PHT Morning Skate: Jets give homeless man an incredible opportunity

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

–Check out the highlights from last night’s game between the Blackhawks and Rangers. Artem Anisimov came through with a hat trick in the third period for the ‘Hawks. (Top)

–Speaking of last night’s action, Sportsnet looks at three things we learned in the NHL on Wednesday night. (Sportsnet)

–A homeless man in Winnipeg wrote a letter to the Jets in an attempt to get help for his mental illness. Not only did the organization read his letter, they gave him a job. (NHL.com)

Lukas Sedlak isn’t a popular name in NHL circles, but the Blue Jackets have missed him way more than people realize since he was injured. (jacketscannon.com)

–The New Jersey Devils have surprised the hockey world with their incredible start to 2017-18, but they need to find a way to make their defense better as soon as possible because the offense is bound to drop off at a certain point. (njdab.com)

–Dallas has had a hard time finding secondary scoring throughout their lineup. That’s something they’ll need to change if they hope to make a return to the postseason. (defendingbigd.com)

–The Boston Bruins’ season has been less than stellar. Part of the problem, is that they’ve dealt with a lot of injuries. Still, there’s no point in them making a desperation trade at this point of the season. (WEEI.com)

–The Philadelphia Flyers let Steve Mason walk in free agency last summer, and he opted to sign with Winnipeg. It’s the best thing they could have done, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Boruk, who says some players informed him that Mason rubbed them the wrong way. (NBC Sports Philadelphia)

–Flames Nation had an interesting one-on-one interview with Doug Gilmour. They touched on his experience in management, his experience in Calgary, and Sam Bennett‘s struggles. (flamesnation.ca)

Nikita Zaitsev and Jake Gardiner have struggled this season, but outside of trading for Darnell Nurse, how can the Leafs fix the pairings struggles? (pensionplanpuppets.com)

–Reports have surfaced about the Blues being interested in acquiring Buffalo’s Evander Kane. Even though they need a little more scoring, bleedinblue.com doesn’t think that overpaying for a player like Kane makes sense for the team. (bleedingblue.com)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Why Cammalleri – Jokinen trade happened, and what’s next (Video)

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Last night, PHT broke down the Michael Cammalleri (to Edmonton Oilers) – Jussi Jokinen (to Los Angeles Kings) from a variety of angles.

One of the most optimistic scenarios was reflected in the headline: what if Edmonton tries to diversify its offense by putting Cammalleri on Connor McDavid‘s wing, possibly opening up Leon Draisaitl to try to carry his own line?

Perhaps that’s a possibility as time goes on – coaches juggle lines about as much as college kids used to love kicking around hacky sacks – but it sounds like that won’t be the case early on.

Bob McKenzie swung by the NBCSN studio on Wednesday to provide more insight, and from the sound of things, the two forwards are trading places and, essentially, roles. (His takeaways can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.)

While the Oilers want more offensive pop from Cammalleri, McKenzie indicates that he’s expected to line up with Ryan Strome and Drake Caggiula. As mentioned yesterday, Natural Hat Trick lists those two forwards as Jokinen’s most common even-strength forward linemates.

McKenzie reports that Jokinen is most likely to slot into a bottom-six role; considering that Cammalleri’s most common linemate was Trevor Lewis, it sounds like that’s a pretty clear reversal, too.

That said, the man with an appetizer-like last name did average about two minutes of power-play time per game, and that’s where things get more interesting. McKenzie posits that Jokinen will be happier with a diminished role than Cammalleri would be; that’s especially relevant since fellow aging former-high-scorer Marian Gaborik is slated to return to the Kings’ lineup.

Gabby may have bumped Cammy for a while, which may have irked, especially since Cammalleri accepted quite the “hometown” discount to return to L.A. Jokinen might be more comfortable with a humble role, and considering his lone point (an assist) this season, he can’t do much complaining right now.

Both forwards are fairly versatile, and that might be relevant to the Kings, as Gaborik was injury prone even during his most brilliant, younger days.

There might be some fluidity to Jokinen’s situation, too, as Kings coach John Stevens explained to L.A. Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen that there might be a bit of a “getting to know you” process.

“I know him as a player before. I haven’t seen him play lately, but he’s just a good, well-rounded, intelligent player,” Stevens said of Jokinen. “I recall he was great in the shootout, but I think he can play multiple positions. I think he’s a really high-hockey IQ guy with a good competitive skill package. It’ll be a good chance to get him on the ice with the guys and make an evaluation from that point.”

