Cross Checks: Vancouver Canucks

Avalanche threatening to bury the Blues

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
10:00
AM ET
video Avalanche 4, Canucks 2
* Paul Stastny (COL): 2 goals (25); 3rd multi-goal game of season.
* Stastny: 25 goals are most since rookie season (28).
* Avalanche: Tied with Blues atop Central Division (own tiebreaker, 47-43 in regulation wins).

Kings 3, Oilers 0
* Marian Gaborik (LA): 2 goals (11); 1st multi-goal game this season (42nd career).
* Martin Jones (LA): 17 saves in 4th shutout this season.
* Kings: 13th shutout this season (leads NHL).

Wild 4, Blues 2
* Blues: Lost season-high 4 straight games.
* Wild: Remain locked into first Wild Card spot in Western Conference.
* Kyle Brodziak (MIN): 2 goals, first multi-goal game this season.
* Ryan Miller (STL): Allowed 4 goals on 13 shots; .813 save pct over past 3 games (12 goals on 64 shots).

Predators 2, Coyotes 0
* Predators: 4-0-1 in last 5 games (have already been eliminated from playoffs).
* Coyotes: Winless in last 6 games.

Lightning 4, Flyers 2
* Lightning: 3-0-0 versus Flyers this season; won 6 straight home games versus Flyers.
* Lightning: 97 points, third-most in a season in franchise history and most since 2010-11 (103 points).

Rangers 2, Sabres 1
* Rangers: Won 9 of last 12 games after losing 6 of previous 9 (2 points behind Lightning for 4th place in East).
* Rick Nash (NYR): Scored game-winning goal with 1:42 left (team-leading 26th goal of season).
* Mats Zuccarello (NYR): 4G, 5A during 6-game point streak.
video Canucks turning into a circus
Having stable ownership doesn't necessarily denote good ownership, a reality worth keeping in mind as the Vancouver Canucks find themselves in a state of chaos. Somehow, in less than three years, the Canucks have gone from being a perpetual Stanley Cup contender to a team in disarray. We're about to find out about the character of this team, and the search for the character (or identity) of this franchise starts at the very top, with owner Francesco Aquilini. On Tuesday, Aquilini fired GM Mike Gillis, ostensibly because Gillis all but came out with a sandwich board that said, "You know, I wasn't so hot on that Tortorella guy to begin with" during a recent radio show. Gillis' comments reinforced the commonly held belief that it was Aquilini, not Gillis, who was driving the bus when it came to hiring coach John Tortorella in the offseason. The comments were bold but ultimately self-destructive for Gillis. So the Canucks are out of the playoffs for the first time in six years and Gillis is gone, which isn't necessarily the wrong call, given how the team's personnel has been mismanaged the past three or four years. Ownership now has to find someone to un-bungle this mess. Whether that means promoting Laurence Gillman to GM or hiring from outside with a proven NHL manager -- which could fall to former captain Trevor Linden, who was named president of hockey operations Wednesday -- this is a defining moment for a franchise that has fallen precipitously from its run to the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. And what of Tortorella? Ownership must also decide if it believes in the combustible coach and, if so, must come out quickly to reinforce that he'll be back. If not, ownership will have to suffer the dual embarrassment of having to fire both a coach and GM less than a year after presenting both with four-year contracts. Sadly, embarrassment is something with which the Canucks are becoming intimately acquainted, and it will be up to ownership to prove it can turn the tide and not simply add fuel to the fires of discontent.

Jets aren't flying high
Speaking of ownership decisions, the Winnipeg Jets continue to flaunt the Atlanta Thrashers' DNA as the Jets will miss the playoffs for a seventh straight season (the third straight since moving to Winnipeg). We've known Paul Maurice a long time. He is a smart, forward-thinking coach, and his impact on the Jets after taking over for Claude Noel was immediate and stunning. But it didn't last. After closing in on a playoff berth at the Olympic break, the Jets won their first two post-Olympic games but have not won two in a row since. They went winless in six games shortly after the break and have suffered from periods of listless team defense, mediocre to awful goaltending, and a lack of offensive production. In short, they are what they've been for most of their existence: an average to below-average team that shows flashes but never enough consistent quality play to be a legitimate playoff team. The question for ownership is whether that is a function of coaching or personnel. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff made no significant moves at the trade deadline. That inactivity, coupled with the team's swoon out of contention, raises the question: personnel or coaching? Could the Jets be a playoff team under Maurice next season? Sure. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic, including the emergence of Jacob Trouba as a top-end young defender. The Jets have proved, in some ways, to be a resilient lot, with 15 wins after giving up the first goal, third-most in the NHL. And maybe status quo is the way to go for the Jets, although for a team with so little to show for its efforts over the past decade, "Hang on for another year" is a tough idea to sell to fans.

Not just the shootout for Devils
The New Jersey Devils are on a collision course with missing the playoffs for a second straight season after their surprise run to the 2012 Stanley Cup finals. Most will point to their shocking 0-11 record in shootouts and, yes, that's pretty unbelievable. Win just five of those, and the Devils are playoff-bound. But for us, it's not just the breakdown in the skills competition but the team's inability to overcome. As of Wednesday, the Devils were dead last in wins after falling behind in games. In games where they gave up the first goal, the Devils had come up with just five wins. The Anaheim Ducks have won 20 games when giving up the first goal, best in the league. The Detroit Red Wings, whom the Devils are chasing for a wild-card spot, have 15; the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team holding down the final wild-card spot, have nine. Nine is not a lot. But it's four more than five, and for the Devils, that difference represents the difference between being in and being left behind. Again.

Halak makes curious call
Not sure what to make of Jaroslav Halak's decision that he'd rather not play Tuesday against his old team, the St. Louis Blues, in what was a must-win situation for the Washington Capitals. As it turned out, Braden Holtby was excellent for the Caps, who came up with a crucial 4-1 win as they kept their slim (and growing slimmer by the day) playoff hopes alive. But "I'm not comfortable" as a reason for not being available to take the ice in a crucial moment leaves us more than a little cold. Kudos to Halak for being honest, and maybe there's a backstory but it's the kind of honesty that we're pretty sure is going to make a lot of GMs take notice as Halak heads for the open market as a free agent this summer. Allan Walsh, Halak’s agent, denied in a statement that his client asked out of the game. But it still remains another curious development for a team fighting for its playoff life.

