SPECTOR’S NOTE: A fixture in the NHL rumor mill stretching back to last season, Chychrun is finally on the move. The Senators were frequently linked to the 24-year-old blueliner but recent reports out of Ottawa claimed they were put off by the Coyotes’ rumored high asking price of two first-round picks and a high-end prospect.
Arizona Coyotes trade defenseman Jakob Chychrun to the Ottawa Senators (NHL Images).
Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong appears to have been a little more flexible with his asking price. As per Cap Friendly, the 2023 first-rounder is top-five protected. If the condition is met, it becomes a 2024 unprotected first-round pick.
The second-rounder in 2024 is the one the Senators received from the Washington Capitals last July in the Connor Brown trade. It becomes a first-round selection (top-10 protected) if the Senators reach the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals. If the pick is in the top 10, the Coyotes will receive the Senators’ 2025 first-round pick (unprotected).
A skilled puck-moving blueliner who can play big minutes, Chychrun is signed through 2024-25 with an average annual value of $4.6 million. He will provide a significant boost to the Senators’ defense corps. Chychrun usually plays left defense but Thomas Chabot and Jake Sanderson skate in those roles among their top four. He will likely start on the right side on their top pairing.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gostisbehere will provide an additional measure of experienced offensive depth on the blueline for the Hurricanes. He tallied 51 points in 82 games last season with the offensively anemic Coyotes and has 31 points in 52 games this season.
Another defenseman changing teams is Filip Hronek as he’s shipped by the Detroit Red Wings along with a 2023 fourth-round pick to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a conditional first-round pick in 2023 and a second-round pick in 2023.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman has become a seller after his club’s current three-game losing skid stalled their efforts to move into a wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference. The conditional first is the pick the Canucks received from the New York Islanders in the Bo Horvat trade. If that pick ends up in the top-12 it becomes an unprotected 2024 first-rounder.
The Canucks paid a lot for Hronek but they’ve been in dire need of a top-four right-side defenseman for some time. The 25-year-old Czech rearguard is enjoying his best season to date, having already matched last season’s career-high points total. Hronek’s offensive abilities will help to take some pressure off Quinn Hughes on Vancouver’s blueline.
The Washington Capitals made their fourth trade in less than a week by dealing center Lars Eller to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for a second-round pick in 2025. The Capitals also retained $1.085 million of Eller’s $3.5 million cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eller, 33, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. With the Capitals retooling their roster for next season, he no longer had a future in Washington.
The Avalanche were in the market for a second-line center this season. However, they appear comfortable with J.T. Compher in that role. Eller will instead slot into the third or fourth-line center position for the Avs. His two-way skills and Stanley Cup experience should make him a worthwhile addition as the Avalanche prepare to defend their Cup title.
A hat-trick performance for Patrick Kane while Jonathan Toews steps away for health reasons, the Senators ship Tyler Motte to the Rangers, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: A hat trick by Patrick Kane powered the Chicago Blackhawks to a 5-3 upset of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kane also collected an assist as he and Max Domi each finished the game with four points as the Blackhawks improved to 18-32-5 on the season. John Tavares and Mitch Marner were among the scorers for the Leafs (34-15-8) as they sit in second place in the Atlantic Division with 76 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane received a standing ovation from the fans at Chicago’s United Center as there is a sense that game could be among his last in a Blackhawks jersey. He could be playing for another club by the March 3 trade deadline.
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews (NHL Images).
Before the game, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews released a statement indicating he was stepping away from the team as he deals with the effects of long COVID and chronic immune response syndrome which sidelined him for the entire 2020-21 season. He’s been sidelined since Jan. 28 but indicated he’d been struggling with symptoms for several weeks.
Toews’ condition effectively ends any talk of the Blackhawks shopping him before the March 3 trade deadline. General manager Kyle Davidson said the team will do all it can to help their captain regain his health and perhaps return to action at some point before the end of the season.
The Colorado Avalanche overcame a 5-3 deficit to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 on an overtime goal by Mikko Rantanen. J.T. Compher had a goal and three assists while Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists as the 31-19-5 Avalanche (67 points) moved to within two points of the second-place Winnipeg Jets in the Central Division. Warren Foegele tallied twice for the Oilers (30-19-8) hold the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference with 68 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar missed this game with an upper-body injury after taking incidental contact to the head during Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Blues. It was his first game after being sidelined since Feb. 7 with a similar injury. The Avs also announced that defenseman Erik Johnson will be sidelined for multiple weeks recovering from a broken ankle.
