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Trading Jeff Skinner would likely haunt Hurricanes

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The Carolina Hurricanes need to score more goals. You know what’s a bad way to do that? By trading away their best sniper.

More than a few rumors are swirling that the Hurricanes are shopping Jeff Skinner, a winger who easily leads Carolina in goals (89 versus 55 in second place) and points (163, with second coming in at 139) since 2015-16. Elliotte Friedman mentioned growing interest in Skinner in May 11’s “31 Thoughts” while Bob McKenzie opined that Skinner’s “days are numbered” during a recent podcast (or … Bobcast).

Let’s go over all of the reasons why this is a bad idea and an inopportune time to trade Skinner.

Not selling high

OK, it’s probably a stretch to say that the Hurricanes would be “selling low” on Skinner, but they wouldn’t be doing so during a moment of strength, either.

On one hand, Skinner – a player with past concussion problems – played a full 82 games in 2017-18. Skinner’s 24 goals ranked second to rising star Sebastian Aho, who potted 29. Skinner’s typically solid possession stats were even better than usual last season.

Still, if the Hurricanes must trade Skinner (a possibility at some point, as his $5.75 million cap hit expires after next season), they should wait. Skinner’s 8.7 shooting percentage was his lowest success rate since 2014-15, so rival GMs might view him as a less “sexy” option right now, as opposed to 2016-17, when he scored a career-high 37 goals and 63 points with a 13.7 shooting percentage, second only to his 14.4 percent mark from that memorable Calder-winning campaign in 2010-11.

The point is that recent history frowns upon trading players who were riding poor puck luck.

The Oilers didn’t get optimal value for Jordan Eberle. Reilly Smith was comically traded after his three seasons when his shooting percentage was under 10 (all in odd years).

At this moment, trading from a position of strength (defense) to improve a weakness (offense) makes sense for the Hurricanes, although there’s a challenge in getting that right. It’s tough to imagine Carolina enjoying the better end of a Skinner trade, especially in the immediate future.

Why rush this decision, particularly after a risky off-season of front office changes? Especially considering …

What a difference a year makes

It’s easy to forget how drastically an NHL team’s fortunes can change. Hot and cold streaks with goalies often explain why, too.

Last summer, the Winnipeg Jets seemed a lot like the Hurricanes: a team loaded with talent that couldn’t get over the hump, in part because of poor goaltending. The Senators and Oilers both saw flip-flopping seasons because of a number of factors, including stark contrasts between the good and bad for Craig Anderson and Cam Talbot respectively.

One could conceive of a situation where the Hurricanes look downright competitive if everything stayed the same and they merely improved in net, whether that means a rebound from Scott Darling or some other goalie coming in and pulling a Connor Hellebuyck.

This isn’t just about stopping pucks. Carolina wasn’t so great at scoring against goalies either in 2017-18, finishing ninth-to-last in the NHL with 225 goals. Skinner scored 24 of those, so would it really be wise to trade away essentially 10 percent of your tallies?

Hurricanes GM Don Waddell should take caution, as Skinner seems like he’d be part of the solution: a reliable scorer who can skate like few other players and who’s still in his prime at 26. The Hurricanes could regret trading Skinner as they battled in the playoff bubble, much like the Panthers missed Reilly Smith and/or Jonathan Marchessault.

And, if this team continues to flounder, you’d still likely be able to land a princely sum for Skinner during a mid-season or trade deadline move. Forcing a trade for the sake of making changes now seems almost certain to backfire, unless the Hurricanes convince a team to send a superstar their way. Somehow.

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Look, it’s plausible that someone will make the Hurricanes an offer they can’t refuse. Stranger things have happened.

Red flags wave over such rumblings when you consider how often teams regret trading a player when his shooting percentage has cooled, and sports/hockey history is bursting with examples of teams getting quarters on the dollar when they trade their better players.

It’s possible that the Hurricanes shouldn’t trade Skinner, period. Either way, this seems like a really risky time to make such a move.

I mean, unless Waddell wants to take some heat off of Dale Tallon, Peter Chiarelli, Marc Bergevin, and other GMs who’ve made trades that keep Hockey Twitter giggling into the night.

MORE:
• Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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.

