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The Coyotes stocked up for the future, while the Rangers bet on winning now. So who got the better end of the Keith Yandle trade? Scott Burnside and Craig Custance debate:

Burnside: Well, Craig (who as I type this is actually sitting about three feet to my right. In fact, I may just give him a swat for good measure. But I digress.) Arizona general manager Don Maloney has been a busy boy the past 24 hours, trading Antoine Vermette to the Chicago Blackhawks then dealing skilled puck-moving defenseman Keith Yandle to the New York Rangers for top prospect Anthony Duclair, defenseman John Moore, a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a second-round pick in 2015. The Yotes also sent a fourth-round pick in 2015 and 27-year-old minor pro defenseman Chris Summers to the Rangers.

Yandle’s name has been in the trade winds for several seasons, and with Oliver Ekman-Larsson emerging as one of the top young defensemen in the game (leading all defensemen with 17 goals), Yandle was seen as redundant. His deal runs through 2015-16, and he fills a need for the Rangers that they thought they had filled when they signed Dan Boyle to a two-year deal over the summer. Assuming Henrik Lundqvist returns to full health before the playoffs, this has to give the Rangers another piece to add to what they hope will be a Stanley Cup tool chest. But the Rangers paid a stiff price, and you have to wonder how the Yotes are positioning themselves for what could be a rapid transformation from bottom-feeder to relevancy. Or do you think I’m putting too much stock in Duclair’s chemistry with Arizona prospect Max Domi at the World Junior Championship, plus a first- and a second-round pick?

[+] EnlargeKeith Yandle
Norm Hall/NHLI/Getty ImagesKeith Yandle is tied for ninth among defensemen with 41 points (4-37) this season.
Custance: I know the Coyotes weren't necessarily actively shopping Yandle. They like him and see him as a guy you keep around when you're rebuilding because he's a talent that's hard to find. But when you're rebuilding and a team offers a package as rich as the one the Rangers sent to Arizona, you have to do it. After trading Vermette and Yandle, the Coyotes have two first-round picks in each of the next two drafts. One of them may result in Connor McDavid. I can tell you, when I spoke with Arizona coach Dave Tippett on Saturday, he was absolutely miserable. He hates losing. This process hasn't been easy for anyone in Arizona. Shane Doan used the word frustrating countless times in another interview. But the payoff is potentially huge. Arizona already has a franchise defenseman in Ekman-Larsson to go with young forwards Domi and Duclair. If they land McDavid or Jack Eichel, this would be a swift rebuild for the Coyotes. Credit the ownership in Arizona for retaining salary to pull this trade off. That wouldn't have happened a few years ago. So where does this trade leave the Rangers?

Burnside: Craig, that’s why I find this deal so fascinating. As you noted, I think the Yotes have the potential to be on the right track to relevancy in a hurry if they get at all lucky in the draft lottery in early April. But that’s still down the road. Yandle to the Rangers is all about the here and now. It was hard not to like the Rangers’ chances of emerging from a wide-open Eastern Conference before the Yandle addition. Yes, there’s some riverboat gambler aspect to Yandle’s game. It was that high-risk/reward element that cost him a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in Sochi a year ago. But given the solid blue-line depth in place in New York already with Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, I think Yandle will be able to play his game without too much fear. What say you, my friend, does this vault the Rangers to the top of the list in terms of teams you like to come out of the East?

Custance: I certainly like their chances much more now than I did this morning. The East is absolutely wide open, so adding an impact defenseman like Yandle gives the Rangers a chance to separate themselves from the pack a little bit. Executives and scouts are definitely mixed on Yandle. Some believe he has too much risk in his game even if it provides offense. Like you mentioned, he was at the center of debate among USA Hockey's architects when building the Olympic team. And as you know, Kings GM Dean Lombardi went to bat for Yandle in a big way. Lombardi, as it turns out, knows how to build winning teams, and one thing he shares with Rangers GM Glen Sather is a tolerance for risk. There's going to be a day when the Rangers wake up and their prospect pool will be thin and the lack of all these first-round picks will hurt them, but it will hurt less if they're wearing a Stanley Cup ring when that happens. So do they win one before Yandle's contract expires after next season?

