NHL trade deadline could be full of last-minute deals

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Don Waddell’s phone is not ringing much right now. The seasoned NHL executive expects that to change this weekend.

“It always does,” he said.

Waddell’s Carolina Hurricanes are among the many contenders with limited salary cap space that could wait until much closer to the trade deadline Monday to stockpile before the stretch run to the playoffs. The combination of jumbled standings in the Western Conference and a salary cap that hasn’t gone up in two years because of the pandemic has things mostly quiet now but could set up for a chaotic weekend and deadline day.

“Between the cap, between the cost — all those things, the standings — it adds up,” Edmonton general manager Ken Holland said. “For the most part, it usually happens the last day or two by the deadline. There’s the odd time somebody moves early to get a deal done. But most times the action happens on the Sunday or the Monday.”

A couple of dominos fell Wednesday, with the Florida Panthers acquiring defenseman Ben Chiarot from Montreal after clearing cap space by trading Frank Vatrano to the New York Rangers and the Seattle Kraken sending forward Calle Jarnkrok to the Calgary Flames.

There’s much more to come.

Reigning Vezina Trophy-winning Chicago goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, longtime Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux and Seattle defenseman Mark Giordano are among the players who could get traded before 3 p.m. EDT Monday. Others, like Nashville forward Filip Forsberg and Dallas defenseman John Klingberg and goalie Braden Holtby and are less likely to be on the move because the Predators and Stars are in the hunt in the West.

Calgary and fellow Western Conference titan Colorado got a jump on the teams below them in the standings.

A month before getting Jarnkrok, Calgary acquired forward Tyler Toffoli, and Colorado earlier this week got defenseman Josh Manson from Anaheim.

The Avalanche also may not be done dealing. Avalanche GM Joe Sakic cleared $1.275 million in cap space Tuesday by sending Tyson Jost to Minnesota for Nico Sturm in a one-for-one swap of forwards.

Asked if he was concerned about helping out a Central Division rival his Wild could see in the playoffs, GM Bill Guerin said flatly: “Nope. I’m worried about us. I’m not worried about them.”

Minnesota is one of nine teams vying for six playoff spots in the West behind division leaders Colorado and Calgary. The Wild have lost seven of their past 10 games, the Winnipeg Jets have won four of five and the race could come down to game 82.

That’s great for drama at the end of April but not so good for the prospect of intense trade chatter.

“It makes it a little more difficult to plan,” said Holland, whose Oilers have won three in a row to move into the top eight in the West. “It’s more wait and see, I think, because when you look at the standings, we’re in a wait-and-see position. I think if you had a 12-point cushion above or you’re 12 points below, it makes it easier to pick up the phone.”

Sakic is working the phones with the Avalanche sitting on a 12-point cushion atop the West and are just ahead of Florida, which is loading up to try to knock off defending champion Tampa Bay. Colorado has been linked to Giroux, who can pick his destination with a full no-movement clause and on Thursday is set to play his 1,000th game — all with the Flyers — before he considers his options.

“I’m very happy I got the chance to do this,” Giroux said. “After that, it’s going to be a change of mindset a little bit and see how things are going to go.”

He won’t be the only player or GM changing his mindset in the coming days.

In the aftermath of recently playing his 1,000th game and despite being honored for that milestone Wednesday night, Giordano was held out of the lineup to prevent injury.

Washington GM Brian MacLellan may have already altered his thinking since saying in early March the Capitals would not be “as aggressive as we normally are” at the deadline. His team is 5-0-1 in its last six games, and goaltending doesn’t look to be as big of a need as it was a month ago because of young Vitek Vanecek’s improved play in net.

Fleury is the top pending free agent goalie potentially on the market, and that’s only if the respected veteran green lights a trade from Chicago. Even if Fleury stays put, the quiet this week could mean a flurry of last-minute trades.

“I don’t know if it’s the calm before the storm,” Guerin said. “Right now ,there’s no real urgency. Asking prices are a little high, but that’s what we do. Things will boil down to Monday.”

Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

Andrei Kuzmenko
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.

Hurricanes top Stars in OT to win matchup of 1st-place teams

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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DALLAS – Martin Necas scored 1:34 into overtime to give the Carolina Hurricanes a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars in a matchup of division leaders Wednesday night.

Sebastian Aho had a short-handed goal and Brent Burns also scored for the Hurricanes, who lead the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference. The game-winner was Necas’ 19th goal this season.

Dallas is still atop the Western Conference, and the Central Division, after its second consecutive 3-2 overtime loss at home. Jason Robertson scored his 33rd goal for the Stars, and 19-year-old rookie Wyatt Johnston got his 13th.

Carolina goalie Frederik Andersen didn’t return after the first intermission because of an upper-body injury, soon after a strange sequence that ended with Robertson scoring on a shot from what seemed to be an impossible angle.

The puck was bouncing on the ice behind Andersen and settled against the post after Tyler Seguin‘s shot before the goalie was able to swipe it away to his right. Robertson then shot from behind Andersen, and the puck apparently ricocheted off him and into the net for a 2-1 Dallas lead. Robertson’s 33rd goal matched his assists total.

Antti Raanta replaced Andersen and stopped all 15 shots he faced – none in overtime – after the starter had four saves. Raanta had to shake off getting struck in the head by Mason Marchment‘s stick when the Stars forward was behind the net fighting for the puck midway through the third period.

