NHL Trade Deadline Primer: Marc-Andre Fleury is the deadline’s wild card

NHL Trade Deadline
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The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, March 21 at 3 p.m. ET. As we get closer to the deadline we will take a look at some individual players who could be on the move. We continue today with Chicago Blackhawks goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

It was a bit of a shock when the Chicago Blackhawks acquired Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights this past offseason for a variety of reasons. For starters, Fleury was the face of the Golden Knights’ franchise from the very beginning, its most popular player, and the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Given the salary cap situation it seemed possible that a move would have to be made involving one of their goalies, but dumping Fleury after the season he had for nothing but salary cap space was definitely an eye-opener.

Especially when it was Chicago, a team that has been on the outside of the playoff picture for several years and did not seem to have much prospects for returning this season, that was making the acquisition. Not only did the Blackhawks seem to be a long-shot to make the playoffs, but Fleury had just one year remaining on his contract and does not figure to be a long-term piece.

Things have gone about as expected for everybody involved.

Fleury has been very good, though not quite as good as he was a year ago, while the Blackhawks have lost a lot of games and sink closer and closer to an all out rebuild.

That could have Fleury back on the trade market.

There are two main obstacles for that to happen: Fleury has some control over whether or not he gets traded and where he goes, and teams actually needing a goalie.

What the return might look like

Probably not a huge return. Again, the market is probably very limited, and while Fleury can be a difference-maker he is in his late 30s and in the final year of his contract. He is a pure rental, and goalies in general do not seem to bring major returns. Maybe they could squeeze a first-round pick out of somebody? Maybe a second-round pick and a couple of prospects? Expecting more than that is probably expecting too much.

The most logical landing spots

• Washington Capitals, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto might have some concerns in net right now as Jack Campbell struggles, but do they have the salary cap space to add Fleury? We say it every year only to watch them lose in the first round, but this Maple Leafs team looks really good with the potential to go far if they can get some stops in the playoffs. Fleury is the best available option, but he is also the most expensive (both in terms of salary cap number and assets).

The Capitals might have bigger problems than goalie right now, but that is probably the easiest issue to fix with just a single move. It would also set up the potential for an epic playoff matchup at some point between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Fleury and the Capitals. Talk about adding some intrigue to that rivalry.

Then there is Edmonton. The Oilers look much better since the coaching change, but goaltending is crushing them. Mike Smith can not be counted on, and while he has played good at different times this season how much do you trust Mikko Koskinen? Going for Fleury would require Ken Holland to make a bold move, but he really seems reluctant to do that every year, which is really baffling when you consider how much of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl‘s career this team has already wasted.

Wild Card team: Colorado Avalanche

This would have been more of an option earlier this season when Darcy Kuemper was still struggling and Pavel Francouz was injured. This team has, quite literally, everything you could want a Stanley Cup contender to have. The question is going to be that X-factor of goaltending. When Kuemper is on his game he is very good, and they paid a significant price for him this offseason from the Arizona Coyotes so it might be a stretch to see them go after another big name goalie. Especially now that he has been great since the start of December.

Spot I want to see just for fun: Vegas Golden Knights

This would be amazing just for the drama. Over the past two years the Golden Knights traded for Robin Lehner, gave Lehner the starting job over Fleury for the playoffs and causing chaos, watching Fleury reclaim the starting job and win the Vezina Trophy, and then still ended up trading him. Lehner is injured, the Golden Knights are on the playoff bubble, and as long as Lehner’s health is a question that is going to be a potential issue. There was a report that the Golden Knights looked into re-acquiring Fleury, which was quickly and harshly refuted by the Golden Knights. But we can still dream just for laughs.

NHL Trade Deadline prediction

As much sense as it would make for the Blackhawks to trade Fleury, it seems a little more complicated than just dealing him. There has to be a buyer willing to pay the asking price, and there just does not seem to be a major market of teams with that desire and the salary cap space to make it happen, while Fleury himself does not seem in a rush for a trade. The prediction here is he stays.

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.