Columbus Blue Jackets
In acquiring forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel from the Ottawa Senators in separate trades the past two days, the Columbus Blue Jackets gave up a significant chunk of their future to take their best shot at winning in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. The question remains if these trades were meant to supplement the offensive talent the Blue Jackets already had or pave the way for trading forward Artemi Panarin.
Video: Tanguay on the adjustment period for Matt Duchene
Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen repeated Sunday that his stance on forward Artemi Panarin remains unchanged. Panarin, who leads the Blue Jackets with 68 points (24 goals, 44 assists), can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but Kekalainen made it clear that he'll only trade the 27-year-old if he gets an offer that makes sense and won't impact the Blue Jackets' chances of qualifying for and having success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That also applies to goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, a two-time winner of the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender and also a pending UFA.
"As I've said consistently, that only if there's an offer that really makes sense in the short term as well as in the long term would we be moving either one of those guys," Kekalainen said during a media conference call.
"That's the focus right now. We've been saying that we want to send a message into the locker room - first and foremost into the locker room and into our fan base that we're serious about winning."
But, Panarin is the biggest chip the Blue Jackets have to potentially add another player (possibly a defenseman with Ryan Murray sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury) and recoup some of the assets for the future they gave up for Duchene and Dzingel, who also are potential unrestricted free agents but sound more willing than Panarin to consider re-signing with Columbus.
To acquire Duchene and Dzingel, the Blue Jackets traded the Senators forward prospects Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson, a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL draft, a conditional first-round pick in the 2020 draft, a second-round pick in the 2020 draft and a second-round pick in the 2021 draft. Columbus also gave up 23-year-old forward Anthony Duclair (a pending restricted free agent) and received a seventh-round pick in the 2019 draft and minor league defenseman Julius Bergman from Ottawa in those two trades.
The Blue Jackets are well-stocked with prospects, so giving up Abramov and Davidsson might not hurt them as much long-term as depleting the number of picks they have in the first two rounds of the next three drafts.
If they sign Duchene to a new contract, they have to give the Senators their 2020 first-round pick. That would leave them with no first-round picks in the next two drafts and no second-round picks in the next three drafts.
Video: SJS@CBJ: Duchene backhands the puck past Jones
The Blue Jackets traded their second-round pick in the 2019 draft to the Vegas Golden Knights along with their first-round pick in the 2017 draft and injured forward David Clarkson for considerations in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.
Finding a way to get back a first-round or second-round pick would alleviate some of the risk the Blue Jackets are taking, but Kekalainen said that won't be a factor in his decision on Panarin.
"As I've said, it would take a lot of sense not only in the long term but in the short term as well to make that kind of trade," Kekalainen said. "We're not trading Artemi Panarin for draft picks. … We want to try to win, and while draft picks are valuable, we have some time to get some back and we'll work on them later."
The Blue Jackets, who are third in the Metropolitan Division, do not play again until after the trade deadline, hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, FS-O, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV).
The Penguins suddenly find themselves shorthanded on defense after Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang, who play together on their top pair, were injured in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday.
Dumoulin has a concussion after getting hit high by Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds with 3:37 remaining in the first period, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. Letang, who was injured after coming to Dumoulin's defense, is being evaluated for an upper-body injury.
Pittsburgh was already missing second-pair defenseman Olli Maatta, who is on injured reserve and out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.
The Penguins are in a tight battle to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so bringing in a defenseman to help for the stretch drive might become a priority for general manager Jim Rutherford, who is also looking to add scoring depth at forward. Pittsburgh (32-22-8) is tied in points with the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference, but the Hurricanes hold the spot because of the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker (ROW), 32-31. Each team has 72 points in 62 games.
The Blue Jackets lead the Hurricanes and Penguins in the race for third place in the Metropolitan Division by one point in one fewer game. The Montreal Canadiens also have 73 points in 62 games and hold the first wild card.
It will be difficult to replace Letang if he misses an extended period. The 31-year-old is third in the NHL in averaging 25:55 in ice time per game, is tied with Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the League lead among defensemen with 15 goals and is fifth among defensemen in points with 53.
With Ben Lovejoy (traded by the New Jersey Devils to the Dallas Stars) and Nick Jensen (traded by the Detroit Red Wings to the Washington Capitals) already off the market, the remaining options on defense include Cody Ceci of the Ottawa Senators (a potential restricted free agent) and Adam McQuaid of the New York Rangers (a potential unrestricted free agent).
After trading Duchene and Dzingel, the Senators still have one more significant potential unrestricted free agent to move: forward Mark Stone. Bob McKenzie of TSN reported Saturday that "the door to re-signing (Stone) in Ottawa has not been locked shut," but GM Pierre Dorion's primary focus is trading him.