Bishop-less Bolts' hopes are looking grim
What are the chances that the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Montreal Canadiens if top netminder Ben Bishop is lost to injury? Slim. Sub-slim. Bishop injured his wrist early in Tuesday's 3-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs and there's no word on when he might return. Anders Lindback came on to preserve the shutout and keep the Bolts within two points of Montreal in the hunt for home-ice advantage in what should be a terrific first-round matchup. But Lindback has played sparingly, with Bishop earning Vezina Trophy buzz for his work in keeping the Lightning afloat in spite of injury and turmoil that has enveloped the team at various points of the season. And when Lindback has played, he has been OK. Well, let's be honest, less than OK. The 6-foot-6 Swede has not won back-to-back games all season and boasts a pedestrian .884 save percentage. He has exactly 13 minutes of NHL playoff action to his credit. The upside? Well, not sure it means anything, but recently top NHL analysts suggested to us that the Minnesota Wild would have the worst goaltending in the Western Conference come playoff time and maybe the worst goaltending of all 16 teams. Since then, Ilya Bryzgalov has gone 5-0-1 and helped the Wild secure the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Maybe similar reports of doom and gloom will prompt a similar response from Lindback and the Lightning. Maybe.

Well, it's about time, Marty

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2
10:12
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videoRangers 3, Canucks 1
* Rangers: club-record 25th road win of season; won seven of eight overall.
* Martin St. Louis (NYR): First goal in 15 games with Rangers (first overall since March 1 at Dallas); seventh career 30-goal season.

Lightning 3, Canadiens 1
* Lightning: clinch playoff spot with win (plus Capitals regulation loss and Devils loss).
* Lightning: First playoff berth since 2010-11, seventh in franchise history.
* Canadiens: Despite loss, also clinched with Capitals regulation loss AND Devils loss.
* Canadiens: Second straight playoff berth, sixth in last seven seasons.

Avalanche 3, Blue Jackets 2 (OT)
* Gabriel Landeskog (COL):Two goals (26), Second career OT goal.
* Avalanche: Trailed 2-0 entering Thirdrd period.
* Blue Jackets: 2-3-1 in last 6 overall (currently 2nd Wild Card in Eastern Conference)

Stars 5, Capitals 0
* Tyler Seguin (DAL): Goal (33); 19 Pts in last 13 games (8 G, 11 A).
* Kari Lehtonen (DAL): 35 saves, fourth shutout this season (first since Jan. 25).
* Stars: Won Three straight, 5-1-0 in last six overall.
* Alex Ovechkin (WSH): Minus-2, four shots on goal, 19:23 TOI; Third straight game without a point


The Tampa Bay Lightning made it clear to Ryan Callahan’s camp that they want the player past this season.

The pending UFA's agent, the veteran Steve Bartlett, told ESPN.com Tuesday that he chatted with Steve Yzerman in Buffalo over the past weekend, at which point the Bolts GM made it clear they'd like to talk extension after the season.

Yzerman, also reached Tuesday, said for now the focus is on hockey, on making the playoffs and on doing well in the playoffs. The GM will focus on Callahan’s future later.

"He’s just going to play hockey and we’ll talk when the season’s over," Yzerman told ESPN.com.

But it’s clear the Bolts hope the former Rangers captain is more than just a rental.

"Yeah, we’d love to sign him," said Yzerman. "He’s a good fit, a good person, a good player, has style of play that really complements our group well; he’s fit in really well. So we hope to sign him. But we won’t talk until after the year."

Tortorella could be out

Even though he still has four years and $8 million left on his deal, I think it is more than likely that John Tortorella will be fired as head coach after the season in Vancouver.

I like Torts, but he was never the right fit for that team.

The Canucks built a blue-line corps meant for a quick transition game, but the club has played more of a chip and chase, shot-blocking game this season. As one NHL scout told ESPN.com, "The wrong system for that set of players."

The real question in Vancouver is whether that’s going to be enough change. I suspect ownership continues to debate internally whether or not to fire GM Mike Gillis and that’s really going to be the biggest decision of all.

Personally, I would allow Gillis at least one more year to redirect the ship. I think he’s earned that.

Gillis, by the way, also has four more years on his contract.

Talks renewed between Markov, Habs

Things went quiet between the Montreal Canadiens and Andrei Markov's camp after both sides talked on the eve of the March 5 trade deadline.

Markov’s agent, Sergei Berezin, however, said the dialogue with Habs GM Marc Bergevin was renewed over this past weekend regarding the pending UFA blueliner.

"I met with Marc a couple of days ago when they were here [in Florida]," Berezin told ESPN.com Tuesday.

"I don’t think we’re in any rush to get anything done. I have an idea what they’re offering, they know what we want, and I don’t actually think we’re that far apart. I’m hopeful in the end it will work out."

Jagr, Devils to talk extension

There was also activity on the Jaromir Jagr front. The future Hall of Famer is a pending UFA but has really enjoyed his time in New Jersey.

A source told ESPN.com Tuesday that Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, met with Devils GM Lou Lamoriello a few days ago and both sides expressed a desire to get Jagr extended. However, those talks would wait to get going for real until after the season.

Wild win Folin derby

There was massive interest in college UFA blueliner Christian Folin, 23, and as colleague Craig Custance first reported Monday night, the Minnesota Wild won the derby.

One of the hot rumors that’s made the rounds around NHL circles is that Folin’s camp was demanding a guaranteed NHL roster spot for next season, which was a deal breaker apparently for some teams.

"We weren’t demanding, we were seeking, there’s a difference there, there are no guarantees," Folin’s agent, Dan Plante, told ESPN.com Tuesday.

Plante said it wasn’t a formal request, it was more about the process and wanting to know where the Swedish blueliner would fit in the organization’s plan. But yes, teams that communicated a real chance for Folin to play in the NHL season obviously got a leg up.

"The message to teams was, 'When Christian decided to leave school, he wanted to have a real shot to be on your team next year,'" Plante told ESPN.com Tuesday. "But there’s no guarantees, we know that. We said, 'Hey, do you see him fitting in on your team next year and challenging for a spot?' We got lots of 'yes' responses to that.

"We wanted to find the safest environment for the kid."

They feel they found it in Minnesota, where there’s a Wild blue-line corps that’s still a little thin overall and where Folin can definitely step in next season and be a contributor.

"He’s what we need," Wild GM Chuck Fletcher told ESPN.com Tuesday. "We love his combination of size and mobility plus he’s a right-handed shot. We’re just so happy and thrilled to have landed him."

The Wild had shown interest in Folin for more than a year, in fact.

Just what kind of player can the 6-foot-3 right-handed blueliner be?

"He has a chance to be a real good No. 4 [defenseman]," said one NHL team executive.

Said an NHL scout: "A very late bloomer. Big, skates well and has a hard shot; needs work defensively, average passer."

Bruins winning in notable ways

What pleases Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli the most about his team’s incredible run over the past two-plus months is the consistency in his team’s game, which is so important with the playoffs around the corner.

