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Blue Line Buzz: Fire sale in Buffalo?

by | Rotowire.com
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The New York Rangers seem to be understanding the market for free agent defensemen this coming summer will not be teeming with top pairing talent. A team already embroiled in rumors about the uncertain future of its captain, right winger Ryan Callahan, took a step in locking up a team leader on Friday in defender Dan Girardi. Regarded as one of the stronger two-way defensemen in the league (although his game skews much more to the defensive side of the puck), Girardi inked a 6-year, $33 million dollar deal ($5.5 AAV) to avoid a potential trade of one of their top defenders on a team battling for a playoff berth.

This deal likely signals the end of Ryan Callahan in New York, at least walking as a UFA if he is not dealt before Wednesday's deadline as Callahan's financial demands exceed what the Rangers want to pay him. While the Rangers did lock up Girardi, they don't have many puck moving blue liners with having dealt Michael Del Zotto (nicknamed Del Zaster by Rangers fans) outside of the up-and-coming Ryan McDonagh. Girardi is a strong defender and will continue providing support in front of Henrik Lundqvist.

Fire sale?

Buffalo kicked off the trading frenzy with their sending of Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to St. Louis for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, Wayne Carrier and two future draft picks (a first in 2015 and third in 2016). Buffalo general manager Tim Murray played everything rather coy and cool on Sportsnet's Hockey Central radio program Friday at lunchtime and many believe Murray, nephew of Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray, is not done dealing. Two names, Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers, come to light for our purposes here.

Both players have offensive upsides and could use a change of scenery. Ehrhoff still has seven years left on his $40 million deal but boasts a heavy shot, several 40-point seasons and he was a member of Vancouver's 2011 Stanley Cup runner-up squad. Ehrhoff scored twice in Buffalo's win over Carolina on Tuesday and figures to bring a solid all-around game to a team that can use a top-four blue liner. He has five points in the last four games and has already given the Sabres a list of teams to whom he would accept a trade.

Tyler Myers is younger and gives Buffalo more of a building block, albeit one that has been woefully inconsistent since his breakout rookie season. Myers' minus-23 rating isn't exactly appealing to most teams, but some of that is a product of the Sabres. Who moves out of Buffalo is anyone's guess, but things were shaken up a bit on Saturday with the resignation of Pat LaFontaine shortly after he arrived in Buffalo; LaFontaine will return to his role within the NHL.

Both of these players can be worth looks in deeper leagues if you can get your hands on them.

Something rotten In Stockholm

Those who were examining the box scores of the Phoenix Coyotes in the team's first two games after the Olympic break will have noticed that Swedish dynamo Oliver Ekman-Larsson had three points in those two games. True, OEL has had some quiet stretches, but he remains one of the league's top options in terms of young, mobile scoring defensemen not named Erik Karlsson or P.K. Subban. In Sochi, Ekman-Larsson had a different experience with ice time, as Sweden coach Par Marts used OEL rather sparingly in the team's final four games, playing just 23:34 over that span; that total is without playing a shift in the semifinal victory over Finland. This came after he logged close to 35 minutes in the team's first two games. Rumors pointed to favoritism and grudges held within the Swedish federation and a rift between Marts and Ekman-Larsson as to why he was essentially benched. Those worried about how OEL would readapt after being so misued in Sochi will not have to, as the blue liner played 27:45 and 29:18 respectively.

He's back ... again

Eric Gelinas used the time over the Olympic break to ply his trade in the AHL with the Albany Devils, but he has since rejoined the Devils. New Jersey scored 10 goals in its first two games after Sochi and the young, productive defender has a power-play goal and two helpers over that span. He seems like he's here to stay, but the Devils and coach Peter DeBoer have demonstrated rash behavior with the youngster's ice time; Gelinas has 25 points in 46 games. He's been one of the league's most productive rookie blue liners and on a per-game basis, he's been one of the league's better blue liners in terms of production, not all-around play. It'll be interesting to see where he's projected to go next fall, as the Devils will need to move some veteran weight out of the way for the likes of Gelinas, John Merrill and Adam Larsson, if they ever decide to play him.

Random observations

-Columbus youngster David Savard had a goal and an assist in Saturday's win over Florida, but he has seen little production this season to warrant consideration. In the last 10 games, he has seen 38 total seconds of power play time. With the presence of James Wisniewski, Jack Johnson, Nikita Nikitin and Ryan Murray, Savard won't see many chances. He might see a slight uptick in ice time with Fedor Tyutin injured, but nothing much.

-Nick Holden still is seeing ice time with Colorado's top power play unit, grabbing an assist in one of the two games since the NHL has resumed. He logged 5:02 on the man-advantage in their loss to the Kings and then saw 2:54 on Friday in a win over Phoenix. He's skating with the likes of Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. He did have an eight-game scoring drought prior to the Olympic break, but Holden is worth a look in very deep leagues simply because of his position on the team's power play.

-Considering the injury to Paul Martin and the scary situation involving Kris Letang's stroke, rookie Olli Maatta will see an even larger opportunity to produce with the Penguins' elite forwards. After a strong Olympics with Finland and a two-point night against Montreal last Thursday, Maatta should figure much into the team's plans. Consider giving Matt Niskanen a look too in deep leagues.

-No one in the Eastern Conference seems to want to stake a claim to being the conference's best team. Boston has dropped games to Buffalo and Washington since Wednesday while the Penguins were embarrassed by Chicago in Saturday's Stadium Series tilt at Soldier Field. True, it was snowing rather heavily, but the Blackhawks managed. Pittsburgh's only goal came from Brent Seabrook putting the puck into his own net and Marc-Andre Fleury has allowed 10 goals on 69 shots in his two starts since the hiatus.

