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Trade: Blue Jackets welcome back a familiar face in Mark Letestu in three-way deal

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Trade deadline day could be a snoozefest at this rate.

The trade: Predators acquire Mark Letestu from the Edmonton Oilers for Pontus Aberg. Predators then trade Letestu to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

Why the Predators are making this trade: Picks are nice. Teams like draft picks. Aberg also hadn’t played in 10 days and his future in the Music City was in doubt. Perhaps the deal is part of a bigger plan for general manager David Poile, who apparently are in the running for Erik Karlsson. (Wouldn’t that be something.)

Or maybe another conspiracy?

Why the Oilers are making this trade: Two words: Fire. Sale. The Oilers need to dump pending unrestricted free agents and get something in return. Aberg is the return. He wasn’t a fit on a very strong Predators team but perhaps could offer something to the Oilers going forward. He has one year left on a two-year, $1.3 million deal.

Or maybe not:

Why the Blue Jackets are making this trade: The Blue Jackets needed help in their bottom six and get some with veteran center Letestu, who will likely be hungry to perform as he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Letestu knows the area well, having played parts of four season with the Blue Jackets. He has eight goals and 19 points in 60 games this season.

Perhaps some further context as well:

Who won this trade: Another one of these even deals, for the most part. Blue Jackets get depth, Predators grab a pick. But what do the Oilers gain in Aberg? He’s a cheap player going forward, but his metrics aren’t great. Maybe a change of scenery will help. Edmonton got something for a pending UFA, so that’s something.

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker


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

Should Winnipeg Jets stand pat at trade deadline?

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There are whispers that the Winnipeg Jets could stand pat at the trade deadline and get away with it.

It’s not necessarily the most popular opinion, but one that has gained a small following given how their season has shaped up to this point.

The growth of rookie forward Kyle Connor, who scored his 21st goal of the season on Sunday, has been impressive. Connor went from a mediocre training camp that saw him begin the season in the American Hockey League to play a vital role on Winnipeg’s top line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.

Jack Roslovic began the season in the AHL and was only called up recently to fill in the gaps as Winnipeg’s health began to deteriorate. Now, Roslovic, a dynamic player with speed and play-making ability, has performed so well that he likely won’t see the minors again.

The Jets are also anticipating the return of towering center Adam Lowry (out with an upper-body injury) and defenseman Jacob Trouba (out with a lower-body injury) by the time the playoffs roll around, turning into quasi-trade deadline additions.

The Jets, who have scored 13 goals in their past two games, are as good as any other team in the league when they’re firing on all cylinders. A recent adjustment to their lines — one that included putting 20-plus goal scorers Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine on the third unit — has diversified Winnipeg’s top-nine to a scary extent.

The Jets have three lines that are capable, at the moment, of putting up a lot of points on any given night. So the argument that the Jets don’t need to add someone to their top-six, or even their top-nine, has some merit.

That said, as the old sports cliche goes: there’s always room to improve. The Jets could still use some depth on the fourth line. Matt Hendricks, while a good presence in the room and a decent penalty killer, isn’t the quickest player on the ice. Joel Armia shows flashes of brilliance and then goes on long stretches where he’s mostly invisible. The return of Brandon Tanev from injury will be useful in that regard. But adding a budget center could be the shrewd move general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff needs to solidify a solid fourth-line combo.

On defense, Ben Chiarot has played admirably in place of Trouba but he may be a surplus to requirements when Trouba returns. One wonders what Cheveldayoff is thinking when it comes to Toby Enstrom, however. The diminutive defenseman had a tough outing in the physical department during the Jets last playoff appearance — their only visit since returning to Winnipeg — during the 2014-15 season. And his injury history should have the Jets thinking about at least shoring up that possibility.

The Jets could turn to Chiarot’s size and physicality in a similar scenario or could turn to the trade market for another option.

This is a good headache for any general manager. The Jets are one of the top teams in the NHL without having made a trade thus far this season.

Their goaltending has been spectacular, their power play has been lethal and their penalty kill is up near the top. Bell MTS Place has become a place teams go to die and the Jets, at the moment, would have home-ice advantage in the first round.

It makes for an interesting week leading up to Monday’s trade deadline.

Here’s a look at what the Jets could be/are considering:

Forwards

Rick Nash: A pricey rental player that would add size and scoring to the Jets top-six. But pricey is the key word here and it’s unlikely the Jets want to dig into the farm to own a guy for a couple months.

Mike Hoffman: Skilled and quick with the ability to score. He would be a good fit for the Jets, but as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on the weekend, Hoffman has a limited no-movement clause and Winnipeg is on the list. With term left on his deal, the price wouldn’t be cheap either.