If nothing else, Jokinen can be around for a Young Stars reunion with Anze Kopitar:

Overall, this trade could benefit all involved, even if the Oilers seem to have fairly modest aims for Cammalleri.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: Vincent Trocheck shares classic stories about Jaromir Jagr

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

–Check out the highlights from last night’s game between the Capitals and Predators. T.J. Oshie scored twice, but it simply wasn’t enough to propel Washington to a win. (top)

–The Sabres had high hopes for Jack Eichel, but he’s struggling to meet those expectations right now. “I feel like people are judged based off statistics so frequently, and so is the case with our league for a reason,” Eichel said. “That’s my job, my job is to produce. (Buffalohockeybeat.com)

–NHL hockey will be one of the sports featured on the new ESPN+ app which is set to launch next year. (Forbes)

–Bruce Boudreau’s Minnesota Wild are off to a slow start this year, but there’s reason for optimism. Two years ago, when Broudreau was coaching the Anaheim Ducks, he got off to a horrible start before turning things around. (Twincities.com)

–It’s been a tough month for the Chicago Blackhawks, as their special teams has struggled and they haven’t been able to score much. The problem is, there probably won’t be any outside help coming in the near future. They’ll have to play themselves out of this funk. (Chicago Sun-Times)

–The Surrey Knights of the Pacific Junior Hockey League haven’t won a hockey game in nearly two years. This horrible streak started after a bench-clearing brawl got their coach and co-owner suspended for six years. It was all downhill from there. (Globe and Mail)

–Here’s a bunch of interesting nuggets from Brian Burke. He admitted that the Flames thought about bringing back Jarome Iginla. Burke also touched on the red flag Jaromir Jagr had coming out of the draft, and how Sam Bennett would have been torn to shreds if he played in Toronto. (Sportsnet)

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have put up some strong numbers playing together this season, but the team remains last in goals scored. Is it time to separate them in an attempt to balance their lineup? (Oilersnation.com)

–George Gosbee, who was instrumental in keeping the Coyotes in Arizona, passed away at the age of 48 on Sunday. “It was shocking, it was sad and it was tragic,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “I don’t know how else to describe it. He was smart, he was affable, he was friendly and he just struck me as being an all-around good guy. Obviously, our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.” (arizonasports.com)

Travis Zajac is close to returning to the Devils lineup, so it’ll be interesting to see how the team’s lines will change when he gets back. There’s a good chance he’ll slot in on the first line with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri. (NJ.com)

Mathew Barzal has been an incredible playmaking center throughout his hockey career. That hasn’t changed in his first full NHL season. “One of my best attributes is my passing and head-up vision,” Barzal said. “I think guys like Nicklas Backstrom and Patrick Kane are pass-first guys and they’re both very good.” (NHL.com)

–For the last few seasons, the Washington Capitals have been the dominant team in the NHL during the regular season. This year, they’ve really struggled to find any kind of consistency. As we saw in last night’s loss to Nashville, the Caps are struggling to put three good periods together. (dcpuckdrop.com)

–If the Florida Panthers want to get back in the playoff hunt, they’ll have to find a way to go on a strong run over the next two months. It won’t be easy, but it’s been done before. (therattrick)

–Speaking of the Panthers, Vincent Trocheck wrote a great piece for The Players’ Tribune. In the story, Trocheck shares a number of classic stories about former teammate Jaromir Jagr, including his poor choice of music in the locker room. He also touched on his experience at the World Cup of Hockey and his family’s move from Pittsburgh to Detroit. (Players’ Tribune)

–The Four Nations Cup just concluded in the Florida area, and it went exactly how many expected. Sweden struggled, while Canada and the USA battled hard against each other. (victorypress.org)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

New winger for McDavid? Cammalleri traded to Oilers, Kings get Jokinen

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When the Los Angeles Kings acquired Mike Cammalleri, the move fit into a summer theme of veteran forwards returning “home” for dirt-cheap prices. Jussi Jokinen didn’t have the same history with the Edmonton Oilers, yet for a team with a penchant for paying way above market value for most of their players, it seemed like a refreshingly savvy bargain.

At least, that’s how those additions looked on paper.

It hasn’t always been that way on the ice, however, so the two teams made an interesting swap: Cammalleri goes to the Oilers, while Jokinen joins the Kings. Edmonton recently confirmed the deal:

The two forwards are in remarkably similar situations, at least in the most basic ways.

