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How aggressive should Blue Jackets be at trade deadline?

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We need to talk a little more about the Columbus Blue Jackets because they are one of the most fascinating teams in the NHL right now.

Not only for their recent hot streak, but for what might still be ahead of them over the next couple of months.

Thanks to their win in New York on Sunday night, capped off with an Oliver Bjorkstrand goal with 26 seconds to play in regulation, they hold the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference and are one of the hottest teams in the NHL. They are 15-2-4 since Dec. 9, while their overall record through 50 games is actually one point better than it was at the same point a year ago. Considering their offseason and the almost unbelievable run of injuries they have experienced once the season began, they are one of the biggest surprises in the league.

It all creates a pretty interesting discussion for what their front office does — or is able to do — before the NHL trade deadline.

1. They are in a position to buy, not sell

That is not up for much debate, either. This is the same team and front office that went all in before last season’s trade deadline at a time when they were still on the outside of the playoff picture. Not only are they in a playoff position right now, they are just one point back of the New York Islanders for the third spot in the Metropolitan Division.

There is also this: Their upcoming schedule through the trade deadline and end of February really softens up with only five of their next 16 games coming against teams that currently rank higher than 19th in the league in points percentage. Three of those games (two against Philadelphia, one against Florida) will be against teams they could be directly competing with for a playoff spot.

There is a chance to gain even more ground and solidify their spot even more.

2. What they need and what they have to spend

What they have to spend: A lot. The only teams with more salary cap space to spend ahead of the deadline are the New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, and Colorado Avalanche. Out of that group, only the Avalanche will be in a position to buy. The Blue Jackets, in theory, could add any player that is theoretically available before the trade deadline.

What they need: At the start of the season the easy — and expected — answer here would have been a goalie given the uncertainty of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins and their ability to replace Bobrovsky. After some early struggles, they have turned out to be the Blue Jackets’ biggest bright spot as that tandem has combined for the second-best five-on-five save percentage in the NHL and the third-best all situations save percentage. They have been great, and especially Merzlikins with his recent play.

What they really need now is some scoring. Getting healthy would help a lot (Cam Atkinson just returned to the lineup; Josh Anderson, Alexandre Texier are still sidelined) but they do not have a single player in the top-77 of the league in scoring (Pierre-Luc Dubois is 78th), and only two in the top-120 (Dubuois and Gustav Nyquist).

As a team, they are 24th in the league in goals per game.

Looking around the league, obvious forward rentals would include Tyler Toffoli (Los Angeles Kings), Chris Kreider (New York Rangers), Ilya Kovalchuk (Montreal Canadiens), and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (Ottawa Senators). Potential trade options with term still remaining might include Jason Zucker (Minnesota Wild) or Tomas Tatar (Montreal).

3. The problem: How aggressive can they be?

The downside to their “all in” trade deadline a year ago is that it absolutely decimated their draft pick cupboard for two years. They were left with just three picks in the 2019 class (none before pick No. 108) and as it stands right now they have just five picks in 2020, with only one of them (a first-round pick) slated to be in the top-100.

While players like Texier and Emil Benstrom are good prospects, their farm system is not the deep and the younger players currently on the NHL roster (Dubuois, Seth Jones, Werenski) are players they are going to build around.

That seriously limits what they can do.

Is general manager Jarmo Kekalainen in a position to trade another first-round pick to add to what is a pretty good, but probably not great team? Is there a player available that can a big enough difference to make that worth it? If there is, that player can not be a rental. It has to be a player that has meaningful term left on their contract and can be a part of the organization beyond just this season.

Even if you assume the Blue Jackets will not be able to maintain their current hot streak (and they will cool off at some point) they have at the very least put themselves in a position where they are going to be in the playoff race with a very good chance of making it. This is also not a team in a “rebuild” mode, either. When you are in that position you owe it to your fans and the players in that room to try to win. For the Blue Jackets, it is just a matter of how much they can do and how aggressive they should be over the next few weeks.

