Plenty of goals and hits in NHL playoffs

The first week of the NHL playoffs has featured an explosion of goals and plenty of big hits as several of the series are off to a nasty start. In fact, there has already been a pair of suspensions. Defenceman Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings was banned for the second game of his series against the Vegas Golden Knights for what was ruled a hit to the head of forward Will Carrier. In addition, Toronto Maple Leafs' forward Nazem Kadri was handed a three-game suspension for an illegal hit on forward Tommy Wingels of the Boston Bruins. Let's take a quick look and recap each series.

The Winnipeg Jets downed the Minnesota Wild 3-2 at home in their opener and then followed up with a 4-1 win in the physical second game. The Wild then got back into the series with a big 6-2 win in their first home outing. The series has seen 16 goals in its three contests for an average of six goals per game.

The Pittsburgh Penguins drilled the Philadelphia Flyers 7-0 at home in their opener only to see the Flyers return the favour with a 5-1 drubbing in the second encounter. The Penguins then won the first game in the City of Brotherly love by a score of 5-1. There have been 19 goals in the three contests for an average of 6.33 goals per game.

The lowest-scoring series of the bunch has been the Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights as it's been a goaltending duel up to now. The Knights won 1-0 in the opener at home and then followed up with a 2-1 win in double overtime. The highest-scoring contest was a 3-2 Vegas victory in the first game in Los Angeles to take a 3-0 stranglehold in the series. Knights' goalie Marc-Andre Fleury leads the league with a save percentage of 97.0 with 96 saves on 99 shots. Kings' netminder Jonathan Quick isn't far behind him with a 94.5 save percentage with 104 stops on 110 shots. There have been nine goals in the three contests for 3 goals per game.

The Tampa Bay Lightning took care of the New Jersey Devils 5-2 in the opener at home and followed up with a 5-3 victory in the second match. The series has seen 15 goals scored in two games for an average of 7.5 per outing.

The Nashville Predators got past the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 in their series opener in Music City and followed it up with a 5-4 nail-biter in the second contest. This series has seen 16 goals in the first two games for an average of 8 per outing.

The Boston Bruins spanked the Toronto Maple Leafs by scores of 5-1 and 7-3 in the first two games in Beantown. There have been 16 goals in the series so far for an average of 8 per game. Incredibly, the Boston forward line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak has combined for 20 points in the first two contests. Pastrnak leads the postseason in goals with four and points with nine. Marchand has chipped in with a goal and five assists while Bergeron has five helpers. In addition, all three of them are plus-6.

The closest series has been the Columbus Blue Jackets vs the Washington Capitals as both games have been decided in overtime. Columbus won the opener 4-3 and followed up in the second game with a 5-4 triumph with both wins coming on the road. The series has featured a total of 16 goals for an average of 8 per game.

Another relatively low-scoring series has been between the San Jose sharks and Anaheim Ducks. This has also seen the road team win the first two encounters as the Sharks were 3-0 and 3-2 winners. There have been eight goals scored for an average of 4 per game.

The first 19 contests of the playoffs resulted in 117 goals scored for an average of 6.2 per game. With all of the pucks entering the net so far in the postseason, fans have witnessed several goaltenders being pulled during games. Connor Hellebucyk was yanked in Winnipeg's 6-2 game-three loss to Minnesota and Frederik Andersen of Toronto suffered the same fate in the Leafs' 7-3 defeat in game two against Boston. Keith Kinkaid of New Jersey was relieved in the Devils' 5-3 loss to Tampa in the second game and Phillip Grubauer of Washington was replaced in his team's 5-4 loss in game two to Columbus. Also, Brian Elliot of Philadelphia was pulled in his team's opening 7-0 loss to Pittsburgh.  

NHL playoff matchups locked and loaded

After a gruelling 82-game schedule for each of the NHL's 31 teams we're finally down to the playoffs. However, it came down to the very last day of the season to figure out who's playing who. This was because the Boston Bruins still had a chance to win the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference when they took on the visiting Florida Panthers on April 8th, but ended up losing 4-2. Therefore, the Bruins will now take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in an original-six showdown while the East's top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning will face off against the New Jersey Devils.

Let's check out the eight playoff matchups since they get underway this Wednesday, April 11th and may very well take a couple of months to crown the eventual Stanley Cup winner as all series follow the best four-out-of-seven format.

