NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 17: Patrick Eaves #18 of the Dallas Stars skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on January 17, 2017 in New York City. The Stars defeated the Rangers 7-6.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Conditional trades ‘in vogue’ in the NHL

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The NHL trade deadline can make for some conflicting interests come playoff time.

No one outside Minnesota is cheering harder for the Wild than the Arizona Coyotes because they get a second-round pick if Martin Hanzal helps Minnesota reach the third round. The Tampa Bay Lightning would love nothing more than Ben Bishop leading the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup Final.

Conditional trades based on a team’s playoff success, and a player’s part in it, are all the rage right now in the NHL.

Already, four pre-deadline deals include draft picks contingent on how far a team goes in the playoffs. There were 13 such trades combined at the past four deadlines.

“It’s in vogue,” Florida Panthers president of hockey operations Dale Tallon said. “It’s a creative way of doing things. If you have success, you don’t mind paying more. If you’re successful and go deeper, you don’t mind giving up an extra asset or more of an asset.”

Trades conditional on playoff success sometimes happen in the NFL, like when the Minnesota Vikings acquired quarterback Sam Bradford from the Philadelphia Eagles last year, but they’re virtually nonexistent in other North American professional sports leagues outside of protected picks in the NBA. They’ve become commonplace in the NHL, in part because they’ve worked out swimmingly a few times.

When the Chicago Blackhawks won it all in 2015, they didn’t mind sending an extra second-round pick to the Flyers for Kimmo Timonen for reaching the Cup Final and the defenseman playing in at least half their games. A year earlier, the Kings gave the Columbus Blue Jackets an extra third-round pick to complete a trade for Marian Gaborik after the winger helped them win their second title in three seasons.

The Kings could give up as high as a second-round pick if Bishop wins them the Cup this season but wouldn’t surrender much of anything if they miss the playoffs. GM Dean Lombardi, who also made the 2014 Gaborik trade, called it a “common sense” way of getting a deal done.

“If I was making a deal here or something and (someone) says, `I’m giving five first-rounders and you’ll win the Cup,’ you’ll do it,” Lombardi said. “You don’t mind paying if your team has success.”

The same is true of the Anaheim Ducks, who would give the Dallas Stars a first-round pick instead of a second for Patrick Eaves if they reach the Western Conference final and the winger plays 50 percent or more of their games. After some haggling, Dallas GM Jim Nill said that was the final piece of getting the trade done.

The idea of contenders gambling on themselves makes all the sense in the world. But trade deadline sellers also like the concept.

The Coyotes were looking to get the best deal for Hanzal , so they bet on him contributing to the Wild’s success.

“We believe strongly that with Martin, Minnesota has a chance to do some things that could be pretty special, and we want to share in some of that upside,” Arizona GM John Chayka said. “We share in the risk, we share in the upside. It’s just a creative way to try and bridge the gap and get a deal done.”

Lombardi would love to make salaries and salary-cap hits contingent on playoff success because if a team goes further it’s also making more money along the way. But the league doesn’t allow that.

Maybe that’s for the best because these kinds of trades make things complicated. Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee, who sent a conditional pick to Florida in 1998 for Esa Tikkanen the year his Washington Capitals made the Cup Final, pointed out that those trades freeze a lot of potential draft picks that could be pieces of other trades.

“The difficulty in doing that is it ties up a lot of picks,” McPhee said. “If they’re encumbered you can’t use them.”

That hasn’t stopped the trend, though, with teams hedging their bets and playing it safe.

“You give yourself a little bit of a protection, too, if you don’t quite go as far as you think you will,” Tallon said.

 

Habs acquire Jordie Benn from Stars

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 04:  Jordie Benn #24 of the Dallas Stars during a preseason game at American Airlines Center on October 4, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Montreal Canadians have acquired defenseman Jordie Benn from the Dallas Stars in return for d-man Greg Pateryn and a fourth-round pick in 2017.

The Habs had been shopping the 26-year-old Pateryn. He has one goal and five assists in 24 games this season. He’s signed through next season for a cap hit of $800,000.

In Benn, the Canadiens get a 29-year-old defensive defenseman who’s signed through 2018-19 for a cap hit of $1.1 million.

Benn, of course, is also the brother of Stars captain Jamie Benn.

Goalie Nods: James Reimer starts again for Panthers

SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 7: Goaltender James Reimer #34 of the Florida Panthers stops a shot by Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins during third period action at the BB&T Center on January 7, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. The Bruins defeated the Panthers 4-0. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Huge game in the Atlantic Division on Sunday night when the Florida Panthers host the Ottawa Senators in a classic four-point game.

