Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Rookie scoring race recap plus, Leafs trade and trade partners for Buffalo

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

With Chicago's Artemi Panarin scoring his first career hat trick this week while adding another goal and assist, his 57 point total and 16 point lead may make this a race for second place in overall points. Buffalo's Jack Eichel and Max Domi are tied for second in overall points with 41 after Eichel added three assists this week while Domi lit it up with four goals and two assists in three games for the Arizona Coyotes. Detroit's Dylan Larkin had a rough week with only one goal added to his resume. Larkin is in fourth with 39 points.

Philadelphia defenseman Shane Gostisbehere continues to marvel in the point production department as the 22 yr. old third round pick (2012) extended his record for points in consecutive games by a defenseman to 15 games. Gostisbehere added a point in all three games played this past week (2g +1a) and extended his streak in style with the overtime winner at Toronto on Saturday night.

According to NHL.com, Gostisbehere has the longest points-streak by a defenseman since 1995 when Chris Chelios had a 15-game streak beginning on October 26. He also now has the third longest streak behind any rookie since 1987-88. Paul Stastny (Feb. 3 to March 17, 2007) holds the longest streak during that period with 20 games while Teemu Selanne had a 17-game streak beginning March 9, 1993.

Gostisbehere also held on to the fourth spot in rookie assists with a total of 22. Panarin leads that category with 35, Eichel and Domi are tied for second with 24 while Larkin is in fifth with 20.

Panarin put a little distance between himself and the pack with his four-goal effort this week. His 22 goals is three ahead of Larkin while Buffalo's Sam Reinhart jumped up to No. 3 with his 18th of the season. Eichel stood pat at 17 goals while Domi's four goals gave him 17 on the year and shot him up to fifth displacing Calgary's Sam Bennett (15 goals) and Arizona's Anthony Duclair (16) in the process.

As for Connor McDavid, he had a solid if unspectacular (by his standards) week adding two goals and an assist in three games. In doing so he moved from 12th to 9th amongst rookies in points (27,) from 14th to 13th in goals (10) and his 17 assists has him in a tie with Duclair for seventh. Of note, McDavid has played in 23 games, way less than half the games of those around him.

Rookie leaders points







The Toronto Maple Leafs continued the purge of their roster as today they sent defenseman Roman Polak and center Nick Spaling (both depth players) to the San Jose' Sharks for Raffi Torres and 2nd round picks in 2017 and 2018. That trade was on the heels of the February 9 trade of team captain Dion Phaneuf to the rival Ottawa Senators. The defenseman was a key piece in the nine-player trade that involved shipping out a total of four NHL players plus a prospect for acquire young defenseman Jared Cowen plus forwards Colin Greening, Milan Michalek and Tobias Lindberg.

The trade for Polak and Spaling is significant for the Sabres in the trade market as it's been rumored the Sharks were looking for depth and that's exactly what Buffalo GM Tim Murray is shopping. Amongst the players in that category are NHL defensemen Mike Weber and Carlo Colaiacovo and veteran forward David Legwand.

Word on the street is that the Sharks may be looking for one more piece to the post-season puzzle as back-up goalie Alex Stalock has been underwhelming at best. The 28 yr. old fourth round pick of the Sharks (2005) is 3-5-0 with a 2.94 gaa and a .883 sv % and Buffalo just happens to have a rental back up who should be available.

Chad Johnson got plenty of work as the Sabres starting goalie when Robin Lehner went down in the first game of the seasons and has proven himself more than capable between the pipes. He has a 13-14-1 record with a 2.50 gaa and a .916 sv % this year and will be an unrestricted free agent at year's end. Plus, Johnson's $1.3m cap-hit is 300k less than Stalock.

The Sabres have an abundance of draft picks from the 3rd on down and perhaps a swap of goalies and some balancing with a lower end San Jose' prospect (F, Alex Schoenborn or D, Gage Ausmus) with a lower-end Buffalo pick (5th or 7th) might get the job done.

Buffalo begins their West Coast swing on Wednesday with a game at Anaheim, another potential trade partner.

The Ducks have been on a serious run and are now only two points behind the Pacific-leading Los Angeles Kings who the Sabres play on Saturday. Anaheim has plenty of defensive depth but are said to be interested in acquiring scoring and/or size up front which could lead to a name like Buffalo's Jamie McGinn.

McGinn is having a solid season (14g, 13a) on a bottom-feeding Sabres team and has the size (6'1" 205 lbs.) to help counter a big club like Los Angeles. His cap-hit of almost $3m might call for some creative maneuvering on the part of the Ducks, but a player like McGinn who they could move up and down the lineup may serve them well. Perhaps a mid-level prospect in lieu of a second-rounder might do it for Buffalo. Maybe a Nic Kerdiles or Marcus Pettersson.

Speaking of helping up and down the lineup, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks took one on the chin when forward Marion Hossa went down. The Hawks are also said to be interested in acquiring a forward who can play up an down the lineup and McGinn would be a nice fit there.

The Hawks have a loaded farm system with plenty of depth and instead of a pick in the draft (unless Murray could leverage a first-rounder from Chicago) perhaps Murray might go after a Mark McNeill or Carl Dahlstrom.

One final note, while Buffalo is visiting Los Angeles, perhaps the Kings will be taking note of a defenseman like Weber who could add some depth to the defense corps or might even look at Legwand in a depth forward role.

Whatever the scenario, the Leafs trade today should spark some increased activity as we head to next Monday's 3 p.m. trade deadline.

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