The Buzzer: Kucherov hits 100, Berglund scores 3, another crazy Crosby goal

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Player of the Night: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

It was a big night for Kucherov and the Lightning. Their 7-5 win over the Buffalo Sabres helped them get one step closer to winning the Atlantic Division and claiming the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference, and with a pair of points Kucherov became the second player in the NHL this season to hit the 100-point mark. The 100-point scorer had pretty much disappeared from the league in recent years but with offense seeing a slight increase in the league this season Kucherov and Connor McDavid were both able to hit the century mark this season.

Since the start of the 2011-12 season there have only been seven 100-point seasons in the NHL: Two for McDavid, one for Patrick Kane, one for Sidney Crosby, one for Evgeni Malkin, one for Daniel Sedin, and now one for Kucherov.

2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Schedule, Bracket, Streams and More

This is the first time since the 2009-10 season that the NHL has had more than one 100-point scorer in a season.

The Lightning now have 112 points on the season heading into the regular season finale on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

If the Lightning win, they will win the division and get the top seed in the East. If they lose they will need to get some help and hope the Bruins (who play twice this weekend) do not pass them in the standings.

Player of the Night Part 2: Patrik Berglund, St. Louis Blues

Thanks to their 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night all the St. Louis Blues have to do on Saturday is collect one point against the Colorado Avalanche in order to clinch a playoff spot. A regulation loss knocks them out. The fact they are even in that position is remarkable when you think back to the NHL trade deadline when they were stuck in a terrible losing streak and had traded one of their top players, veteran forward Paul Stastny.

The star of the night for the Blues on Friday was Patrik Berglund for scoring three goals, including the game-winner just 12 seconds after the Blackhawks had tied the game at one.

It was a pretty slick goal, too.

Highlight of the Night

Sidney Crosby doesn’t score normal goals anymore. After scoring a couple of goals where he batted the puck out of mid-air, he was back to scoring goals from his office on Friday night. By office, I mean from four feet behind the goal line. Here he is intentionally shooting the puck off of Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson for his 29th goal of the season. Crosby does this at least two or three times a year. It is 100 percent intentional.

The Penguins were 4-0 winners on Friday night and secured the No. 2 seed in the Metropolitan Division which means home-ice advantage in the first-round. They now await their first-round opponent which could be either the Columbus Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers, or New Jersey Devils. By finishing in second place in the division it is guaranteed they will not play the Washington Capitals in the first round.

Ducks inch closer to home ice

The Anaheim Ducks kept rolling on Friday night with a 5-3 win over the Dallas Stars and are now just one point back of the San Jose Sharks for second place in the Pacific Division. You can read about their win on Friday night here.

Factoid of the Night

It is another tough year for the Buffalo Sabres, but at least their 7-5 loss on Friday night had a bright spot.

Scores

Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Ottawa Senators 0

Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Buffalo Sabres 5

St. Louis Blues 4, Chicago Blackhawks 1

Anaheim Ducks 5, Dallas Stars 3

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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.

Canadian NHL teams, Craig Anderson continue odd pattern

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Look, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s kind of getting weird for Canadian NHL teams and Craig Anderson.

Consider this: both Anderson and Canadian NHL teams seem to flip-flop seasons in parallel. One year, Anderson is downright elite and most Canadian NHL squads make the playoffs. The other year, Anderson is average-or-worst and barely any Canadian NHL teams see the postseason.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

As the go-to guy for the Ottawa Senators, it makes sense that they’d go as Anderson goes, but this flip-flopping is otherwise quite weird. It’s something PHT touched on heading into 2016-17, and that’s continued on.

2010-11 with Colorado: Lousy .897 save percentage
2010-11 with Ottawa: Fantastic .939 save percentage

2011-12: .914 save percentage
2012-13: .941 save percentage
2013-14: .911 save percentage
2014-15: .923 save percentage
2015-16: .916 save percentage
Last season: .926 save percentage despite personal turmoil, helped Senators get to 2017 Eastern Conference Final.
This season: .899 save percentage in 54 games, Senators primed to finish with strong draft lottery odds.

With the Canucks, Canadiens, Oilers, Flames, and Anderson’s Senators already mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the Jets and Maple Leafs are slated to be the only Canadian NHL teams who will make the postseason. Considering the moves Calgary made, the run Ottawa managed, the overall hype around Edmonton, and Montreal’s hopes of bouncing back, there are quite a few surprises among the Canadian teams that fell short.

[Tank Watch]

Then again, a pattern is forming here, too. Consider this flip-flopping run of Canadian teams making the playoffs:

2011-12: two teams
2012-13: four
2013-14: one (Canadiens)
2014-15: five
2015-16: zero
2016-17: five
2017-18: two

That’s a bit weird, eh?