Over in the East we have the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning taking on the second wildcard team the New Jersey Devils. This is New Jersey's first postseason appearance since 2011/12 when they lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Los Angeles Kings. As mentioned, the second-seeded Atlantic Division Boston Bruins take on the third-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs and the Leafs are hoping to snap their 51-year Stanley Cup drought. 

The Metropolitan Division-winning Washington Capitals will be meeting the first Eastern wildcard team the Columbus Blue Jackets and there's an all-Pennsylvania showdown as the second-seeded Metropolitan team the Pittsburgh Penguins will be battling it out with the third-seeded Philadelphia Flyers. The Penguins are aiming to become the first team to win three straight Stanley Cups since the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1980 to 1983.

In the Western Conference, the top-seeded team and Central Division-winning Nashville Predators will be taking on the second wildcard club the Colorado Avalanche. The second and third-seeded sides in the Central Division square off against each other as the Winnipeg Jets will duel with the Minnesota Wild. We also have the first-year expansion and Pacific Division-winning Vegas Golden Knights meeting the first wildcard Los Angeles Kings as the Knights enter the first playoff round in the club's short history. And the final matchup will see the second and third-seeded Pacific Division squads the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks clashing with each other.

With the regular season now over we already know the winners of some of the silverware. Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers led the league in scoring for the second straight season with 41 goals and 67 assists for 108 points to capture the Art Ross Trophy. Russian sniper Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals won his seventh Rocket Richard Trophy for leading the league in goals as he notched 49. Los Angeles Kings' goalie Jonathan Quick won the William M. Jennings Trophy for the second time in his career as the goaltender to allow the fewest goals against while playing a minimum of 25 games. Quick ranked ninth in wins with 33, 10th in goals-against-average at 2.40 and tied for fourth in shutouts with five.

The NHL's playoff format isn't without controversy though since two of the league's top four teams will be eliminated after the second round. This means two of Nashville, Tampa, Winnipeg and Boston will be going home and it's due to the fact the top two clubs in each conference could meet each other in round two. This will happen if Nashville and Winnipeg win their series in the West and Tampa and Boston win theirs in the East. The current format will remain in effect until after the 2019/20 season though.

Is Mitch Marner worth as much as Austin Matthews to the Toronto Maple Leafs?

With the Toronto Maple Leafs eventually having to sign their young players to new deals once their entry-level contracts expire there's been a lot of talk about how to go about it. In addition, the Leafs' top goalscorer James van Riemsdyk will be a free agent at the end of the season and management will need to sit down and figure how to handle matters. This is basically because they're going to have to re-sign forwards Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner and give them all hefty raises.

Matthews is generally regarded as the club's franchise player after being drafted first overall in 2016, but there are numerous hockey people who believe Marner may be his equal or even a more valuable player. Some of them are suggesting the leafs offer both players the exact same contract once they start negotiating with the youngsters. Both players enjoyed fine rookie seasons in 2016/17 with Matthews leading the team with 40 goals and 29 assists for 69 points and Marner not far behind him with 19 goals and 42 assists for 61 points. 

This season, Matthews has missed close to 20 games, but still has 31 goals and 26 assists for 57 points in 59 games and is plus-23 while averaging 18 minutes and 13 seconds of ice time. Marner has 22 goals and leads the team in assists and points with 47 and 69 respectively in 79 games, but is a minus-2. However, he averages just 16 minutes and 20 seconds of ice per contest. The two are both 20 years old, but play a different style of hockey. Matthews, a center, is 6-feet-3-inches tall and weighs in at 216 lbs while right-winger Marner is generously listed at 6-feet and 175 lbs. However, he was just 5-foot-7 and 130 lbs five years ago when the London Knights drafted him into the Ontario Hockey league.

Both players have helped the Leafs set new franchise records for wins and home wins in a season and Marner entered the team's game on March 31st with an 11-game scoring streak intact. Mark Hunter was with the Knights when Marner was drafted in 2013 and was also with the Leafs when he was drafted fourth overall in 2015. In between, he helped London win the OHL title and Memorial Cup in 2015/16. There's no doubt Hunter had a lot of influence during the 2015 draft and at the moment the Leafs look like they certainly took the right player, even though many fans felt they should have selected a defenceman such as Ivan Provorov, Noah Hanifin or Zach Werenski.

