Blue Jackets’ Panarin, trade deadline options after adding Duchene

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Trading for Matt Duchene feels like a game-changer for the Columbus Blue Jackets, yet rather than making everything clear, it only seems to open up more questions about the future.

It also doesn’t slam the door shut on the mysteries surrounding what Columbus will do about Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky.

Just consider this tweet from Aaron Portzline of The Athletic, and you’ll realize that the Blue Jackets aren’t just facing a fork in the road. It’s more like Dr. Strange computing millions of potential outcomes.

Keep in mind that GM Jarmo Kekalainen seems secretive even by normal, paranoid GM standards. According to this fascinating article by The Athletic’s Craig Custance (sub required), Kekalainen sometimes goes as far as to buy a ticket to a game and disguise himself as a fan to do some scouting, rather than showing up at the press box, which would let people know he’s taking a look.

That’s a longer way of saying that it’s difficult to predict what, exactly, Kekalainen will do next.

At least it’s fun to try, though, so let’s have at it.

[Trade details]

Scenario 1: Blue Jackets load up

Columbus fans are probably nauseated to hear this talking point again, but it’s unavoidable: this franchise somehow hasn’t won a playoff series yet. I say somehow because, frankly, Kekalainen’s accomplished quite a bit during his time as GM.

Combine that thought with the Metropolitan Division presenting what could be the weakest bracket in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it’s easy to see why Columbus would take a carpe diem attitude here.

Portzline notes that the Blue Jackets haven’t totally emptied their prospect cupboard (just a lot of their draft capital), so they could actually add more after landing Duchene and possibly keeping both Bobrovsky and Panarin. Cap Friendly projects the Blue Jackets’ trade deadline cap space at more than $22 million, and while things can get funky when you consider prorated money, the bottom line is that Columbus has some room to work with.

Scenario 1b: Doom

If Kekalainen is assembling “The Avengers,” then perhaps the Pittsburgh Penguins play the role of Thanos, trying to snap the Blue Jackets’ dreams out of existence.

As of this writing, the Blue Jackets aren’t located in a playoff spot, but games in hand hint at a brighter future.

But, really, the road goes through Pittsburgh.

The two teams have only played one time this season (Penguins won 4-2 on Nov. 24), so the division rivals square off on three more occasions. The remaining games take place in Columbus on Tuesday – the day after the deadline – and then the two teams square off in a home-and-home set on March 7 and 9.

Over the last three years, some promising Blue Jackets teams fell in the first round to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, and the Penguins authored two of those defeats. While not a guarantee, it’s quite possible that those head-to-head games might swing the playoff races (though Carolina could also bow out, maybe if the Hurricanes’ goalies flop).

Scenario 2: Lateral move

What if Duchene is essentially a replacement for Panarin, as discussed recently?

By just about any measure, Panarin is more of an impact player than Duchene, but it’s been heavily indicated that Panarin will leave Columbus in free agency. Portzline points out that, by landing Duchene, it may only increase demand for Panarin on the trade market.

The Blue Jackets could conceivably still be quite competitive with Duchene in and Panarin out, land some really great assets for Panarin, and extend Duchene, mitigating the painful damage of Panarin walking.

Naturally, there are a number of ways that could backfire. Generally, it would be an approach that would account more for the future without totally burning the present, while the loading up scenario would be all about now.

Scenario 3: Move Bob, Keep Bread

This doesn’t feel particularly likely.

Simply put, it’s difficult to trade prominent goalies, and it doesn’t help that Bobrovsky a) hasn’t been having a great season and b) could make things tricky regarding no-trade clauses.

There’s at least some logic to this remote possibility, though. Columbus could see some value in getting something for Bob before he’s gone, and goalies aren’t as reliable difference-makers as Panarin, who’s as close to a sure thing as you can find on the wing.

Don’t bet on that happening, though.

Scenario 4: Unload

It’s tough to imagine this happening after landing Duchene, too, but Kekalainen could even trade Bobrovsky and Panarin. That is, after all, a possibility that didn’t seem that outrageous earlier this season.

If that were to happen, would the Blue Jackets be comfortable rolling the dice with Joonas Korpisalo, or would they make things even more complicated by moving Bobrovsky out and bringing someone like Jimmy Howard in?

Scenario 4 would basically leave us all with impossible charts like Charlie Kelly from “It’s Always Sunny.”

***

The most likely scenarios come down to Columbus either loading up by keeping Panarin and Bobrovsky after landing Duchene, or moving Panarin and extending Duchene. But these are all just guesses right now.

