Trade: Predators pay big price for Blackhawks’ Hartman

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Could this be it for the Nashville Predators, the NHL’s leading producer of splashy trades, even after injecting their name into the Erik Karlsson conversation (seriously or not)?

Not long after making the Mike Fisher signing official and sending Pontus Aberg to Edmonton for a fourth-rounder, the Predators put together an intriguing – and expensive – trade to grab Ryan Hartman from their pals the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Trade: Predators land Hartman and a fifth-round pick; Blackhawks acquire a first-rounder, prospect Victor Ejdsell, and a fourth-rounder.

Why Predators made the trade: Nashville is going for it, but they’ve already added some massive pieces year after year, so maybe the prices for truly premium pieces scared them off?

Hartman, 23, was the 30th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft. So far in his career, he has 57 points in 141 regular-season games; he was unable to score against Nashville during that sweep in the first round of the 2017 postseason … which makes him fit in with most of his now-former-teammates. With almost a penalty minute per game so far in his career (130 PIM in 141 games), Hartman brings an edge to his game, as well. (Though there’s also the worry that he might take ill-advised penalties, already a concern if Scott Hartnell plays like the 100 PIM guy he once was, too.)

Hartman is a pending RFA, so while he’s on his cheap ELC now, his asking price may change.

Hartman’s been a reasonably decent possession player, and there have been signs of promise, including fall one goal short of 20 last season. Taking a look at his ice time, particularly lately, and you’ll see that he was falling out of favor with Coach Q in Chicago.

The fifth-rounder softens some of the blow of Nashville giving up quite a bit of futures in this deal.

You wonder if this might be it for the Preds … although maybe that changes a bit after seeing the Jets land Paul Stastny from the Blues in a surprise swap?

Why the Blackhawks made the trade: Chicago’s aware that this is a lost season, so this is about as painless a “sell” as you can ask for, especially with Hartman sliding out of favor.

Amusingly, the first-rounder could end up landing near 30th, much like where Hartman was selected. The Blackhawks would argue that maybe they’d get an even better player there, perhaps?

Chicago also upgrades from a fifth to a fourth-rounder. Granted, that’s unlikely to be a full leap, as the Blackhawks’ fifth-rounder is likely to be fairly early while Nashville’s fourth could be close to the fifth.

Victor Ejdsell, 22, stands as interesting … and also stands as literally very tall.

So far in Sweden, the towering forward has 17 goals and 30 points in 44 games. Maybe he could be a beefy depth scorer for Chicago down the line?

Who won the trade?

That’s a fairly steep price for the Predators, although Hartman is young and currently cheap. They’d likely argue that his physical style gives him enough value to offset the fact that he’s not as big of a name as an aging scorer like, say, Rick Nash.

The Blackhawks get a really nice takeaway, and you wonder if they might load up on assets even more today. Even if they stand pat, adding another first-rounder (even an almost certainly late one) is precious for a franchise that probably wants to “reset” rather than “rebuild.”

MORE: PHT’s 2018 Trade Deadline Tracker.

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.

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.