"We don’t always win in perfect ways, but when we have deficiencies, we tend to take care of them, which is nice to see at this point in the season," Chiarelli told ESPN.com Tuesday.

Most notable is the way in which the Bruins’ blue-line corps survived the injury loss of Dennis Seidenberg.

"It’s given a few of our young guys more opportunities to defend, which is important come playoff time. To really know how to defend in our system," said the Bruins GM.

Seidenberg was an especially impactful player on the penalty kill, but the Bruins entered Tuesday night’s NHL action eighth overall on the penalty kill, not to mention third overall on the power play.

It’s worth mentioning because the Bruins most often get lauded for their five-on-five play, which as always has been top-notch this season under head coach Claude Julien, but it’s not the only reason they’re winning.

"Sometimes overlooked in all this is that our special teams have been really good," said Chiarelli.

One of the major power-play contributors has been Jarome Iginla, who seems to have found the fountain of youth this season in Boston. He's slated to be a UFA July 1, and there has been expressed mutual interest on both sides to continue the relationship, although contract talks between the Bruins and veteran agent Don Meehan of Newport Sports would wait until after the season.

"Absolutely," Chiarelli responded when asked about having interest in bringing back Iginla.

"I’ve talked to Donnie and we’ll look at it, like we look at everything else, after the playoffs."

Carlyle's future

There are some people who have wondered over the past few days if the Toronto Maple Leafs might be contemplating a coaching change this late in the season to try to salvage their playoff chances, the reeling club having lost eight straight before hosting Calgary on Tuesday night.

I don’t think that’s going to happen in terms of right now. That’s just not the style of GM David Nonis, whose patient approach since taking over the club has been his best attribute -- even if Leafs fans are angry and disillusioned right now. I don’t think Nonis would see any benefit at all in a coaching change this late in the season.

Randy Carlyle’s future, however, will no doubt be on the table after the season if Toronto misses out. That’s not to say for sure he’d get canned, but I think Nonis will have no choice at that point but to evaluate whether Carlyle is the best choice in terms of bringing along the team’s young talent.

Regardless of whether the Leafs make the playoffs or not, I expect Nonis would continue with his patient approach going into next season, preaching the development of young players. Nonis has a long-term view for this club, which has been rare for a Toronto GM over the past 30-odd years.

I suppose what’s going to be interesting in that regard is just how patient Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke will be if the Leafs miss the playoffs.

One thing to keep in mind: The Leafs GM who hired Carlyle was Brian Burke. Yes, Nonis was Burke’s right-hand man at the time, but the fact is, as Leafs GM, he hasn’t yet hired his own coach.

It seems Oshie can do more than shootouts

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
10:06
AM ET
Blues 5, Wild 1
* T.J. Oshie (STL): First career hat trick (21); First career 20-goal season.
* Blues: Third straight win, lead NHL with 107 points.
* Blues: Second 50-win season in team history; one win shy of tying single-season record (1999-2000).
* Wild: Lost two straight; 1-3-1 in last five games overall.

Bruins 3, Blackhawks 0
* Bruins: 13-0-1 in last 14 games (first 50-win season since 2008-09).
* Blackhawks: Scored two or fewer goals in seven straight road games.
* Tuukka Rask (BOS): 28 saves, seventh shutout of season (most in NHL).
* Patrice Bergeron (BOS) Two goals; has scored at least one goal in five straight games.

Avalanche 3, Canucks 2 (OT)
* Canucks: Three-game winning streak snapped.
* Tyson Barrie (COL): Third overtime goal of season (10th goal of season)
* Daniel Sedin (VAN): 800th career point; twin brother Henrik reached 800 points earlier in season.

Canadiens 5, Red Wings 4
* Canadiens: 34-4-2 when scoring first this season.
* Tomas Plekanec (MTL): Two goals (20); sixth career 20-goal season (first since 2010-11).
* Tomas Tatar (DET): Two goals (18); second career multi-goal game.
* Red Wings: First regulation loss at home since Jan. 20.

Kings 3, Penguins 2
* Kings: Eighth straight road win, ties longest road win streak in franchise history (1974-75); fifth straight win overall
* Penguins: Third straight loss (ties longest losing streak of season).
* Sidney Crosby (PIT): assist; league-leading 96th point of season.

Lightning 3, Islanders 2 (TB wins SO, 5-4)

Most Rounds in Shootout, NHL History
11/26/05 Capitals-Rangers 15 (won by NYR)
Thursday Islanders-Lightning 13 (won by TB)
10/07/06 Rangers-Flyers 13 (won by NYR)
10/31/08 Canucks-Ducks 13 (won by VAN)
Oilers are in flux
The focus, as it should be with three weeks to go in the regular season, is on those teams still with a shot at making the playoffs and, thereby, a shot at a championship. But there will be no shortage of drama in the 14 cities where the playoffs end up being unattainable.

That's been the case for a long time in Edmonton, but it doesn't mean the questions surrounding the puzzling Oilers have gone away. Chief among them is whether Dallas Eakins is the answer behind the bench.

Unfortunately for the Oilers, that question is moot. When rookie GM Craig MacTavish, a man who coached the Oilers for eight seasons, went with his gut and canned Ralph Krueger after just one season in favor of hot coaching prospect Eakins last offseason, MacTavish made his bed for the foreseeable future. There are certainly enough questions about how Eakins has handled this team to warrant a change if MacTavish hadn't already played the coaching card last season.

There's also the lack of development of young talent such as Nail Yakupov and the team's miserable defense that ranks 28th in goals allowed per game, has a conference-worst goal differential of minus-61 (only Buffalo is worse in the league) and is 25th in shots allowed per game. But MacTavish is more or less stuck with Eakins for at least another season.

Now it's up to the GM to prove Eakins wasn't a horrific impulse hire by giving him better defensive tools, which might mean moving a top draft pick (the Oilers have the second-worst record in the league as of Wednesday morning) or a top young asset such as Yakupov or Jordan Eberle, and even then precious few game-changing defenders are available for a top return. There is also the issue of whether adding Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth has solved the team's ongoing goaltending woes.

Ah, so many Oilers questions, so few answers, so far away from anything resembling respectability.

Flames' strong foundation
Adding to the sting of the perpetual woes in Edmonton has been the impressive show down the road in Calgary. The common wisdom the past few years has been that whatever problems Edmonton had, the Oilers were still miles ahead of the misguided Flames and had an infinitely brighter future.

But watching the Flames, destined to their fifth straight nonplayoff year, it's hard not to like the team's work ethic, and the foundation in place, even as they struggle to rejoin the playoff fray in the West. While team president and acting GM Brian Burke waits until the dust clears this offseason to find a new GM to replace Jay Feaster, the Flames have continued to stay competitive under coach Bob Hartley.