Cammalleri is 35 while Jokinen is 34; they’re less than a year apart if you get finicky about 365 days. Both players could play center in a pinch but are best kept on the wing considering age. They carry virtually identical cap numbers: Jokinen is at $1.1M and Cammalleri is at $1M, with both deals expiring after 2017-18.

So, yeah, this is pretty much a “pure hockey trade” in which two teams are exchanging “problems” and aiming at a solution.

If you go purely by this season’s numbers and consider the absolute peaks of both players, Cammalleri strikes as the sexier choice. He’s generated seven points in 15 games for L.A., which really isn’t bad when you consider the fact that he’s averaging just 12:38 of ice time per game. That said, his possession numbers have been rough, especially relative to his Kings teammates.

Jokinen is averaging about the same amount of reps as Cammalleri (12:19 TOI average), but hasn’t scored a single goal and has only managed one assist. On the other hand, Jokinen’s possession numbers give some hint that he might help the Kings in ways that are a bit more subtle.

The more fascinating question is: will their coaches use them differently in new locales?

If not, then both may suffer. Via Natural Stat Trick, Cammalleri’s most common forward linemate at even-strength was Trevor Lewis. Jokinen, meanwhile, often skated with struggling new Oiler Ryan Strome.

You could chalk up some of the scoring differences to usage; Jokinen averaged 1:11 of power-play time with Edmonton, while Cammalleri got a healthy 2:36 per night.

Looking back to last season, you could argue that both forwards bring something to the table, even if neither blow you away in many categories:

via Dom Galamini

The real question will be if they get a new lease on life, with Cammalleri being the most interesting strictly if Todd McLellan gives him a real chance with Connor McDavid. Even if Cammy is limited, possibly prompting McLellan to spread the wealth (i.e. maybe move Leon Draisaitl to his own line), this trade could be a big win in a more indirect way.

One must also acknowledge the injury risks, especially as it pertains to some of Cammalleri’s frustrations.

Overall, this might be a lateral move, with the Oilers getting someone with maybe a touch more shooting talent and the Kings adding someone who might help them hog the puck a bit more.

It’s also fairly interesting, too, so there’s that. Both teams play tonight, so we’ll see when these two debut in new uniforms.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Power Rankings: The Lightning, then everybody else

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A little more than one month into the NHL season and we are starting to see which teams are good and which teams are … well … not.

We are still at a point where one or two teams could emerge from the bottom of the pile or fall from the top, but once the NHL season gets to Thanksgiving there typically is not much change in the standings. At least not much of a significant one.

With that said, there should be no question at this moment as to who the best team in the NHL is. It’s the Tampa Bay Lightning, and really, there might not be anybody close to them.

At times this season the Lightning have looked like an on-ice version of the Harlem Globetrotters and have just been toying with their opponents. Entering the week the Lightning have the best record in the league (three points ahead of the next best team) and own a plus-25 goal differential. That is 11 goals better than any other team in the league.

Two of their four losses have come on the second end of back-to-backs (with one of them coming against a team that had been rested for three days). Their current four-game winning streak includes a perfect road trip through California that saw them beat the Kings, Sharks and Ducks (two of those teams are excellent at the moment) by a combined score of 12-4. The fourth win in that streak is against Columbus, another likely contender in the NHL this season.

They have the NHL’s leading goal-scorer (Nikita Kucherov has a three-goal lead over John Tavares) and the top-two point producers (Steven Stamkos and Kucherov), both of whom are at least seven points ahead of the No. 3 scorer in the league (Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler).

As if the talent up front is not enough, their starting goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy has a .930 save percentage in 15 starts.

Right now in the NHL it is Tampa Bay, then everybody else fighting for second.

So where is everybody else at the moment? Let us take a look.

Positively terrifying

1. Tampa Bay Lightning — They are, quite simply, the best team in the NHL right now for all of the reasons mentioned above.

The rest of the best right now

2. St. Louis Blues — I had little expectation for the Blues heading into this season, largely due to their injury situation, but they still have the second best record in the league, the second-best goal differential, and one of the best lines in hockey.

3. Los Angeles Kings — Dustin Brown has found the fountain of  youth. He has topped 30 points just once in the past five years with 36 being the high point during that stretch. He is pretty much halfway to that total just 18 games into this season.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs — They hit a little bit of a rut a couple of weeks ago but have come back strong with four straight wins. What is truly impressive is three of those wins heading into the new week came without Auston Matthews.

5. New Jersey Devils — The Devils are … fun?! Seriously, what is this? Who is this team? Fifth in the league in goals scored and coming off of a 7-5 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Brian Gibbons, out of the NHL for two years, somehow has eight goals so far.

