There is exactly one month to go before the NHL wraps its schedule on April 5.
And it’s been five days since a fairly quiet trade deadline passed, after a flurry of deals pre-deadline.
New — and old — faces in new places have been slotted in and in some cases, these players have made an impact. While for others, not so much.
One of the biggest deals, involving superstar goalie Ben Bishop going to Los Angeles on Feb. 26, has had mixed results. The Kings, who have not played up to expectations this season, are still a point out of a playoff spot, despite having two of the best goaltenders in the league. Bishop, since being moved, has posted an OT loss (28 saves on 30 shots in a 2-1 loss to Calgary) and a 4-3 defeat to Vancouver Sunday (17 saves on 21 shots). So far, not so good.
There is still time for Bishop to make an impact, but that time is running short as the Kings have just 17 games left.
So, while Bishop scuffles a bit in his new uniform, we focus our attention on 17 players (some teams have multiple) who have been better for their new teams than their old ones, or who have played up to expectations.
12. Montreal Canadiens – Steve Ott, Dwight King And Jordie Benn
There was a lot of social media talk — most of it negative — how the Montreal Canadiens big, beefy acquisitions did nothing to address a pressing need. That is, scoring, which was noticeably absent in February, when they went 5-7-1, scoring just 22 goals in 13 games and getting shut out four times. Prior to the deadline, the Habs didn’t go for scoring, but rather shut down defence, acquiring Jordie Benn from Dallas on Feb. 27. He’s been better than advertised, scoring a goal in three games since (all wins), while blocking eight shots, posting a +1 and logging 16:36 average ice time. On deadline day, the Habs got Dwight King, a two-time Stanley Cup champ from Los Angeles for a conditional fourth rounder in 2018 and so far, he has used his big body to dish out seven hit in two games in a second line role. The most curious move Montreal made was trading for big pest Steve Ott (sending a 2018 sixth round pick to Detroit). But, he didn’t disappoint in his lone game so far, tying a season high with seven hits and garnering an assist in a 4-1 win over the Rangers Saturday.
11. Vancouver Canucks – Nikolay Goldobin
While the Vancouver Canucks weren’t in full “fire sale” mode at the trade deadline, they did move a couple of moderately priced veterans for two promising young forwards. One of the trades involved veteran right winger Jannik Hansen, who was shipped to San Jose for 21-year-old left winger Nikolay Goldobin and a conditional 2017 fourth round draft pick. The Sharks 27th overall pick in the 2014 draft had spent all of 11 games in the NHL with the Sharks the last two seasons, picking up a goal and an assist. Yet, in the minor leagues the Moscow native had scored 90 points (39 goals) in 115 games with the Worcester Sharks and San Jose Barracuda. Now on the Canucks third line with Brandon Sutter and Jayson Megna, Goldobin showed the Canucks it was worth the investment, firing the winner in a big 4-3 victory over Los Angeles on Saturday. Keep an eye on this kid.
10. Pittsburgh Penguins – Ron Hainsey And Mark Streit
It was a very curious bit of business the Penguins pulled off at the deadline, picking up Mark Streit from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a 2018 fourth-round pick. Considering the Penguins contentious relationship with Philadelphia, who had swapped him to Tampa the same day or winger Valtteri Filppula, it was like a three-way trade. At 39, he still has some gas left in the tank and has proved it, scoring a goal and an assist against the team that owned him for a few minutes (a 5-2 triumph against the Bolts last Friday) and logging an average 20 minutes of ice time in two games so far. About a week before the deadline, Pittsburgh got the ball rolling on a bit of a playoff re-vamp, picking up another veteran blueliner, Ron Hainsey, from Carolina for minor league forward Danny Kristo and a second rounder this year. He’s been paired with Streit the last two games and has been true to his new found status as a shut down man. In five games with the Pens, the 35-year-old has an assist, a +4 rating, 10 hits and 13 blocked shots while logging 22:30 average ice time.