Stars goalie Jake Oettinger stopped 22 shots, including a glove save of Andrei Svechnikov‘s wrister with just more than five minutes left in regulation.

Aho’s 200th career goal put Carolina up 1-0 midway through the first period. The Stars got even just more than two minutes later when Johnston scored unassisted after a faceoff.

Johnston also had a shot ricochet off the post with just under six minutes left.

In between the first two goals, Oettinger went into a fully extended split, with his right skate against the post, to deny Paul Stastny‘s attempt to knock in a loose puck.

Burns tied the game at 2 in the second period, getting the puck after a faceoff, then skating over the top of the circle and scoring top shelf over Oettinger’s left shoulder.

NOTES: Marchment was coming out of the penalty box at the same time Carolina made an errant pass in the second period. He had a breakaway attempt, but couldn’t get enough control of the puck to get off a quality shot. … Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce and Stars center Luke Glendening both got five-minute penalties for fighting in the second period.

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Will play San Jose on Friday night in the first of three consecutive home games.

Stars: Host the New Jersey Devils on Friday night in their last game before the All-Star break.

Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry out until after the All-Star break

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry‘s on-again, off-again season is now off again.

Coach Mike Sullivan said that the two-time All-Star will miss at least two games with an upper-body injury.

Jarry was scheduled to start against Florida but reported an upper-body issue when he arrived at PPG Paints Arena. Casey DeSmith got the last-second start as the Penguins pulled out a wild 7-6 victory over the Panthers.

Jarry is out through at least the All-Star break. Pittsburgh plays at Washington and then hosts San Jose before getting a full week off.

The 27-year-old Jarry has played well when he’s been in the lineup, posting a 16-5-5 record with a 2.65 goals-against average in 27 games. His availability, however, has been an issue of late. He missed more than two weeks earlier this month after being injured against Boston in the Winter Classic on Jan. 2.

The Penguins are not as sharp when Jarry is out. Pittsburgh is 8-10-3 with DeSmith or Dustin Tokarski in goal this season. The Penguins recalled Tokarski from their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to back up DeSmith during Jarry’s absence.

Letang scores twice in return, Penguins beat Panthers 7-6 in OT

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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PITTSBURGH – Amid a nightmarish season off the ice, Kris Letang has been searching for joy. A sense of normalcy.

He found a little of both.

The veteran Pittsburgh defenseman scored twice in his return from a lower-body injury, the second with 54 seconds left in overtime to give the Penguins a 7-6 victory over Florida.

“I was just happy to be out there,” Letang said. “Be in the atmosphere of the team.”

Letang’s 17th season with Pittsburgh has been pockmarked by health issues and a profound sense of loss. He missed two weeks after suffering the second stroke of his career shortly after Thanksgiving. He then tweaked something in a loss to Detroit on Dec. 28.

His father died unexpectedly a few days later, and Letang spent an extended amount of time with his family in his native Montreal, with his teammates making an unexpected stop to join Letang for his father’s wake at the end of a West Coast swing earlier this month.

The Penguins activated him off injured reserve on Tuesday afternoon. Letang responded with four points in a rollicking game that featured 13 goals, the last Letang’s one-timer from just above the left circle on the power play that gave Pittsburgh just its fourth win in 12 overtime games this season.

“It was kind of surreal, you know?” Letang said. “I didn’t know what to think or how it was going to go. These guys supported me for the last month… it’s just great to be back.”

The Penguins, currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, opened up a small bit of breathing room over the ninth-place Panthers by beating Florida for the 18th time in its last 21 trips to Pittsburgh.

Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Danton Heinen each had a goal and two assists for The Penguins. Rickard Rakell and Drew O'Connor also scored for the Penguins.

Casey DeSmith struggled in place of Tristan Jarry, a late scratch with an upper-body injury. DeSmith stopped 33 shots, including both he faced in overtime, to win for the third time in his last 10 starts.

“That was a huge two points for us,” DeSmith said. “Obviously we’re battling with them in the standings. Character win at home.”

Carter Verhaeghe scored twice for Florida, including a tying goal with 2:32 left in regulation. Aaron Ekblad had a goal and two assists. Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Reinhart each had a goal and an assist. Colin White‘s sixth goal of the season 4:10 into the third gave the Panthers the lead but Florida couldn’t hold it.

Alex Lyon made 42 saves after getting the start when Spencer Knight was unavailable for reasons head coach Paul Maurice would not disclose. The Panthers are 7-3-2 since January 1 to surge back into the fringe of contention.

“We’re so much more of a different hockey team than we were a month ago at this time,” Maurice said. “Rallied around each other, battled as hard as they could to get a point on the road in the circumstances that we’re in. I couldn’t be more proud.”

Neither Lyon or DeSmith – who got the heads up he was playing less than an hour before the opening faceoff – appeared quite ready to play on short notice. They gave up a six goals – three by each team – during a frantic first period that included Letang’s first goal since Dec. 15 and Tkachuk’s 25th of the season.

Things settled down in the second. Ekblad’s short-handed goal put the Panthers in front but Crosby knotted the game at 4-4 with a pretty backhand through Lyon’s legs with 40 seconds to go in the period to set up a hectic third in which both teams squandered one-goal leads.

“It wasn’t pretty but you need to find ways to win sometimes,” Crosby said. “We did a good job of that here today.”

UP NEXT

Panthers: Host Angeles on Friday night.

Penguins: At Washington on Thursday night.