All of those players were taken after Marner, but Hunter appears to have known what he was doing. Marner has proven to be a highly-effective and exciting player who can produce at the top level with 41 goals and 89 assists for 130 points in his first 157 games. In comparison, Matthews has 71 goals and 55 assists for 126 points in 141 encounters The Leafs simply drafted who they believed to be the best overall player available regardless of position and it's a decision that's turned out well for them. Marner has also proven to be able to handle the physicality of the NHL, perhaps even better than Matthews has. The question the Leafs now have to ask themselves is how to decide who's worth what when it's time to negotiate new contracts.

Four of NHL's original six teams set to miss the playoffs

With the NHL's regular season winding down it appears that four of the league's original six clubs will be missing out on the postseason action this spring. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins will be fighting for the Stanley Cup later in April, but the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks will all be on the outside looking in. The Bruins and Leafs were in second and third place in the Atlantic Division respectively as of March 26th and will likely face off against each other in the first round, leaving just one original six club with a shot at winning the Stanley Cup this season.

The Canadiens and Red Wings held onto fifth and sixth spots in the Atlantic with 66 and 65 points respectively. However, both squads are well over 30 points behind the Leafs and the last playoff spot in the division and are more than 20 points out of the wild card race. As for Detroit, they also missed the postseason last year for the first time in 26 straight seasons years while the Habs last missed them in 2015/16. This will be the first season in NHL history that Montreal, Detroit, and Chicago will all miss the playoffs. The Blackhawks were officially eliminated a week ago and it's the first time they won't play in the postseason since 2007/08. In addition, it's the first time both Detroit and Chicago have missed out on the action since back in 1969.

With 71 points, Chicago looks likely to finish in last place in the Central Division and are about 20 points behind the last divisional playoff spot and wild card team. As for the New York Rangers, they're battling it out with the New York Islanders for the basement of the Metropolitan Division. They are about 15 points back of the last divisional postseason spot and the wild card teams after making the playoffs every year since 2009/10. Of course, many teams bounce back the year after failing to make the playoffs with Chicago being a prime example. After watching the Stanley Cup showdown on TV a decade ago they stormed back to win three cups of their own in the span of just seven years.

The longest current playoff streak belongs to the Pittsburgh Penguins and they've won the Stanley Cup three times already during that stretch, including two in a row. The Blackhawks and Rangers were next in line at nine and seven straight seasons, but both of those streaks will be coming to an end. Also, it looks like the St. Louis Blues' current run streak of six years may be in jeopardy before the campaign's over as they battle it out with seven games to go. The longest playoff streak in NHL history was 29 seasons by Boston from 1967/68 to 1995/96 with Chicago going 28 consecutive postseasons from 1969/70 to 1996/97. Both Detroit and St. Louis had streaks of 25 seasons with Montreal rounding out the top five with a 24-year string.

Toronto Maple Leafs on the way to their best regular season ever

After finishing dead last in the NHL just two seasons ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs could very well enjoy their best regular season ever in 2017/18. As of March 18th the team was third in the Atlantic Division and sixth overall in the standings with 93 points. They were carrying an impressive record of 43-22-7 with the second-most goals scored at 243 and a respectable 204 goals against. However, they're seven points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning in their division and five back of the Boston Bruins, so will very likely meet one of those squads in the playoffs.

The Leafs have also been red hot at home and their 4-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Saint Patrick's Day was their franchise-record 12th in a row. It was also the eighth shutout of the season for the previously defensively-inept squad. Toronto now just has to earn another 11 points in their final 10 games of the campaign and another three wins to set new franchise records in both of those departments. Since finishing last overall in 2015/16 the Leafs have strengthened their squad with Auston Matthews, the first overall draft pick in 2016, along with goaltender Frederick Andersen and young players such as Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Zach Hyman, Travis Dermott and Kasperi Kapanen.

Their AHL farm team the Toronto Marlies is also one of the top teams in their league and head coach Sheldon Keefe has been doing an excellent job of grooming his minor leaguers for the major league. And speaking oh head coaches, The Leafs' bench boss Mike Babcock definitely deserves some credit for the job he's done and what he's achieved in his third year at the helm. Previously the Leafs best regular season performance came back in 2003/04 when it boasted some of the league's top players such as Tomas Kaberle, Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan, Bryan McCabe, Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk, Alexander Mogilny and Darcy Tucker with Ed Belfour between the posts.