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.

Surging Blue Jackets finally getting some help

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The Columbus Blue Jackets have been one of the NHL’s hottest teams over the past month-and-a-half, riding a 12-2-4 run over their past 18 games. They have the league’s third-best record (behind only St. Louis and Pittsburgh) during that stretch and have played their way back into playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, entering play on Wednesday in a tie with the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card spot.

What makes this run even more impressive is the team has been absolutely ravaged by injuries during that stretch.

The list of injuries includes…

  • Forward Cam Atkinson, a 40-goal scorer a year ago, has missed the past 12 games.
  • Forward Josh Anderson and defenseman Ryan Murray have not played since Dec. 14 (15 games).
  • Rookie defenseman Andre Peeke has not played since Dec. 17.
  • Oliver Bjorkstrand, who had 12 goals in his first 36 games, has missed the past 11 games.
  • Alexandre Texier, a rookie forward the team had high hopes for at the start, has missed the past seven games.
  • Starting goalie Joonas Korpisalo has missed the past eight games.

On Wednesday the Blue Jackets finally got some good news on the injury front when the team announced that Atkinson and Peeke have been activated from injured reserve (Peeke has since been assigned to the AHL).

Atkinson is expected to be in the lineup on Thursday for a huge game against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are just two points ahead of the Blue Jackets in the standings.

The Atkinson is significant because he is such a huge part of the Blue Jackets’ offense and has been one of the most underrated goal scorers in the entire league the past few seasons. Over the previous three seasons he scored 100 goals in 227 games, a rate that averages out to 36 goals per 82 games. That production is down a little so far this season, but a lot of that drop has been driven by a significant dip in his shooting percentage.

He was already starting to see a bounce back before the injury, scoring five goals in his past eight games.

Blue Jackets keep surprising

Expectations were low for the Blue Jackets at the start of the season after the team lost Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel in free agency. Add in the recent injury situation on top of a slow start, and this team has every possible excuse to have completely gone in the tank. That has not happened.

Even with all of the free agency departures the Blue Jackets still had reasons for optimism this season (we looked at that here and here) because of the young talent still in place. Zach Werenski and Seth Jones form one of the best defense duos in the league, and they have been their usual steady selves this season. Pierre-Luc Dubois is also an emerging star in the NHL and becoming a legit No. 1 center that can impact the game on both sides of the ice.

But perhaps the biggest factor in their ability to remain competitive has been the emerge of Korpisalo, and most recently, Elvis Merzlikins in net.

Goaltending was always going to be the big X-Factor for this team and would strongly dictate what the team could do.

Merzlikins has been the big story over the past couple of weeks as he has stepped up in place of the injured Korpisalo. After losing each of his first eight decisions in the NHL, he is now 6-2-0 in his past eight games with a .950 save percentage. That includes back-to-back shutouts in his past two starts.

It is not realistic for him to keep playing at that high of a level, but as long as he and Korpisalo (once he returns) do not completely fall apart the Blue Jackets are going to have a great chance to not only stay in this race, but also shock the NHL and potentially return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Especially if they can start getting some more of their key players (Bjorkstrand, Murray, Texier, Anderson) back in the lineup.

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.

Full 2020 NHL All-Star Game rosters with Perron, Oshie, Marner, Hughes added

2020 NHL All-Star Game rosters Marner Oshie Hughes Perron added
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The 2020 NHL All-Star Game rosters are now complete after the four “last men in” were accounted for.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner became the final addition to the Atlantic Division’s side. David Perron of the St. Louis Blues represents the Central’s last member. Speaking of All-Star Game host St. Louis, it should be a special time for former Blues forward T.J. Oshie. The Washington Capitals forward is the last man in for the Metro. Finally, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes continues his impressive rookie season as the Pacific rep.

Again, it wouldn’t be one bit surprising if Oshie received a warm welcome from Blues fans.