Burnside: Hmmm. Tough call. I like this move for the Rangers in a big way, although I do wonder where that leaves Boyle, who has another season left on his deal that will pay him $4.5 million next season. Hard to imagine there’s room on that Rangers roster for both Yandle and Boyle. So before we close, let me ask you a question: Has Maloney exceeded your expectations as far as recouping assets for Vermette and Yandle (and let’s assume he’s not done yet, with Zbynek Michalek still left to move and possibly a guy like Martin Erat)?

Custance: Absolutely. A few weeks ago, I would have pegged Vermette's return as a second-round pick and a prospect. Maloney maxed value there. And I was wondering if they would ever trade Yandle. They did and got a huge return. In the process, they have improved their chances of getting McDavid, because the Coyotes are going to be awful the remainder of the season. It'll be painful now, but the payoff is looking great.

February's 3 stars: Dubnyk, Price, Ovechkin

March, 1, 2015
Mar 1
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Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the month of February.

FIRST STAR – DEVAN DUBNYK, G, MINNESOTA WILD

Dubnyk (11-2-1, 1.64 GAA, .939 SV%, 3 SO) led the NHL with 11 wins and three shutouts while starting all 14 games for the Wild (33-22-7, 73 points), who climbed from 12th place into the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. He allowed two or fewer goals in 11 of his 14 appearances, including shutout victories over the Chicago Blackhawks Feb. 3 (24 SV), Colorado Avalanche Feb. 7 (18 SV) and Edmonton Oilers Feb. 20 (15 SV). Overall, Dubnyk is 24-8-3 (2.15 GAA, .926 SV%, 6 SO) in 39 appearances this season, establishing career highs in wins and shutouts while ranking in the top five in the NHL in shutouts (t-2nd), goals-against average (3rd) and save percentage (5th). The 28-year-old Regina, Sask., native has started all 20 games since his arrival in Minnesota Jan. 14, posting a 15-3-1 record with a 1.64 goals-against average, .937 save percentage and five shutouts in that span.

SECOND STAR – CAREY PRICE, G, MONTREAL CANADIENS

Price went 9-1-1 with a 1.34 goals-against average, .949 save percentage and two shutouts in 11 appearances to backstop the Canadiens (41-16-5, 87 points) to a 9-3-2 February and first place in the Eastern Conference. He yielded two or fewer goals in each of his last 10 starts of the month, highlighted by shutout wins over the Detroit Red Wings Feb. 16 (25 SV) and Toronto Maple Leafs Feb. 28 (30 SV). Price also extended his franchise-record road winning streak to 10 games, becoming the first goaltender to achieve that feat for any team since Evgeni Nabokov in 2009-10 (11-0-0 w/ SJS). The 27-year-old Anahim Lake, B.C., native has appeared in 50 games this season, leading the NHL in wins (36), goals-against average (1.88) and save percentage (.936) while sharing second in shutouts (6). Price’s 36 victories are two shy of his career high, established in 72 games in 2010-11.

THIRD STAR – ALEX OVECHKIN, LW, WASHINGTON CAPITALS

Ovechkin led the NHL in goals (10), points (t-17), power-play goals (5) and shots on goal (68) to power the Capitals (33-20-10, 76 points) to an 8-6-0 February and the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. He registered points in 10 of his 14 appearances during the month, finding the back of the net in eight of those contests. Ovechkin recorded four multi-point performances, highlighted by 2-1—3 against the St. Louis Blues Feb. 1 and 2-2—4 at the Anaheim Ducks Feb. 15. He also notched a pair of game-winning goals – in a 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators Feb. 5 and in a 5-1 triumph over the Winnipeg Jets Feb. 19. The 29-year-old Moscow, Russia, native paces the NHL with 39 goals, 18 power-play goals, eight game-winning goals (tied) and 306 shots on goal in 63 outings this season. He also shares fifth in the League with 62 points, including 23-11—34 in his past 28 games.
From the official NHL release:

ISLANDERS’ LEE NAMED NHL ROOKIE OF THE MONTH FOR FEBRUARY

NEW YORK (March 1, 2015) – New York Islanders center Anders Lee, who led all rookies with seven goals and 15 points (7-8—15) in 15 games, has been named the NHL Rookie of the Month for February.

