NHL Trade Deadline primer: Robin Lehner, Chicago Blackhawks

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With the NHL trade deadline getting close (February 24, 3 p.m. ET) the Pro Hockey Talk crew will be taking a closer look at some individual players that could be on the move. Today we focus on Chicago Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner.

Player: Robin Lehner
Current team: Chicago Blackhawks
Position: Goalie
Contract: Unrestricted free agent after this season with a $5 million salary cap number

Why the Blackhawks might trade him. This is complicated because I do not think the Blackhawks are going to trade him. I am not sure they want to even consider the possibility of trading him. Even with their current spot in the standings, even with the deficit they are facing when it comes to catching the the playoff teams, and even with all of their flaws as a team I don’t think the front office has it in them to punt on a season as long as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith are on the roster.

On some level, I can respect that. I can respect that a lot, actually. You do not get players of that caliber very often, and when you are fortunate enough to get them, you do not get them for very long. You do not want to waste any season with them and you owe it to them to try and win.

The problem, however, is that this (*gestures wildly at the entire Blackhawks roster as currently constructed*) is not working. They tried to keep their window for contention open, they tried to fix the problems and complement the offense they still have, but a third consecutive non-playoff season seems to be the inevitable result here. That means any potential free agent should be available to the highest bidder, especially if there is a better than 50-50 chance that free agent might leave for nothing in return this summer.

That brings us to Lehner.

He is an unrestricted free agent this summer and does not seem to be willing to take a discounted contract, wanting to get his fair market value. It is something he has absolutely earned and should try to capitalize on while he can. Given that Stan Bowman seems completely unwilling and unable to permanently part with a player he has won with, it seems likely that Corey Crawford (also an unrestricted free agent this summer) will have a spot in Chicago as long as he wants one. I just do not know that the Blackhawks have the salary cap space to pay Lehner what he wants and what he has earned.

Given all of that the question now has to become, why wouldn’t the Blackhawks try to trade him?

Teams that could/should be interested: Carolina Hurricanes, Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators

What he provides. He has been one of the best and most productive goalies in the league over the past five years. His .920 all situations save percentage since the start of the 2015-16 season is tied for the third highest in the league (out of 54 goalies that have appeared in 100 games). Only nine goalies in the league have a better even-strength save percentage than his .924 mark. He has been a game-changer. He helped carry the New York Islanders to one of the league’s best records a year ago. The split in the Blackhawks’ record in games he starts versus games he does not start is drastic.

Any potential playoff team in need of a starting goalie or a 1B platoon goalie should be on the phone with Bowman right now. Carolina could still use an upgrade in net. He would be a huge upgrade for an Edmonton team that might actually have a chance to make some real noise in the playoffs with a true No. 1 goalie. Even Nashville where Pekka Rinne and Jusse Saros have been the Achilles heel of an otherwise still good team. He could make a huge impact for all of these teams.

Predicted destination. Even though the playoffs seem like a long shot at this point, and even though re-signing him is far from a guarantee he ultimately stays in Chicago, continues to play well for a mediocre team and boosts his value, then signs somewhere else in free agency. An opportunity to bring something back is missed.

More NHL Trade Deadline:

• Trade Deadline primer: Chris Kreider
• Trade Deadline primer: Tyler Toffoli
• Trade Deadline Primer: Ilya Kovalchuk
• Trade Deadline Primer: Alec Martinez
• Trade Deadline Primer: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Trade Deadline Primer: Joe Thornton
• Teams that need to be active at trade deadline


Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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

avalanche injuries
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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.