That squad was filled with veterans and coached by the late Pat Quinn and went 45-24-10-3 for 103 points. They managed to down the Ottawa Senators in seven games in the first round of the postseason, but then fell in four at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The team basically fell apart after that and didn't reach the playoffs again until 2012/13. That season will always be remembered for their epic collapse in game seven of their playoff series in Boston when they held a 4-1 lead midway through the third period.

There's been quite a bit of housecleaning in Toronto since then as forwards Andreas Johnsson and Frederik Gauthier are the only two players from the 2013 NHL draft still with the franchise. In addition to hiring Babcock the Maple Leafs also brought in Lou Lamoriello as the new general manager. The 75-year old has done a fine job helping rebuild the team, but his status is up in the air as his contract runs out at the end of the season. In addition, forwards James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov may find themselves elsewhere in the summer as they're all unrestricted free agents on July 1st.

Their contract status may not be dealt with until after the playoffs and will likely depend on how far Toronto can go. They were knocked out of last year's postseason in six games by the Washington Capitals with five of the contests being decided in overtime. So while the Leafs are likely to set a new franchise record for regular season play, their season will really be judged on what they do in the playoffs. There's no question the organization is heading in the right direction, but another first-round exit in the postseason will be a bit of a disappointment to their fans, regardless of how well they performed over the first 82 games.

William Karlsson of the Vegas Knights making a name for himself

There's no doubt the Vegas Knights have been the NHL's biggest surprise of the season and perhaps of all time. The team is already being hailed as the most successful expansion franchise in the history of pro sports. The squad was put together via an expansion draft in which the 30 other clubs left their unwanted players unprotected. It's obvious numerous teams made big mistakes when evaluating the talent they had on hand and Vegas general manager George McPhee took advantage of them.

Sure, a few big-name players were left unprotected and it was a no-brainer picking up the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury and James Neal. However, the acquisition of 25-year-old Swedish centre William Karlsson has looked like a stroke of genius so far. The native of Marsta was second on the club in scoring as of March 11th with 35 goals and 26 assists for 61 points. The only teammate to top him was Jonathan Marchessault with his 22 goals and 43 assists.

Most fans had heard of Marchessault though as he had already put together a 30-goal season with Florida last year. In the grand scheme of things, Karlsson was a virtual unknown when McPhee plucked him from the Columbus Blue Jackets. It wasn't as straightforward as it sounds though since there was some wheeling and dealing to negotiate before he was selected. Karlsson was left unprotected in the expansion draft and the Blue Jackets actually wanted Vegas to take him. In fact, they sent a first and second-round 2019 draft pick to Vegas on the condition they'd select the Swedish scorer.

The only snag to he deal was McPhee agreeing to take the outrageous contract of injured forward David Clarkson. But with a ton of salary cap space to work with McPhee believed it was well worth it. Karlsson has definitely proved this to be a smooth move since he was 30th in league point scoring and was also sixth in the NHL in goals scored at 35. He trailed Alexander Ovechkin and Patrik Laine for the league lead as they both had 40 and Karlsson has an outside shot at capturing the Rocket Richard Trophy.

The deal between Columbus and Vegas hasn't been the only move of Karlsson's career as he was traded to the Blue Jackets by Anaheim in March of 2015.  Rene Bourque, and a second-round draft pick accompanied him in return for James Wisniewski and a third-round pick. Karlsson was originally drafted in the second round with the 53rd overall pick in the 2011 Entry Draft after starring in his homeland. He returned to Sweden to play and didn't sign a three-year entry level contract with the Ducks until May of 2013.

Karlsson played just 18 regular-season games with Anaheim before being dealt to Columbus and chipped in with two goals and an assist. He played two full seasons with the Blue Jackets and racked up  16 goals and 31 assists for 47 points in 165 outings before being left unprotected in the expansion draft.  Karlsson has proven to be an excellent two-way player as he's also leading the league in plus/minus stats this year at plus-38. His 29 even-strength goals were tops in the league and he also has five game winners.

Regardless of what happens with the Knights and Karlsson this season. He's going to have his name in the franchise record books for scoring its first hat trick. He achieved this by netting three goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs on New Year's Eve. But he's also likely to have his name etched into the books as leading the teams in goals and plus/minus in its inaugural NHL campaign. And with a little luck he could top the entire league in goals scored and plus/minus. 

