Each Friday throughout the season Kevin Weekes will bring you his Friday Four. The former goalie and current NHL Network analyst will be blogging about four players, teams, plays, or trends that have caught his eye.
Taylor Hall trade
I had an inkling, and from talking to some sources, I felt that the Arizona Coyotes could be the best fit for Taylor Hall since I heard that the asking price was too high for a lot of other teams. It's a big opportunity for the Coyotes (20-13-4), who are tied for first place in the Pacific Division with the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Coyotes acquired the 28-year-old forward on Monday along with forward Blake Speers from the New Jersey Devils for forward prospects Nicholas Merkley and Nate Schnarr, defenseman prospect Kevin Bahl, a conditional first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, and a conditional third-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. Hall made an immediate impact with an assist on the game-winning goal in his Coyotes debut, a 3-2 win against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, and had an assist in an 8-5 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.
At the same time, it's an opportunity for some younger players on the Devils to get more playing time. I wouldn't be surprised to see some other New Jersey veterans get moved for future assets given where the Devils are in the standings.
Video: Taylor Hall provides a big push to the Coyotes lineup
Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel missed a 6-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday because he was scratched with an upper-body injury, ending a 17-point game streak in which he had 31 points (16 goals, 15 assists). He fell one short of matching Gilbert Perreault's Sabres record for longest point streak at 18 games (Oct. 24-Dec. 4, 1971), but I'm sure he'll challenge that record again.
Eichel is playing a more complete game this season. He has 50 points (24 goals, 26 assists) in 35 games and is in the running for the Hart Trophy. He is also a plus-14 and has never been a plus player in his four previous NHL seasons. Something seems different this season and I think Eichel and the Sabres can get to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2011.
I know the Winnipeg Jets lost 4-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, and have lost three of four, but they've been very good this season (20-13-2). The top line has been good and Blake Wheeler has played well in a second-line role. Connor Hellebuyck is in the Vezina Trophy conversation for me and Josh Morrissey might be one of the most underrated defensemen in the League.
The Jets are without their top-four defensemen from last season; Dustin Byfuglien is suspended, Tyler Meyers and Ben Chariot left as free agents and Jacob Trouba was traded to the New York Rangers in the offseason. Still, they are currently in a playoff spot in the Western Conference. You have to give some credit to coach Paul Maurice for the job he's done with this team.
The Pittburgh Penguins are closing in on a top-three spot in the Metropolitan Division despite all the injuries they've had. That includes being without their captain and one of the best players in the world in Sidney Crosby, who has been out since Nov. 9 after having core muscle surgery. Pittsburgh (20-10-4) has won six of seven thanks to players like Evgeni Malkin, who scored his 400th NHL goal on Tuesday, and Jake Guentzel, who leads them in scoring with 36 points (17 goals, 19 assists) in 34 games.
Although goalie Matt Murray has struggled, we know what the two-time Stanley Cup winner is capable of, especially in the playoffs. He is their No. 1, but Tristan Jarry is playing like an elite goalie right now and pushing for playing time. He's 10-5-0 with an NHL-leading 1.85 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and three shutouts, which came in a four-game span.
Video: PIT@CGY: Malkin scores 400th NHL goal
The Colorado Avalanche used this offseason to acquire the missing pieces after they were one win from the Western Conference Final last season. That includes forwards Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi, each of whom rank in the top six on the team in scoring and are big reasons why the Avalanche are competing for first place in the Central Division.
Shea Weber has been great for the Montreal Canadiens this season. I talked to two people in their organization and some others outside of the Canadiens and they said it is a huge difference with the defenseman in the lineup. He was limited to 58 games last season because of injury, but has 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) in 35 games this season. Right now, I have him, Cale Makar of the Avalanche, Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues and Dougie Hamilton of the Carolina Hurricanes in the running as Norris Trophy finalists along with the likely winner John Carlson of the Washington Capitals.
Ottawa Senators forward Anthony Duclair grew up in Montreal and played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He's clearly benefited this season playing close to home. Duclair has 20 goals through 36 games, which tied his NHL high.
Lastly, it was nice to see that Butch Goring and John Tonelli will have their numbers retired by the New York Islanders this season. Each played a big part in New York's four straight Stanley Cup titles in 1980s and deserves this honor which many of their former teammates have had.