The Ottawa Sun reported that Stone, 26, turned down an eight-year contract offer prior to a 4-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. Stone is expected to sit out as a precaution for the third consecutive game when the Senators host the Calgary Flames at Canadian Tire Centre on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; SN, TVAS, NHL.TV).
Stone leads Ottawa with 62 points (28 goals, 34 assists) and would be a valuable addition for a team seeking a top-six forward. McKenzie listed the Winnipeg Jets, Nashville, Predators, Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins among the serious suitors.
Defenseman Cody Ceci and forward Mikkel Boedker also will be held out as a precaution by the Senators, according to multiple reports.
Ceci is eligible to become a restricted free agent on July 1. Right-hand shot defensemen are in high demand, and having the option to keep Ceci, 25, beyond the end of this season might add to his value.
Boedker, 29, has another season remaining on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2020. He has 29 points (six goals, 23 assists) in 54 games this season.
After missing out on Dzingel and Mats Zuccarello, traded by the New York Rangers to the Dallas Starson Saturday, those teams might be more willing to meet the Senators' asking price (or inquire with Columbus about Panarin's availability).
Having already added potentially two first-round picks and two second-round picks along with Abramov and Davidsson from the Blue Jackets, the Senators are collecting pieces to feed their plan to rebuild with young talent. They have 16 picks, including conditional selections, in the first three rounds of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 drafts.
"We're pleased with the futures we've received in this deal," Dorion said of the Dzingel trade. "The two second-round picks add to the significant depth of quality selections we'll have available to us in the next three drafts to fuel our rebuild."
Tampa Bay Lightning
Leading the NHL with 98 points, the Lightning (47-11-4) will be dealing from a position of power if they decide to make any trades before the deadline. In fact, coach Jon Cooper said he wouldn't "lose an ounce of sleep" if Tampa Bay doesn't make any moves, Joe Smith of The Athletic posted on Twitter.
The Lightning have been doing quite well with the roster they have, holding a 17-point lead on the Boston Bruins for first in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference and a 15-point lead on the Calgary Flames for first in the League. The Lightning lead the NHL in averaging 3.85 goals per game and are tied with the Dallas for Stars for third in the League in allowing 2.61 goals per game.
So, no one would blame GM Julien Brisebois for not wanting to mess with a winning chemistry.
"It's not make a trade to make a trade," Cooper told Smith. "We like our group. … Whatever happens, it will be good for us. And that could be nothing."
If the Lightning look to add anything, it might be a depth defenseman. They've been linked to Adam McQuaid, a potential unrestricted free agent who sat out again as a precaution for the New York Rangers against the Washington Capitals on Sunday.
The Lightning have a history of trade deadline deals with the Rangers, including acquiring defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller last season. Before the 2014 deadline, Tampa Bay acquired forward Ryan Callahan, a first-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, a first-round pick in the 2015 draft and seventh-round pick in the 2015 draft from New York for forward Martin St. Louis and a second-round pick in the 2015 draft.
Wayne Simmonds probably won't play another game for the Flyers, according to John Shannon of Sportsnet. Citing a Flyers' source, Shannon posted on Twitter that it's, "Likely, but not 100 percent decided yet," that Simmonds, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, will be traded before the deadline.
Simmonds has been preparing for that possibility. The 30-year-old forward said he wasn't sure what the future holds for him after Philadelphia's 4-3 overtime win against the Penguins in the 2019 Coors Light Stadium Series at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday.
The Flyers don't play again until they host the Buffalo Sabres at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSP, NHL.TV).
"I don't know what's going to happen," Simmonds said in a story by NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor Adam Kimelman on Saturday.
"Obviously, I'd like to stay here, but it's out of my hands now. It is what it is at this point. I can truly say I've given everything I have to Philadelphia over the last eight years."
Despite rallying from a 3-1 third period deficit to defeat the Penguins, the Flyers (29-26-7) are seven points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference with 20 games remaining. Although they might not be ready to give up on making the playoffs this season, trading Simmonds for assets for the future makes sense after GM Chuck Fletcher has said he doesn't want to risk losing him for nothing.
Simmonds' production has dropped off since he scored an NHL career-high 32 goals in 2015-16 and 31 goals in 2016-17, but he is tied for fourth on the Flyers with 16 goals in 62 games this season and would be a valuable addition for any team looking to add depth scoring and a physical edge on the wing. At 6-foot-2, 185-pounds, Simmonds is an effective net-front presence at even strength and on the power play. He has 242 goals in the NHL, 94 on the power play.
The Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Bruins, Winnipeg Jets, Vegas Golden Knights and Flames have been mentioned as potential suitors for Simmonds.
[RELATED: NHL Trade Buzz: Lovejoy latest addition for Stars, might not be last]