The feeling is Hartley has earned another shot next season, regardless of who ends up as GM, and it would be a shock if Mike Cammalleri, on a tear lately and the team's only 20-goal scorer, doesn't return despite being able to hit the free-agent market in July. The defense is not where it needs to be, but captain Mark Giordano is a defensive leader around whom this team can build.

Like the Oilers, the goaltending situation is in a state of flux, but Karri Ramo has shown flashes of becoming the man in net. Sean Monahan is the real deal, and Mikael Backlund, who leads the team in faceoff wins, has become a pleasant surprise to give the Flames emerging depth down the middle. They might not possess the raw talent the Oilers have, but the Flames are much more of a team than their provincial rival.

Trotz heading out?
Speaking of change, early hints and rumors suggest seminal changes for a couple of franchises, beginning in Nashville.

General manager David Poile and coach Barry Trotz have been the steadying hands at the Predators' tiller through waters both rough and calm since the team joined the NHL in 1998. It would seem those days might be coming to an end, and it won't be any surprise if Trotz moves this offseason after having coached every single Predators game.

With two playoff misses in a row, it might be time. It is the nature of the game, and perhaps a change would do both the team and the coach a world of good.

One thing is for certain: Trotz would instantly become the most attractive coaching option on the market. What happens in Winnipeg, for instance, if Paul Maurice isn't offered a new contract or, more likely, decides to move on from the Jets? Trotz is from the prairie city and would be an ideal fit. And what about Vancouver, where the ax is almost certainly going to be swung vigorously by ownership after a disastrous season for the Canucks?

If Trotz does go, what does Poile do? Peter Laviolette is going to get another head-coaching job and would be a good fit in Nashville, with Poile knowing Laviolette's work via USA Hockey.

Winds of change for Canes?
And then there are the Carolina Hurricanes, with rumors abound that longtime GM Jim Rutherford is set to step aside or step up into a different position with the team for which he has handled the reins since its days as the Hartford Whalers. Rutherford told us in an email that a decision will be made in the offseason and suggested to local reporters recently that the offseason will be the time for discussing the directions he and the team are headed.

It's assumed that Hall of Famer Ron Francis, currently the team's vice president of hockey operations, would take over the post Rutherford has held since June 1994. Rutherford remains one of the most respected men in the game and has always been a thoughtful, reasoned voice when it has come to discussing changes within the game. He has worked tirelessly to integrate the Hurricanes into the Raleigh, N.C., community. His teams have advanced to two Stanley Cup finals, in 2002 and 2006, winning a Stanley Cup in ’06. The Canes advanced to the Eastern Conference finals in 2009, but that was the last time the squad qualified for the playoffs and they will miss again this spring.

Like with Trotz, perhaps it is simply time for a good man to move on.

Blockbuster review
Just for fun, let's take a look at the Martin St. Louis-Ryan Callahan deal.

In 11 games with the Rangers, two-time NHL scoring champ St. Louis has zero goals and three assists and has recently been battling the flu. His slow start hasn't hurt the Blueshirts, however, who have won four in a row, have gone 7-3-1 since the March 5 trade deadline and are in second place in the Metropolitan Division. That would be good enough for home-ice advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today. And let's be honest here: Assuming the Rangers are playoff-bound, they acquired St. Louis not for Game 71 of the regular season but Game 7 of a playoff series.

The Bolts, meanwhile, have seen Callahan adjust much more quickly. The former Rangers captain has chipped in two goals and four assists, and the Lightning have lost only once in regulation (5-1-4) in 10 games since the deadline, good for 14 points.

It's all about defense
Finally, if you need a refresher course in the building blocks to a playoff spot, take a look at the bottom 10 teams in goals allowed per game. How many are going to the playoffs? If you said zero, you might be right.

The Washington Capitals (22nd in goals allowed) have a shot. They are tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs (26th) at 80 points, but the Leafs are in free fall and both teams sit behind the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets, both of whom also have 80 points but hold the wild-card tiebreakers as of Wednesday.

Spread the net wider to include the bottom 12 teams and the Hurricanes and Dallas Stars are also looking at a spring without playoff dates. Simple stuff, no?

How about the top 10 teams when it comes to keeping the puck out of their own net? All are locks to still be on the ice when the playoffs start April 16. Again, simple stuff, no?
Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper says former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan has fit in just perfectly with his new team.

"He's been seamless," Cooper said of the gritty Callahan's entry into the Lightning lineup. "With our team, it's probably a little bit of an element we were missing. Unfortunately we had to give up our leading scorer [Martin St. Louis] to get him. But he's just brought a different dynamic to our team."

Callahan has been playing on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Ondrej Palat.

"That line has been dynamic at both ends of the ice for us," Cooper said. "That kid [Callahan] knows how to play the game below the dots. We haven't had a ton of those guys wheel through our organization. It's a great fit for us. He's probably a little tired because I'm playing him a bit more here than he was in New York."

What has Callahan's leadership impact been on his new teammates?

"Just watch our bench when he hits somebody, or takes the puck from somebody, or battles in front of the net, guys are just pumped for him," Cooper said. "He doesn't have to come back to the bench and say anything. You just know right then what he's delivering to our team. It's great to see. He doesn't hear that because he's in the corner battling with [Zdeno] Chara, so he doesn't hear what's going on [on the bench], but you love that from your team and teammates when you hear that stuff."

Hartley should get a shot
Bob Hartley has won over many admirers with his work behind the Calgary Flames' bench this season, molding the rebuilding club into a hard-working, never-say-die outfit while working on the development of many youngsters.

I suspect he's earned himself a shot at coaching at least next season with the Flames.

Of course, they have yet to fill their general manager vacancy, so there's that to consider, given that every GM likes to pick his own coach. But I think once the GM interview process gets more serious in Calgary, president of hockey operations Brian Burke is going to strongly hint that Hartley should be given the opportunity to at least coach next season. It likely would be very similar to the GM interview process in Buffalo, where it was strongly suggested that Ted Nolan stay on as coach.

Hartley, by the way, has one more year on his current deal.

Double-ouchy for Ottawa
As the sobering reality of likely missing the playoffs sinks in for the Ottawa Senators, so does this: Their first-round pick belongs to the Anaheim Ducks.

That now will be a draft lottery pick unless the Senators mount a sensational, late-season comeback to get into the playoff race (Ottawa began Thursday seven points out).

That first-round pick is courtesy of the Bobby Ryan deal struck July 5, with the Senators also sending Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen to Anaheim in the trade.

I don't think it's fair to be playing armchair quarterback here -- I still would have made this deal if I were the Senators, having lost longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson to free agency earlier in the day and having the chance to add a proven commodity in Ryan to a team many believed was on the rise and had just made the playoffs two years in a row. You figure the team was at least playoff-bound again this season, right?