The Oilers played with Evander Kane as the winger is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Speaking of the Jets, they dropped a 4-2 decision to the New Jersey Devils. Dawson Mercer scored two goals as the Devils improved to 37-14-5 (79 points) to move within three points of the first-place Carolina Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division. Mark Scheifele and Neil Pionk each had two points for the Jets (34-21-1) as they remain three points behind the first-place Dallas Stars in the Central Division with 69 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers left the game with an undisclosed injury in the third period.
The Minnesota Wild nipped the Nashville Predators 4-3 on a goal by Ryan Hartman with 21 seconds remaining in the third period. Kirill Kaprizov scored twice as the Wild (30-21-5) sit in the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference with 65 points. Tommy Novak had a goal and two assists for the 26-22-6 Predators (58 points) as they sit seven points behind the Wild.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators announced they will be unveiling a statue of Pekka Rinne on March 10 outside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Rinne spent his entire NHL career with the Predators and is the only player on the team to have his number retired.
Ottawa Senators forwards Tim Stutzle, Brady Tkachuk and Alex DeBrincat each had three points to thump the St. Louis Blues 7-2. With 58 points, the Senators (27-24-4) are five points behind the New York Islanders, who hold the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot. The Blues dropped to 26-27-3 on the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blues forward Jake Neighbours suffered an upper-body injury in the first period of this game. Head coach Craig Berube believes Neighbours will be sidelined for a while.
An overtime goal by Barrett Hayton lifted the Arizona Coyotes to a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Connor Ingram made 34 saves as the Coyotes (20-28-4) have gone 5-0-4 in their last nine games. The Blue Jackets slipped to 18-34-5 as Johnny Gaudreau missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shayne Gostisbehere returned to the Coyotes lineup for the first time since being sidelined on Jan. 24.
IN OTHER NEWS…
TSN: Prior to yesterday’s game against the Blues, the Ottawa Senators traded left wing Tyler Motte to the New York Rangers in exchange for right wing Julien Gauthier and a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2023 draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Motte returns to the Rangers after spending part of last season with the Blueshirts.
The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch speculates Gauthier could be a potential replacement for winger Austin Watson if he’s moved at the March 3 trade deadline. The Athletic’s Arthur Staple believes the Rangers have sufficient salary-cap space to add a fourth-line center at the trade deadline.
Speaking of the Senators, Garrioch also reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the sale price of the franchise could reach $1 billion. Former owner Eugene Melnyk bought the franchise 20 years ago for $130 million.
More than 15 groups were granted permission to review the Senators’ financial statements and a copy of the memorandum of understanding with the National Capital Commission for a new rink at LeBreton Flats.
SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Sharks winger Timo Meier is questionable for today’s game against the Seattle Kraken with an upper-body injury.
The Maple Leafs acquire Ryan O’Reilly in a three-team trade, Connor McDavid reaches the 100-point plateau again, Patrick Kane reaches a scoring milestone, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
MAPLE LEAFS ACQUIRE RYAN O’REILLY
NHL.COM: The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues in a three-team trade involving the Minnesota Wild.
“The Blues received the rights to forward prospectJosh Pillar from the Wild for O’Reilly, then traded him and Acciari to the Maple Leafs for Toronto’s first-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, the Ottawa Senators’ third-round pick this year, Toronto’s second-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft, and forwards Mikhail Abramov and Adam Gaudette.
Minnesota received Toronto’s fourth-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft.”
CAP FRIENDLY: The Blues retained 50 percent of O’Reilly’s $7.5 million cap hit with the Wild and Leafs each taking on 25 percent.
The St. Louis Blues ship Ryan O’Reilly to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a three-team trade (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of the previous moves made by Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas leading up to the annual trade deadline, this one is the biggest. O’Reilly was among this season’s top trade candidates. The 32-year-old center is a former winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy the Selke Trophy and the Lady Byng Trophy. He is considered among the league’s elite two-way forwards despite the decline in his production this season and a broken foot that sidelined him for nearly six weeks.
I admire the creativity of Dubas and his capologist in finding a way to land a notable player despite carrying limited cap space. It’s the second time he’s gone the three-team trade route, with his previous effort being the 2021 acquisition of Nick Foligno.
Leafs fans will be hoping that the O’Reilly deal has better results than the Foligno trade. So will Dubas, whose future as Leafs GM could be determined by his club’s performance over the remainder of this season and in the playoffs.
