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Training camp preview: Traded players in Eastern Conference

Kovalchuk, Marleau, Pageau look to make bigger impact with new teams in Cup Qualifiers

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

With training camps set to begin on July 13 as part of Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan, is taking a closer look at key storylines for each of the 24 teams in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. 

The qualifiers will start on Aug. 1 with the top four teams in each conference, based on points percentage, playing a three-game round-robin, and the No. 5-12 seeds playing in eight best-of-5 series. The winners of those series will advance to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the four teams from the round-robin.

Today, we look at 12 players (listed alphabetically) from the Eastern Conference who were traded before the Feb. 24 NHL Trade Deadline and had limited time with their new team before the season was paused on March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.  


Blake Coleman, F, Tampa Bay Lightning -- Coleman, who had 31 points (21 goals, 10 assists) in 57 games with the New Jersey Devils before being traded Feb. 16, had not found his rhythm with the Lightning, with one assist in nine games, before the season was paused. But he is the kind of well-rounded, tenacious forward Tampa Bay believed it was missing.

Coleman tied for fifth in the NHL with three shorthanded goals and was 11th among forwards with 191 hits. The Lightning will play in the round-robin with the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers.


Brenden Dillon, D, Washington Capitals -- Dillon's size (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and physicality (his 194 hits ranked fourth in the NHL among defensemen) were elements the Capitals thought they were missing at defenseman after Brooks Orpik retired following last season. Dillon played mostly on the top pair with John Carlson in his 10 games after being acquired from the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 18, but the Capitals were considering shifting him to the second pair with Dmitry Orlov before the season was paused.


Ondrej Kase, F, Boston Bruins -- The Bruins acquired Kase from the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 21 hoping he can provide scoring depth behind their top line of Brad Marchand (28 goals), Patrice Bergeron (31) and David Pastrnak (48), which accounted for 107 of their 227 goals (47.1 percent). Kase, who scored an NHL career-high 20 goals in 66 games with Anaheim in 2017-18, scored seven in 49 games before the trade and none in six games after joining Boston, but he could be a good fit at right wing on the second line with center David Krejci.


Ilya Kovalchuk, F, Washington Capitals -- Kovalchuk demonstrated he has some game left, scoring 13 points (six goals, seven assists), including three game-winning goals, in 22 games with the Montreal Canadiens after struggling with the Los Angeles Kings at the start of the season (three goals, six assists in 17 games).

That convinced the Capitals to acquire the 37-year-old Feb. 23 to solidify their third line (with an occasional jump to the top line to play alongside friend Alex Ovechkin) and help their second power-play unit. Kovalchuk scored four points (one goal, three assists) in seven games after being traded to Washington.

Video: WSH@NYR: Kovalchuk wires home blistering slap shot


Patrick Marleau, F, Pittsburgh Penguins -- Chasing his first Stanley Cup championship in 22 NHL seasons, Marleau fills the respected veteran role Matt Cullen played for the Penguins when they won the Cup in 2016 and 2017. The 40-year-old remains a fleet skater who will likely play on the third line and can move up the lineup if needed against the Canadiens in their qualifier series.

Marleau scored 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 58 games with San Jose before being acquired by Pittsburgh on Feb. 24 and two points (one goal, one assist) in eight games after the trade. 


Jean-Gabriel Pageau, F, New York Islanders -- Pageau was slowly acclimating to the Islanders' defense-focused system (two goals, minus-6 rating in seven games) before the season was paused, but the two-way center was exactly what New York needed. That's why the Islanders signed him to a six-year contract after acquiring him from the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 24.

He scored 40 points (NHL career-high 24 goals, 16 assists) and had an Ottawa-best plus-10 rating before the trade and won 53.5 percent of his face-offs this season. The Islanders will also benefit from Pageau's experience during Ottawa's run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2017, when he had 10 points (eight goals, two assists) in 19 playoff games. The Islanders will play the Florida Panthers in a qualifier series.

Video: NYR@NYI: Pageau scores in his Islanders debut


Brady Skjei, D, Carolina Hurricanes -- When the Hurricanes acquired Skjei from the New York Rangers and defenseman Sami Vatanen from the Devils on Feb. 24, they were thin at the position because of injuries to Dougie Hamilton (fractured left fibula) and Brett Pesce (right shoulder surgery). Now Hamilton is expected to be ready when the qualifier series against the Rangers begins, and there's a chance Pesce could return if the Carolina advances far enough.

Skjei remains a valuable addition, though, as a top-four defenseman who can play 20-plus minutes per game.


Vincent Trocheck, F, Carolina Hurricanes -- Like others on this list, Trocheck needed some time to adjust after being traded, from the Panthers on Feb. 24, but he seemed to be finding his way before the season was paused with a goal and an assist in his final three games. Playing behind Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal, he gives the Hurricanes a formidable top three at center that can match well against any opponent.


Jason Zucker, F, Pittsburgh Penguins -- Zucker was acquired from the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 10 as a potential replacement for Jake Guentzel (right shoulder surgery) at left wing on the top line with center Sidney Crosby. With Guenztel hoping to be ready for the start of the qualifiers, Zucker, who scored 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 15 games with Pittsburgh, likely will drop to the second line with center Evgeni Malkin.

Regardless of where he plays, Zucker will be a threat with his speed in the Penguins' rush game.

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