Heck, I'm on record saying I believed the Senators would challenge Boston for the Atlantic Division lead. Oops. Boy, was I wrong.

Now the Senators are staring at the possibility of a lottery pick landing in the Ducks' lap unless they can pull off the mini-miracle the next three-plus weeks.

But it also once again underlines the work of Ducks GM Bob Murray, who increasingly in the past few years has yielded unsolicited praise to me in conversations with his GM colleagues, all of whom continually point to his work in reshaping that franchise in the past half-decade into a team that not only is contending now, but has a bright future.

All without having to sit at the bottom of the standings -- and get the resulting high draft picks -- for a prolonged period of time along the way.

Jensen a bright light for Canucks
Travis Green stayed up late Wednesday night to watch his season-long project score again, Nicklas Jensen getting his third goal in his seventh NHL game since being called up earlier this month by the Vancouver Canucks.

"He's doing pretty good, I'm pretty proud of him. I'm really happy to see how he's playing," Green, Vancouver's AHL coach in Utica, said to ESPN.com Thursday.

In a season from hell for the Canucks, Jensen has been a much-needed bright light of late, putting up five points and playing on the top line, no less.

Much of the credit goes to Green, who has worked hard with Jensen in Utica to groom Vancouver's first pick (29th overall) from the 2011 draft.

"We challenged him. That's what makes it even better seeing him having success now," said Green, a hint of pride in his voice.

Anyone who saw Jensen play in September in rookie camp in Penticton, British Columbia, probably would not have believed that what's happening could be possible.

"He was a long ways away then," said Green, a longtime former NHL center. "Then he got hurt at the start of the year, which set him back for a while."

Jensen had a real tough start to the AHL season. Nothing was going right. But the Denmark native stuck with it, and Green stuck with Jensen.

"Jens loves the game of hockey, he wants to be a pro real bad," Green said. "Those guys are sponges, they take everything in, and they're not afraid to work. I've seen a lot of improvement in his game from when I first saw him at the beginning of the year."

It meant a lot of work on and off the ice.

"A lot of video, yes," Green said. "We cut his shifts a lot. There's so many little details in a young man's game, to try to get to the next level."

One focus early in the season was for Jensen to get stronger and faster.

"We put him on a fairly hard workout program here, which was harder than the other guys'," Green said.

The coach knew there would be days when Jensen might be real tired because of it, but it was worth it long term.

"We thought it would pay off after Christmas, and it did," Green said.

In the meantime, more video, almost every day, breaking down every game.

"His pace started to get higher and he started to go to the harder areas," Green said. "It's a grind to find scoring chances; you have to be willing to get your nose dirty. He's a natural goal scorer. It started to click for him, he got stronger on the walls, especially in his own end, he started to gain our trust and we played him more late in games."

Jensen had a stretch last month when he had eight goals in 13 AHL games, which led to his eventual call-up.

Neat story.

The Desert Dogs are barking up a storm

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:47
AM ET
Coyotes 4, Kings 3
* Jeff Halpern (PHX): GW goal (first this season, fourth goal overall)
* Coyotes: Won six of last eight games.
* Kings: Lost three straight games following eight-game win streak.

FROM ELIAS: The Coyotes, visiting the Kings, scored the game’s first two goals and its last two goals, those last two coming in the third period of Phoenix’s 4-3 victory. It marked the first time in more than five years that the Kings had taken a lead into the third period at home, only to leave the Staples Center without earning a point. The last such instance came on Dec. 1, 2008, when the Maple Leafs scored three third-period goals to win 3-1.

Bruins 4, Wild 1
* Bruins: Won nine straight games (allowed 13 goals in those games).
* Jarome Iginla (BOS): Two goals; six goals, assist in five-game point-scoring streak.
* Tuuka Rask (BOS): 33 saves; allowed one goal in each of last three starts.
* Bruins: First home win against a team from Minnesota since January 27, 1992 (against the then-Minnesota North Stars).

FROM ELIAS: Jarome Iginla scored two goals in the Bruins’ win against Minnesota on Monday, after doing the same in Boston’s victory against Carolina on Saturday. It’s the sixth time in Iginla’s NHL career that he has scored at least two goals in each of two consecutive team games in one season, and the first time he’s done so for a team other than Calgary. The last of his five pairs of back-to-back multiple-goal games for the Flames came back in November 2010. Iginla is the second player to produce two straight multi-goal games for the Bruins this season, joining Brad Marchand, who did it on January 19-20.

FROM ELIAS: Tuukka Rask earned first-star honors by making 33 saves in his 4-1 victory over the Wild in Boston, thereby extending the Bruins’ winning streak to nine games. Rask’s latest victory maintained his season-long pattern of stinginess in interconference games at TD Garden. Rask is 7-1-2 with a 1.17 goals-against average in his 10 home games against Western Conference teams; he has allowed a total of just 12 goals in those games, with no more than two goals allowed in any of them.

Blues 3, Jets 1
* Blues: First team to reach 100 points this season; 8-0-1 since start of March.
* Brenden Morrow (STL): Foal (11); first goal since Feb. 8 (scoreless previous nine games).
* David Backes (STL): Two goals (22, 23) in third period after score was tied at 1-1; one goal in his previous 12 games.
* Jets: 1-3-3 in past seven games.

FROM ELIAS: David Backes took only two shots on goal and scored on both of them to lead the Blues to a 3-1 win over the Jets. That was the 16th time that Backes has scored two or more goals in an NHL game, but only the third of them in which he scored on every shot he put on target. The others were two-goal games against Columbus in Feb. 2007 (his first multi-goal game in the NHL) and against Anaheim in March 2012.

Lightning 4, Canucks 3
* Lightning: 2-0 versus Canucks this season.
* Ondrej Palat (TB): Goal, assist; four goals and five assists in a five-game point-scoring streak.

FROM ELIAS: Rookie Ondrej Palat contributed a goal and an assist in the Lightning’s 4-3 win over the Canucks. Palat leads all NHL rookies with 13 multiple-point games this season, one more than Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon. Ten of Palat’s multiple-point games have come over his last 28 games.

Isles make historic misery for Canucks

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
10:30
AM ET
Islanders 7, Canucks 4
* Islanders: All seven goals came in thirrd period, each from a different player.
* FROM ELIAS: Islanders' seven goals in thir ties franchise record for goals in a period, originally set on Dec. 23, 1978 vs Rangers in second period.
* FROM ELIAS: Islanders are the first team to score seven goals in a period all by different players since the Red Wings in 1998-99. The Red Wings opponent that day? The Vancouver Canucks.