“We all know he wants to go,” Capitals teammate Nicklas Backstrom said of Oshie, via the AP. “Especially it’s his former hometown too, St. Louis. That would be something special for him.”

Fans cast more than 18 million votes, with a maximum of 10 ballots permitted per user. (Somewhere, Rory Fitzpatrick felt a tingle.)

To refresh your memory, the four divisional teams engage in a tournament with three games over two rounds. Defense is even more optional than usual with a 3-on-3 format. St. Louis hosts NHL All-Star Weekend from Jan. 24-25, and you’ll be able to watch the fun on NBCSN.

[Pass or Fail? 2020 NHL All-Star Game jerseys]

Full rosters for 2020 NHL All-Star Game

Check out the full rosters for the four division-based teams. Asterisks denote fan-elected captains.

(Reminder: some players elected to skip the festivities. The NHL found Alex Ovechkin‘s absence especially irritating.)

2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend Rosters

Atlantic Division (All-Star Appearance)

F          *David Pastrnak, BOS (2nd)

G          Tuukka Rask, BOS (2nd)

F          Jack Eichel, BUF (3rd)

F          Tyler Bertuzzi, DET (1st)

F          Jonathan Huberdeau, FLA (1st)

D          Shea Weber, MTL (7th)

F          Anthony Duclair, OTT (1st)

D          Victor Hedman, TBL (2nd)

G          Frederik Andersen, TOR (1st)

F          Mitch Marner, TOR (1st)

F          Auston Matthews, TOR (4th)

Central Division (All-Star Appearance)

F          Patrick Kane, CHI (9th)

F          *Nathan MacKinnon, COL (3rd)

F          Tyler Seguin, DAL (6th)

F          Eric Staal, MIN (6th)

D          Roman Josi, NSH (3rd)

F          Ryan O’Reilly, STL (3rd)

G          Jordan Binnington, STL (1st)

F          David Perron, STL (1st)

D          Alex Pietrangelo, STL (2nd)

G          Connor Hellebuyck, WPG (2nd)

F          Mark Scheifele, WPG (2nd)

Metropolitan Division (All-Star Appearance)

D          Dougie Hamilton, CAR (1st)

D          Seth Jones, CBJ (3rd)

F          Kyle Palmieri, NJD (2nd)

F          Mathew Barzal, NYI (2nd)

F          Artemi Panarin, NYR (1st)

F          Travis Konecny, PHI (1st)

G          Tristan Jarry, PIT (1st)

D          Kris Letang, PIT (6th)

D          John Carlson, WSH (2nd)

G          Braden Holtby, WSH (5th)

F          T.J. Oshie, WSH (1st)

Pacific Division (All-Star Appearance)

G          Darcy Kuemper, ARI (1st)

F          Matthew Tkachuk, CGY (1st)

D          Mark Giordano, CGY (3rd)

F          *Connor McDavid, EDM (4th)

F          Leon Draisaitl, EDM (2nd)

F          Anze Kopitar, LAK (5th)

F          Max Pacioretty, VGK (1st)

F          Tomas Hertl, SJS (1st)

D          Quinn Hughes, VAN (1st)

F          Elias Pettersson, VAN (2nd)

G          Jacob Markstrom, VAN (1st)

*Fan-elected captain

Fans who enjoy complaining about “snubs” can have it now. Enjoy?

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.

NHL announces rosters for 2020 All-Star Game

NHL All Star Game Rosters
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The NHL has announced its rosters for the 2020 All-Star Game.

The All-Star weekend will take place in St. Louis on Jan. 24-25. The four captains — as voted by fans — were already announced and include David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins), Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche) and Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers).

Ovechkin already announced that he will not be participating in the All-Star weekend so that he can rest and be ready for the second half of the regular season as well as the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He will sit out one regular season game either immediately before or after the All-Star break.