Patrick Maroon and Mark Letestu: Two depth forwards that would bolster Winnipeg’s bottom end. Maroon isn’t the fastest guy around, and he’s not scoring 27 goals like he did last season playing with Connor McDavid. But a fresh start after not getting a contract in Edmonton might be just what Maroon needs to get his confidence up and running. Letestu, meanwhile, offers bottom-six depth up the middle. Matt Hendricks, currently occupying the fourth-line center role, didn’t play in last year’s playoffs for the Oilers. He could make way again depending on what the Jets do at the deadline. These would be cheaper options.

Ryan Hartman: It would be odd for the Chicago Blackhawks to trade a 23-year-old budding forward to a divisional rival, but stranger things have happened. Hartman had 19 goals in his rookie season last year and is playing on a very poor Blackhawks team this year. The price tag is likely high on him as well.

Mats Zuccarello: The New York Rangers announced they were holding a yard sale, and Zuccarello is a name that’s been thrown around when it comes to the Jets. Zuccarello is a good penalty killer and plays a game, not unlike Mathieu Perreault, who the Jets covet. Zuccarello also comes with an extra year on his contract. and could help the Jets beyond this season.

Defenseman:

Nick Holden: Continuing with the Rangers fire sale, Holden could be an option. He’s a left shot defenseman that could fill in for an injury to Enstrom. Holden’s possession metrics don’t jump off the page, but he’s a serviceable third-pairing guy who can play bigger minutes in a pinch.

Jan Rutta: One player the Blackhawks may be willing to part ways with is defenseman Rutta, who is on a one-year entry-level deal that’s set to expire at the end of this season. Rutta shoots right and has better possession metrics than Holden.


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

It’s Edmonton Oilers day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Edmonton Oilers.

For a ninth consecutive season the Edmonton Oilers found themselves on the outside looking in when the playoffs began last spring.

Edmonton’s 24-44-14 record was good for 13th in the Western Conference and 28th overall.

As a result of another poor regular season, the Oilers landed in the NHL Draft lottery and for a fourth time in six years won the first overall selection picking Connor McDavid at the June draft.

Jordan Eberle led the Oilers in scoring with 24 goals and 63 points in 81 games, but finished well off his career-high of 34 goals set during the 2011-12 season.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins continued to see his goal totals rise setting a new career-high with 24 goals and matched his personal-best 56 points.

Injuries limited Taylor Hall to just 53 games. The 23-year-old scored 14 goals and 24 assists. His 38 points were good for third in Oilers scoring.

Justin Schultz was the top scoring defenseman with six goals goals and 31 points to go along with a minus-17 rating in 81 games.

In goal, Ben Scrivens shouldered the load going 15-26-11 while posting a 3.16 G.A.A. and a .890 save percentage in 57 appearances.

Off-season recap

The biggest off-season moves for the Oilers came off the ice as Peter Chiarelli replaced Craig MacTavish as the club’s general manager and hired Todd McLellan to take over as head coach from Todd Nelson.

On the ice, Chiarelli addressed some of the club’s biggest issues trading for goaltender Cam Talbot and defenseman Griffin Reinhart.

Edmonton also added depth trading veteran Boyd Gordon to Arizona for Lauri Korpikoski.

Chiarelli dipped into the free agent pool and inked free agent defenseman Andrej Sekera and center Mark Letestu.

PHT Morning Skate: Cobra hearts, scorpions and a Blackhawks-shaped maze

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Naming three teams who made the playoffs last season who might not (and three who missed it, yet might make it). (The Hockey News)

The 10 best seasons for players at age 40 and older. (Sportsnet)

A hockey historian shares some childhood memories of Ken Dryden. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Congrats to Mark Letestu on the birth of his baby girl Blake Ashley:

The Chicago Blackhawks’ 2015 Stanley Cup run inspired this elaborate corn maze:

Want more info on it? CSNChicago.com has you covered.

Washington Capitals prospect Stanislav Galiev cannot be accused of being fearful, at least when it comes to cuisine. For one thing, he ate scorpions in Vietnam:

Think that’s extreme? Try … eating a cobra heart that was still beating.

Oilers prospect Draisaitl ‘totally fine’ playing the wing

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After beginning last season with the Edmonton Oilers just prior to his 19th birthday, it seems Leon Draisaitl might be in tough to do the same thing at his center position this year.

According to a report from the Edmonton Journal, Draisaitl, the third overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, may have to consider a move from center to the wing in order to stick with the Oilers next season, with the additions of Connor McDavid and Mark Letestu down the middle in the last eight days.

“I’d be totally fine with that,” said Draisaitl, as per the Oilers website. “I’ve played the wing before… I know how to play the wing. For me, it wouldn’t really matter. As long as I’m on the team, for me, everything works I guess.”

Draisaitl, who turns 20 on Oct. 27, played 37 games for the Oilers last season, before he was dispatched back to the WHL in January. During his time in Edmonton, he scored twice and had nine points while averaging 12:41 of ice time playing in the middle.

The Oilers eventually burned through the first year of his entry-level contract, although former GM Craig MacTavish believed keeping Draisaitl in Edmonton for so long before sending him to junior was the right move in his development.