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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: The Deadline Is Closer than Appears

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With the Trade Deadline a month away, more names are being thrown out every day in trade rumors across the division.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

1. Columbus Blue Jackets: 59 Points (28-15-3)

The big news out of Columbus is that goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has told the team that he is willing to waive his no trade clause. This apparently came weeks ago and before the issue that caused him to be sat for a start. Though he has been frustrated with the team, they are unlikely to make any trade containing Bobrovsky. Now sitting atop the Metro standings, they are more likely to value going for a playoff run than the more logical option to not lose him for nothing.

With the outburst last week, he is clearly not happy with the organization. He also knows that even with waiving the no trade clause he would still be unlikely to be traded. It is likely that he is signaling to the team that he wants out and won’t re-sign in the off season.

2. Washington Capitals: 59 Points (27-14-5)

After a 7-2 loss on Tuesday night the Caps have now lost three straight for only the second time this season but the second time this month. The Caps now have a record of 3-4-2 in their last nine games. The active streak has one main difference: goaltending. Starter Braden Holtby has sat out back to back games after an eye injury he sustained in an overtime loss against the Blue Jackets on Saturday. Holtby initially planned to play Tuesday against the Nashville Predators, but two hours before puck drop the start went to Pheonix Copley.

In his last five games Copley has struggled letting up 17 goals and a .884 save percentage. The Caps don’t have the quality of backups they are used to over the past decade and need Holtby to right the ship. Holtby should be able to return Friday night against the New York Islanders, and it is just in time. The Caps have just relinquished the top spot in the Metropolitan Division to the Blue Jackets and need to get back to top form.

3. New York Islanders: 56 Points (26-15-4)

The Islanders are in no man’s land, they are on the border of the playoff race, but will they buy or sell at the deadline? Looking at their current roster, they have seven pending unrestricted free agents, including Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle, and Anders Lee who are all 28 or younger. The problem is if the do want to “buy” and try to go on a run, they don’t have too many assets to trade.

They do have their first-round pick and the Flames’ second-round pick, but they have already traded their second, third, and fourth picks. They also don’t have too deep of a prospect pool. The other option is to sell at the deadline. They don’t have to go with a full fire sale, but if they sell a single piece like Nelson they could load up on more assets and not fully give up their ability to compete in the next couple of years.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins: 56 Points (25-15-6)

The Penguins are quite busy in the trade market, pulling off a minor deal with Anaheim last night. Multiple sources believe that the Penguins will be shopping Derick Brassard at the trade deadline. Last season everyone was up in arms that the Penguins need a third line center, and they traded multiple picks and players to get it done. Now - just a year later - they are looking to offload him, likely for much less and they find themselves in a bit of a pickle. Brassard has a cap hit of just $3 million on an expiring contract, so the only other teams that could be interested would be a fellow contending team.

The contract is small enough to where they won’t be fully dumping a contract with picks, but it also means that they will be unable to take a player with a large contract in return. They could trade with someone like the Oilers who want forwards at all costs and are apparently willing to part with Jesse Puljujarvi. If the Penguins are looking for defense they could try to trade with the rangers for Kevin Shattenkirk or Brendan Smith. The Rangers would also be willing to retain cap if it means they get picks and prospects in return.

5. Carolina Hurricanes: 49 Points (22-19-5)

When Jordan Staal was initially placed on IR on January 4, it was a big issue for the Canes who have been thin at center all year. However, in his absence, it has become clear that Sebastian Aho is more than capable of being a number one center in the league. Since Staal initially left with the injury on December 23rd, Aho has nine goals and 17 total points ranking him fifth in the league over that time.

The impacts downstream were also big. Lucas Wallmark stepped up to play second line center and Greg McKegg was called up from the Checkers on January 4 when Staal was placed on IR. McKegg made an immediate impact and was a large contributor in the five-game win streak the Canes had to start 2019. He brings a physical presence to the Canes that has been needed for years. When he is on the ice they are a tougher team to play against. When Staal does come back, someone will be moved from the middle and either onto a wing or back to Charlotte.

When looking at the Canes over this run Wallmark has the fewest amount of points (two) out of the active starters. While many may look at Victor Rask as the odd man out, he has four assists and seems to be hitting his stride as of late. Four of his six points have come in the last six games and played on the only line that showed up in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. He would plug in with the third line while McKegg handles the fourth. Wallmark has been effective this year, but the Canes should ride the hot hands while they can.

6. New York Rangers: 45 Points (19-20-7)

Heading into Tuesday’s game with the Hurricanes, head coach David Quinn challenged the Rangers players to come out of the gates strong and grab the bull by the horns. After a 7-5 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets and losing six out of seven, Quinn didn’t hold back. The team responded extremely well as they beat the Canes 6-2 with three power play goals.

This game also featured the debut of 20-year-old rookie defenseman Ryan Lindgren. Lindgren is filling in for Frederik Claesson who is out two to three weeks with an injury. The Rangers acquired Lindgren last season from the Boston Bruins in the trade that sent Rick Nash to the Bruins. He has spent this season with Hartford in the AHL with five assists in 35 games. He has some positives to build off of in his first game, but does have room to improve. He played a team low for defensemen with 15:22 in his first game with a -1 rating with two PIMS.

7. New Jersey Devils: 43 Points (18-21-7)

What initially looked to be a nagging injury to Talyor Hall on December 23, may be more serious. He is unlikely to play before the All-Star break and has yet to begin skating from an undisclosed lower-body injury. When you combine that with the fact that Cory Schneider has yet to return from IR which he was placed on December 9, the Devils have struggled to find consistent play. Since losing both players, Jersey has gone 6-6-0 with some crazy scores.

They have scored 2.96 goals per game but have let up 3.37 goals per game which also includes two shutouts. Just this week they beat the Chicago Blackhawks 8-5 before then losing 4-1 to Columbus, which shows how their season is going without their top player and starting goaltender. Because of these critical losses it is also hard to judge who this team really is, but you would have to think October to December would tell management that they need to sell at the deadline.

8. Philadelphia Flyers: 40 Points (17-23-6)

Ron Hextall was fired largely in part because he did not make any aggressive moves. However, the new GM Chuck Fletcher has also made no significant moves since he took over. One of the first moves he has made was to place Dale Weise on waivers. Weise is on his third year of a four-year deal with a $2.350 AAV and cleared yesterday. He has just five goals and six assists on the season and has not had a great year with a 48.22% corsi.

His impact will be felt off the ice. Second year forward Nolan Patrick mentioned that Weise was one of his best buddies on the team and that he was “By far the best teammate I’ve ever had.”

The Flyers are employing the same tactic the Hurricanes did earlier in the year by waiving Phil Di Giuseppe and hanging on to him. It appears that the Flyers were using the waivers to potentially dump his contract, but no other teams bit. There isn’t much that the Flyers can do right now, so the best thing they can do is bring in some youth and test them out at the NHL level to see what they have in the organization.