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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: Carolina Hurricanes’ Lead Hanging by a Thread

The Carolina Hurricanes hold a tie breaker over the New Jersey Devils. Canes now back in the trade market.

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

1. Carolina Hurricanes: 66 Points (29-9-8)

The Carolina Hurricanes have had some time between games to rest and regroup, playing in only their third game in the last 10 days. This is much needed as they have had multiple players taking maintenance days recently. This will also help the whole organization digest the Max Pacioretty injury and make plans for the future.

The Canes have been linked to two players, Timo Meier and Bo Horvat. Both Meier and Horvat are pending free agents but with different circumstances. Horvat is 27 years old and would bolster the center position for the Canes while also providing scoring. He has already had 30 goals and 19 assists this season.

Meier is a pending RFA, but has a unique contract. He has a $10 million contract this season meaning to retain his rights his qualifying offer is a one-year $10 million contract. This makes negotiations tricky because he has two restricted years left and one is already valued at $10 million. This is a very similar circumstance when the Washington Commanders were franchise-tagging Kirk Cousins and driving up the minimum value of his contract.

2. New Jersey Devils: 66 Points (31-12-4)

Dougie Hamilton continues to pump his stock in New Jersey with yet another hero situation last night. The New Jersey Devils were down one goal with under two minutes left last night when Hamilton scored to tie the game and send it into overtime. He then scored the game-winning goal to push his team into a tie for points with Carolina. His 40 points now tie his highest mark while he was a Carolina Hurricane, and is just 10 points shy of his career-high. His four game-winning goals are more than he had in a single season with the Canes. He also has 14 points in his last 12 games.

Center Jack Hughes also had an assist in the game-winning goal. Hughes is on a crazy seven-game point streak, with four goals and eight assists in those seven games. Hughes now also has 27 points in his last 19 games and is on pace for a 100-point season as the second-line center for the Devils.

3. New York Rangers: 59 Points (26-14-7)

At a certain point, a coach’s schtick has to wear thin on a team. After a 6-2 win against the Florida Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant said, “I just didn’t think we played well enough… You get six and you question your lines again. We can be better than that.”

What does he need to see out of the team to give them a compliment? They had just seven goals in their last three games, and now they come out and score six and their coach doesn’t allow them to feel good about it?

This has been a sticking point with many Rangers fans this season as Gallant refuses to give young players a larger role on the team, which also appears to lengthen a players’ projected development timeline. What does he need to see out of players to trust them or be happy?

Alexis Lafreniere recorded a goal and an assist, Kaapo Kakko recorded two assists, and a trio of players recorded three points, yet it wasn’t good enough. Gallant has always been a coach that doesn’t stick around more than a couple of seasons, and it seems to be apparent why.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins: 56 Points (24-15-8)

On Friday, Penguins defenseman P.O. Joseph played against his older brother Mathieu Joseph for the first time. Mathieu is a forward for the Ottawa Senators, and they both found their way onto the stat sheet in a hilarious fashion. The two brothers went into the boards together and both ended up high-sticking penalties against one another. This marks the third time in NHL history that brothers have taken matching penalties. Another was when Keith and Wayne Primeau fought each other in 1997.

The Penguins activated Kris Letang off of LTIR last night as he returned to play against the Florida Panthers. The Penguins have struggled with him out of the lineup with a 4-5-3 record since December 28th. He returned to play on the top pairing with Brian Dumoulin, and his impact was immediately felt as he registered two goals and two assists, including the overtime game-winner. He was awarded the first star of the night honors in his return.

5. Washington Capitals: 56 Points (25-19-6)

Alex Ovechkin returned to the lineup after missing Saturday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights due to an undisclosed injury. Prior to Tuesday, he was ruled day-to-day but was able to practice before joining the team last night, in which he scored his 811th career goal. The Caps still received some bad news on the injury front regardless though as forward Tom Wilson took a shot to the leg and didn’t return.

It was also revealed that forward T.J. Oshie had played through a broken foot last season. While playing through that injury, Oshie developed additional complications with his back causing him to miss time last season with that. Over the weekend, he revealed that the three times he has missed time this season has been due to the lingering back issues he developed from that initial broken foot.

Oshie missed last night’s game, but it wasn’t because of injury. Instead it was a much happier reason due to his wife giving birth to their fourth child.

6. New York Islanders: 51 Points (23-21-5)

The Islanders were able to activate Kyle Palmieri and Adam Pelech from injured reserve and they made their returns Monday in a 5-2 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs. This was their second consecutive 5-2 loss and their fifth straight loss, for a 0-3-2 record in their last five games. Their January record is now 2-7-3 and they have not won straight games in 2023. Their recent floundering play has seen them fall to three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final playoff spot.

There isn’t much the Islanders can do, and for the NHL often the cheapest solution is to fire a coach. The Isles are still paying Barry Trotz this season and the current coach Lane Lambert is in the first year of a loosely reported three-year contract. The issue is, if ownership believes in Lou Lamoriello, they don’t have much else they can do with limited cap space.

7. Philadelphia Flyers: 48 Points (20-21-8)

The Flyers are guaranteed to at least finish January with a .500 record. This Is only the second month they have been .500 or over, with the other coming in October. The Flyers have not lost consecutive games since December and while this could be exciting for Flyers fans, this has all but essentially taken them out of the Conner Bedard sweepstakes. According to Tankathon, the Flyers have the ninth-best odds, with a 5% chance to win the first overall pick.

The Flyers also do not have their second-round pick and will be without one of their three third-round picks due to the trades that brought in Rasmus Ristolainen and Tony DeAngelo. They also only have just two compelling upcoming free agents, James van Riemsdyk and Justin Braun. However, they have almost $14.4 million on injured reserve, so they could be able to pick up a second-round pick and some middle/late-round picks by weaponizing that cap space at the trade deadline.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets: 31 Points (14-30-3)

Johnny Gaudreau returned to Calgary for the first time since signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday and while he registered two assists in his return, it was spoiled by Dillon Dube in overtime. With a three-point performance on Monday, Patrik Laine now has two goals and four assists in his last three games. Gaudreau now also has a goal and four assists in his last three games.

Making it to overtime might not be the best news for their long-term goals of winning the first-overall pick, however, they did achieve ultimate success with a loss against the Anaheim Ducks. According to Tankathon, the Blue Jackets have a 13.5% chance to win the draft lottery. Both the Ducks and the Jackets have a 3-6-1 record in their last 10, and with a harder schedule in the long run the Blue Jackets are set up to earn the highest odds in the draft at 25.5%.