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NHL Trade Buzz: Andersen neck injury puts focus on Maple Leafs' plans

Predators begin crucial stretch; Byfuglien status could give Jets clarity

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

Welcome to the NHL Trade Buzz. There are 20 days remaining until the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET; Feb. 24), and NHL.com has all the important news, rumblings and analysis heading toward the deadline.

Here is a look around the League at the latest deadline doings:

 

MORE DEADLINE COVERAGE: Top trade targets | Kreider atop several wish lists 

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

Frederik Andersen's health underscores the question of whether the Maple Leafs need to add a goalie.

Andersen is day to day after sustaining a neck injury in the first period of Toronto's 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers at Scotiabank Arena on Monday. Andersen did not practice with Toronto on Tuesday and will not travel to New York when the Maple Leafs play the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; SN, MSG, NHL.TV).

Michael Hutchinson will start against the Rangers with Kasimir Kaskisuo, who was callled up from Toronto of the American Hockey League on Tuesday, backing up. 

The Maple Leafs (28-18-7) are one point behind the New York Islanders for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Andersen is 24-9-6 this season and second in the NHL in wins with 24, two behind Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has a 2.87 goals-against average, a .910 save percentage and one shutout this season. He has 48 games of experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and is 25-20 with a 2.63 GAA, a .914 save percentage and two shutouts.

Hutchinson, who is 4-8-1 with a 3.62 GAA, a .886 save percentage and one shutout this season, has never appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Kaskisuo has played one NHL game, and he allowed six goals on 38 shots in a 6-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Nov. 16. He is 12-7-2 with a 2.67 GAA, a .912 save percentage and one shutout in the AHL this season.

Video: FLA@TOR: Andersen leaves after 1st with injury

 

Florida Panthers

It should be no surprise that the Panthers would like to add an experienced defenseman to pair with Aaron Eklbad, or that a forward isn't as much of a priority, as general manager Dale Tallon told NHL.com.

After they were ninth in goals (3.22 per game) but 28th in goals against (3.33) last season, they hired coach Joel Quenneville and signed goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, defenseman Anton Stralman and forwards Noel Acciari and Brett Connolly. Tallon told the players in training camp that they had something to prove.

They're making progress.

The Panthers (29-17-5) are third in the Atlantic Division. They're second in goals per game (3.63) and 25th in goals against (3.27) in the NHL this season. But since Dec. 15, they're 14-5-0, the fourth-best record in the NHL in terms of point percentage (.737). They're second in goals per game (4.16) and tied for 19th in goals against (3.36) with the Arizona Coyotes and New York Islanders.

Scoring is not an issue, but defense remains one. Bobrovsky hasn't been at his best, but he's starting to find his form. If the Panthers can tighten up in front of him, they should make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons and perhaps make some noise.

"We've put ourselves in a position to be successful," Tallon said. "Now we have to take it to the next level. We have to win. We have to believe in it."

 

Winnipeg Jets

If the Jets and Dustin Byfuglien work out a mutual contract termination, that will give management clarity leading up to the deadline.

The defenseman is in the fourth year of a five-year contract with an average annual value of $7.6 million. 

The Jets (26-23-4) are three points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference entering their game against the Predators at Bell MTS Place on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; TSN3, FS-TN, NHL.TV).

"First and foremost, what will the availability be for me from [an NHL salary] cap perspective?" general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff told NHL.com on Jan. 7. "And that will be greatly influenced by the Byfuglien situation."

The Jets need to fill the hole left by Byfuglien, not to mention others on defense. They have needed to fill it all season.

Byfuglien has not played while serving a suspension and rehabilitation an ankle injury. In the offseason, Jacob Trouba was traded to the New York Rangers. Tyler Myers signed with the Vancouver Canucks and Ben Chiarot with the Montreal Canadiens.

"It's tough to see [Byfuglien] go, but we've been without him all year, so it's not like anything really changes now," center Mark Scheifele said. "Obviously he was an unbelievable player, and we wish him the best with his life. But nothing really changes in this room. It's still the same group. Nothing's changed."

 

Nashville Predators

What the Predators do in the coming days, and how they do it, will be pivotal.

The Predators (24-20-7) are four points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, but with three games in hand. They play at the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; TSN3, FS-TN, NHL.TV), Calgary Flames on Thursday, Edmonton Oilers on Saturday and Vancouver Canucks on Monday.

"Undoubtedly, we will know a lot more about what our playoffs look like once we finish the West Coast trip," general manager David Poile told NHL.com "It's the time of year where we are going to be active like everyone else in terms of talking to different teams as a seller and as a buyer. The trip will alter which way we go. The market too. Maybe there's a hockey trade out there to be made."

The Predators fired Peter Laviolette as coach on Jan. 6 and hired John Hynes on Jan. 7. Asked what specifically he would like to address, Poile said: "The more time I can give the team, especially with the coaching changes, I think the more clarity we will have. That might not line up with the timing of the deadline."

Nashville is ninth in offense (3.27 goals per game), 26th in defense (3.29 goals per game) and 19th in 5-on-5 save percentage. Since Hynes took over, they are 20th in offense (2.60 goals per game), 25th in goals against (3.40 goals per game) and 17th in 5-on-5 save percentage (.916).

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