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.
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.
-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.