Seattle, Washington looks a good bet for NHL expansion

With the instant success of the Vegas Golden Knights this season it's understandable why the NHL is looking to expand once again. The best bet for the next expansion franchise is Seattle, Washington. The city recently held a season-ticket drive for a proposed team and sold 10,000 seats in just 12 minutes and reached well over the 25,000 mark a few days later. Let's compare this to the Vegas ticket drive three years ago which resulted in 5,000 deposits in 48 hours and 9,000 after a month. Just a few months later, Vegas was awarded with the league's 31st franchise and the team has been a huge success on the ice in its inaugural season.

It cost the Vegas owners $500 million for their franchise fee and the NHL has now upped this to $650 million. Vegas owners aren't complaining about the price tag though as the Golden Knights are already the most successful expansion team in North American pro sports history. Seattle fans have noticed how well Vegas has performed and this has given them hope and inspiration for a team of their own. If Seattle is awarded a franchise it will go about building its roster the same way Vegas did, which is through an expansion draft and it will follow the exact same format.

The expansion bid in Seattle is headed by the Oak View Group. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has been impressed with them so far as the city's Key Arena is to be renovated to the tune of $660-million. The group is led by Tim Leiweke, who used to have a high-ranking position with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in Toronto as well as with the ownership group of the Los Angeles Kings. Other notable members of the proposed Seattle ownership group are David Bonderman and Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer with Bonderman already owning a portion of the Boston Celtics NBA team.

Bruckheimer was previously interested in pumping ownership money into both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks,but nothing became of it. In addition, Leiweke and Bonderman were once interested in a team in Las Vegas, but then pulled out about 10 years ago. There's already a rich hockey history in Seattle as Pacific Coast Hockey Association's Seattle Metropolitans were the first American team to hoist the Stanley Cup way back in 1917. The city was hoping the NHL or the old WHA would expand out west in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but NHL teams were awarded to Los Angeles, Oakland and Vancouver instead.

However, it looked like Seattle would get a franchise in 1974, but the ownership group couldn't raise enough money. Then in the 1990s things looked promising, but the application for a franchise was pulled by one of the prospective owners without his partners knowing about it. About 20 years later it appeared the Phoenix Coyotes were interested in relocating to Seattle, but City Council pulled the plug on the proposed arena lease. There has long been talk about a new arena in the city, but nothing has been built as of yet. It's also believed a new venue may be aimed at luring an NBA franchise by a different ownership group than the NHL bid.

Jenny Durkan, the current mayor of Seattle is all for an NHL team and it would join the ranks of the Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Sounders and Seattle Mariners as the city's pro sports franchises. There are also three local hockey teams in the area already which have been well supported over the years. These are the University of Washington Huskies, and the junior Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. Also, the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area was recently ranked second by Forbes as the fastest-growing city in America.

With a region full of fans in place, a renovated arena and thousands of prospective season-ticket holders waiting to spend their money, the NHL would be missing a fantastic opportunity if it didn't expand to Seattle.

NHL rosters set as another trade deadline comes and goes

NHL rosters are now set until the end of the season with the passing of the 2017/18 trade deadline. It wasn't the busiest day in recent years, but several significant players were still on the move as teams gear up for the final playoff push. This is a recap of the biggest moves of the day as well as those made just prior to deadline day.

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks acquired forward Jason Chimera from the New York Islanders for forward    Chris Wagner. The 38-year-old Chimera has two goals and nine assists while the 26-year-old Wagner has six goals and nine assists. Both players will be unrestricted free agents in the summer.

Boston Bruins: Boston acquired forward Tommy Wingels from Chicago for a fourth-round draft pick in 2019. The 29-year-old has seven goals and five assists and will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer. Boston also picked up forward Rick Nash from the Rangers for a first-rounder in 2018 along with forwards Matt Beleskey and Ryan Spooner, defenceman Ryan Lindgren and a seventh-round pick in 2019. The 33-year-old Nash has 18 goals and 10 assists and is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Spooner has nine goals and 18 assists

Calgary Flames: Calgary dealt a seventh-round draft choice in 2019 for forward Nick Shore from Ottawa. The 25-year-old has four goals and 12 assists.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets picked up defenceman Ian Cole from Ottawa for forward prospect Nick Moutrey and a third-round pick in 2020. The year-old Cole has three goals and 10 assists and is an unrestricted free agent this year. Forward Mark Letestu was also acquired from Edmonton for Pontus Aberg. Letestu has nine goals and 11 assists while Berg has two goals and six helpers.

