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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: More Trades and Posturing for the Deadline

The Carolina Hurricanes extend their lead on the division after a perfect weekend and a win against the Blues

St Louis Blues v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

1. Carolina Hurricanes: 84 Points (38-10-8)

The Carolina Hurricanes were able to avoid a post spectacle let down with a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues Tuesday night. Much had been made of Andrei Svechnikov’s 19 game goal drought, but he answered strongly last night with the first two goals of the game in just one period of play. Svechnikov’s goal numbers may not have been eye popping, but he still had 14 assists in the 19 games of 2023.

A lot has also been made of the Carolina Hurricanes looking to trade for a second center upgrade. After a slow start, Jesperi Kotkaniemi has scored four goals and 12 total points in the last two months. He ranks sixth on the team in points and seventh in goals in that timespan.

While he has not popped off to look like a total gamechanger, he has performed well for the Canes after his slow start. Just think back to Martin Necas last season. The Canes were patient with his development after everyone predicted him to be the breakout player of the season last season. He struggled last year, was a trade target, and now ranks second in points with 51 and second in goals with 22.

2. New Jersey Devils: 79 Points (37-15-5)

Kevin Weekes has reported that the NHL is looking at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey to host a stadium series game next season. The New Jersey Devils are listed as one of the potential teams. The stadium could be used for multiple games like the NHL did with Yankee Stadium which featured all three NYC metropolitan teams in two separate games. The Devils are a perfect team to feature in an outdoor game, with a young great core of players that could use more national exposure.

The Devils initially reported that center Jack Hughes would be out week-to-week, but he only missed four games with an upper-body injury. Hughes returned to action on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. His impact has immediately been felt with four assists in the three games since he has returned.

3. New York Rangers: 75 Points (33-15-9)

The New York Rangers acquired forward Tyler Motte from the Ottawa Senators for Julien Gauthier and a seventh-round pick in 2023. The seventh-round pick can be upgraded to a sixth-round pick if the Rangers win a round in the playoffs. Motte was acquired last season at the deadline by the Rangers to upgrade their young bottom-six. The Rangers were interested in signing Motte in the offseason before he signed with the Senators for $1.3 million.

Motte hasn’t had great numbers with a middling Senators team. He’s not a goal scorer having just three goals and six assists in 39 games this season. With the Senators, he ranked 11th in forwards in Corsi at just 43.83%. He also ranks 10th amongst forwards with a 45.57% expected goals for. It does seem weird that the Rangers would trade a cheaper option with team control for Motte, but they must have liked what they saw last year in the playoffs to bring him back.

4. New York Islanders: 65 Points (29-24-7)

The New York Islanders have climbed back into playoff position with 65 points. However, three of the four teams chasing them for the wild card positions have multiple games in hand which makes the math tougher for the Islanders than it first appears. The Isles will also be without forward Mathew Barzal for the foreseeable future. After initially being listed as out “indefinitely,” the Isles recanted and upgraded him to week-to-week on Monday.

Barzal’s 37 assists lead the Islanders and his 51 total points ranks second only behind Brock Nelson who has 57. Prior to his injury he was playing with new acquisition Bo Horvat. In the seven games he played with Horvat he scored two goals and eight total points in seven games. Horvat is now up to four goals and two assists in his eight games with the Isles. None was more impactful than his one goal and one assist against the Penguins on Monday.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins: 63 Points (27-20-9)

The Pittsburgh Penguins are just 4-5-1 in their last 10 games which now has them outside of a playoff position. The Penguins playoff streak dates back all the way to 2007 and is now in actual danger. The frustration from the team has become more visible. Two weeks ago Sidney Crosby was thrown out of a game after arguing with a referee. Most recently against the New York Islanders the Pens got in a melee against the Isles which saw Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, and Marcus Pettersson all sit in the penalty box.

Their most recent game saw the return of Tristan Jarry between the pipes. However, that didn’t change the Pens fortune as his mistakes led directly to goals against in an ultimate third period collapse. The collapse culminated in their third straight loss and their fourth loss in the last five games. The Penguins are going to have to make some moves to strengthen their struggling bottom six to have a chance to make the playoffs.

6. Washington Capitals: 62 Points (28-25-6)

Alex Ovechkin is set to return to the ice this week and could be back on the ice as early as Thursday when the Washington Capitals take on the Anaheim Ducks. The Caps have been winless in their five games without Ovechkin. The Caps have been able to overcome other losses this season, but without Ovi, their power play has become more predictable and they have lacked the explosive easy goal. They have had to fight for everything they have gotten which is why they have just eight goals in their last five games.

The Capitals have gotten some good news on the injury front though. Forward Tom Wilson back ahead of the Stadium Series game in Raleigh on Saturday. Wilson scored the Caps lone goal in their last two games against the Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings. Nic Dowd also returned to action last night after being out for a month. Dowd slotted in as the fourth line center. Aliaksei Protas was sent to the minors to make room for Dowd.

7. Philadelphia Flyers: 56 Points (23-26-10)

On Monday, John Tortorella scratched defenseman Travis Sanheim for the first time this season. Sanheim played Juniors in Calgary and also has family in Calgary who were at the game. Sanheim initially skated in warmups before getting pulled off the ice and told to sit in the press box for the Flyers’ only visit to Calgary this season. Sanheim signed an eight-year extension with a $6.25 million cap hit that is set to start next season.

In that same game on Monday the Flyers lost Travis Konecny in the second period with an upper-body injury. In just under half of a game played, Konecny still was able to record a goal and an assist. Konecny is one of the only players the Flyers have that could garner massive returns if the Flyers really wanted to commit to a sale/rebuild. If it’s anything more than a minor bump, the Flyers won’t have a decision to make.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets: 41 Points (18-34-5)

The Columbus Blue Jackets have held Vadislav Gavrikov out for the last week while trying to make a trade. The move to have him sit out sent the signal out that the Blue Jackets were close to a deal, but little rumors were circulating, that is until yesterday. David Pagnotta reported that the Boston Bruins have agreed to a trade framework for acquiring Gavrikov, but have to clear cap before they can acquire the defenseman. The package is set to include a first-round pick and a third-round pick.

The Blue Jackets could very well find another trade partner before Boston can make the required trades to clear up space. With the Bruins having the top record in the league, any other team would have a more valuable first-round pick currently. Keeping a good defenseman out is also helping the Blue Jackets for their season long goal of getting the top pick in the draft. The Athletic currently projects the Blue Jackets to have the third best odds to get the top pick at 14%.