O’Reilly should help the Leafs at both ends of the rink. Acciari, meanwhile, is a good bottom-six winger who should help their penalty kill. However, I remain concerned about their blueline and goaltending depth in their quest to get over the postseason hump.
The Blues roster rebuild (retool?) continues just over a week after they shipped Vladimir Taransenko to the New York Rangers. They now have three first-round picks and two third-rounders in this year’s draft as well as two second-round selections and two fourth-rounders in the 2024 draft. The Blues also receive a veteran depth forward in Gaudette for the rest of this season plus a young center in Abramov who might have a future in St. Louis.
Wild GM Bill Guerin used his cap space to buy himself a fourth-round pick. He still has over $12.8 million in projected trade deadline cap room to make other deals before the March 3 deadline.
NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid collected two assists to become the first player this season to reach 100 points in a 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Rangers. Alexis Lafreniere tallied the game-winner and Chris Kreider scored twice in regulation as the Rangers overcame a 4-1 deficit. Winners of seven straight, the Rangers (33-14-8) sit one point behind the second-place New Jersey Devils in the Metropolitan Division with 74 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid has now reached the 100-point mark six times in eight years. It’s also the fifth time he’s been the first player in a season to reach that plateau, sitting behind Mario Lemieux and Phil Esposito (six teams each) and Wayne Gretzky (nine times).
The Oilers activated winger Kailer Yamamoto off injured reserve. Rather than trade or waive Jesse Puljujarvi as many observers anticipated to make room for Yamamoto, they instead loaned Dylan Holloway and Vincent Desharnais to their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield.
Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane scored two goals as his club rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Ottawa Senators 4-3 on an overtime goal by Andreas Athanasiou. Max Domi and Jake McCabe each had two assists for the 17-32-5 Blackhawks. Brady Tkachuk and Claude Giroux scored for the Senators (26-24-4) as they sit seven points behind the New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 56 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane moved into third place among American-born NHL players with 1,217 points. He’s now 15 points behind Phil Housley for second overall but he has a long way to go yet to catch Mike Modano, who is 157 points ahead with 1,374.
Before the game, former Senator Chris Neil was honored by having his number 25 raised to the rafters in the Canadian Tire Centre. Neil is the third player in modern Senators history to have his number retired, joining Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Phillips.
Speaking of the Islanders, they overcame a 4-3 deficit on third-period goals by Brock Nelson and Zach Parise to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4. Ilya Sorokin kicked out 40 shots while Nelson and Anders Lee each scored two goals as the Islanders (28-23-7) vaulted over the Washington Capitals into the final Eastern wild-card spot with 63 points. Rickard Rakell tallied twice for the Penguins (27-18-9), who also have 63 points but sit in the first wild-card berth with four games in hand over the Isles.
The Minnesota Wild dimmed the Dallas Stars 2-1 on shootout goals by Frederick Gaudreau and Matt Boldy. Filip Gustavsson stopped 29 shots while Mats Zuccarello scored in regulation for the 29-21-5 Wild as they hold a two-point lead over the Calgary Flames for the final Western Conference wild-card berth with 63 points. Jamie Benn scored in regulation for the Stars (30-14-12) as they remain on top of the Western Conference with 72 points.
IN OTHER NEWS…
CALGARY HOCKEY NOW: Flames winger Jonathan Huberdeau said critical comments made on Twitter by his agent aimed at the club’s recent struggles didn’t represent his opinion about the club or head coach Darryl Sutter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Huberdeau’s agent is Allan Walsh, who created a stir during the 2020 playoffs with a tweet insinuating that client Marc-Andre Fleury was being stabbed in the back by head coach Peter DeBoer. Fleury was the starting goalie for the Vegas Golden Knights while DeBoer was their head coach.
SPORTSNET: The Toronto Maple Leafs moved goaltender Matt Murray to long-term injury reserve following the acquisition of Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari. Once third-string goaltender Joseph Woll is ready to return to the AHL, the Leafs will have enough room to activate Murray and his $4.6 million salary when he’s healthy again.
THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks placed winger Tanner Pearson on LTIR with a season-ending hand injury suffered on Nov. 9.
GOPHNX.COM’s Craig Morgan tweeted that Arizona Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny said defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere could return to the lineup on Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Gostisbehere’s been sidelined since Jan. 24 with an upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gostisbehere’s return will be watched closely by playoff contenders seeking an experienced puck-moving defenseman.