Montreal Canadiens: The Habs acquired defenceman Mike Reilly from Minnesota for a fifth-round draft pick in 2019. Reilly has two goals and eight assists this season.

New Jersey Devils: The Devils traded J.D. Dudek and a third-round pick in 2019 for forward Pat Maroon. The 29-year-old Maroon is an unrestricted free agent this summer and has 14 goals and 16 assists. New Jersey also acquired forward Michael Grabner from the Rangers for a second-rounder in 2018 and defensive prospect prospect Yegor Rykov. The 30-year-old Grabner has 25 goals and six assists and is unrestricted this summer.

Nashville Predators: Nashville acquired forward Ryan Hartman from Chicago along with a fifth-round pick in 2018 for a first-round pick in 2018, a fourth-round pick in 2018 and forward prospect Victor Ejdsell. The 23-year-old Hartman has eight goals and 17 assists and will be a restricted free agent. The Preds also picked up forward Brandon Bollig and goaltender Troy Grosenick from San Jose for a sixth-round pick in 2018.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pens traded forward Greg McKegg to Carolina for forward Josh Jooris. The 27-year-old Jooris has three goals and three assists and is an unrestricted free agent in the summer.

San Jose Sharks: The Sharks dealt prospect Daniel O'Regan to Buffalo along with a conditional first-round pick in 2019 and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2020 for forward Evander Kane. The 26-year-old Kane has 20 goals and 20 assists and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. O'Regan had four assists in 19 games.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Tampa acquired New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller for a first-round pick in 2018, a second-round pick in 2019 and forward Vladislav Namestnikov along with prospects Libor Hajek and Brett Howden. The defenceman McDonagh has two goals and 24 assists while Miller had 13 goals and 27 assists. Namestnikov has 20 goals and 24 assists

Toronto Maple Leafs: Toronto acquired forwards Tomas Plekanec and Kyle Braun from Montreal for AHL forward Kerby Rychel, defenceman Rinat Valiev and a second-round pick in 2018. The 35-year-old Plekanec has six goals and 18 assists and is an unrestricted free agent this year.

Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks picked up forwards Jussi Jokinen and Tyler Motte from Columbus for 34-year-old pending free agent forward Thomas Vanek who had 17 goals and 24 assists. The 34-year-old Jokinen has a goal and six assists and the 22-year-old Motte has three goals and two assists.  Vancouver also acquired forward Brendan Leipsic from Vegas for defenceman Philip Holm. The 23-year-old Leipsic has two goals and 11 assists while the 26-year-old Holm has been playing in the AHL and will be a restricted free agent.

Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas acquired forward Tomas Tatar from Detroit for a first-round pick in 2018, a second-round pick in 2019 and a third-round pick in 2021. The 27-year-old Tatar has 16 goals and 12 assists this season. 

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets picked up Joe Morrow from Montreal for a fourth-round draft pick in 2018. The 25-year-old has five goals and six assists and is a restricted free agent in the summer. Winnipeg also acquired forward Paul Stastny from St. Louis for a conditional first-round pick in 2018, a conditional fourth-round pick in 2020 and 20-year-old forward prospect Erik Foley. The 32-year-old Stastny has 12 goals and 28 assists in is an unrestricted free agent this year.

New York Rangers hit the jackpot with Michael Grabner

With 30-year-old Austrian winger Michael Grabner being eligible for free agency in July, there's a good chance the New York Rangers will deal him by the Feb. 26th trade deadline. If they do, Grabner should fetch a fine return since he's been red hot on Broadway over the past two seasons. The Rangers signed him to a two-year contract as a free agent prior to the 2016/17 season at just $1.65 million a year. The club has already gotten its money's worth out of the speedster and this could be greatly compounded if he's traded by the deadline.

After scoring just nine goals and nine assists in 80 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015/16, Grabner's signing in New York was seen as nothing more than a minor deal. However, his career's now back on track after lighting up the lamp on a regular basis. The right winger was originally drafted 14th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2006. He scored 11 points for the Canucks in 20 games in 2009/10 and also racked up 120 points in 180 appearances for the Manitoba Moose of the AHL. Yet for some reason Vancouver traded him to the Florida Panthers in June of 2010.