There’s some reason to believe that the flip-flopping might continue next season, too.

Granted, Anderson is turning 37 in May, so it might be difficult for him to follow up an abysmal season with an elite year. Then again, the goalie seems to thrive when the odds are the longest. If nothing else, it’s easy to picture Anderson at least approaching his career average save percentage of .915.

An upswing in Canadian NHL teams in 2018-19 is easy to see.

[Playoff Push]

For one thing, the Jets and Maple Leafs both roll out deep, young rosters that should give them a very strong chance to return to the playoffs. The Canadiens have suffered through a lousy season, yet a rebound isn’t tough to picture, especially from Carey Price. The Oilers have their problems, but they also have consecutive 100-point producer Connor McDavid. Improvements may be even more likely if the teams make shrewd changes during the summer, whether that means front office renovations or smart additions via trades and free agency.

The Senators have their own issues, but let’s not forget that they really aren’t that far removed from being an overtime goal from a trip to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

Anderson could be good-to-great in 2018-19, and Erik Karlsson could be awfully driven if he stays around and plays through his contract year.

So, what do you think? Will these patterns continue? Could rebounds be in order for Anderson and those teams? Don’t flip-flop on this one.

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.

Stoneman Douglas hockey team now aiming for national title

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The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hockey team begin their quest for a national title on Friday afternoon at the USA Hockey High School Nationals in Plymouth, Minnesota.

In February, 11 days after a gunman killed 17 and injured 14 others on the Parkland, Florida campus, the team went out and won the Statewide Amateur Hockey of Florida High School State Championship tournament, earning their place at nationals.

The Eagles get started Friday afternoon where they’ll play three round-robin games against teams from Colorado, Minnesota and Indiana, with the top two from their division advancing to the quarterfinals.

The team flew to Plymouth in style, thanks to the Florida Panthers, who arranged for a charter flight to take them to Minnesota. It was another gesture from the NHL club who earlier this month invited the Eagles to practice at BB&T Center and spend some time with the players in the locker room. They also got to hang out with the Stanley Cup.

The hockey community rallied around the Stoneman Douglas kids in the wake of the tragedy. In the Panthers’ first home game after the Feb. 14 shooting, goaltender Roberto Luongo, who has children in the Parkland school system, delivered an emotional pre-game speech to the crowd. A few days later, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who attended the school for two years, met with the team after a game. Craig Anderson, a Parkland resident, invited them to be his guests last week when the Ottawa Senators were in town.

In the days following the shooting, the Stoneman Douglas players discussed whether they should continue their season. They met and decided to keep playing to honor of the fallen 17.

“I don’t think anyone had in mind that they didn’t want to go,” said freshman Adam Hauptman via Red Line Editorial. “Every kid felt pretty much the same. It was either going to be that everyone said yes or no. Everyone wanted to get out and bring something back to celebrate with.”

Before they played in the state title game last month, there was a moment when the players realized there were 17 of them on the roster. And when they won the championship, they decided to take their medals back to Stoneman Douglas High School and place them around each of the 17 memorials.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Win or lose this weekend, the Stoneman Douglas team has made their community proud and helped in a healing process that will go on for some time.

“That tournament wasn’t for us, it was all for them,” said senior forward Joey Zenobi in a TSN Original released this week. “That’s what we had to play for — for our school, for our community, for the victims, for the families, for everyone.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Anderson, Sens met with Marjory Stoneman Douglas hockey team

via Senators Twitter

Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators provided a great gesture before their eventual 5-3 win against the Florida Panthers on Monday, meeting with all 60 members of Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ hockey team.

Anderson took care of tickets for the entire team, and before the game, Senators players met with them and provided autographs.

“It’s big for our family,” Anderson said. “We live here in Parkland, we’re raising our kids here. We’re living through (the tragedy) just like everyone else in the community.”

Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ hockey team won a state championship following the tragedy, and also got the opportunity to lift the Stanley Cup. This is the latest great gesture from an NHL team to members of the high school’s hockey team.

Anderson became familiar with the area during his time with the Panthers, when he played in 53 games between 2006-07 to 2008-09. Much like Roberto Luongo, who gave an emotional speech about the shootings in Parkland, his time with that community clearly made an impact.

[More: Luongo shares more thoughts on the tragic subject.]

The Senators shared some images from that uplifting gesture:

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.