Lee edged Ottawa Senators teammates Mike Hoffman (6-7—13 in 12 GP) and Mark Stone (3-8—11 in 12 GP), New York Rangers right wing Kevin Hayes (6-6—12 in 14 GP), Nashville Predators center Filip Forsberg (4-6—10 in 15 GP), Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat (5-4—9 in 14 GP), and Winnipeg Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson (4-1-3, 2.68 GAA, .898 SV%) for the honor.

Lee, a sixth-round selection (152nd overall) by the Islanders in the 2009 NHL Draft, registered a pair of multi-goal games: Feb. 3 vs. FLA and Feb. 12 vs. TOR (including GWG). He then set career highs with four assists/points in a 6-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets Feb. 14.

The 24-year-old Edina, Minn., native leads all rookies with six game-winning goals this season. He also ranks in the top five among rookies in goals (3rd; 20), points (5th; 33), power-play goals (t-2nd; 4) and shots on goal (2nd; 149) in 58 appearances.

Lee joins Los Angeles Kings left wing Tanner Pearson (October), Nashville Predators center Filip Forsberg (November), Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (December) and Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg (January) as Rookie of the Month winners this season.
Mats ZuccarelloBruce Bennett/Getty ImagesMats Zuccarello could be bowing out of New York before the deadline.
Could New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello be on the move?

Contract negotiations between the team and the pending unrestricted free agent have yielded little progress as Monday's trade deadline nears and a source told ESPN.com that multiple teams have been told that Zuccarello is available.

The Rangers and Zuccarello's camp have a significant chasm to bridge on a contract extension for the diminutive winger and with the clock ticking and cap space at a premium, the team is expected to explore the trade market.

Zuccarello, 27, led the Rangers in scoring with 59 points last season and has 12 goals and 35 points through 58 games this season.

This would not be the first time Glen Sather made one of his marquee players available at the deadline in face of a contract impasse. Sather dealt captain Ryan Callahan to the Tampa Bay Lightning for veteran captain Martin St. Louis last March after the Rangers and Callahan's agent failed to get a deal done in the waning hours.

Zuccarello told local reporters Saturday morning that he wants to remain in New York but that he realizes there is nothing he can do.

"It's out of my control," he told reporters following the team's morning skate in Philadelphia.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault also told the media following the skate that he was keeping his fingers crossed that a deal between the two sides could get done before Monday.
Antoine VermetteBruce Bennett/Getty ImagesLooks like the Bruins are now in on the Antoine Vermette sweepstakes as well.
The Boston Bruins continue to shop away as the clock ticks toward Monday's trade deadline.

As of Friday morning, the Bruins remained in the mix for the services of pending unrestricted free agent winger Chris Stewart from the Buffalo Sabres, a dance that's been going on all year, but another source said that the Bruins are in on the Antoine Vermette derby as well. Management from the Bruins and the Arizona Coyotes spoke a few times Thursday.

It's believed the Bruins' shopping list also includes Erik Cole of the Dallas Stars and Cam Atkinson of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Vermette would be a big pickup, especially with star center David Krejci hurt. But the Chicago Blackhawks are seen as being very eager for Vermette as well, among other potential forwards. A source told ESPN.com Friday morning that the Blackhawks were hoping to complete a trade by the end of Friday.

And whether it's a forward or a defenseman remains to be seen; the Blackhawks could end up with both before Monday's deadline.
video FORWARDS
Trending up: Teuvo Teravainen, Chicago Blackhawks -- Considering the injury to Patrick Kane, who is expected to miss 12 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a broken clavicle, Teravainen’s progression has never been more important for a Blackhawks team missing its biggest star. In the wake of Kane’s injury, Teravainen was recalled by the Hawks in advance of their game against the Panthers Thursday night, and the 20-year-old Finnish center wasted no time getting himself on the score sheet. Teravainen scored 3:08 into play to help lead Chicago to a 3-0 win over Florida.