In another odd move, Florida then placed Grabner on waivers at the start of the 2010/11 season and unsurprisingly he was taken quickly by the New York Islanders. Grabner's 34 goals and 52 points that season proved the Islanders had made a shrewd move by picking him up. He scored the eighth-most goals and even-strength markers in the NHL and was named to the All-Rookie Team. Grabner's goal production dipped steadily after his first season on the island though as he scored 20, 16, 12 and eight times over the next four campaigns before being traded to Toronto.

Things didn't improve with the Leafs either, but he suddenly caught fire when he signed with the Rangers. Grabner's first season back in the Big Apple resulted in 27 goals and 13 assists in 76 contests and a plus-22 ranking. Twenty-six of his goals and 37 of his 40 points came with his team at even strength and he added four goals and six points in a dozen playoff outings. Grabner's kept up the pace this season with 25 goals and six assists in his first 59 games, which ranked him 16th in goals scored. He's also a plus-11 on the struggling team and has been a standout once again at even strength with all but one of his goals coming five-on-five.

This places Grabner in the top five for even-strength goals over the past two seasons as he placed ninth last year and is currently ranked third this season. His shooting percentage was 16.7 last season to rank sixth-best in the league and it's improved to 19.1 this year, which is fourth-best for all players with at least 15 goals. With his explosive speed, Grabner is a breakaway threat every time he's on the ice and he's also become an excellent penalty killer because of it. He's also a streak scorer as he's been top 10 in the league three times for hat tricks in a season. In addition, he's been top-five in shorthanded goals on two occasions.

It's likely the Rangers will deal Grabner by the trade deadline since the club looks set to miss the playoffs and plans on entering a rebuilding stage. He should be worth quite a bit on the trade market due to his performance over the past two years, his age and his salary. When free agency rolls around next summer there's a good chance Grabner's fine play since 2016 will result in a considerable pay raise. And although he hasn't picked up many assists with the Rangers, his goal tally has been quite impressive.  

Sidney Crosby passes 400 NHL-goal plateau

After going 10 games without a goal, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby finally broke his slump on Feb. 11th with a pair of them in a 4-1 road win over the S. Louis Blues. They were just his fourth and fifth markers in the past 23 games, but were milestone tallies as they were the centre's 400th and 401st goals of his illustrious career. Crosby notched his 400th at the 3:31 mark of the second period and then added another at the 17:12 mark of the third with an empty netter to seal the victory. With the goals, Crosby became the 95th player to score at least 400 times in NHL history and he's also the seventh active player to reach the milestone.

Crosby said he was just happy to finally score a goal after his 10-game drought and it was a bonus since it was a milestone marker and his father was in the stands to witness it. He added that it seemed like he hadn't scored forever and he was relieved when he saw the puck trickle over the goal line. Crosby now has 18 goals on the season and will undoubtedly reach the 20-goal mark again. He scored at least 20 times in 10 of his first 12 NHL campaigns, but his output is down considerably this year considering he led the league last season with 44 goals. His best goal-scoring output in the NHL has been 51 goals in the 2009/10 season.

As far as the other current 400-goal scorers go, Jaromir Jagr is leading the way for active players with 766. However, he recently left the Calgary Flames to join HC Kladno in his native Czech Republic. Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is next with 591 followed by Patrick Marleau of the Toronto Maple Leafs who has 526. The Chicago Blackhawks' Marian Hossa has 525 goals, but is sitting out this season due to a skin condition. Rick Nash of the New York Rangers has netted 433 goals while Marian Gaborik of the Los Angeles Kings is the other active 400-goal scorer at 403.

Crosby's 400th goal came in his 839th regular-season game. He now has 401 goals along with 688 assists for 1,089 points. However, he's still quite a way behind Mario Lemieux as the franchise's all-time leading scorer as Lemieux racked up 1,723 points during his career. Crosby was drafted first overall by Pittsburgh in 2005 and it's interesting to note that he's 190 goals behind Ovechkin, who was the top draft pick a year earlier. Ovechkin has 1,095 career points in 976 games, so he's scores at a lower point-per-game rate and is yet to win a Stanley Cup while Crosby has three of them under his belt.

Still, both Crosby and Ovechkin have been a credit to the game and are surefire Hall of Famer's as soon as they're eligible. Crosby currently ranked sixth in scoring for active players as of Feb. 12Th, 2018 as Jagr was tops with 1,921 points followed by the injured Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks with 1,427. Hossa was next at 1,134 followed by Marleau with 1,111 and Ovechkin at 1,095.