Parity in the NHL will go a long way towards shaping the direction of clubs in the next couple of weeks, but injuries may play just as big a part or more.
Today has been a busy day for injury updates around the League, and some key players could have a big impact on the next couple of weeks. Here's a look at the news from the day (we'll have a larger, wide-ranging post about injuries and guys returning from them tomorrow):
* Pittsburgh confirmed what might have been the inevitable -- Evgeni Malkin
will need surgery on his knee and is done for the season. This also confirms the Penguins' move toward the top of the list among the buyers in the NHL. Provided they are confident Sidney Crosby
will be back soon from a concussion, look for GM Ray Shero
to go hunting for a forward (or two) to try and replace Malkin's production. A center would be ideal, but given the team's lack of depth on the wing a Crosby-Jordan Staal-Mark Letestu trio down the middle could work with an extra scoring wing or two.
* Top goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom
of the Florida Panthers
might need knee surgery. Tomas Vokoun
is a pending UFA and could be the best player on the market if GM Dale Tallon
chooses to make him available. The thinking behind moving Vokoun is Markstrom, currently in the AHL after a couple of standout seasons in Sweden, would be able to step in as the No. 1 guy next season. If Markstrom's injury is serious, does that make Tallon reconsider moving Vokoun? The guess here is probably not - if there are a few teams interested in Vokoun the return could be big, and if Markstrom wasn't ready to be the starter next season, either because of injury or performance, there are always placeholders available for cheap at that position.
* Calgary forward Alex Tanguay
is out indefinitely with a concussion. The Flames have stormed into the top eight of the Western Conference, but losing Tanguay (14 goals, 42 points) for an extended period of time could derail what isn't exactly a deep Calgary offense. Will the injury push GM Jay Feaster to make a move to help his team, or would a few losses without Tanguay have him thinking of going in the other direction?
* Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson
is out indefinitely with a lower back injury. He hopes it won't be more than two weeks. Clearly GM Bryan Murray is going to be in sell mode in the next couple of weeks. Alfredsson was unlikely to be dealt, but this would seem to make it even less likely if teams were at all worried about his back being a problem during the stretch run or the postseason.
* Vancouver defenseman Keith Ballard
and New York Rangers
captain Chris Drury
are also out with knee injuries. Ballard is expected to miss 3-4 weeks while Drury will be on the shelf for six weeks. The Rangers' cap situation with Drury out doesn't change much, but the team's need for a center could be increased. The Canucks are dangerously close to be in a very precarious situation on the blue line. Alex Edler is already out because of back surgery. Sami Salo
could be back this weekend from a torn Achilles' tendon and rookie Chris Tanev has been a welcome surprise as a fill-in. where the Canucks go with their tight cap situation could depend a lot on how close Ballard is to coming back as the deadline nears and how Salo performs.