A rookie surprise: Dotchin earning his minutes for Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning have clearly been in the market for a top-4 defenseman — preferably a right shot. Not long ago, they tried to get Kevin Shattenkirk out of St. Louis, only for Shattenkirk to nix the trade and end up in Washington.

While it’s still expected that GM Steve Yzerman will scour the market for a top-4 d-man this summer, might a kid by the name of Jake Dotchin give the Bolts pause in what could be a very costly pursuit?

In Wednesday’s 4-3 OT win over Carolina, Dotchin logged 20:07 and registered his fourth assist in his 15th NHL game. The 22-year-old rookie, a sixth-round pick in 2012, has been paired with the Lightning’s top defenseman, Victor Hedman, leaving Jason Garrison and Anton Stralman to form a shutdown duo.

A few weeks ago, shortly after Dotchin was recalled from the AHL, head coach Jon Cooper hinted that the youngster’s role might be increased.

“He’s earned the right to be here and he’s not playing with fear or like he’s afraid to make a mistake and that’s big,” Cooper said, per FanRag Sports. “That’s what you like and if he keeps doing this he’s going to keep playing as much (as he has) or maybe more.”

Now, whether Dotchin is the long-term answer remains to be seen. But top-4 d-men aren’t cheap, and there simply aren’t that many available.

So at the very least, Dotchin provides the Bolts an option beyond a trade.

Related: Bolts trade Anthony DeAngelo to Arizona

Hamonic activated off IR

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The New York Islanders, after a big come-from-behind win last night in Dallas, could have Travis Hamonic back in the lineup tonight in Chicago.

The Isles announced today that Hamonic has been activated off injured reserve. The 26-year-old hasn’t played since Jan. 7 due to a knee injury.

If Hamonic does return tonight, expect Scott Mayfield to come out of the lineup.

The Isles also announced that forward Josh Ho-Sang is now with the team on a regular recall. He was originally recalled under emergency conditions, which have been terminated.

Ho-Sang made his NHL debut last night, registering two shots while logging 17:01 of ice time.

“He was above average,” coach Doug Weight said of the 21-year-old. “Couple plays you can nitpick, but I thought he was excellent.”

Filppula makes immediate impact for Flyers


Perhaps when we look back, it’ll be one of those win-win trades.

In sending Valtteri Filppula to Philadelphia, and then flipping Mark Streit to Pittsburgh, the Tampa Bay Lightning certainly got what they wanted, and that was cap space to sign their pending restricted free agents, which include Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Jonathan Drouin.

For the Flyers, they got a veteran center in Filppula, with no commitment beyond next season.

“This kid gives us flexibility because centers are really hard to find,” general manager Ron Hextall said. “Most teams have four or five centermen. This kid gives up depth and options. He is highly competitive and competes on pucks. He makes plays.”

Filppula made an immediate impact last night in his Philadelphia debut, going hard to the net to tip home a Brayden Schenn pass. The 32-year-old’s goal tied the game halfway through the third period, and the Flyers went on to beat the Panthers, 2-1, in the shootout.

“He’s a very good player on the puck and he has a heavy stick,” linemate Jakub Voracek said of Filppula, per CSN Philly. “For me and Schenner, it’s important to have the puck on our stick most part of the game.”

The addition of Filppula also allows Sean Couturier to center the third line and focus on a shut-down role. It may even take some of the scoring pressure off Claude Giroux.

With only 19 games left, it’s going to take a strong push from the Flyers to book a spot in the playoffs. According to Sports Club Stats, they’ll have to go in the neighborhood of 12-4-3 to give themselves a good chance.

But this is a team that’s already shown it can get hot and string together a number of wins.

The Flyers kick off a four-game road trip tomorrow in Washington, so they’d better be ready for a test.

Duchene’s contract could complicate things for Avs


Any team that acquires Matt Duchene from the Colorado Avalanche will want to keep him for more than two years.

And therein lies a potential problem for Avs GM Joe Sakic. Duchene is only signed for two more seasons, and he’s not eligible to ink an extension until the summer of 2018.

To illustrate, here’s a tidbit from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

If Duchene was eligible for an extension and the Carolina Hurricanes believed they could get it done, my best guess is he’d be there. But the Hurricanes weren’t paying the price for a two-year gamble.

Now, this does not mean that Sakic cannot demand a high price for the 26-year-old forward. Just because the ‘Canes weren’t willing to gamble doesn’t mean every other team will be so reluctant. And in the end, it only takes one team.

But it does add a wrinkle.

Contrast the Duchene situation with, say, the Buffalo Sabres’ situation with Evander Kane. Let’s say Tim Murray shops the 25-year-old winger this summer. May not happen, but let’s say it does. Kane can sign an extension on July 1, guaranteeing that the acquiring team would have him locked up for years to come.

Sort of like what happened when the Avs traded Ryan O’Reilly to Buffalo.

For the record, Duchene believes a trade is likely to happen this offseason.

“There’s probably a good chance something will happen this summer,” he said, per the Denver Post.

But just keep in mind his contract — especially if a deal doesn’t go down.

Related: Fixing the Avs’ defense through trades will prove tough

Pre-game reading: A list of the top 10 traded prospects

— Up top, Brendan Smith will make his New York Rangers debut tonight in Boston (on NBCSN) after Tuesday’s trade with the Red Wings. The 28-year-old defenseman will likely be on the top pairing with his old Wisconsin Badgers teammate Ryan McDonagh.

— Smith is a left shot who doesn’t mind playing the right side, so skating with McDonagh is a natural place to start. “I enjoy the right side and I know he likes his dominant left side,” Smith said. “So I think we work well.” The Rangers really need Smith to come in and play well. Their defense — the biggest question mark heading into the season, and still the biggest question mark — is currently dealing with injuries to Dan Girardi (ankle) and Kevin Klein (back spasms). (Newsday)

— A list of the top 10 prospects who were traded ahead of Wednesday’s deadline. A pair of Canucks, Nikolay Goldobin and Jonathan Dahlen, occupy the top two spots. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars also featured twice on the list. (The Hockey News)

— Speaking of the Canucks, it’s been an encouraging week for their fans, but a tough week for the Sedins, who had to say good-bye to longtime friends and teammates Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen. “We’ve seen them grow up, go from call-ups to first- and second-liners on this team,” said Henrik. “That’s something for our young guys to learn, to understand you can’t be happy to be here. You’ve got to try to get better. That’s what those guys did.” (Vancouver Sun)

— On the return of P.K. Subban to Montreal, Sportsnet’s Eric Engels writes: “That he arrived here on trade deadline day—during the NHL’s busiest hours of the season—and kicked things off with a visit to the Montreal Children’s Hospital to receive an award from Canada’s Governor General in recognition of his $10 million pledge last season, was fitting.” (Sportsnet)

— Why did Kevin Shattenkirk make “Shattdeuces” his Twitter handle? Ummm … do you really want to know? Just kidding, it’s not as gross as it sounds. (Washington Post)

Enjoy the games!