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Central Intelligence: Division teams look to ascend after deadline deals

Jets, Preds among teams to make multiple moves aimed at getting better for season's stretch run

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe /

With the Central Division race coming to a crescendo, several teams went out and got what they perceived as upgrades ahead of the NHL's Trade Deadline, adding a new element of competitiveness in an already tight division.

Perhaps no team was busier than the Winnipeg Jets, who for a second consecutive season, went out and acquired a rental center for their stretch run.

Last year, it was Paul Stastny who helped the Jets reach the Western Conference Finals. 

This year, Winnipeg made a deal with the New York Rangers for Kevin Hayes, the 26-year-old forward who had 14 goals and 28 assists in 51 games with the Blueshirts this season and was coming off a 25-goal campaign last year.

The hope is surrounding him with more dynamic talent in Winnipeg can bring out the best in Hayes, who is just two points shy of tying his career high of 49 points entering play on Wednesday. So far, Hayes has registered five points in seven games with his new club.

But the Jets were far from done.

They also bolstered their blue line by adding Nathan Beaulieu from the Buffalo Sabres and forward Matt Hendricks from the Wild. 

The Jets have been beset by injuries all season long on the back end, and the hope is that Beaulieu can add some extra depth.

Hendricks played in 60 games with Winnipeg last season and the Jets missed his presence in the locker room. How much so? They gave up a future asset to a division rival for a guy who hadn't cracked the lineup in half the games this season. 

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Winnipeg's prime competition for the top spot in the division made a couple of big splashes, acquiring Wayne Simmonds from the Philadelphia Flyers and Mikael Granlund from the Wild. Both trades came together in the final couple hours before the trade deadline, but make Nashville a deeper team up front.

While the Predators gave up a significant young asset in Kevin Fiala, who is younger, cheaper and controlled longer, they believe they are adding a playmaker in Granlund -- who has a goal and three assists in five contests with Nashville -- that can help their slumping power play turn a corner. 

Simmonds adds the kind of grit that all teams love come playoff time. He also brings 42 games of postseason experience into the fold for a club looking to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals. 

Minnesota made several headline-grabbing moves in the month leading up to the deadline, completely re-shaping its young core. Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle went out, while Victor Rask, Ryan Donato and Fiala came in. 

The Wild also freed up significant money this summer to make a run at an impact player.

The Dallas Stars had some unfortunate luck, dealing for Mats Zuccarello from the Rangers and having him make a major impact in his first game with the club.

Zuccarello scored a goal and had an assist on another and was a plus-3 before breaking his arm in the first game. He's expected to miss several weeks of action following surgery.

The Colorado Avalanche made just one smaller move, acquiring centerman Derick Brassard from the Florida Panthers. Brassard is playoff tested and his addition provided needed depth with the news that captain Gabriel Landeskog could miss the next 4-6 weeks. 

Like the Avs, the Blues added around the fringes, acquiring defenseman Michael Del Zotto from Anaheim. Del Zotto has played in just one game since the deal, but provides St. Louis with a mobile blue liner in case of injury down the stretch.


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