Trending down: Nick Bjugstad, Florida Panthers -- Though the Panthers added veteran scorer Jaromir Jagr in a trade Thursday to help propel the club’s push for the playoffs, the Cats will need the help of their talented youngsters as well. That means Bjugstad has to work his way out of his current rut if Florida is going to catch Boston in the race for that last wild-card spot in the East. Bjugstad has been held off the score sheet in his past five games and is minus-7 over that span.

[+] EnlargeNick Bjugstad
Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty ImagesNick Bjugstad has been held off the score sheet in his past five games and is minus-7 over that span.
Surprise of the week: David Clarkson/Nathan Horton, Columbus Blue Jackets/Toronto Maple Leafs -- Don’t feel bad if you did not expect the stunning swap between the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets. No one did. But in a creative deal that has garnered Leafs general manager Dave Nonis tons of credit, Clarkson and his albatross of a contract were shipped to Columbus in exchange for injured winger Horton. Initially, the deal was a head-scratcher, considering the assumption that Horton’s degenerative back injury could prevent him from ever playing again. But the Leafs gained some much-needed cap space by utilizing their ability to place him on long-term injured reserve and pay him to not play, while the Blue Jackets gained an actual roster player who can contribute for the money they were already spending because Horton's contract was not insured. Very interesting.

DEFENSEMEN
Trending up: Andrej Sekera, Los Angeles Kings -- Things are looking up for Sekera, who upgraded from a floundering Carolina Hurricanes squad to a potential Cup contender in the Kings via trade this week. Sekera was a coveted trade target as teams honed in on defensive help, but it was ultimately GM Dean Lombardi who snatched up the defenseman in hopes of bolstering the Kings’ blue line. Lombardi told reporters it was a reward for the team’s fine play recently. Had to feel like a reward for the 28-year-old Sekera, too.

Trending down: James Wisniewski, Columbus Blue Jackets -- First, he was scratched. Then he was placed on the trading block. And the most recent development in the ongoing saga between the veteran defenseman and the Blue Jackets is that he is reportedly using his limited no-trade clause as a way to obstruct a potential move. According to The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline, Wisniewski's recently submitted list of the 10 teams to which he would approve a trade makes it “difficult” for GM Jarmo Kekalainen to find a suitable partner. According to the report, Wisniewski’s list was all teams with limited cap space (Wisniewski carries a $5.5 million cap hit) and no need for an offensive defenseman.

Surprise of the week: Adam Larsson, New Jersey Devils -- Larsson’s tenure in New Jersey has been puzzling to say the least, but the 22-year-old seems to be finally finding his way as of late. Larsson, the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, has five points in his past four games, including a three-point effort in the team’s 4-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks last Friday.

GOALTENDERS

Trending up: Andrew Hammond, Ottawa Senators -- The rookie netminder posted back-to-back shutouts this week, blanking both the Anaheim Ducks and Kings on consecutive nights. The 27-year-old Hammond, thrust into action by Ottawa as a result of injuries to both Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, has won all four of his starts this season and has turned away 60 of 60 shots in his past two games.

Trending down: Eddie Lack, Vancouver Canucks -- With Ryan Miller out the next four to six weeks with a sprained knee, the pressure falls squarely on Lack’s shoulders as the playoff race heats up out West. And while Lack bested the Boston Bruins in his first start following Miller’s injury, he faltered in the Canucks’ 6-3 loss to the lowly Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, giving up five goals on 23 shots to the worst team in the league, despite the fact that Buffalo was also without its top two scorers in Zemgus Girgensons and Tyler Ennis. Yikes.

Surprise of the week: Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs -- Following a brutal stretch in which he was winless in 10 games, Bernier has since rattled off two straight victories for the Leafs. Most recently, he delivered a spectacular 47-save performance as the Leafs edged the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 on Thursday night. Captain Dion Phaneuf told reporters that Bernier stole the game for Toronto, and Phaneuf was right. That hasn’t happened too often recently for Bernier.
Turns out the Columbus Blue Jackets weren't the only team intrigued by the idea of giving David Clarkson a change of scenery.

[+] EnlargeDavid Clarkson
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesDavid Clarkson could have been headed to Ottawa instead of Columbus.
Sources tell ESPN.com that the Ottawa Senators had a few conversations with the Toronto Maple Leafs about a Clarkson trade, with the idea that perhaps the right winger could rediscover himself in Canada's capital.