9. Nashville Predators – Vern Fiddler
Much of the focus on the Predators at the deadline went to their trade for injured veteran forward P.A. Parenteau. They sent a 2017 sixth rounder to New Jersey for him and it may pay off yet. However, one less heralded deal, nearly a month before the deadline, may pay off bigger come the playoffs. About 15 years ago, the Predators took a chance on undrafted forward Vern Fiddler, signing him to a free agent contract. The two-way forward flip flopped between the Preds and the minor leagues, finally finding full-time employment in 2006-07. He would play 318 games with them, scoring 94 points. Stints with Dallas (366 games), Phoenix (147 games) and New Jersey (39 games this season) produced another 167 points. The Preds surrendered a 2017 fourth round pick to reacquire Fiddler on Feb. 4. Now, his stat line might say they overpaid (one goal in 13 games) but digging deeper there is value. Sure, he’s on the fourth line and playing just over 10 minutes per game, but, he has won 85 of 140 face-offs (60.7 percent), an invaluable asset come playoff time (where he is 54.2 percent proficient in 42 total games).
8. Boston Bruins – Drew Stafford
Two teams at the deadline, the Boston Bruins and Winnipeg Jets, were expected to be busier than they eventually made out. Winnipeg’s GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who was expected to try and sell off a few expensive assets from his middling hockey club, made only one trade, sending Drew Stafford and his $4.35 million cap hit to Boston for a conditional 2018 sixth rounder. Boston GM Don Sweeney, who had a few holes to fill for a possible playoff bound team (they are in third in the Atlantic Division with 74 points), didn’t wheel and deal until Stafford fell into his lap. So far, that future sixth rounder looks like it could be a small price to pay for the big 31-year-old’s veteran presence down the right side, where the B’s needed help. The Bruins sat out under-performing winger Jimmy Hayes and plugged Stafford in on a good third line with Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano. In his lone game so far, a big 3-2 win over New Jersey on Saturday, Stafford picked picked up a pass in the slot and instead of shooting, relayed another deft pass to Spooner, who fired the winner midway through the third period.
7. Philadelphia Flyers – Valtteri Filppula
The Flyers faint playoff hopes are still very much alive, but just barely. Before the deadline, a team in need of scoring (only four teams in the East have fewer goals than their 164) didn’t get busy trying to acquire a reliable playmaker or two, especially down the middle. Finally, at the deadline, Philly GM Ron Hextall pulled the trigger on a trade to bring in Tampa pivot Valtteri Filppula for aging defenceman Mark Streit. Filppula, who was having a decent season with the Bolts scoring seven goals and 27 assists in 59 games, looks like he could be a valuable asset down the road. With a Stanley Cup and two visits to the finals under his belt, Filppula brings considerable post-season experience. He has 79 points in 152 playoff games and is proficient at face-offs, winning 52 percent career in both the post and regular seasons. So far with Philly, Filppula has a goal in two games, his marker coming in a 2-1 shootout win over Florida on Mar. 2.
6. Calgary Flames – Michael Stone
Barring a complete collapse, the Flames have a strangle hold on the first wild card spot in the West and should make the playoffs. GM Brad Treliving was fairly busy deadline day, getting Curtis Lazar from Ottawa in a four-player swap, but his most significant trade happened on Feb. 20, when he rescued reliable two-way defenceman Michael Stone from the horrible Arizona Coyotes for pair mid-round picks in the 2018 draft. Stone, who had 96 points in 324 games in the desert, also logged over two hits per game average (695) and nearly two blocked shots (630). Stone also hit the ice for just under 20 minutes per game and is enjoying nearly the same amount on the second pair with T.J. Brodie. Stone has been blessed, too, by winning in Cowtown, as the Flames have won every game he’s played since he was acquired (seven in a row). In those seven contests, he has two assists, a +3, 10 hits and 11 blocked shots.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets – Kyle Quincey
That 16-game winning streak is a long way off in the rearview mirror and for the Blue Jackets, who played some mediocre hockey after it, they have gotten themselves back to being a serious contender. They have won six of their last nine games, including big victories over Pittsburgh, the Rangers and Minnesota Wild. One small deal they made at the deadline may pay huge dividends in the playoffs, where they will be headed. The Jackets traded little used depth defenceman Dalton Prout to New Jersey for veteran shut down man Kyle Quincey. Along with his 551 regular season games of experience (152 points, 719 hits, 714 blocked shots), Quincey has 54 games of playoff experience. His numbers aren’t huge there (eight assists), but he’s never been a big scorer.
