Early on, 2022 NHL Trade Deadline marked by big mistakes

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Mistakes — boneheaded or not — are woven into the fabric of any NHL trade deadline, and while it’s early, the 2022 version already features a classic overpay. With days remaining before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline expires, big trades can still drop, and we may be in for tide-turning surprises.

Yet, so far, it’s striking that some of the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline’s biggest mistakes involved not buying or selling at all.

In the end, these mistakes might hurt more than wasting a first-round pick on a crummy rental.

Flyers sink more costs into Ristolainen with ill-advised extension

Instead of embracing the obvious need to rebuild, the Flyers decided to “aggressively re-tool.”

If that shaky plan wasn’t bad enough, the Flyers are banking on Chuck Fletcher showing that he’s learned from his mistakes as an NHL GM. Not promising. (When you’re a GM for as long as he’s been and have rarely enjoyed much success … yes, you have plenty of mistakes to choose from.)

Handing Rasmus Ristolainen a comically bad contract extension burns through just about any remaining benefit of the doubt. It’s difficult to shake uncomfortable comparisons between Ristolainen and Tyler Myers, another big former Sabres defenseman who inspires foolish investment after foolish investment.

It’s one thing to look at certain public metrics at Evolving Hockey, Hockey Viz, Natural Stat Trick, etc. and be a bit skeptical. At some point, you’re evoking another meme in acting like that house isn’t on fire.

Ristolainen player card Evolving Hockey
via Evolving Hockey

For Chuck Fletcher, it probably would’ve stung to receive less than you gave up (a first-rounder and more) to trade away Ristolainen. Especially since Fletcher also bribed the Coyotes to take Shayne Gostisbehere, a defenseman carrying comparable value. (Depending upon who you ask, of course.)

Instead of holding his nose and doing the smarter thing, Fletcher sunk more costs into Ristolainen. Brutal.

Going forward, Flyers fans should hope for the best for the rest of Fletcher’s 2022 NHL Trade Deadline moves. Painful or not, trading Claude Giroux should bring in some great assets. And then … maybe avoid selling low on quality players in their primes? Just a thought.

Hertl’s eight-year, $65.1M contract extension makes sense, just not with the Sharks

Whether it’s at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline or with contract extensions, context is key.

Like others, I’ve viewed Tomáš Hertl as an underrated player for some time. And not just because of how, uh, excited he made Joe Thornton. Being that Hertl is already 28, there’s the typical concern about the aging curve. Yet he could easily be worth more than $8.1M-ish early on.

In other words, Hertl breaks from a Ristolainen comparison by at least being undeniably good, right now. The contract makes sense in a vacuum.

Shine a light on the Sharks’ situation for even a second, though, and the decision isn’t easy to defend. (And the Sharks know all about struggling to defend.)

[PHT’s Adam Gretz goes deep on the Sharks’ questionable plan]

Despite quite a few things going right — including Tomáš Hertl enjoying puck luck that sometimes eludes him — the Sharks are set to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season. They’re missing by quite a bit in a West that’s weak at the bottom, too. Not very promising.

If the Sharks acknowledged their need to rebuild, they could have traded Hertl at a steep deadline price, as the market keeps getting shallower with extensions and other non-moves.

Instead, they invested in a clearly sinking ship. At least Hertl can play some beautiful music after the next iceberg collision.

Stars trade deadline more of a mixed bag with Klingberg, Pavelski (but also similar, too)

Call the Sharks (Hertl) and Flyers (Ristolainen) contract extensions “open-and-shut cases.” I have a lot more time for one player than the other, but both should’ve been traded at the deadline.

Fittingly, perhaps, as one of the NHL’s most puzzling teams, but the Dallas Stars’ situation is more complicated.

The beauty of short-term signings is that, if you’re wrong, you’re not shackled to your bad decision for too long. Truly, it’s absurd that Joe Pavelski is a legitimately outstanding two-way forward at 37. In his age range, the fall can often be drastic.

But considering how Pavelski’s formed one of the NHL’s best lines with Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson, it makes a lot of sense to simply hope he can approach his high level of play in 2022-23. And a manageable $5.5M price tag accounts for the possibility of slippage.

There’s also an argument to keep John Klingberg, especially with Miro Heiskanen sidelined.

In the grand scheme of things, the Dallas Stars must take a long look in the mirror. Projection models put the Stars in the 56% to 60% range to make the playoffs, so the postseason is no guarantee.

Also, would a playoff appearance but a quick exit really be worth watching John Klingberg leave for little-to-nothing?

History repeating?

The Stars have both a distant and recent history of being timid to trade players at the deadline. Last year, they kept Jamie Oleksiak, strangely added Sami Vatanen, and missed the playoffs. Then the Stars lost Oleksiak anyway.

Way back in 2011, the Stars decided not to trade Brad Richards. They missed the playoffs, and Richards left for nothing.

Would it really be worth it to the Stars to keep Klingberg, knowing that they could miss the playoffs, or get booted easily? (Honestly, as reasonable as the Pavelski extension is, there’s an argument for trading both Stars players.)

Perhaps there’d be room for the Stars to trade John Klingberg, yet make the playoffs anyway. The Sharks pulled off a pretty impressive juggling act with Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe in 2013. There’s also the idea of trading Klingberg, then trading for defensive help elsewhere.

Ultimately, it’s not an easy situation. If the Stars bungled this, they wouldn’t be alone in making shaky trade deadline decisions.

The Panthers make the traditional overpay for a trade dental rental

As the March 21 deadline approaches, we’re most likely to see the more standard temple for trades. That would be hungry contenders giving up too much for rentals/short-term fixes.

Is Ben Chiarot better than his numbers indicate? Perhaps. It could be crucial that the Panthers may deploy him in a role that masks certain weaknesses.

But it’s still difficult to stomach the first-round (and more) price.

At least the Panthers/Canadiens Ben Chiarot trade makes sense for both teams, though. Whether it succeeds in pushing the Panthers to the next level, and whether the Canadiens find a good prospect with that first-rounder, remains to be seen.

Stranger things have happened, but some of these other trade deadline moves already look questionable for the Sharks and especially the Flyers.

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

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.