Video Clip of the Week

New Jersey iced its 5-2 win over Columbus on Thursday with a shorthanded goal in the dying seconds of the second period from Adam Henrique, making the score 4-2. Henrique beat Sergei Bobrovsky five-hole on the breakaway, but it was Patrik Elias who made the play happen after he stripped Jack Johnson of the puck with this tremendous lob pass.

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Player News
Justin Falk
Jackets' Falk Signs One-Year, Two-Way Deal
Justin Falk, D, CLB
1:10 PM
News: Justin Falk signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Blue Jackets on Friday, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: The 26-year-old appeared in 18 games for the Blue Jackets and Wild in 2014-15, tallying one goal, one assist and 14 penalty minutes. Justin Falk, who was acquired from Minnesota in early-March, will likely split time between the NHL and AHL again next season. "Justin is a good, young defenseman who was a solid addition to our hockey club late last season and we are pleased that he will continue to be a part of our group on the blue line next season," Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said.

Cody Goloubef
Jackets' Ink Goloubef To Two-Year Extension
Cody Goloubef, D, CLB
5/28/2015
News: Cody Goloubef signed a two-year, one-way contract extension with the Blue Jackets on Thursday, Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Cody Goloubef's role with the Blue Jackets in 2014 expanded largely beyond his two previous seasons. The blueliner dressed for 36 of the team's games, posting 23 shots on goal, nine points (all assists) and a plus-12 rating. Following the strong season, he'll likely enter 2015-16 on firmer footing, and could solidify a roster spot with the club in training camp.

Cedric Paquette
Bolts' Paquette Practices Again Thursday
Cedric Paquette, C, TB
5/28/2015
News: Cedric Paquette (hand) participated in Thursday's practice, Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Analysis: After injuring his hand in Game 5 of the series against the Rangers, Cedric Paquette was able to resume skating with the Bolts the morning of Tuesday's Game 6, but ultimately sat out the contest. With an extra day to recover from the ailment in advance of Friday's series finale, perhaps Paquette could be ready to draw back in.

Mats Zuccarello
Rangers' Zuccarello Practices Without Contact
Mats Zuccarello, RW, NYR
5/28/2015
News: Mats Zuccarello (upper body) briefly joined the Rangers during the non-contact portion of Thursday's practice, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: As soon as coach Alain Vigneault blew the whistle for the start of full-contact work, Mats Zuccarello left the ice, suggesting that he's not a candidate to play during Friday's Game 7 against the Lightning. Zuccarello could receive clearance to take contact in the coming days, and should have a decent shot at reentering the lineup in the Stanley Cup Finals if the Rangers are able to advance.

Nicklas Backstrom
Caps' Backstrom Undergoes Arthroscopic Hip Surgery
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
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News: Nicklas Backstrom underwent arthroscopic hip surgery Wednesday afternoon, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Analysis: The Capitals are optimistic that Nicklas Backstrom will make a full recovery and be back to 100 percent health by the start of the 2015-16 regular season. Backstrom didn't indicate during his exit interview following the second round of the playoffs that he had been nursing any sort of injury, but perhaps he elected to get out ahead of the hip issue before it became a recurring problem. Backstrom's recently completed season was a near mirror image of 2013-14, as he finished with the same goal total (18) and one fewer assist (60) while playing all 82 games for the second straight year.

Cam Fowler
Ducks' Fowler Continues Big Series
Cam Fowler, D, ANA
5/28/2015
News: Cam Fowler picked up an assist in his 23:37 of ice time in Wednesday's Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Cam Fowler has delivered a four-point series for the Ducks thus far, generating a goal and three helpers. Expect him to rank among the team leaders in minutes for Saturday's series-deciding Game 7 in Anaheim.

Patrick Maroon
Ducks' Maroon Nabs Power-Play Goal
Patrick Maroon, LW, ANA
5/28/2015
News: Patrick Maroon potted a power-play goal in Wednesday's Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Patrick Maroon has been outstanding all postseason for the Ducks, but he's really ratcheted up his production in the Western Conference Finals. Through six games, he's recorded three goals on 20 shot attempts, while also posting sizable hit totals on the defensive end.

Nate Thompson
Ducks' Thompson Credited With Assist In Game 6
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5/28/2015
News: Nate Thompson picked up an assist in Wednesday's Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Nate Thompson isn't typically one of Anaheim's more productive scorers, but he's been able to come away with a goal and four assists thus far in the series. Though it's been a nice run for the 30-year-old, his modest track record as a point producer suggests the Ducks shouldn't bank on him driving their offense in Saturday's Game 7.

Clayton Stoner
Stoner's Goal Not Enough In Ducks' Game 6 Loss
Clayton Stoner, D, ANA
5/28/2015
News: Clayton Stoner registered a third-period goal in Wednesday's Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Clayton Stoner's first goal of the postseason didn't come without controversy. Teammate Jakob Silfverberg appeared to run into goalie Corey Crawford's glove as Stoner was about to fire off a slap shot, but officials didn't call interference on the play. Nonetheless, the goal didn't affect the final outcome in what was a well-deserved Chicago victory. The series heads back to Anaheim on Saturday for Game 7.

Marian Hossa
Three-Game Point Streak For Hawks' Hossa
Marian Hossa, RW, CHI
5/28/2015
News: Marian Hossa notched a goal on one of his two shot attempts in Wednesday's Game 6 win over the Ducks.
Analysis: Marian Hossa has found twine just three times in the playoffs, but he's seen heavy involvement as an assist man to prop up his overall point totals. Wednesday's goal was his fourth point of the series, three of which have come in the last three games.

 
 
 
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