4. New York Rangers – Brendan Smith
Just two games in, defenceman Brendan Smith is already on New York’s top pair. That’s good news, as the Rangers paid a fairly high price — a 2017 third round pick and a 2018 second rounder — to get him from the Detroit Red Wings. As Ryan McDonagh’s wing man, the 28-year-old defender will be replied upon to be the more defensively reliable one and so far he’s done a good job of it. A veteran of 291 games with Detroit (67 points), Smith has seen his ice time increased on the Blueshirts, from an average of 18:44 with the Wings to 22:16 in two games. He is a +2 in those games (one win over Boston and a loss to Montreal) and has two hits and four blocked shots. While his post-season resume is limited, Smith brings 27 games of experience to the upcoming big dance.
3. Minnesota Wild – Martin Hanzal And Ryan White
Funny that four games into their new lives as Minnesota Wild, Ryan White has as many points (3) as Martin Hanzal and more goals (2-0). No matter, the Wild beefed up for what they hope is a long playoff run by trading for the offensively gifted Hanzal (313 points in 608 games) and the abrasive White (61 points in 298 games, 433 PIM). The Wild, currently in top spot in the Western Conference with 90 points and second overall in the NHL behind Washington, adding significantly to the NHL’s second best offence (212 goals for). It’s a testament to the Wild’s depth that Hanzal is centering the third line with Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle, while White has been a scoring boon to the fourth line with Erik Haula and Jason Pominville. Look for the Wild to make a big push in April.
2. Anaheim Ducks – Patrick Eaves
A week prior to the deadline, the low-scoring Ducks had 161 goals, which was fifth worst in the Western Conference. They have balanced out their scoring this season, but having just one guy over the 20-goal mark (Rickard Rakell now has a team leading 26) they needed a shooter. Enter Patrick Eaves, who the Stars were looking to unload. For the price of a conditional second round pick in this year’s entry draft, Eaves was brought in. The long-time veteran was having a career year already, eclipsing his previous high of 32 points (way back in 2006-07), with 21 goals and 16 assists. He’s been as advertised skating on the second line with Ryan Getzlaf and Ondrej Kase, firing two goals in three games. The Ducks hold down third in the Pacific Division with 76 points and will need his renewed offence the rest of the way.
1. Ottawa Senators – Alexandre Burrows And Viktor Stalberg
The Ottawa Senators raised a few eyebrows — not in a good way — two days prior to the deadline, when they traded promising Swedish center Jonathan Dahlen for fading veteran pest Alexandre Burrows of the Vancouver Canucks. With the fifth worst offence in the Eastern Conference and a tenuous hold on second place in the Atlantic Division, many expected the Sens to go big for some scoring. Well, the early returns on Burrows first two games in the nation’s capital are glowing. Burrows scored both goals in a 2-1 victory over Colorado in his first game and has since been elevated to the top line with Derick Brassard and Mark Stone. In a less heralded move on deadline day, Ottawa picked up speedster Viktor Stalberg from Carolina for a third round (2017) selection. A penalty killing specialist (he has to PK goals this year), Stalberg scored his 10th of the season for the Sens in a huge 3-2 triumph over Columbus on Saturday. The Sens are now very deep up front and could raise a few eyebrows in the playoffs — in a good way.