A look back at the biggest games and emerging story lines of the NHL weekend.
Theme of the Week: The Trade Market Wakes Up
We’re now two weeks away from the NHL’s trade deadline, and last week brought us the season’s first major deal. While we’re unlikely to see any moves over the next two weeks that rival that Jets/Sabres blockbuster in terms of size and scope, it stood to reason that the transaction page would start getting busy any day now.
“Any day” turned out to be yesterday, when we got our second major deal of the week: the Predators loading up for their playoff run by adding veterans Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli from the Maple Leafs. Both players will be unrestricted free agents in a few months, although either or both could re-sign with Nashville before the offseason. Franson is the main prize, a big right-handed defenseman with decent offensive numbers, while Santorelli is a depth forward enjoying a nice comeback season on a cheap deal.
In return, the Leafs got the Predators’ first-round pick, along with prospect Brendan Leipsic. Neither represents a sure thing, but they’re two decent future assets for a team that doesn’t have many to work with. The deal also signals that the Leafs are serious about finally starting a full-scale rebuild.
Who wins? That’s the beauty of these sorts of short-term rental deals. We get to hem and haw about it now, wait until we see how the season turns out, and then retroactively revise our opinions. If the Predators win the Cup, or at least come close, then they win big. If the Leafs … well, nothing good will ever happen to the Leafs, so we don’t have to worry about that.
We’ll do a more in-depth deadline preview in the days leading up to March 2, but this week, let’s spend a little time sorting out the buyers from the sellers.
Cup Watch: The League’s Five Best
The five teams that seem most likely to earn the league’s top prize: the Stanley Cup.
5. Chicago Blackhawks (35-18-4, plus-41 goals differential) The Hawks return to our list, largely based on the horrible things they did to Marc-Andre Fleury in yesterday’s shootout. That stuff will help them in the playoffs, right?
4. New York Islanders (37-18-1, plus-23) Tonight’s game against the Rangers is a first-round preview, because we’ve all agreed to make these teams play in the first round whether or not the standings say they should.