Four teams that would make sense for Jacob Trouba

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The big NHL news over the weekend came when the agent for Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba announced on Saturday night that his client, still unsigned as a restricted free agent, is requesting a trade from the team so he can put himself into a better position to fully develop as a player.

The Jets responded by saying that they are working to resolve the matter but are going to operate with the team’s best long-term interests in mind, and that they still view Trouba as a long-term piece of their team. As we have seen over the past year, trade requests don’t always turn into a trade, even in situations where the player-team relationship seemed beyond repair as was the case with Jonathan Drouin and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But if the Jets do end up making a trade, Trouba should be an attractive player to several teams around the NHL. He is still only 22 years old, is years away from unrestricted free agency, is already a very good player, and has the right handed shot teams covet on the blue line. Players that fit that description do not come available very often.

Let’s take a look at four potential spots that could make the most sense for Trouba.

The Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks would be an interesting spot because it’s not like they need an upgrade on their blue line, because it’s already a pretty good group. But this is still a destination that would make some sense. Here’s why: The word out of Winnipeg over the weekend is that the Jets’ asking price for Trouba is going to be a comparable defenseman to Trouba that also happens to be a left-handed shot. Part of the reason Trouba is requesting a trade is that he is right-handed and the Jets already have a couple of right-handed shots on their roster. The Ducks have that exact defenseman in Hampus Lindholm. And it just so happens that, he too, is still an unsigned restricted free agent.

Boston Bruins: Now we start getting into the teams that really do need somebody like Trouba. Once one of the top defensive teams in the NHL, the Bruins’ defense has now become their weakest link because of the talent they have lost (Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton) and the players that have gotten older and are simply no longer the players they were in recent years (Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg before he was bought out this summer and became a free agent). Making matters worse is the Bruins really haven’t done anything to address this is a meaningful way over the past two years and coach Claude Julien’s approach to fixing it seems to simply be “play better.” You know what helps teams play better? Having better players, and Trouba would absolutely be a fit here.

New York Rangers:  Another team whose defense taken several steps backwards over the past two years has, especially when you compare it to the unit that was on the ice in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. Anton Stralman is gone, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are getting older and slowing down, and this past summer they lost the one puck-moving presence they had on their blue line when Keith Yandle went to the Florida Panthers. The obstacles for the Rangers when it would come to completing a deal like this would be finding the assets to make the deal, because they have already traded a ton of draft picks and prospects in recent years, and salary cap space. The Rangers do have a young left-handed defenseman in Brady Skjei, but he is not at Trouba’s level, even though both are 22.

Colorado Avalanche: After a couple of disappointing seasons the Colorado Avalanche are now entering the post-Patrick Roy era. They still have a promising group of young forwards that should be the foundation of a playoff team, but they still have some major question marks and holes on their defense. Until those get addressed it is going to continue to be a struggle for the team to return to the postseason. The downside here for Trouba would be that, like the Jets, the Avalanche do have a couple of right-shot defensemen on their team (Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson), and they do have a ton of money invested in them. If Trouba’s goal is to go to a team that doesn’t have a surplus of right-shot blue liners so he can get a bigger role this might be a problem. But there is also an argument to be made that Trouba is already better than both of Colorado’s guys, and at the very least, better than Johnson.

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.