In a way, it's not a surprise because the Senators tried hard to sign Clarkson when he was a free agent two years ago, but lost out to the Maple Leafs.

Not exactly sure how far the Ottawa-Toronto trade conversation went, but I know the Senators finally decided that the money wouldn't work. The term left on Clarkson's deal, I think, scared off the Senators. Clarkson has five more years on his deal after this season, with a $5.25 million cap hit.
Clarkson, HortonGetty ImagesIt somehow makes sense that David Clarkson and Nathan Horton would be traded for one another.
On a day when llamas running wild captured the attention of the world, only a trade involving David Clarkson of the Toronto Maple Leafs could come close to topping woolly creatures run amok.

But the reality is that in many ways, the Leafs trading the albatross of a contract bestowed on Clarkson is more mind-boggling than a thousand llamas running free in Arizona.

That the Leafs traded Clarkson for Nathan Horton, a player whose career might well be over, is just another element to one of the wackier hockey deals, er, business deals, er, deals you're ever going to see.

Certainly, it was a deal that caught the hockey world by surprise as we head into the final days before Monday's trade deadline.

Clarkson, of course, was signed to a whopper seven-year deal worth $36.75 million as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2013. A rugged winger with New Jersey who showed nice offensive upside, scoring 30 times with a Devils team that went to the 2012 Stanley Cup finals, Clarkson (and his contract) have been an unmitigated disaster in Toronto.

Clarkson was suspended even before he played a single regular-season game for his hometown Leafs after he left the bench during a preseason brawl in the fall of 2013.

He struggled to meet expectations and played poorly, he was hurt, and then more recently he was made a healthy scratch by new interim head coach Peter Horachek.

"Ugly" just begins to describe Clarkson's tenure in Toronto, and it looked like it would continue on, well, forever.

And now he's a Columbus Blue Jacket.

In a perfect world, the Blue Jackets would not need Clarkson.

But the world is not perfect and it is certainly not perfect in Columbus, where the Blue Jackets have suffered a miserable season after making the playoffs last spring and winning their first-ever playoff games both at home and on the road against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Among the many problems that beset the Blue Jackets was that since they signed Horton to a seven-year $37.1 million deal, also in the summer of 2013, the former Stanley Cup winner in Boston has played in just 36 games, including none this season, and a degenerative back problem might keep him from ever playing again.

And so two players following two very different paths find themselves crossing paths in a most unlikely fashion.

For Columbus, a small-market team, paying a player who could play, albeit one who played as poorly as Clarkson sometimes played for the Leafs, was preferable to paying a better player not to play at all, as multiple sources told ESPN.com that the team did not have any of Horton's contract insured.

And to be fair to Clarkson, perhaps away from the glare and the expectation in Toronto he can regain his equilibrium and become a useful member of a Columbus team that will be looking to bounce back in a big way next season.

Indeed, there is much to like about the makeup of the Blue Jackets, just as there was much to like about Clarkson's game before he became a Leaf.

As for the Leafs, they are a team that has the wherewithal to spend money in large gobs, even if it's for a player who cannot play.

With Horton out, the Leafs will have enormous flexibility when it comes to the salary cap, as they can put him on long-term injured reserve as Boston has done with Marc Savard and Philadelphia with Chris Pronger, assuming they are going to continue to be a cap team. That flexibility could prove vital to the team as it tries to figure out how to correct the many mistakes that have been made vis-a-vis personnel.

If by some medical miracle Horton is able to return to active play, then the Leafs will have acquired a far better player than the one they traded.

And credit must go to Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis for finding a taker for a Clarkson contract that he bestowed, but which was crippling the team as it goes through yet another transformation. Indeed, the Clarkson deal follows the strong returns Nonis received for Daniel Winnik, who was traded earlier this week to the Penguins, and Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli, who were traded two weeks ago to the Nashville Predators.

If, as many expect, president Brendan Shanahan decides to part ways with Nonis, his work during this trade period and especially in disposing of Clarkson will not go unnoticed by other franchises. (Of course, his earlier work in signing Clarkson, extending captain Dion Phaneuf, etc., likely won't go unnoticed either.)

