Well the trade deadline has come and gone once again. In the West, the Vegas Golden Knights made the biggest splash acquiring Mark Stone, the Winnipeg Jets acquired Kevin Hayes and 4 other depth player, division rival Nashville responded by acquiring Wayne Simmonds and Markus Granlund. The San Jose Sharks acquired Gustav Nyquist for a few picks and the Conference leading Calgary Flames pretty much stood pat other than acquiring Oscar Fantanberg despite rumours of Mark Stone or Jason Zucker. By the way, the Flames have won 6 straight games.
Overall, I like the Jets moves. Despite being 1-4-1 in their last 6, they are too good of a team to not figure things out. Kevin Hayes is an upgrade on Bryan Little and should be the key to get something out of Bryan Little 5 on 5. The depth defensemen acquired were needed due to Josh Morrissey being out for a month. The Flames play so well together and if they get James Neal going that could determine their season. Mike Smith has played better lately, and David Rittich beat Belleville… or Ottawa the other night. San Jose has depth, but Tomas Tatar was traded from east to west last year and his season ended with him in the press box which goes to show the difference in conferences, it’ll be interesting to see if Martin Jones can pick up his game. I love Mark Stone as a player, but Vegas has been one of the worst teams in the league since January, to me it’s a partial issue when you acquire a guy and he instantly becomes your leading scorer by 20 points. Vegas is basically playing for nothing as they are locked into 3rd in the Pacific. Nashville acquired Wayne Simmonds which I would like in 2014 but not so much now. A -54 in his last 3 seasons and on pace for the worst year of his career. I also liked Kyle Turris in 2014 but it is an issue when your top 3 centremen have combined for just over 30 goals. If I had to predict: Winnipeg over Calgary in the conference finals.
The top of the east was much quieter. Tampa Bay did nothing and why would they? Toronto only acquired Nic Petan but did add Jake Muzzin a few weeks ago. Boston got Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson which should help. Washington did what they did last year and got depth players like Carl Hagelin and Nick Jensen. The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Adam McQuaid but which Bob shows up in the playoffs?
Overall Tampa is the clear team to beat but until they prove themselves in the playoffs, I’ll pick against them. The Leafs have to figure out who’s playing with who up front and on the back end, but William Nylander is finally back in game shape. Boston acquired depth but Toronto getting John Tavares in the offseason will prove to be too much. Columbus will win a round this year, but their 3 best players don’t have contracts and they’ll be relying on Ryan Dzingel to continue his great season which will be a storyline to follow. To me, Washington seems too motivated to repeat, Alex Ovechkin got the taste of the cup and seems hungry for more, Nick Jensen could be this year’s Michal Kempny. Prediction: Washington over Toronto in the conference finals.
Mat Luschek- Las Vegas Review-Journal