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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
Sergei Bobrovsky
Jackets' Bobrovsky Makes 39 Saves In Win
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, CLB
2:27 AM
News: Sergei Bobrovsky was outstanding Saturday against Chicago, stopping 39 of 41 shots in regulation, before denying eight of nine Blackhawks' shooters in the shootout for a 3-2 victory.
Analysis: After allowing five goals in a loss to Washington Thursday, Sergei Bobrovsky got right back on track Saturday, shutting down a Blackhawks team that had won 10 of their last 11 games. The 26-year-old has now won eight of his last nine game, with Thursday's loss to Washington marking the only time in December the Russian has allowed more than three goals in a game. He's an automatic roll every night he gets the call.

Corey Crawford
Hawks' Crawford Suffers Loss In Return To Action
Corey Crawford, G, CHI
2:13 AM
News: Corey Crawford returned to action Saturday, stopping 17 of 19 shots in regulation, before losing in a shootout to the Blue Jackets.
Analysis: It wasn't a bad outing for Corey Crawford, who stood out in the shootout, allowing only two goals on nine attempts. The 29-year-old is now 12-5-2 on the season with a .927 save percentage and 1.87 GAA. Now that he's healthy, Crawford needs to be in your lineup every night he's in action, as the Blackhawks are one of the league's best teams, sitting second in the Western Conference with 46 points.

Derick Brassard
Rangers' Brassard Will Play Saturday
Derick Brassard, C, NYR
12:52 AM
News: Derick Brassard (illness) will play Saturday against the Hurricanes, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: Coach Alain Vigneault signed off on Derick Brassard's return after he was able to take part in the team's morning skate. The center missed the Rangers' last two contests with the mumps virus.

Ryan Carter
Wild Activate Carter (Upper Body)
Ryan Carter, C, MIN
12:50 AM
News: Ryan Carter (upper body) was activated from injured reserve Saturday, Rachel Blount of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: After missing the Wild's previous three games, Ryan Carter was cleared to return after practicing Friday. He'll be reinserted on the fourth line for Saturday's game against the Predators.

Jonathan Quick
Kings Tap Quick For Saturday Start
Jonathan Quick, G, LA
12:48 AM
News: Jonathan Quick led the Kings on to the ice for pregame warmups and will thus get the start Saturday against the Coyotes, Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
Analysis: Jonathan Quick will likely be a heavy favorite to come away with the victory against a Coyotes squad that has lost eight of its last 10 games, with its lone two wins during that stretch coming against the sad-sack Oilers. The netminder hasn't been particularly sharp lately, so this should represent a good bounce-back opportunity for him.

Matt Cooke
Wild's Cooke (Hip) Activated For Saturday's Game
Matt Cooke, LW, MIN
12:44 AM
News: Matt Cooke (hip) was activated from injured reserve Saturday and will suit up against the Predators, Rachel Blount of the Minneapolis Stat Tribune reports.
Analysis: He'll replace Justin Fontaine in the lineup, joining Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter on the Wild's third line. Matt Cooke last played on Oct. 28 before missing the last 22 games with a hip flexor.

Jonas Hiller
Flames To Start Hiller Saturday
Jonas Hiller, G, CGY
12:31 AM
News: Jonas Hiller will get the start in net Saturday, Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald reports.
Analysis: Jonas Hiller and the Flames have hit the skids in December, as Calgary has lost seven straight and Hiller has lost six in a row. Until they right the ship, Hiller should be avoided, especially with his mates giving him a grand total of four goals combined in his last four outings.

Jake Allen
Allen, Blues Looking For Road Victory
Jake Allen, G, STL
12:16 AM
News: Jake Allen will be between the pipes Saturday against the Sharks, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Things have started to turn ugly for Jake Allen here in December, despite the fact that he's won each of his last three starts. He's posted a horrid .884 save percentage in five outings this month, which has resulted in him yielding more work to Martin Brodeur than anticipated. Still, with a powerful offense and strong defense supporting him, the wins should keep coming rather steadily for the struggling netminder.

Antti Niemi
Sharks' Niemi To Take Aim At Seventh Straight Win
Antti Niemi, G, SJ
12:13 AM
News: Antti Niemi will be between the pipes Saturday night against the Blues, Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area reports.
Analysis: Antti Niemi will take aim at his seventh straight victory Saturday, though he hasn't been as consistently sharp as the winning streak would suggest. During that stretch, he's surrendered three goals or more on three occasions, but did manage to capture his second shutout of the season. He'll have his work cut out for him against the Blues, who rank sixth in the NHL in goals and fifth in shot attempts per game.

Robin Lehner
Sens' Lehner: 25 Saves In Loss
Robin Lehner, G, OTT
12/20/2014
News: Robin Lehner made 25 saves Saturday in a 4-1 loss to Montreal.
Analysis: He generally held up his side of the bargain, but his teammates didn't -- they barely mustered a chance on two power plays in the third. He is 1-2-1 in his last four starts. As good as he is, he cannot carry a team (yet). Don't take the bait -- keep him benched.

 
 
 
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