NJ.COM’s Ryan Novozinsky tweeted that the Devils sending Alexander Holtz to their AHL affiliate to the minors isn’t in anticipation of a trade but to give the young forward some game play.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtz has only appeared in 19 games this season and doesn’t see much ice time when he does play. I’ve mentioned him as a possible trade chip if they intend to pursue a notable winger such as San Jose’s Timo Meier at the trade deadline.
THE ATHLETIC: Nashville Predators 2021 first-round pick Zachary L’Heureux received a 10-game suspension by the QMJHL for poking at a fan with a stick following a Feb. 8 game.
Can the Rangers afford to acquire Timo Meier? What’s the latest on the Leafs, Hurricanes, Coyotes and Stars? Is Jakub Vrana done with the Red Wings? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
MEIER COULD BE TOO EXPENSIVE FOR THE RANGERS
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks remains doubtful about the rumors linking the Rangers to San Jose Sharks winger Timo Meier. He pointed out they’ll have $16.76 million in cap space next season “to add six forwards, two defensemen and a backup goaltender.” That includes new contracts for restricted free agents K’Andre Miller, Filip Chytil and Alexis Lafreniere.
“But they are supposed to have interest in trading for Timo Meier and his $10 million qualifying offer. Where are the laughing-crying emojis when you need them?”
San Jose Sharks winger Timo Meier (NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless the Rangers are giving up one of those RFAs in return for Meier, I also don’t them being a serious suitor for Meier. Even then, the cost of re-signing him would still bite deeply into their remaining cap space.
I expect the Rangers will be shopping at this year’s trade deadline but it’ll be for the more affordable fare. Brooks advocates pursuing someone like the Nashville Predators’ Tanner Jeannot, though we don’t know if Predators general manager David Poile is a seller at this year’s deadline or if Jeannot would be among those he’d be willing to part with by March 3.
NO BIG DEADLINE MOVES FOR THE LEAFS?
SPORTSNET: In his latest mailbag segment, Luke Fox was asked what realistic moves we can expect of the Toronto Maple Leafs ahead of the March 3 trade deadline.
Johnson believes acquiring one of those three will make the Hurricanes a Stanley Cup contender. He believes Larkin is the best of that trio right now.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Larkin’s come up more frequently in recent trade speculation because he and the Red Wings haven’t yet reached an agreement on a contract extension. He’d definitely be a significant addition to the Hurricanes or any other club. However, I still believe Larkin and the Wings will get a deal done.
As for Toews and O’Reilly, the Hurricanes have the cap room and the depth in young players to make a tempting offer for either guy. However, they usually don’t pursue big-ticket rental players at the trade deadline. It’ll be interesting to see if they change that pattern this year.
LATEST ON THE COYOTES
GOPHNX.COM: Craig Morgan recently looked at the Arizona Coyotes’ potential trade candidates ahead of deadline day. He indicated Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong isn’t wavering from his asking price of two first-round picks and a second-round pick (or the equivalent of that in a prospect) for Jakob Chychrun, who continues to be linked to the Los Angeles Kings.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Armstrong’s asking price could lead to Chychrun’s trade situation carrying over into the offseason. However, his impressive performance this season makes him a far more tempting trade target than he was last season when he was battling injuries and adjusting to a new head coach.
Morgan anticipates the sidelined Shayne Gostisbehere’s affordable remaining salary could make him easy to move to a contender seeking help on the power play. He doesn’t rule out the possibility of goaltender Karel Vejmelka getting moved but doubts Armstrong would accept a second-rounder for him. Vejmelka’s lack of a playoff resume is a concern. Morgan also noted there’s plenty of interest in center Nick Bjugstad and speculates he could fetch a second or third-round pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m still skeptical that the Coyotes will trade Vejmelka but I won’t rule it out if Armstrong got an offer of a first-round pick for him.
UPDATE ON THE STARS
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill intends to be patient as the trade deadline approaches. He’s willing to add to his roster but not at any price plus he has limited salary-cap space to work with. The Stars also lack a first-round pick to use as trade currency as Nill shipped that to the Rangers for Nils Lundqvist in September.
LeBrun doesn’t see Nill pursuing a big-ticket trade candidate such as San Jose’s Timo Meier. Thanks to their strong core, the Stars GM could prefer a rental player if the cost isn’t crazy.