And you thought llamas making a bid for freedom was as good as it was going to get on a Thursday in late February.
videoThe Florida Panthers acquired five-time NHL scoring champion Jaromir Jagr from the New Jersey Devils for a second-round draft pick in 2015 and a conditional pick in 2016. Scott Burnside and Katie Strang discuss the impact of this move:

Burnside: It is a measure of the man, the myth, the legend that is Jaromir Jagr that less than two weeks after turning 43 he still commanded two draft picks when he was dealt Thursday afternoon from the Devils to the Panthers. The Panthers will be Jagr’s fifth team (Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins and the Devils preceded his trip to South Florida) since he returned to the NHL in 2011 after three years in the Kontinental Hockey League. The Panthers gave up a second-round pick in 2015 and a conditional third-round pick in 2016 to acquire the five-time NHL scoring champ.

So, cue the age jokes, including the fact that Jagr began his Hall of Fame career before the Florida franchise even existed, but there is something kind of cool and dare we say it karmic about this move, Katie? If I’m not mistaken, you were banging at least softly on the Panthers playoff drum when we spoke for Hockey Today (The Podcast) earlier this week and, as we speak, the Panthers are just two points back of the flailing Boston Bruins with each team having 22 games left in the regular season. Kudos to Florida general manager Dale Tallon, who earlier this week jettisoned disgruntled forward Sean Bergenheim to the Minnesota Wild, for sending a message to his young troops that they are still in it. And is there a better role model for the Panthers’ talented young players such as Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad?

Strang: Indeed, and I'm chuckling inside just picturing Jagr arriving to the rink in shades, board shorts and flip-flops. But you make a good point here about the way Tallon has bolstered a burgeoning young group with savvy veterans. I don't think we should overlook that fact. This summer, Tallon brought in Willie Mitchell and Shawn Thornton to infuse the Cats' room with both experience and Stanley Cup championship rings. And instead of hastily awarding one of the youngsters the keys to the castle with the captaincy, they chose Mitchell to lead the group. You have to wonder how much of an impact that has had this season as the Panthers have emerged as one of the pleasant surprises in the Eastern Conference. You have steadiness between the pipes with Roberto Luongo. You have prospects challenging for roster spots. And you have an extremely strong nucleus of players that really seem to have bought in under new coach Gerard Gallant. We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the job Gallant has done this season, as well.

[+] EnlargeJaromir Jagr
John Russell/Getty ImagesAt 43, Jaromir Jagr first played in the NHL before the Panthers organization existed.
I love the move and it's not just because the old graybeard moving down to the land of retirement homes and early-bird specials is a dream storyline. The Panthers unload a disgruntled player in Bergenheim and add skill and flair with Jagr, who judging by his comments on Wednesday, welcomes the change of scenery. I do like the Panthers to challenge the Bruins for that last wild-card spot. To me, they are playing with house money -- overachieving and defying expectations without being burdened by much pressure. Can't imagine the Bruins, including coach Claude Julien and GM Peter Chiarelli are feeling the same way right about now. Who do you like for that final playoff berth, Scotty?

Burnside: I'll answer your question in a bit, Katie, but I don't think Tallon is done. He could afford to give up two picks for Jagr because of the Bergenheim deal and it wouldn't be a surprise if another potential unrestricted free agent, Tomas Fleischmann, ends up on the move before Monday at 3 ET. Might seem like shuffling of the deck chairs a bit, but I have to think that adding a player such as Jagr, who prepares like a fiend and still has the fire in his belly (not to mention a tasty quote on the tip of his tongue), is seen by Tallon as a justifiable risk even though he gave up a lot.

