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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: Sprint to the Trade Deadline

Teams jockey for last minute position to set their strategy for the impending trade deadline in two weeks.

Carolina Hurricanes v Washington Capitals Photo by John McCreary/NHLI via Getty Images

1. Carolina Hurricanes: 78 Points (35-10-8)

The Carolina Hurricanes’ seven-game win streak and 10-game point streak came to an end on Saturday against the New York Rangers. The loss coming after a lengthy break against a team that had a few games to settle in wasn’t entirely surprising though. The Canes were able to make sure the bad game didn’t get out of hand though by bouncing back and beating the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

The game against the Capitals still looked harder than it should have with the Caps missing Alexander Ovechkin. The Canes narrowly avoided having to go to overtime multiple times in large part due to late-game heroics from Frederick Andersen. It’s a shame that Ovi won’t be playing in the Stadium Series game on Saturday, but Tuesday showed us that no matter the talent gap the two come together to make interesting games.

The Canes have a great opportunity to string together another win streak coming up. Of their next 10 opponents, only three of them are currently in a playoff position in the standings. In addition, seven of their next 10 are at home. It could be just the stretch the team needs to force Don Waddell’s hand to make a blockbuster trade at the deadline next month.

2. New Jersey Devils: 75 Points (35-13-5)

Last week the New Jersey Devils announced that center, Jack Hughes, is listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury. He last played on February 6th against the Vancouver Canucks. The Devils haven’t missed a step without their top goal scorer though, and have a 2-0-1 record since he was sidelined. The Devils have lost just two games in regulation in 2023.

The Devils are the most heavily rumored team in the Timo Meier sweepstakes. In this week’s 32 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman said that he believes the Devils have asked for a “final shot” if the Sharks are prepared to accept another offer. The Devils are stacked with pieces that they can include in any deals. They were ranked as the second-best prospect pool by The Athletic which includes four defensemen, three of which are right-handed. They would be able to match or beat any other team’s offer if they so choose.

3. New York Rangers: 72 Points (32-14-8)

The New York Rangers put a load of pressure on the rest of the Metropolitan Division with their acquisition of Vladimir Tarasenko. The Rangers were able to acquire Tarasenko and bolster some defensive depth by also acquiring Nikola Mikkola from the St. Louis Blues for a pair of picks and Samuel Blais. Tarasenko has immediately been added to the top line and in three games Tarasenko has a single goal, although that came in his very first game with the Rangers.

However, his impact can be felt in other ways. His linemate, Artemi Panarin, has six goals in his last two games and with Tarasenko on the ice, The Rangers have three real options to score and that's without having to combine Panarin with Mika Zibenejad like they have dabbled with in the past. Panarin also has a five-game point streak since returning from the All-Star break. In those five games, he has recorded 12 total points.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins: 63 Points (27-17-9)

The Pittsburgh Penguins were able to bounce back from a 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings with a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. The Penguins were led by Casey DeSmith who stopped 38 of the 39 shots he faced. He has been 3-1 since the All-Star break ended. They now have a 5-2-3 record in their last 10 games which have seen them fully grasp the top playoff position.

It might only look like they have a one-point lead over the Caps and two points over the Islanders. However, they have three games in hand over the Caps and four games in hand over the Islanders. They still don’t look like they have a path to the third seed, and will likely play the winner of the Metro in the first round of the playoffs.

5. Washington Capitals: 62 Points (28-22-6)

The Washington Capitals announced that Captain, Alex Ovechkin, will be leaving the team for the foreseeable future. Ovechkin returned to Moscow after the death of his father. The Caps also announced that Ovi will be out for the Stadium Series game in Raleigh on Saturday. Joe Snively has been recalled in his absence. Snively ended up playing in Tuesday’s game due to Aliaksei Protas being away from the team for the birth of his first child. Snively made an impact against the Canes, scoring a goal and an assist.

The Capitals also had the chance to re-claim Axel Jonsson-Fjallby from the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday but they declined. Jonsson-Fjallby was one of the final cuts for the Capitals heading into the season before he was claimed by the Jets. The winger has four goals and seven assists in 45 games. The Jets were nervous he would be claimed and it would have been a great opportunity to get a lost piece back for free, but he cleared waivers.

6. New York Islanders: 61 Points (27-23-7)

The New York Islanders re-signed center, Bo Horvat, to an eight-year contract with an $8.5 million AAV. In his five games with the Islanders, he has three goals and an assist which included a two-point game against the Vancouver Canucks. Unfortunately, he hasn’t affected the Islanders’ bottom line as much as they hoped. They have a 2-1-2 record since he joined on February 5th and are currently on a three-game losing streak.

The Islanders also got Adam Pelech back on their blue line. Pelech missed seven weeks with a head injury. He is back on the top pairing with Ryan Pulock and has played in the last nine games for the Isles. He hasn’t fully gotten back up to speed though, as he ranks fifth in Isles defensemen with a 49.5% Corsi and 46.67% Goals for. With just a 4-4-2 record in their last 10 games, they haven’t been able to make up any ground in the playoff race even with the struggling Caps who have been just 4-6-0 in their last 10.

7. Philadelphia Flyers: 54 Points (22-23-10)

The Philadelphia Flyers have admitted that they made a mistake in their analysis of Tony DeAngelo’s defensive game. John Tortorella commented that the Carolina Hurricanes style did a lot to cover up his defensive weaknesses whereas the Flyers don’t have that ability. DeAngelo has been moved down to the third pairing as of late with Nick Seeler. DeAngelo is still quarterbacking the top power play where he has had three goals and 12 assists.

However, they now have DeAngelo and Rasmus Ristolainen on their bottom two pairings. Both guys were expected to be partners with Ivan Proverov. They have now traded a first-round pick, two second-round picks, a third-round pick, and Robert Hagg to have the privilege to spend $10.1 million AAV on two guys who are now playing sheltered minutes.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets: 36 Points (16-34-4)

The Columbus Blue Jackets are following the Arizona Coyotes’ lead by healthy-scratching defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov for “trade-related reasons.” Gavrikov is a highly sought-after defenseman heading into the trade deadline and the Jackets can’t afford to have him get hurt before being able to trade him. The Athletic reports that there is no trade in the works whereas Jacob Chychrun talks have gotten far along with the Los Angeles Kings.

The Jackets recently promoted rookie winger Kirill Marchenko to their top power-play unit. Marchenko may sound familiar to Canes fans as he scored a hat-trick against the Canes the last time he played. On the season he has 14 goals and one assist in 30 games played. He has heated up as of late with five goals in his last eight games played.