Boston trades Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart to Atlanta for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik

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Boston wasn’t done today after acquiring Tomas Kaberle from Toronto, they were busy elsewhere helping to change things up to chase the Flyers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston swung a deal with the Atlanta Thrashers involving  forward Blake Wheeler and defenseman Mark Stuart going to Atlanta in exchange for forward Rich Peverley and defenseman Boris Valabik.

Boston is able to get a playmaking center they miss with Marc Savard out for the season with a concussion. Peverley’s ability to set plays up and help others get the puck is something the Bruins were severely lacking without Savard. Peverley’s been a bit disappointing this year for Atlanta though. With 14 goals and 20 assists his offense will be welcome in Boston, but his -16 rating is a bit jarring to see. If there’s anyone that can help coach a guy into being a bit better defensively it’s Bruins coach Claude Julien. Don’t expect to see Peverley’s minus ways continue.

As forValabik, he’s likely to wind up in Providence in the AHL as he was in the minors with Atlanta. If the B’s are in need of another large, physical presence on defense though, they’ll have to put Valabik through waivers to call him up. At 6’7″ the thought of him teaming up with his idol Zdeno Chara is immensely terrifying.

For the Thrashers, it’s a decidedly big change for them in adding Wheeler and Stuart. The fun part here for Atlanta is that they’re two guys that coach Craig Ramsay is very familiar with after working as a Bruins assistant coach before coming to Atlanta. Wheeler is a big guy teeming over with talent that hasn’t quite put it all together. At 6’5″ 205 he’s a load to handle but offensively he’s struggled this year with 11 goals and 16 assists. If Ramsay can get through to him and help him break out, the deal is a huge winner for the Thrashers.

Adding Stuart to their blue line gives them a solid defensive presence and a guy who thrives on playing hard in the defensive end. He’s due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but being in Atlanta will give him a chance to show off what he can do there to win a new deal. Coach Ramsay is a big fan and he’ll be happy to have to a more defensive-minded guy there.

A lot of Atlanta’s success in this deal depends on what comes of Wheeler. If he can break out and thrive with the Thrashers and help lead them to the playoffs, the deal is a huge success for them. For Boston, getting Peverley in town is a solid pickup and should help their offense out a bit with Peverley’s ability to control the puck and make passes for his wingers. The Bruins should be all done with dealing now and getting done before the deadline crush on the 28th is smart for them.  The last thing a contending team needs to do is make a panic deal. Getting everything set ahead of the blitz just makes good sense.

Of course, if things break well for both teams there’s a possibility they meet up with each other in the playoffs. Mark that down for a future storyline just in case.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.