I also think it's a bit humorous to listen (via the Devils writers) to New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello talking as though the Devils still have a shot at the postseason. They're eight points back and have four teams to jump over. They're cooked and, if Lamoriello isn't doing his best to sell off Marek Zidlicky and Scott Gomez and possibly Michael Ryder and Martin Havlat, well, things are worse off in New Jersey than we might have believed. As for the Cats' chances now that they've got a bona-fide legend in Jagr in the locker room -- and let’s acknowledge for a moment the potential selling point of having a guy such as Jagr in the lineup down the stretch in the difficult South Florida marketplace -- I still think they’re bound to fall short. As bad as Boston has been, I still don’t see the Bruins slipping beneath the playoff surface. The interesting thing about Jagr is that some folks thought he’d be a good fit in Montreal, but I thought a return to Boston where he was so popular during the Bruins’ run to the finals in 2013 might be in the cards, even with their salary cap issues. Now, Jagr’s going to do his best to try to thwart the Bruins’ playoff hopes. Fun times. OK, what do you think, Katie: Does the Jagr magic work in South Florida?

Strang: I think it will. I've learned my lesson about counting Jaromir Jagr out, no matter how old he is. Seeing how he is still producing at the age of 43, I will have whatever he's having. And you have to imagine he is as motivated as ever to make a playoff run. As to your first point, Scott, I was told that the Panthers are indeed not done. I think they are really amped about the potential of making this push and I think there's a strong sense of confidence internally among those in the organization that they can snag that last postseason spot.

But I totally agree on the Devils front. In fact, I had a chance to chat with Lamoriello earlier this week and this isn't just window dressing. Anyone who knows Lou knows that he is as staunch of a competitor as any in this business, but you have to wonder what impact that might have on the team's future if he doesn't realize the utility in pulling the chute now. Considering what Lamoriello was able to fetch for Jagr, I think that Zidlicky could be a valuable commodity, especially with the rental market on veteran, puck-moving defensemen so thin. Plus, he's a right-handed shot, and we know that those guys are in high demand this time of year. The Devils have made some stunning second-half runs in recent years, but this is not going to be one of them. Cory Schneider has been absolutely terrific, but he has faced the most shots of anyone in the league and they will have to continue to ride him extremely hard to even have a chance. You subtract an offensive player such as Jagr, even though he's slumping a bit, and the task becomes even more daunting. Though Lamoriello would be loath to admit it, this is a good season to be bad and the Devils have a chance here to gain assets and picks for the future. They ought to embrace that.

Meanwhile, Jagr will provide the Panthers a jolt in the arm and will help a power play that currently ranks 28th. The only thing I'm worried about now is that we won't have many trades on Monday with this flurry of activity before the weekend even begins!
One wondered if Arizona Coyotes general manager Don Maloney waited too long on Antoine Vermette, given that there’s been interest all season on the pending unrestricted free agent forward. But Patrick Kane's injury likely has made that a moot point.

With the Chicago Blackhawks definitely interested in Vermette, easily the cream of the crop when it comes to rental forwards, it should help drive up the price to something that the Coyotes can live with.

[+] EnlargeAntoine Vermette
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesThe Coyotes' Antoine Vermette is easily the best available rental forward on the market.
Although Vermette isn’t the only option for Chicago, one source told ESPN.com Thursday that the Blackhawks had already made lots of calls on several players in the wake of Kane’s injury, so they are being quite proactive on several fronts, not just Vermette.

Still, Vermette is the catch on the rental forward market right now.

I think the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets are also among other teams keeping tabs on Vermette, but only if the price makes sense -- and I don’t think it will for either team.

In the case of the Rangers, they don’t have a first-round pick in this year’s draft (traded in Ryan Callahan deal), so if that’s ultimately part of the price, they can’t proceed. And New York doesn’t want to deal any of its top young players or Grade A prospects, either.

The Jets have a pair of first-round picks, their own plus the one they got from Buffalo in the Evander Kane deal. But I don’t think Winnipeg would want to spend a first. So you don’t get the sense the Jets are going to be serious bidders on Vermette unless the price is very reasonable.

As I wrote Wednesday, I just feel Vermette is a perfect fit in Chicago. His two-way game and special-teams impact are just the tonic needed in the wake of Kane’s long-term injury. But the price has to be right, of course.

As mentioned above, the Blackhawks could go elsewhere for help as well. There are other rental options, such as Curtis Glencross, but I just feel like Vermette is the guy who makes the most sense.
The pressure is mounting on Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to make his move, and there’s no question he will before Monday’s deadline.