The host Blues — who are also the defending Stanley Cup champions — have the most representatives in this year’s game as Ryan O'Reilly, Jordan Binnington, and Alex Pietrangelo have all been named to the Central Division roster.

Here are all four rosters.

*Indicates fan voted captain

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division (All-Star Appearance)

F *David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins (2nd)
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres(3rd)
F Tyler Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings (1st)
F Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers (1st)
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (4th)
F Anthony Duclair, Ottawa Senators (1st)
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning (2nd)
D Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens (7th)
G Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (2nd)
G Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs (1st)

Metropolitan Division

F Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils (2nd)
F Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders (2nd)
F Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers (1st)
F Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers (1st)
F Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins (1st)
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals (2nd)
D Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes (1st)
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets (3rd)
G Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals (5th)
G Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets (1st)

[RELATED: Bergeron, Giroux, Toews highlight NHL All-Star Last Men In vote]

Western Conference

Central Division

F *Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche (3rd)
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (9th)
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars (6th)
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild (6th)
F Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets (2nd)
F Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues (3rd)
D Roman Josi, Nashville Predators (3rd)
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues (2nd)
G Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (1st)
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets (2nd)

Pacific Division

F *Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (4th)
F Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks(1st)
F Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames (1st)
F Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (2nd)
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (5th)
F Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks (2nd)
F Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks (2nd)
D Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames (3rd)
G Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights (5th)
G Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes (1st)

MORE NHL ALL-STAR GAME COVERAGE:
The 2020 NHL All-Star Game captains
Alex Ovechkin will not play in 2020 All-Star Game

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.

PHT Decade in Review: Most significant trades in hockey

As 2019 comes to a close, we’re taking a look back at the past decade. We’ll remember the best players and teams, most significant goals, and biggest transactions that have happened since 2010. Let us know your memories in the comments.

Best Hockey Trades

Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen

The Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets each had a glaring need and were able to help each other when Seth Jones and Ryan Johansen were traded for one another. From Columbus’ perspective, Johansen was not a favorite of coach John Tortorella and already had a lengthy contract dispute. Nashville had an abundance of talent on the blueline and needed to find a top line centerman. When a trade of this magnitude happens, one team usually regrets the move but, in this situation, both teams were left quite pleased.

Martin St. Louis for Ryan Callahan

It takes a lot of extenuating circumstances for two teams in the thick of a playoff race to trade their captains, but in 2014, the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning completed the transaction. Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman created a dispute with Martin St. Louis when he left the future Hall-Of-Famer off Team Canada’s original roster for the Sochi Olympics. In return, St. Louis requested a trade and the Lightning ended up honoring the request. On the other side, Glen Sather wrapped up contract extensions with Henrik Lundqvist and Dan Girardi but struggled to find common ground with Callahan. Even though the Lightning had very little leverage in the negotiations, Yzerman still found a way to pry two first-round picks from New York in the process. The Rangers went on to lose in the 2014 Cup Final and fell in the 2015 Conference Finals to the Lightning in a seven-game series. Neither team won a championship because of this move, but both clubs settled a problem with this transaction.

Mike Richards and Jeff Carter end up in Los Angeles, Flyers acquire Wayne Simmonds, Bradyen Schenn and Jakub Voracek

A few maneuvers were significant when Los Angeles won two Stanley Cups early in the decade, but the Kings paid a steep price to acquire Mike Richards in June 2011. Coincidentally, another big piece, Jeff Carter, was traded that day to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was eventually sent to Los Angeles at the 2012 trade deadline where he became a key cog for the Kings. Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Dustin Brown were already in place, but the acquisition of Richards and Carter were a huge reason why Los Angeles was very successful in the first half of the decade.

On the flip side, the Flyers were looking to change the culture around the club that offseason and landed Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn in the Richards deal, while acquiring Jakub Voracek in the Carter trade. Philadelphia did not win a Stanley Cup, but they were not ripped off in either deal when trading legitimate NHL stars.