The Senators enter the night tied with Boston for second place in the division with 70 points and four points ahead of the Panthers. Florida will be turning back to James Reimer for the start as he gets the call for the third time in the past four games as Roberto Luongo takes a back seat for the moment.

On Sunday, Luongo told George Richards of the Miami Herald that is the way it should be at the moment.

“Right now I don’t deserve to be playing,” Luongo told Richards. “That’s the bottom line. For me, everything is about the team and us winning games. James Reimer gives us a better chance to win every night than I am. Until I figure my [game] out this is the way it should go I think.”

Luongo has surrendered at least three goals in eight of his past 10 appearances, while Reimer is carrying a .927 save percentage in the month of February.

The Senators will go with Craig Anderson on Sunday night.

Elsewhere on Sunday…

— In the early games it was Tuukka Rask vs. Kari Lehtonen in the Boston Bruins-Dallas Stars, while Brian Elliott went against Eddie Lack in the Calgary Flames vs. Carolina Hurricanes game.

Cam Talbot makes his league-leading 56th start of the season for the Edmonton Oilers when they take on the Nashville Predators. No word yet from the Predators on their starter.

— Big game in the Metropolitan Division when the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the New York Rangers. Sergei Bobrovsky goes against Henrik Lundqvist in one heck of a goaltending matchup.

— With Corey Crawford under the weather Scott Darling will start for the Chicago Blackhawks when they host the St. Louis Blues on NBCSN. Jake Allen will go start the Blues.

Louis Domingue will start for the Arizona Coyotes when they host the Buffalo Sabres. No word yet from the Sabres on their starting goalie, but the team did call up Linus Ullmark from the AHL before the game.

Bruins’ offensive resurgence continues with six-goal game against Stars

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Are the Boston Bruins good again?

Because it is starting to look like the Boston Bruins are good again.

They were winners for the fifth time in their past six games on Sunday afternoon with a rather convincing 6-3 win over a Dallas Stars team that watched whatever remained of its playoff chances completely crumble in defeat.

Leading the way for the Bruins was trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak as they combined for three goals (including two from Bergeron) and six assists in the win.

The goal scoring started early with Marchand picking up his 27th of the season 5:56 into the game. David Krejci added his 16th of the season less than a minute later. Frank Vatrano and Ryan Spooner also added goals for a Bruins team that for the past couple of months has quietly started to become an offensive powerhouse since the start of the new calendar year. And that is not an exaggeration, either. Including Sunday’s game, the Bruins are up to 76 goals in the 23 games since Jan. 1, a goals per game average of 3.3 that is among the best in the league during that stretch.

The Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio are all averaging more than a point-per-game since then, while Marchand’s 17 goals since the new year are the most in the league.

Their defense still needs some work, but with the offense starting to click again and with a goaltender that is capable of getting hot and carrying them for stretches this could be a team worth watching down the stretch, especially if they can secure a top-three spot in the Atlantic Division and get that path in the postseason.

One team you will not have to be worrying about the playoffs, though, is the Stars.

After Sunday’s loss they remain nine points back of a playoff spot in the Western Conference after failing to gain any ground on the teams they are chasing.

At the moment the St. Louis Blues are holding the second Wild Card spot in the West with a 91-point pace. That means the Stars would need to finish with 34 points to reach 93 in their final 20 games to pass them. That would require a 16-2-2 run to finish the year.

This has been a massively disappointing season for a Stars team that was in the second round of the playoffs just one year ago and seemed to be returning a team that should have at least been a contender in the Western Conference. Instead everything has just completely fallen apart defensively, especially on the penalty kill where they are a league worst at 73.5 percent.

This Ryan Spooner goal in the third period, off of a ridiculous pass from Torey Krug, pretty much sums it all up.

VIDEO: Jamie Benn and David Backes fight right off opening faceoff

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Sunday’s game between the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars gave us an opportunity to check in on the relationship between Jamie Benn and David Backes, and it seems that they still do not like each other very much.

Their on-ice feud continued literally as soon as Sunday’s game started, when they dropped the gloves right off the opening faceoff, which you can see in the video up above. It was clear right from the very beginning that fight was going to happen given the way they were discussing things before the puck was even dropped.

These guys have been going at one another for years, dating back to Backes’ days with the St. Louis Blues, and their fight (it was mostly a lot of jersey pulling at the start) on Sunday is already the third time they have dropped the gloves with one another in their careers.

Not much went right for the Stars following the fight as quick goals from Brad Marchand and David Krejci gave the Bruins an early 2-0 lead.