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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
Erik Condra
Sens' Condra Expected To Practice Tuesday
Erik Condra, RW, OTT
11:37 AM
News: Erik Condra (undisclosed) is expected to return to practice Tuesday, Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen reports.
Analysis: Erik Condra hasn't skated with the team the previous five days, but was able to work out on his own Sunday, signaling a forthcoming return.

Milan Michalek
Sens' Michalek Returns To Practice
Milan Michalek, LW, OTT
11:35 AM
News: Milan Michalek (hip flexor) returned to practice Monday, Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen reports.
Analysis: Milan Michalek was off the ice over the weekend after sustaining the hip injury in an earlier practice, but he appears in the clear for the remainder of the Senators' exhibition schedule. The Senators expect to deploy Michalek on their second line this season.

Matt Bartkowski
Bruins Could Move Bartkowski
Matt Bartkowski, D, BOS
11:34 AM
News: Matt Bartkowski remains a candidate to be traded by the Bruins, the Boston Globe reports.
Analysis: Adam McQuaid is another player that the Bruins could move to free up some salary cap room, but with Torey Krug and Reilly Smith now back in the fold on team-friendly deals, it looks like Johnny Boychuk (and his $3,366,667 contract) will be retained by the Bruins.

Ruslan Fedotenko
Devils Release Fedotenko From PTO
Ruslan Fedotenko, LW, NJ
11:32 AM
News: Ruslan Fedotenko was released from his professional tryout contract with the Devils on Tuesday, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.
Analysis: The biggest impact Ruslan Fedotenko might have made in camp was injuring young defenseman Jon Merrill in an accidental collision, but the 35-year-old was otherwise quiet for the Devils in the preseason. He'll likely return to KHL club Donbass HC, with whom he has two years remaining on a three-year, $9 million contract.

Craig Cunningham
Bruins' Cunningham Battles For Roster Spot
Craig Cunningham, LW, BOS
11:30 AM
News: Craig Cunningham is among the forwards battling for a roster spot as the regular season approaches, the Bruins' official site reports.
Analysis: He's jostling with the likes of Simon Gagne, Matt Fraser, Jordan Caron and Bobby Robins for a spot up front, but if Gregory Campbell is unavailable to start the regular season, it's possible that Craig Cunningham could center the Bruins' fourth line out of the gate.

Tomas Kaberle
Devils Release Kaberle From PTO
Tomas Kaberle, D, NJ
11:29 AM
News: Tomas Kaberle was released from his professional tryout contract with the Devils on Tuesday, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.
Analysis: After playing last season in the Czech Republic, the 36-year-old Tomas Kaberle was hoping for one last tour of NHL tour, but after he was cut by the Devils, he may be resigned to ending his career in his home country. The one-time 60-point scorer last appeared in the NHL in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, skating in 10 games for the Habs.

Tomas Hertl
Sharks' Hertl Slated To Serve As Third-Line LW
Tomas Hertl, C, SJ
11:24 AM
News: Tomas Hertl is set to assume a top-line role at left wing to begin the season, Kevin Kurz of CSNBayArea.com reports.
Analysis: After his brilliant rookie season was interrupted by a knee injury, Tomas Hertl will face high expectations regarding what he may be capable of producing during a campaign in which he stays healthy. His point total of 15 goals and 10 assists over 37 games as a rookie would prorate to 33 and 22, respectively, over an 82-game schedule. And if he does in fact stick on the line next to Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski throughout the season, the scoring upside could be even greater than 55 points.

Carl Soderberg
Bruins' Soderberg Centers Third Line
Carl Soderberg, C, BOS
11:24 AM
News: Carl Soderberg is projected to center a line featuring Chris Kelly and Matt Fraser on Tuesday against the Islanders, the Bruins' official site reports.
Analysis: It's a trio that could remain in place to start the season, thanks to Fraser's strong preseason. In any case, the 6-3 Carl Soderberg, who recorded 48 points in 73 games with the Bruins last season, is a candidate to see an uptick in production, while opening the season at his preferred position (center) and with a power-play role on tap.

Loui Eriksson
Bruins' Eriksson Set To Face Islanders
Loui Eriksson, LW, BOS
11:15 AM
News: Loui Eriksson is projected to work on a line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci on Tuesday against the Islanders, the Bruins' official site reports.
Analysis: With Lucic back in action, the Bruins' top line is taking shape, with Loui Eriksson on track to fill the void created by the offseason departure of Jarome Iginla. While Eriksson is not the goal-scorer that Iginla is, he is a skilled two-way winger who should mesh well with Krejci and Lucic, with an uptick in production a likely outcome for the 29-year-old Swede. Eriksson notched 37 points in 61 games for the Bruins in 2013-14.

Petri Kontiola
Leafs Assign Kontiola To Minors
Petri Kontiola, C, TOR
11:00 AM
News: Petri Kontiola was assigned to AHL Toronto on Monday, Matt Brown of Sportsnet 590 The FAN reports.
Analysis: Signed in early July out of the KHL, Petri Kontiola entered camp as a presumed favorite to nail a center job on one of the Leafs' four lines, but the 29-year-old struggled mightily in exhibitions. The Leafs tried to jumpstart his production by trying him out with multiple different linemates, but nothing seemed to click for Kontiola, who will now have to prove his worth in the minors. Peter Holland or Mike Santorelli are now in line to battle for the third-line center gig.

 
 
 
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