FROM ELIAS: The Islanders trailed 3–0 through two periods in their game at Vancouver, but they outscored the Canucks 7–1 in the third and skated off with a stunning 7–4 win. The Islanders tied the NHL record for most goals in one game by a team that was goalless through the first two periods. It was done three previous times: twice by the Maple Leafs (Jan. 16, 1934 at Ottawa, 7–4 in overtime; and Feb. 13, 1960 vs. Detroit, 7–1), and once by the Red Wings (Nov. 27, 1998 vs. Vancouver, 7–1).

Maple Leafs 3, Ducks 1
* Phil Kessel (TOR): Goal (34), two assists; four goals in two games against Ducks this season.
* Maple Leafs: Third straight win overall (0-1-2 in previous three games).
* Ducks: Thirrd straight loss (0-1-2); 3-4-2 in last nine games overall.
* Corey Perry (ANA): Goal (34); five goals in last four games

Kings 3, Flames 2
* Kings: Eighth straight win, one shy of tying franchise record (won nine straight in 2009-10).
* Kings: Eight-game win streak is longest active in NHL.
* Anze Kopitar (LA): Goal (20); at least 20 goals in seven of eight NHL seasons.

FROM ELIAS: Anze Kopitar, who’s played his entire eight-year NHL career with the Kings, reached the 20-goal mark in a season for the seventh time when he scored L.A.’s final goal in its 3–2 win at Calgary. Kopitar’s seven 20-goal seasons for the Kings rank him sixth in franchise history, behind co-leaders Marcel Dionne, Luc Robitaille and Dave Taylor (12 each), and also Butch Goring (9) and Bernie Nicholls (8).

Penguins 3, Capitals 2
* Penguins: Sidney Crosby scores 30th goal and has two assists; first 30-goal season since 2010-11 (sixth career 30-goal season).
* Penguins: Chris Kunitz scored two goals, his sixth multi-goal game this season.
* Penguins: Won three of the last four games after a 3 game winless streak.
* Capitals: Alex Ovechkin held without a point for third straight game, his second-longest pointless streak of the season.

FROM ELIAS: Chris Kunitz reached the 30-goal plateau in a season for the first time in his NHL career in the first minute of the Penguins’ game at Washington on Monday, and just over three minutes later Sidney Crosby did so for the sixth time. (Kunitz scored a second goal, which was the game-winner in a 3–2 Pittsburgh victory.) It was the fourth time in franchise history that two Penguins players scored their 30th goals of a season in the same game. The other Pittsburgh duos to do that were Syl Apps, Jr. and Lowell MacDonald in 1975–76 (March 29 at Toronto), Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux in 1995–96 (Dec. 26 vs. Buffalo), and Jagr and Alex Kovalev in 2000–01 (Feb. 7 vs. Philadelphia).

FROM ELIAS: Sidney Crosby vs Alex Ovechkin - Career Head-to-Head

Crosby Ovechkin
W-L-OTL 19-7-2 9-15-4
Goals 16 18
Assists 33 15
Points 49 33
The St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens and Minnesota Wild tallied the most mentions in an unscientific poll of NHL general managers who were asked which clubs impressed them the most with their trade deadline moves.

The Blues were the most cited among responses from 10 GMs on Thursday, their blockbuster acquisition of netminder Ryan Miller and gritty forward Steve Ott solidifying St. Louis as a Cup contender. Blues GM Doug Armstrong got lots of kudos from his peers in our little survey Thursday.

"[Armstrong] gave up a lot, but he got the goalie he needed," said a Western Conference GM. "He’s got conviction. He went for it. I admire him for that."

Added an Eastern Conference GM: "St. Louis for sure got better. Ott is a bit overrated, but [coach Ken Hitchcock] has had him before and will get the best out of him. Miller obviously is the key guy there, a huge upgrade in goal."

The Habs and Wild were tied for the second-most mentions after Montreal nabbed Thomas Vanek and Minnesota got busy over a 48-hour period, adding goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and scorer Matt Moulson.

[+] EnlargeThomas Vanek
Paul Bereswill/Getty ImagesGetting Thomas Vanek for a bargain price earned praise for Marc Bergevin.
Montreal GM Marc Bergevin got high marks from his peers for getting Vanek at a discount rate from the New York Islanders, while Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher got praise for his industrious few days.

"Bergevin did a really good job on Vanek," said a Western Conference GM in a comment that was repeated by many.

The two Florida teams also got a few mentions and for the purpose of this survey would rank tied for third.

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman had only one team to deal with in meeting the trade demand of his captain, Martin St. Louis, but Yzerman still got a decent deal out of it from the New York Rangers.

"I thought Steve did an excellent job managing that situation. He got a nice return," said a Western Conference GM.

Said another Western Conference GM via email: "To me, Steve Yzerman did the best job. He was dealt a bad hand. And nobody could have played that hand any better. Plus he did it with class (as always)."

Panthers GM Dale Tallon also got some attention for stunningly getting Roberto Luongo out of Vancouver. "Dale Tallon had the best deadline of all," said one Eastern Conference GM.

The Penguins were mentioned by one Western Conference GM, with Pittsburgh adding forward Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak. "Pitt was strong with quality, under-the-radar players," a GM said via email.

Buffalo Sabres rookie GM Tim Murray has been busy over the past week, beginning a rebuild and getting a vote from one Western Conference GM for his efforts.

"Tim Murray certainly added a lot of long-term assets," said the GM.

The Anaheim Ducks struck out on Canucks center Ryan Kesler but did add veteran blueliner Stephane Robidas. Ducks GM Bob Murray got a vote from a fellow Western Conference GM.

"[Murray] always sees the big picture. He is two steps ahead of what is in front of him," said the GM. "No one has come close to doing the job he has done the last five years. He inherited a very difficult situation and executed flawlessly."

Other post-deadline notes and thoughts:

• Interesting to find out from a source Wednesday night that Toronto was among the teams that inquired about Vanek. Imagine the Leafs’ reaction when rival Montreal got him, especially given the modest price the Canadiens paid.

• Needless to say, the Canadiens were never going to get Vanek if the Islanders’ asking price continued to include a first-round pick, which it did for quite some time. Once the first-round pick was eliminated from the equation, the Habs jumped in with both feet.

• Vanek is on record saying he’s going to the free-agent market on July 1, and at this point there's no reason to think that won't happen. Still, in the back of my mind I wonder whether this is a repeat of the Alexei Kovalev situation, with a presumed rental player ending up staying around because he falls in love with the electric market that is Montreal. Food for thought ...