Flames send Dougie Hamilton to the Hurricanes in five-player trade

It was a blockbuster trade in June of 2018 that helped both the Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames. Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and Adam Fox were sent to Carolina in exchange for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm. If one was to define a hockey trade, this would be a great place to start.

One sided trades

Bruins ship Tyler Seguin to Dallas

There are always overreactions after losing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs but the way the Boston Bruins reacted to losing the 2013 Stanley Cup Final was clearly a mistake. The Bruins front office decided to trade Tyler Seguin, a star in the making, to the Dallas Stars for Loui Eriksson and several other pieces. The Bruins did not make matters worse by handing Eriksson a lucrative contract extension in the summer of 2016, but they did lose a player that averaged 77 points per season since the trade.

Capitals send Filip Forsberg to Nashville for Martin Erat

George McPhee is most likely still having nightmares about this transaction.

Ben Bishop for Cory Conacher

This deal is easy to judge knowing how each player performed since the trade. However, in April of 2013 the move did make some sense for both teams. The Ottawa Senators had a crowded crease with Craig Anderson, Robin Lehner and Bishop while Conacher was off to a strong start with the Tampa Bay Lightning, recording 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in the first 35 games of the season. The undersized forward instantly became the Senators’ leading scorer upon his arrival but would never become the lethal scorer Ottawa hoped for. On the other hand, Bishop has become a well-rounded NHL goaltender.

Griffin Reinhart to Edmonton

There probably could be a category for several of the moves Peter Chiarelli made but trading two premium draft picks for Griffin Reinhart is at the top of the list. It doesn’t help when one of those picks turned into Mathew Barzal, but the Oilers general manager hoped Reinhart would solve Edmonton’s defensive issues. Former Islanders general manager Garth Snow is probably still confused how he pulled this one off.

Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson

Hall helped the New Jersey Devils return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and captured the 2018 Hart trophy, while Edmonton picked up a middle-pairing defenseman.

Mika Zibanejad for Derick Brassard

Why the Ottawa Senators were interested in trading a young center with Zibanejad’s potential is still a bit mind-boggling. The Swedish forward has turned into one of the more underrated centers in the NHL while Brassard has bounced around the NHL the past couple of seasons.

Brent Burns to the Sharks

The Minnesota Wild received Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and a first-round draft pick, but Burns has been one of the most dynamic defensemen in the entire NHL throughout the decade. There are very few assets that could have lived up to the value Burns has provided on the ice.

Franchise Altering Maneuvers

P.K. Subban for Shea Weber

For those who understand the salary cap recapture penalties, the Nashville Predators took a significant gamble when sending Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for P.K. Subban. If Weber were to retire before his deal runs out, they will be forced to operate with a lot of dead money on their books.

Subban did help the Predators reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 but has since been shipped off to the New Jersey Devils.

Blues acquire Ryan O'Reilly

The 2019 Conn Smythe winner was an integral member of the St. Louis Blues’ Stanley Cup run last season. Doug Armstrong gave up a lot at the time including a top prospect, two premium picks and two roster players, but the Buffalo Sabres miscalculated in their evaluation. Without the the O’Reilly acquisition, the song ‘Gloria’ is probably not a huge hit in the St. Louis area.

Penguins acquire Phil Kessel

It wasn’t always a smooth ride in Pittsburgh, but Kessel averaged 75 points per season and played a major part in back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships.

TJ Oshie to the Capitals

The Washington Capitals have been one of the most successful teams over the last decade but didn’t get over the hump until the spring of 2018. T.J. Oshie was not the main piece during the championship run, but he has provided secondary scoring and strong two-way play since his acquisition in the summer of 2015.

MORE PHT DECADE IN REVIEW FUN:
• Top NHL players in fantasy hockey
• Most significant goals
• Best players of the decade
• Favorite goals, best/worst jerseys
Best NHL teams of the decade

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.