I think there’s interest in the likes of Erik Cole, Curtis Glencross and, as we’ve been saying all season, Chris Stewart.

Sources told ESPN.com that Chiarelli tried on Devante Smith-Pelly this week before the young hulking winger went to rival Montreal instead.

But Chiarelli has shown in past trades deadlines that he’s very capable of making moves under pressure. He’ll get his winger before it’s all said and done.
The Washington Capitals are searching long and hard to add a top-nine forward before Monday’s deadline.

Among the names on their radar are believed to be Erik Cole, Curtis Glencross and, to some degree, Joffrey Lupul.

Cole and Glencross are straight-up rentals, and I think that Cole in particular, with his skating ability, is seen by the Caps as a good fit.

Lupul is an interesting proposition since he has three more seasons left, after this one, on his deal at a $5.25 million salary-cap hit. That’s a lot for a guy with a history of injuries. On the other hand, when he’s healthy and on his game, he can be a very productive player.
Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis got his share of kudos around the league after netting a first-round pick and a prospect from the Los Angeles Kings for rental blueliner Andrej Sekera.

Not that anyone was faulting the Kings for the deal. Kings GM Dean Lombardi was equally admired by some of his peers Thursday for going for it while the defending champs still have a chance to win another championship.

[+] EnlargeStaals
Gregg Forwerck/Getty ImagesRon Francis said the Canes will rebuild around Jordan and Eric Staal, and he has no plans to trade them.
But there was surprise in my conversations with several team executives around the league that Francis was able to net a first-round pick, which will likely be in this year’s deep draft as long as L.A. makes the playoffs.

"Huge return," said one Western Conference GM.

For a rookie GM like Francis at his first trade deadline, the return on the Sekera deal was tremendous.

"The deal fell the right way, but at the end of the day, the Kings got a hell of a player," Francis told ESPN.com Thursday. "He’s going to be good there."

Francis had talks with several teams, but obviously when the Kings pushed up with a first-round pick, that was huge.

"We talked to a lot of teams, but when we got to that point, I thought it was the best offer out there and a fair offer," Francis said. "Dean was great to work with throughout the process, really up front and honest. It was good."

Francis would not confirm whether any other team was willing to spend a first-round pick.

What he would confirm is that he has no interest in trading Jordan Staal after rumors flew out of Pittsburgh last weekend.

"There was no truth to any of that stuff," said Francis.

Francis sees the team's rebuild being around the Staal brothers -- Eric and Jordan -- as those two players are important to the fabric of a team that’s getting younger.

"I remember reading an article with Ken Holland a while ago, and he talked about the importance of good veteran guys, good leaders. We’ve got some good young pieces, but you can’t just throw them to the wolves. You have to have support around them," said Francis in underlining the value of keeping both Staal brothers.

"Listen, Wayne Gretzky got traded, so there’s always a chance that anybody gets traded. But for me, these are good pieces for our team; you see them out there, they’re 6-foot-4, heavy, they can play with the puck down low and they’re hard to defend. Teams are looking for those kinds of players and we have them. I’d much rather keep them than move them.’’
The Florida Panthers traded pending unrestricted free agent winger Sean Bergenheim and, more than likely, the same will happen with pending UFA winger Tomas Fleischmann before Monday’s deadline.

The Panthers are in a playoff race but also don’t want to lose Fleischmann for nothing July 1, so he’ll likely be moved.

I wonder about Anaheim as a potential fit given that Fleischmann played well under Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau back in the Washington days.
We’ve yet to hear from the Detroit Red Wings before the trade deadline, and if indeed we never do, know that the Wings' front office can live with that reality.

Now, it’s not as if they’re not looking. It would certainly be nice to add a right-handed defenseman, and there’s no question the Wings are interested in Jeff Petry and Zbynek Michalek for that reason -- perhaps a little more interested in Petry.

But it’s about the price.

I think if Detroit can get Petry for a second-round pick or a middling prospect, then sure, maybe there’s a deal. But they’re not giving up one of their top youngsters. I don’t think the Wings feel the return is worth it.

Again, the future is just as important as the present for the Wings, who are remarkably retooling on the fly with great success.

They will act before Monday’s deadline if they can do it for a modest price.

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