LeBrun’s colleague Saad Yousuf recently listed the Stars’ potential trade bait. Winger Denis Gurianov is the most popular name but his trade value is low right now. He could be a candidate for a “one-for-one” swap for a player in a comparable situation.
Forward Radek Faksa and goaltender Anton Khudobin are other trade options. Yousef believes their biggest need is for a middle-six forward for their third line.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars are riding high in the Western Conference right now. Nill could surprise us with a major deadline move but I think he’s instead looking at tweaking his roster.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James reports the Wings are still evaluating Vrana’s play with their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. She noted they signaled their willingness to part with the 26-year-old winger when they placed him on waivers but couldn’t find any takers. Any improvement in his game, however, could change things ahead of the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings gave up Anthony Mantha to get Vrana at the 2021 trade deadline. They’re unlikely to get much of a return if they put him on the trade block.
San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture (NHL Images)
Couture would fetch the Sharks a solid return. However, his contract makes him unlikely to be moved. The 33-year-old center is signed through 2026-27 with an average annual value of $8 million and a three-team trade list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Couture is enjoying a solid performance this season with 42 points in 51 games. His contract isn’t as hefty cap-wise as teammate Erik Karlsson ($11.5 million), whose strong performance this season made him the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks. Nevertheless, that’s still difficult for most NHL clubs to absorb with so many of them carrying limited cap space this season. His three-team trade list is another major obstacle.
Couture’s age would also be a major concern. He turns 34 on March 28 and a lot of general managers would have serious qualms about acquiring a player in his mid-thirties with four years remaining on his contract at $8 million per. The Sharks could retain part of it to facilitate a trade but they could also be reluctant to carry that much dead cap space for that long.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Peng also cited The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun recently suggesting the cost of re-signing Sharks winger Timo Meier to a contract extension starts at $9 million annually.
Meier, 26, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer who’s also a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. While he’s carrying a $6 million AAV on his current contract, he’s earning $10 million in actual salary, which is what it’ll cost the Sharks to qualify his rights.
That qualifying offer has sparked plenty of media chatter speculating the Sharks could move Meier by the March 3 trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most of the recent Meier speculation claims the Sharks have granted interested teams permission to speak with his agent about a contract extension as part of a possible trade. Unless they’re willing to pony up, Meier could become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Bear in mind that the Sharks don’t have to move Meier by March 3. They could simply wait until the offseason and peddle him in June. However, they could prefer moving him during this season rather than risk losing him to the UFA market on July 1 if they decide qualifying his rights is too expensive.
DID LARKIN REJECT RED WINGS’ EIGHT-YEAR OFFER?
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James recently reported the Red Wings offered captain Dylan Larkin an eight-year contract extension worth an AAV of $8 million. As there was no formal announcement of the deal, St. James concludes the 26-year-old center rejected the offer.
St. James speculates the Larkin camp could be seeking something comparable to the eight-year, $73.2 million ($9.15 million AAV) signed by Mathew Barzal with the New York Islanders. Larkin indicated there’s no ill will between his camp and Wings management.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears the two sides are still working toward bridging the gap regarding the dollars. There’s been no indication that the Wings are shopping Larkin or that he’s not interested in staying in Detroit.
LATEST ON GOSTISBEHERE AND MCCABE
GOPHNX.COM: Craig Morgan reports there’s been plenty of concern among Arizona Coyotes fans that Shayne Gostisbehere’s upper-body injury will adversely affect his value leading up to the trade deadline. He’s sidelined for four-to-six weeks.
Coyotes management doesn’t share their fans’ concerns. Other teams already know Gostisbehere’s value as a player and already know his strengths and weaknesses.
General manager Bill Armstrong doesn’t intend to sit any of his potential trade assets (such as Jakob Chychrun) until the trade deadline to protect them from getting hurt. Doing so wouldn’t sit well with the player, the Coyotes’ coaching staff or the NHLPA.
The Lightning match a franchise home win streak, the Sabres’ Owen Power sets a franchise record for rookie defensemen, the Canucks re-sign Andrei Kuzmenko, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning matched a franchise record with their 11th straight home win by nipping the Boston Bruins 3-2, snapping the latter’s six-game win streak. Victor Hedman broke a 2-2 tie in the third period while Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point each had three points for the 31-15-1 Lightning, who hold third place in the Atlantic Division. Brad Marchand and Pavel Zacha replied for the Bruins (38-6-4), who sit atop the overall standings with 80 points.
