the Buffalo GM has established himself as one that’s willing to orchestrate a big move. Since coming aboard, Murray has pulled off two major deals — the Ryan Miller-to-St. Louis trade, and the Evander Kane blockbuster — and a series of smaller, but still significant moves, including Matt Moulson to Minnesota and Jaroslav Halak to Washington.
It’s also worth noting that, as the rental market becomes depleted with all these pre-deadline deals, the potential for actual “hockey trades” rises. There’s also the potential for names that haven’t been bandied about to surface by Monday, like the one Murray discussed.
“You’re supposed to have an idea of who you may be dealing with because of previous conversations, but you never know,” he explained. “Some team could come out of the blue, whether that’s because of an injury or your guy happens to be playing very well and their opinion changed on them.
“There’s multiple reasons why you might get a call from somebody that you hadn’t previously thought was a fit for a guy.”
All the latest from the blue paint…
Zepp goes for Flyers
Philly will turn to Rob Zepp for the fourth straight game when it takes on the Leafs in Toronto this evening.
Zepp, 33, has fared reasonably well in his first-ever NHL campaign. He’s posted a 5-2-0 record, though his GAA (2.80) and save percentage (.893) leave something to be desired.
At the same time, the Flyers need wins right now — they head into tonight’s action four points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference — and Zepp has provided those; he’s won two of his last three starts, which included impressive victories against the NHL-leading Predators and Washington, who currently holds the east’s other wild card.
For Toronto, Jonathan Bernier will be in goal.
Canucks at Sabres: Eddie Lack vs. Michal Neuvirth (more here)
Coyotes at Rangers: Mike Smith vs. Cam Talbot
Habs at Jackets: Carey Price vs. Curtis McElhinney
Hawks at Panthers: (No word on a Chicago starter yet) vs. Roberto Luongo
Blues at Jets: Brian Elliott vs. Michael Hutchinson
Wild at Preds: (Devan Dubnyk likely) vs. Pekka Rinne
Sens at Kings: (No word on an Ottawa starter yet) vs. Jonathan Quick
Wings at Sharks: (No word on a Detroit starter yet vs. Antti Niemi
For most of his tenure with the Winnipeg Jets, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has been fairly passive when it comes to making trades. Even his recent Evander Kane blockbuster only happened after an alleged incident with Dustin Byfuglien.
So while the Jets’ decision to acquire forward Jiri Tlusty from Carolina on Wednesday in exchange for a third-round pick and conditional sixth rounder might be just the kind of move you would expect from a team in the hunt for a playoff spot, it is particularly noteworthy given Cheveldayoff’s history.
Cheveldayoff doesn’t want to put too much pressure on Tlusty, but he did view this as more than just a means to fill a void left by Mathieu Perreault’s significant lower-body injury.
“It is a message to the room that we’re all-in, here,” Cheveldayoff said.
The question now is if Cheveldayoff will chose to emphasize that message further by pulling the trigger on anything else. Getting Tlusty certainly helps, but the Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota Wild have bolstered their rosters as well and that’s likely just the beginning for the Jets’ rivals as we still have five days of trading left.
With a 31-20-11 record, the Jets have a four-point edge over the Minnesota Wild in the battle for a playoff spot. That being said, Winnipeg has also played in two more games.
Jiri Tlusty has been traded to Winnipeg, with a third-round pick in 2016 and either a fifth- or sixth-round pick in 2015 going back to Carolina. (If the Jets make the playoffs, it’s a fifth-round pick. If not, sixth.)
Tlusty, 26, has 13 goals and 10 assists in 52 games for the Hurricanes this season. A pending unrestricted free agent, he fully expected he could be dealt prior to Monday’s deadline.
In Winnipeg, Tlusty figures to be a second- or third-line winger. With Mathieu Perreault out, his addition could allow Dustin Byfuglien to return to defense.