6. Ottawa Senators — Everybody complains about watching them play but all they do is collect points. It is not pretty, but this is pro sports. Teams don’t have to apologize for doing what they need to do to win.

Teams on the rise

7. Winnipeg Jets — Could this be the year the Jets finally turn all of that individual talent into something good?

8. New York Rangers — What a difference a couple of weeks can make. After a disastrous start the Rangers have ripped off six wins in a row. Big time move in this week’s rankings.

9. Nashville Predators — No team improved more in the big Matt DucheneKyle Turris-Colorado trade than the Predators thanks to the addition of Turris at the expense of nothing significant from their roster. The defending Western Conference Champs enter the week 7-3-1 in their past 11 games.

10. San Jose Sharks — Entering Monday the only team that has beaten them over their past seven games is the Tampa Bay juggernaut. Just when you think the Sharks are going away they always find a way to still be hanging around in the Western Conference.

11. Washington Capitals — Don’t look now but here come the Capitals! After a slow start they are starting to look like the team that has dominated the regular season the past two years. Entering the week 6-2 in their past eight games while only allowing 16 goals during that stretch.

12. Montreal Canadiens — The overall record still stinks, I get it, but like the Rangers the Canadiens are starting to erase all of the memories from a miserable start to the season with wins in seven of their past 10 games. That qualifies as a team on the rise even if there are a lot of teams in the league that still have a better overall record.

Teams still looking good

13. New York Islanders — Nikita Kucherov’s start has kind of hidden the fact that John Tavares is scoring goals whenever he feels like it as well. Mighty fine time for a contract year, eh?

14. Calgary Flames — Mike Smith is giving the Flames exactly what they need in net. If he can continue to do that they are going to be a tough out in the Western Conference with that defense and that young talent up front.

15. Dallas Stars — I may have underrated them a bit a couple of weeks ago. They are solid, and in a bizarre twist from recent Stars teams are 20th in the league in goals scored and third in goals against. John Klingberg is playing fantastic hockey right now.

Teams on the decline

16. Columbus Blue Jackets — I still like this Blue Jackets team an awful lot and think they can be right there at the end of the season when it comes down to winning the Eastern Conference, but they have slipped a bit in recent weeks with just five wins in their past 12 games.

17. Vegas Golden Knights — Being down to their fourth and fifth goalies is not helping, but they are starting to expansion team results in recent weeks. They still have a lot of forwards playing really well and producing.

18. Philadelphia Flyers — Brian Elliott has started to look better in his recent starts. With their top forwards going the way they are this could still be an interesting team if they can get that goaltending spot solidified.

19. Chicago Blackhawks — After starting the season 3-0-1 with 21 goals in their first four games the Blackhawks are just 5-8-2 with only 32 goals in the 15 games since.

20. Anaheim Ducks — Injuries have decimated this team this season and they just keep getting worse with Ryan Getzlaf being sidelined for another two months.

Still need some work

21. Pittsburgh Penguins — The schedule with all of these back-to-backs is hurting them. So is the bottom of the roster. The depth problems that plagued them from 2010 through 2015 are back in a bad way.

22. Minnesota Wild — It has been the Jason Zucker and Devan Dubnyk show lately, but other than them nobody else is really doing much of anything to help the cause.

23. Carolina Hurricanes — Everything about this team looks good. They are exciting. They play hard. They once again have dominant underlying numbers. But there is still something missing.

24. Vancouver Canucks — They had a great start to the season that seemed to have them exceeding expectations but things are starting to return to normal for the Canucks. The early start was a mirage.

25. Boston Bruins — A very top-heavy roster. Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak are great, but where else is the offense going to come from?

26. Detroit Red Wings — Anthony Mantha has been a nice bright spot so far this season with a team-leading 16 points. He has been especially strong lately with eight points, including four goals, in his past seven games.

27. Colorado Avalanche — They picked up some intriguing young players in the Matt Duchene trade but an already bad team ended up getting worse in the short-term.

28. Buffalo Sabres — They have scored more than two goals just twice in the past seven games.

29. Edmonton Oilers — Not to keep hitting this same point over and over again, but Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle have more points than every player on the Oilers not named Connor McDavid.

30. Florida Panthers — Only two wins in their past nine games with 37 goals against.

31. Arizona Coyotes — In their first 19 games of the season the Arizona Coyotes have exactly zero wins in regulation. Their only two wins, as of Monday, coming by way of overtime or a shootout. That is … really something.