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NHL Trade Buzz: Zuccarello losing sleep awaiting Rangers moves

Blue Jackets eye offensive help; Wild, Ducks may not make splash

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the NHL Trade Buzz. There are four days remaining until the NHL Trade Deadline (Monday, 3 p.m. ET). How many transactions will the New York Rangers make? Will the Columbus Blue Jackets seek more production? Do the Wild add to prepare for the Western Conference "dogfight?"

Here's a look around the League at the latest deadline doings:

 

 

New York Rangers

On Feb. 8, the Rangers made their intentions very clear: Their message to fans, from president Glen Sather and general manager Jeff Gorton, was "the decisions we make going forward will be based on long-term and not trying to save the season."

But waiting to see what happens has been tough on the players.

"It's hard to sleep sometimes and you think a lot," forward Mats Zuccarello said in Montreal, where the Rangers play the Canadiens on Thursday (7:30 p.m ET; TSN2, RDS, MSG2, NHL.TV). "But at the end of the day, it's part of the game. And when you're not performing at the level the team should be or hoping to be, it's normal that these discussions and rumors come up. You just have to deal with it."

The Rangers (27-28-5, 59 points) are six points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Eastern Conference. New York traded defenseman Nick Holden to the Boston Bruins for a third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and defenseman Rob O'Gara on Tuesday.

Forwards Rick Nash and Michael Grabner, who can each become unrestricted free agents on July 1 and are expected to be traded before the deadline, will not play against the Canadiens, according to multiple reports. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who did not travel to Montreal for the game, could also be on the move.

It has been two weeks since the Rangers announced their intentions. It wasn't easy for Rangers players to hear it then, and it's not getting any easier with the deadline approaching.

"We try to keep it the same, but obviously there's a lot of thinking of what's going to happen. I think that's normal," Zuccarello said. "No one wants to be in this situation. Sometimes it's hard, especially if you're losing. A lot of rumors and all that. In about six days here, the mood is going to get a little bit better."

Video: Butch and Kevin give quick fixes for Bruins, Rangers

 
Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets (30-25-5, 65 points) have had a tough time finding consistency lately, but still hold the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. So with the deadline getting closer, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen will weigh his options. 

"We'd like to help the team, obviously. That's what we do, every day," Kekalainen told the Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday. "But not at any cost where we make sure we put all our marbles in one basket this spring and make the playoffs. That's not the goal for this organization.

"The goal that we have as a management team is to ... get to a point where our core is strong enough where we can get to playoffs every year, at minimum, and then be in that group that competes for the Stanley Cup. I'd rather get to that position a little bit later than get to the playoffs and sacrifice some of that possibility of being in that group for a longer time."

The Blue Jackets, 3-6-2 in their past 11 games, could use a scoring boost. Columbus averaging 2.55 goals per game, 28th in the NHL. Forward Artemi Panarin leads the Blue Jackets with 48 points (16 goals, 32 assists) but there's a drop after that; forward Nick Foligno, who had 51 points (26 goals, 25 assists) last season, has 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in 59 games. Defenseman Zach Werenski, who had 47 points (11 goals, 36 assists) as a rookie last season, has 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists) in 56 games.

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported the Blue Jackets asked about Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov, among others. Anisimov, who played for Columbus coach John Tortorella when each was with the New York Rangers, was Panarin's center for two seasons with Chicago.

Kekalainen said he's happy with his core and would be open to a rental, but wouldn't give up too much for one.

"There could be a prospect that's a reasonable price for somebody that's a rental," he said. "A first-round pick was already in a trade last year. We don't want to make a hole - that's two years in a row. To me, that creates a huge hole in the depth chart, if you trade away your first-round pick two years in a row. I don't think that would be wise for the future of the organization."

Video: Shelley on the Blue Jackets and the trade deadline

 

Minnesota Wild

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau told 100.3 KFAN on Thursday morning he likes how his team has been playing as of late. Told the Wild are on pace for 99 points this season, Boudreau was asked if he felt secure about where they are right now.

"Since probably November, we've been in this dogfight," he said. "The minute I feel secure is the minute something bad is going to happen. Every game is going to be a battle."

The Wild (32-20-7, 71 points) hold the second wild card from the Western Conference, but that race is tight; they are tied with the Los Angeles Kings, two points ahead of the Calgary Flames and three ahead of the Colorado Avalanche. 

Last season, the Wild went big at the deadline, acquiring center Martin Hanzal, forward Ryan White and a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft from the Arizona Coyotes for Minnesota's first-round pick in 2017, its second-round pick in 2018, a conditional fourth-round pick in 2019 and forward Grayson Downing. It didn't work out; the Wild, who led the Central Division at the time of the trade, were eliminated by the St. Louis Blues 4-1 in the first round.

Could the Wild go subtler this deadline? Boudreau said he's "sort of in the dark right now" about what the team could do. 

"I like the way we're playing and I know if Chuck [Fletcher, Wild general manager] thinks he can do something to improve the team he'll improve the team," Boudreau said. "That's what you do."

 

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks (31-20-11, 73 points) are in an interesting spot. They're third in the Pacific Division, one point behind the second-place San Jose Sharks and one point ahead of the St. Louis Blues, who hold the first wild card. But being in that fight for a playoff position has kept the Ducks focused on hockey and not on what may happen at the deadline.

"We have stuff where we're kind of busy right now thinking about other things and about winning," forward Andrew Cogliano told Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register. "So, I think that's taking our minds off what's coming ahead. Yeah, I think you always wonder what's going to happen around the League, if there'll be moves made.

"I do think we're in a position to [add]. But you look around the room and there's a lot of good players and a lot of guys who are pretty set in their positions. So, you obviously wonder where guys fit if they came."

Stephens points out that Anaheim general manager Bob Murray usually makes more moves during the offseason or early in the regular season. But the Ducks usually have been in a better playoff position, having won the Pacific Division the past five seasons. Anaheim has done well despite injuries, but could benefit from a deadline addition.

 

San Jose Sharks

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said Thursday he hopes center Joe Thornton, who had knee surgery on Jan. 25, can return this season. But there's no guarantee on that.

"All I can say is what we went through with him last year, he just does things in a way that I've never seen an athlete do," Wilson said. "There [are] no guidelines that I think he adheres to."

Thornton played with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee in the Sharks' first-round series against the Edmonton Oilers in 2017. He had surgery on that knee on April 24, 2017 and was ready to go when the Sharks began training camp in September. 

Even if Thornton doesn't return, it may not change deadline plans for the Sharks (33-19-8, 74 points), who are second in the Pacific Division, one point ahead of the Ducks. Kevin Kurz of The Athletic writes that San Jose doesn't have a lot of assets to offer, especially draft picks. The Sharks do not have a second- or third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

San Jose was 2-4-1 in its first seven games without Thornton but has gone 5-1-0 since, outscoring opponents 22-13.

Video: WPG@SJS: Tierney blasts home one-timer for PPG

 

Tampa Bay Lightning 

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman isn't sure what he'll be able to do at the deadline, but one thing is for certain: the current roster isn't changing.

"At the trade deadline, when you're trying to acquire players, usually teams that are selling are looking for younger players, draft picks and prospects," Yzerman told the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday. "At this stage, the young players on our team, we want to keep on our team and we want to add to that. We're trying to keep this team together with the hope of improving it."

If that's the case, making a big acquisition like Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson would seem unlikely. The expected return would be more than the Lightning (40-17-3, 83 points) are willing to pay. Tampa Bay entered its game at the Ottawa Senators on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; RDS2, TSN5, SUN, NHL.TV) with a one-point lead over the Boston Bruins for first in the Atlantic Division..

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