For all we know, even Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets might not be totally sure how this will end up.

That makes the final days leading up to the trade deadline almost as exciting as it could be to watch Duchene and Panarin rushing down the ice. It’s up to Kekalainen to make sure Columbus doesn’t whiff on this chance.

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.

Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night

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SUNRISE, Fla. — When you’ve got the second-most goals in NHL history, you’re evidently permitted to bring a guest onto the ice for the All-Star Skills competition.

That’s why there were two No. 8 Washington jerseys out there.

Capitals star Alex Ovechkin took the ice with his Metropolitan Division teammates – and his oldest child, 4-year-old Sergei.

Sergei, named for Ovechkin’s late brother, was wearing an Ovi Jr. jersey. The kid has built a bit of a following in recent weeks, after scoring a goal at a Caps practice in December and playing a role in helping the Washington crowd celebrate his dad’s 800th goal.

It was Ovi Jr.’s first chance at being part of an All-Star weekend. His father hasn’t participated at All-Star since 2018, either because of COVID-19 or injuries. The last time his dad played in an All-Star event, Sergei hadn’t been born.

Alex Ovechkin has 812 goals. He only trails Wayne Gretzky’s 894 in NHL history.

And later in the night, Ovi Jr. got to center a line alongside his dad and Pittsburgh great Sidney Crosby. They each got an assist on a goal that Sergei scored – beating Roberto Luongo, the Florida great who came out of retirement for All-Star weekend.

Said Ovechkin after his son scored: “I think he’s really enjoying it.”

WELCOME HOME, LU

Luongo got to be part of one more All-Star competition.

In a building where a banner bearing his No. 1 jersey hangs – he’s the only former Panthers player to have that distinction – Luongo was a celebrity goaltender during the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition on Friday night.

He stopped his lone shot in the breakaway, off the stick of Toronto’s Mitch Marner. On one hand, Marner is the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer this season. On the other hand, he was also wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a light blue T-shirt to keep with a “Miami Vice” theme.

Luongo, who was regaled by “Luuuuu” chants from the Florida fans all night, was up to the challenge. Marner tried to beat him to the glove side, but Luongo got enough of it to make the save – then flopped forward to cover up the rebound, the smile clearly seen through his mask.

“You got too close,” Luongo told Marner.

Later, Luongo told ESPN during the telecast of the event that “this is my house. This is my home right here. The crease is my home.”

Luongo’s pads paid tribute to his career – the design depicted his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks. They were a gift from CCM for his making the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“I’d never put the pads on since I retired,” Luongo said. “First time I put them on was this week. Felt pretty good.”

He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night. But if there’s more alumni games, Luongo suggested he might jump back into the net.

“It back some good memories tonight to be in the blue paint, hearing the chants,” Luongo said. “Maybe one day we’ll hear them again.”

REMEMBERING JIMMY

Sergei Ovechkin – who knocked a shot into an open net during a stoppage of the skills events – wasn’t the only child who got a great view of the night.

Philadelphia forward Kevin Hayes has his 3-year-old nephew Beau with him for All-Star weekend. Beau’s father was Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes’ brother.

Jimmy Hayes was 31 when he died in 2021 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. He played for four NHL teams, including Florida.

Kevin Hayes is part of an All-Star weekend for the first time.

ANTHEM POISE

“The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus, and group crushed it – never minding that the crowd, representing several different fan bases, was going to shout some term specific to their team at various points in the lyrics.

Florida fans shout along with “red” and “Knight,” one a nod to one of the team’s primary colors, the other for goaltender Spencer Knight. There also were some shouts from other fan bases; some St. Louis fans, for example, could be heard singing “home of the Blues” instead of “home of the brave” to close the song.

And “O Canada” performer Hannah Walpole had some shouting as she sang as well, particularly when she reached the “true North” portion of those lyrics – something typically heard at Winnipeg games.

SLAP SHOTS

Cale Makar, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, was the first participant in the Fastest Skater event – the opening competition of the night. He fell coming around the second turn. … Tampa Bay’s Pat Maroon, one of the broadcasters on the event, reported that he was “freezing” by working at ice level. “I’m used to the gear,” said Maroon, who was in a blazer and open shirt Friday night. … A big hit for those used to the regular colors of FLA Live Arena – and basically all other hockey arenas – was the ocean-water-shade of blue used for the blue lines and the creases. The faceoff dots at the circles on either end of the ice aren’t the standard solid red this weekend, but depict an image of the sun instead.

Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

“Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.