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Owen Power (NHL Images)
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Owen Power scored for the third straight game in a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Jeff Skinner, Tage Thompson and Rasmus Dahlin each had two points for the 26-19-3 Sabres, who’ve won five straight contests and moved within two points of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 55 points. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 33 shots for the Jets (31-18-1), who sit in second place in the Western Conference with 63 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Power became the first Sabres rookie defenseman to record a goal streak of three games.
Speaking of the Penguins, they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Washington Capitals on shootout goals by Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom. Alex Ovechkin tallied his 32nd goal while Darcy Kuemper made 35 saves for the Capitals (26-19-6), who hold a one-point lead over the Penguins for the first Eastern wild-card spot with 58 points. Casey DeSmith stopped 43 shots for the 24-15-9 Penguins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Capitals winger Tom Wilson missed this game with a lower-body injury.
An overtime goal by Mats Zuccarello lifted the Minnesota Wild over the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 3-2. Matt Boldy scored twice and collected an assist for the Wild (26-17-4) as they vaulted back into third place in the Central Division with 56 points. The Flyers slipped to 20-21-9 on the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers forward Wade Allison left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury while Zack MacEwen suffered an upper-body injury from his fight with Wild winger Marcus Foligno. Wild center Ryan Hartman was a healthy scratch from this game.
Anaheim Ducks winger Frank Vatrano tallied a hat trick to upset the Colorado Avalanche 5-3, ending the latter’s six-game win streak. John Gibson kicked out 41 shots for the 15-29-5 Ducks. Mikko Rantanen scored twice for the Avalanche 26-18-3 as they hold the final Western Conference wild-card spot with 55 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar collected an assist as he returned to the lineup after missing four games with an upper-body injury.
The Calgary Flames missed an opportunity to surpass the Avalanche for that wild-card berth as they were upset 5-1 by the Chicago Blackhawks. Rookie goalie Jaxon Stauber made 34 saves to win his second straight NHL start for the 15-28-4 Blackhawks. The Flames (23-17-9) have 55 points but the Avs hold two games in hand.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews missed this game with a non-COVID-related illness.
Nashville Predators forward Matt Duchene had a goal and an assist in the third period in a 6-4 win over the New Jersey Devils to end the latter’s eight-game points streak. Juuse Saros turned aside 34 shots for the Predators (24-18-6) as they moved within one point of the final Western Conference wild-card berth with 54 points. Devils center Jack Hughes collected two points as the 31-13-4 Devils remain two points behind the Metropolitan Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes with 66 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Earlier in the day, the Predators announced that defenseman Alexandre Carrier will be sidelined for four-to-six weeks with an upper-body injury.
The Arizona Coyotes (16-28-5) got a natural hat trick from Nick Schmaltz and a 33-save shutout from Karel Vejmelka to blank the St. Louis Blues 5-0. The Blues dropped to 23-23-3 and sit six points out of the final Western Conference wild-card spot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blues forward Robert Thomas left this game with a lower-body injury. Coyotes forwards Matias Maccelli and Lawson Crouse returned to the lineup after being sidelined by injuries. However, the club announced before this game that defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere will miss four-to-six weeks with an upper-body injury. That could affect management’s efforts to trade the pending free agent before the March 3 trade deadline.
An overtime goal by Robby Fabbri gave the Detroit Red Wings a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Moritz Seider had three assists for the Wings as they improved to 21-18-8 to keep their slim playoff hopes alive with 50 points. The Canadiens (20-25-4) got two goals from Rafael Harvey-Pinard but also lost defenseman Joel Edmundson to a lower-body injury.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks re-signed winger Andrei Kuzmenko to a two-year contract worth an average annual value of $5. 5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I predicted this in yesterday’s Rumor Mill as reports emerged Kuzmenko’s camp sought a two-year bridge deal worth between $5 million and $6 million. The 26-year-old rookie winger has 21 goals and 43 points in 47 games with the Canucks this season as he’s played well alongside center Elias Pettersson.
The signing disappoints those who believe the struggling Canucks should trade Kuzmenko for draft picks and prospects while his value was high. However, that would’ve meant rebuilding and that’s something the Canucks don’t do. This signing is also considered another indication that the club will move pending free agent center Bo Horvat before the March 3 trade deadline.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen reportedly avoided serious injury when he left Wednesday’s game against the Dallas Stars with an upper-body injury.
NEW YORK POST: The Rangers signed defenseman Ben Harpur to a two-year contract extension with an average annual value of $787, 500.