Entering the trade deadline, the two teams in the Central Division to keep an eye on were the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets. Both teams made moves to counteract the other. Not only did these teams make moves, so did the Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche. It appears that five teams from the Central Division will make the playoffs. And all of these want to be in a better position to secure a playoff spot. Let’s go inside this weeks NHL Central Division Notebook.
NHL Central Division Notebook: Let the Arms Race Begin
Winnipeg Jets – All season long the Winnipeg Jets were missing something and that something is a second line center. Not to say Bryan Little isn’t a good fit on the second line, but they needed a little more bite. During last season, the Jets acquired Paul Stastny from the Blues and it paid dividends as the Jets went to the Western Conference Finals. Sadly, Stastny left to go to Vegas and there was a void ever since. Enter Kevin Hayes, who the Jets acquired from the Rangers, will fill that role left by Stastny. The Jets top 9 forwards are once again one of the best in the NHL. To go along with Hayes, the Jets added some depth moves on defense just in case Josh Morrissey is out a long period of time. Patrik Laine is scoring, the Jets hope it continues.
Nashville Predators – In order to counteract what the Jets did earlier in the day, Nashville went out and acquired two pieces to bolster their lineup. First the Predators acquired Mikael Granlund from Minnesota for Kevin Fiala. Then Nashville went out and traded for Wayne Simmonds from Philadelphia for Ryan Hartman and a pick. These players will help with the dreadful Nashville has. Especially Simmonds, who is a big body that can park himself in front of opposing goaltenders. Mixing things up for Nashville will be a good thing, but the productive has not been there for a club that expects to make a deep run in the playoffs. Just like Winnipeg, Nashville is big up front. If Nashville expects to make a deep run they will need everyone healthy and producing.
St. Louis Blues – A team that might stand in the way of another Winnipeg-Nashville series is the St. Louis Blues. After having their winning streak come to an end, the Blues were able to bounce back nicely, going .500 during the week. That is a ok for a team that climbed out from the cellar to get into third place in a tough Central Division. The team is starting to click just as many imagined they would at the beginning of the season. The Blues did make a some move depth move on defense by adding Michael Del Zotto from Anaheim. The Blues are in a position to finish third in the division. Confidence is high with this group and Ryan O’Reilly could be a candidate for the Hart Trophy.
Best of the Rest:
Dallas Stars – Dallas is another team that is fighting for a playoff spot. Right before the trade deadline the Stars acquired two players to also help with their depth. First the Stars traded for Ben Lovejoy from New Jersey for Connor Carrick and a third round pick. Then Dallas acquired Mats Zuccarello from the Rangers. In his first game with Dallas, Zuccarello recorded a goal and an assist. Things were going with for him until he got injured blocking a shot. Come to find out Zuccarello will be lost for four weeks because a broken arm. Even though it was one game, he seemed like he was a perfect fit as he would balance out the top six forwards. That is a big loss. Dallas tried to fill the void, but did not make any other trades.
Minnesota Wild – The Minnesota Wild are in some trying times. Even though they sit in the second wild card position, Minnesota made some changes to secure their position. As mentioned earlier the Wild and Predators exchanged players on trade deadline Monday. Paul Fenton has connections to Fiala. He drafted in Nashville, and believes that Fiala can be a 30 goal scorer in the NHL. Fenton was not done as he signed Eric Staal to a two year contract extension. Since Staal did not want to get traded, the next best thing was to sign him. Staal likes it in Minnesota and the team has a good chance at the playoffs. However, don’t underestimate the loss of Mikko Koivu. He was a leader on and off the ice.
Colorado Avalanche – The Colorado Avalanche are starting to play better. The Avalanche have won the past four games including wins over Nashville, Winnipeg, and Vegas. All those teams made in improvements at the trade deadline. Those were big wins for a team that was struggling. During the four game winning streak Colorado has outscored their opponents 15-4 including two shutouts. Colorado made a small move on Monday by acquiring Derick Brassard from the Florida Panthers. Brassard will add depth at the center position. Colorado is looking like the team that started off the season on a hot streak. Let’s see if they can keep it up.
Chicago Blackhawks – Because the West is so weak, the Blackhawks are still in the playoff race. Granted they still have a lot of work to do. Splitting four games during the week did not help their cause. In fact, the Blackhawks lost two important games inside the division. Chicago sits five points out of the final wild card spot with two teams to climb over. Patrick Kane is on pace for another 100 point season. While Jonathan Toews is having a nice bounce back year. The Hawks were quiet at the deadline as they continue to build towards the future. Chicago received some good news as Corey Crawford was activated after missing the past 28 games because of a concussion. He could propel Chicago into the playoffs.