Monday, February 27, 2017

Weekend wrap: The calm before the... something

With two days left until the trade deadline, welcome to the calm before the storm.

Or, depending on who you ask, to the calm before even more calm. Stupid, boring calm.

A first half of the season that featured virtually no significant trades has given way to a deadline countdown that's seemed unusually quiet. In terms of the actual number of moves made, the month before this year's deadline has actually been about average. But while past seasons have included at least one big mid-season deal involving names like Seth Jones and Ryan Johansen last year or Evander Kane the year before, this time we made it to February with the biggest name on the move being a Nikita Nesterov or Nail Yakupov.

It's quiet. Maybe too quiet.

That’s one school of thought, at least. With league-wide parity leaving the buyer/seller picture hazy until the last few days, all the moves we'd normally expect to see during a season are being held back as long as possible. But we're out of time now, and it will take only one or two deals to establish the market and send all the dominoes toppling. We may even have seen those deals last night.

That's the theory, at least. It may be wishful thinking. It's possible we've hit the logical endpoint of the decade-long decline in big-name deadline dealing, and this is the season when most teams decide to sit out altogether. Maybe all this parity causes leaguewide paralysis. Maybe the sellers are just asking too much. Maybe a modern GM's job really is just too hard.

Or maybe we'll get some deals. Hopes were raised over the weekend, with a pair of contenders making moves on Friday. The Ducks landed Patrick Eaves from the Stars, while the Blackhawks picked up Tomas Jurco from Detroit. Neither move would qualify as anything approaching a blockbuster, but they felt like a start.

With apologies to Jeremy Morin, no other deals of any significance happened until Sunday night, when we got the two biggest trades of the season so far: Ben Bishop to the Kings, and Martin Hanzal to the Wild. Both deals raised eyebrows, although for different reasons. Bishop seems to fill a need that the Kings don't actually have, at least unless Jonathan Quick's health is still a bigger question mark than we think. And Hanzal came at a higher price than most of us figured the Coyotes would be able to get, which should make the league's other sellers happy.

All that leaves us with a little over 48 hours until the deadline clock strikes zero. So do Bishop and Hanzal signal that the league's GMs are finally, mercifully ready to get to work? Or did we just see the two biggest names who'll be dealt go off the board with days still left to go?

Road to the Cup

The five teams that look like they're headed towards Stanley Cup–favourite status.

5. New York Rangers (40-20-2, +41 true goals differential*): Whew, that was close — they moved up to third (and out of the much easier Atlantic Division playoff path) for a minute there.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins (38-14-8, +43): Mark my words, Ron Hainsey will play the best playoff hockey of his career in Pittsburgh.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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