• The Penguins made an effort on Kesler and also had a line in the water on Ales Hemsky, the Edmonton Oilers forward who went to Ottawa instead. I thought Hemsky would have been a nice fit in Pittsburgh, but Goc and Stempniak are solid additions. Goc is versatile and provides depth at center while Stempniak could surprise some people after being given a fresh start, like Jussi Jokinen has done since joining the Pens at last year’s trade deadline.

And this, from our friends at Bovada:

Ryan Kesler was going to have an impact on the NHL’s trade deadline regardless of whether he moved or not, and did he ever.

The U.S. Olympian did not find a new NHL home Wednesday despite a serious push in particular by the Anaheim Ducks, and you can certainly underline the efforts of the Pittsburgh Penguins, also.

Now, the Vancouver Canucks were up front from the beginning of Kesler’s trade-market entry that they were not committed 100 percent to moving him; that cannot be forgotten here. They told teams they would listen but ultimately would reserve the right to wait until the offseason to move him if they felt a better package would await them in June.

And it might just be that by involving more teams closer to the draft, they will get a longer list of quality offers.

Perhaps.

Or maybe lessons were not learned from the Roberto Luongo saga over the past two years in terms of striking when there’s a good enough offer on the table.

What I do know is that the Ducks were aggressively trying to get a Kesler deal done, and few teams were in a better position to deliver the goods given their deep, deep pool of high-end prospect talent.

What they didn’t have was the 20- to 25-year-old center the Canucks had hoped to gain in this deal. That can’t be overlooked.

But Anaheim has a bevy of youthful talent to pick from.

Regardless, it was certainly Vancouver’s right not to pull the trigger. It’s believed the Ducks didn’t find out the Kesler option was gone until the last 15 to 20 minutes before the 3 p.m. ET deadline. That pretty much left the Ducks without a chance to recover.

There was a Plan B for Anaheim, a source said, in the name of Matt Moulson, but by then he was well on his way to Minnesota. You can’t ask the Buffalo Sabres to wait forever.

The Penguins, like the Ducks, probably didn’t have the type of day they had hoped because of their pursuit of Kesler. The Pens acquired Lee Stempniak and Marcel Goc, but it certainly wasn’t the sizzle they were looking for.

In the meantime, the long wait on Kesler, as well as the late-moving parts in Thomas Vanek and Moulson impacted the Calgary Flames' effort to move Mike Cammalleri -- something Flames boss Brian Burke confirmed in his post-deadline news conference. The market place was waiting on Vanek, Kesler and Moulson and had Cammalleri on the back-burner, which left the Flames holding back on him.

Calgary probably could have made a very meager, last-minute deal, but as Burke said afterward, he’d rather hang on to Cammalleri -- maybe keep talking contract with him -- rather than make a bad deal. Don’t disagree with him there.

Elsewhere, another deal that didn’t materialize but certainly would have been awfully interesting was San Jose’s attempt to lure Ryan Callahan from the Rangers. Sources tell ESPN.com that the Sharks were fairly down the road on a deal for him and likely would have gotten him had Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay decided to hold on to Martin St. Louis. The Sharks deal appeared to be the Rangers’ Plan B on a Callahan trade. Columbus also chatted with the Rangers on a Callahan deal.

Which also tells you the amount of groundwork the Blueshirts got done on a Callahan trade, which means no doubt that they went to bed Tuesday night deciding they weren’t signing their captain despite last-minute movement from the Callahan camp. The winger’s camp moved down to within $200,000 or so from the Rangers’ $6 million-per-year offer, but the real stumbling block was the desire from the Callahan camp for a no-trade clause, something Rangers general manager Glen Sather confirmed to New York media was indeed the case.

At the end of a day in which split-second decisions make all the difference in the world, lots of what-if’s for many teams.

I would have loved to have seen Kesler in a Ducks uniform. Imagine that one-two punch at center with Ryan Getzlaf? Ooof.

Instead, we’ll all pick up the Kesler trade speculation in June. Until then.


With the Roberto Luongo stunner out of the way (a deal that didn’t start until Monday afternoon but was completed Tuesday afternoon), the Vancouver Canucks continued to take calls on Ryan Kesler on the eve of the trade deadline.

A source once again reminded us Tuesday night that the Canucks don’t have to necessarily move him now, as they can wait until June.

Why wait though if the interest is good enough.

The Pittsburgh Penguins -- it’s no secret -- have interest and a source said they once again spoke with Vancouver on Tuesday. ... But to what degree it advanced the discussion, it wasn’t clear.

There’s a sizeable list of teams that have kept tabs on Kesler, including the Anaheim Ducks, who have a number of young assets that might interest the Canucks.

Of course, you wonder would the Canucks really trade Kesler within the same division? The answer we got from one source with knowledge of the situation is that the Canucks don’t care what team it is, they’ll take the best package if it fits their needs.

Kesler of course controls much of his fate via his no-trade clause and there’s a select group of teams he’d rather go to.

I believe both Pittsburgh and Anaheim are among those teams, as well as Detroit.

The Rangers expressed interest in Kesler, but a source confirmed to ESPN New York's Katie Strang that he would not waive his no-trade clause to go to New York.

We’ll see on Wednesday whether Kesler moves or the Canucks wait until the offseason.

Staying on the Penguins, if the Kesler thing never comes through, a cheaper option up front remains Ales Hemsky from the Oilers. The Penguins and Oilers have spoken about that possibility. Although again, one assumes Pittsburgh would want to see the Kesler situation through first.

Wild get their man


In the end, the Minnesota Wild threw a curveball by acquiring Ilya Bryzgalov.

But the truth is, he’s cheaper salarywise and capwise than Jaroslav Halak or Martin Brodeur, which is certainly a large part of why the Wild went this route.

It’s also because Wild GM Chuck Fletcher had Bryzgalov when he was breaking into pro hockey back in their Anaheim days. So he knows him.

But the reality is that match on the cap was a huge factor here, allowing Minnesota some room Wednesday to do something else if it sees another trade that makes sense.

The Wild also looked at Viktor Fasth, a source said. He ended up in Edmonton on Tuesday instead, a real nice pick-up for the Oilers in my mind.


So much for it being hard to move goaltenders at the trade deadline.

Counting Ryan Miller's move to St. Louis late last week, no fewer than six NHL netminders have changed jerseys in the past few days. And who knows where that number will go by Wednesday's trade deadline?

Miller led the pack both in terms of his résumé and the timing of his move when he was dealt Friday night from the Sabres to the Blues in a deal that also included netminder Jaroslav Halak moving to Buffalo.

Tuesday the goalie carousel picked up speed in earnest with Ilya Bryzgalov moving from Edmonton to Minnesota, where the loquacious netminder will back up rookie Darcy Kuemper for a Wild team that has virtually locked up one of the wild-card spots in the West.

The Oilers, having signed Ben Scrivens to a new two-year deal Tuesday, then acquired Viktor Fasth from Anaheim to shore up their goaltending depth.

And finally the whopper of the day saw Roberto Luongo making his long-awaited departure from Vancouver in a trade back to Florida that also saw the former future heir to the Panthers' goaltending job, Jacob Markstrom, go to Vancouver.

One would imagine that the market for guys like Martin Brodeur, Halak and either Justin Peters or Cam Ward in Carolina (the Canes inked Anton Khudobin to a two-year extension) might have dried up with all the goings-on Tuesday. But then again, it was supposed to be difficult to move goaltenders in general at the trade deadline, so anything is possible.


During the 2006 draft in Vancouver, British Columbia, then Canucks GM Dave Nonis pulled the trigger on what was one of the biggest deals in the team's history by acquiring netminder Roberto Luongo from the Florida Panthers.

It was early in the evening and it was a shocker, one that seemed to portend great things for the Canucks.

Almost eight years later the circle was brought to a close. After two years of emotional to-ing and fro-ing, Luongo was dealt Tuesday afternoon to the Panthers for netminder Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias.

The deal comes two days after Vancouver head coach John Tortorella benched Luongo in favor of rookie Eddie Lack for the Heritage Classic "outdoor" game at B.C. Place, a move that angered the veteran netminder, although the reasoning may have had more to do with the impending deal than Lack’s strong play.

Of course Vancouver GM Mike Gillis spent most of last season trying to move Luongo and his massive contract -- he is locked up through 2021-22 with an annual cap hit of $5.33 million -- to no avail. He then switched gears and traded Cory Schneider, who had supplanted Luongo as the starter in Vancouver, to New Jersey at the 2013 draft.

But even though Luongo had reinherited his starting job with the Canucks, it was an uneasy repatriation, and with the Canucks looking to remake themselves by getting younger and shedding long-term deals, it really shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that Luongo was finally on the move, even if many believed he would most likely be moved at the draft in June.

The move will give the Canucks a chance to find out if Lack, who leads all rookie netminders in save percentage and goals-against average, is ready to be an NHL starter. The move also suggests that the Canucks won’t be satisfied with just this move, that center Ryan Kesler, who has been the subject of much trade discussion the past week, could well be on the move by Wednesday afternoon as the Canucks continue to try to remake themselves on the fly.

The Luongo deal brings to a close an often ugly period for the Canucks, whose goaltending drama consumed the team for long periods of time.

In a matter of months, Vancouver has dealt two starting netminders for a first-round pick (Bo Horvat was selected ninth overall at last year’s draft), a goaltending prospect who has never measured up and a forward whose best NHL production was 14 goals.

But sometimes a deal like this can’t be measured in what is returned but rather what options it opens up for the Canucks in closing the door firmly on the team’s dysfunctional goaltending situation.

Of course, Florida has always been Luongo’s preferred destination given his wife’s family ties to South Florida. But this isn’t just about finally making a veteran goalie happy. This is a move that may be the one that sets the Panthers on the track to redemption.

The Cats made the playoffs in 2012, winning the Southeast Division, but lost in the first round to New Jersey in a seven-game series; had the Panthers had even average goaltending from Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen they would have won that series.

The team took a step backward last season in missing the playoffs, and it was clear that Markstrom, the 31st overall pick in 2008, was never going to evolve into the franchise netminder the Panthers had hoped for.

Enter Luongo. Or rather, re-enter Luongo. For the first time in years, the Panthers will have stability between the pipes to go along with a solid core of young players like Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Erik Gudbranson and Quinton Howden.

The fact that the Panthers were able to get Vancouver to eat some of Luongo’s salary as well as take on Markstrom, who was under contract next season for $1.4 million ($1.2 million cap hit), is a bonus to the cost-conscious Panthers.

Although Florida GM Dale Tallon has often said he would like to have veteran Tim Thomas back next season, it’s hard to imagine that will happen now.

As for the dynamics, there is something richly circular about Luongo, who appeared to tweet a palm tree after the trade was announced, sharing space with Thomas at least for the time being.

The two faced each other in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, with Thomas outplaying Luongo through the seven-game set, during which Luongo famously wondered aloud why Thomas wasn’t giving him enough credit, to which Thomas, likewise famously, wondered if it was his job to pump Luongo’s tires.

Fun in the sun to be sure.

Tallon said the deal "came out of nowhere" and escalated quickly from a tire kicking exploratory phone call on Monday to a deal by Tuesday afternoon.

As things got serious, Tallon said he talked to ownership in Florida about whether he should pursue the deal and got the green light to take on the salary.

"We're excited about it. I think it's great for our franchise," Tallon said during a conference call Tuesday night.

"We're getting a great goaltender. A proven commodity. We needed to make a statement. Luongo’s numbers are terrific."

As for Luongo’s reaction, "he’s excited. He’s just over the moon about coming back to Florida," Tallon said.

The Florida GM said he’ll sit down and talk with Tim Thomas on Wednesday about how Thomas imagines his future with the team given the Luongo deal.

"We're going to do the best we can to make this work," Tallon said. "We'll see what direction it takes us," he said.

The eve of the trade deadline began Tuesday with most of the high-end rental players still in play.

Thomas Vanek, Matt Moulson, Mike Cammalleri, Marian Gaborik and Ales Hemsky, all pending unrestricted free agent wingers, remained on the trade block, a departure in some ways from the past few years, when many of the rentals went days before the deadline.

Remember Brenden Morrow, Jarome Iginla and Jaromir Jagr all moved before the actual deadline day a year ago.

There's a pretty simple answer to it all: As one NHL GM of a contender told ESPN.com Monday night, the prices needed to go down before he would consider any of those rentals.

Is this the year the buyers keep their sanity?

Who knows, all it takes is one of those rentals to move Tuesday and the domino effect might take place.

Latest from the Kesler watch
Now for a non-rental ... the biggest name on the market, really.

The Canucks have continued to take a number of calls on Ryan Kesler the past few days, but there's still no clear indication whether he'll move before Wednesday's 3 p.m. ET deadline.

The asking price remains steep: an established NHLer in his 20s, a first-round pick and another Grade A prospect, or some variation of that mix.

Although I think the Flyers might be willing to give up Brayden Schenn in a Kesler deal, I'm not sure they'd give up much more that's high-end or at least not the asking price from the Canucks.

And although I think for sure the Penguins would start a package with center Brandon Sutter, is he really a good-enough established NHLer for Vancouver? Maybe if the rest of the package is good enough, I guess.

As I tweeted early Tuesday morning, the New York Rangers are keeping an eye on the Kesler situation. My guess is if they can't re-sign Ryan Callahan, perhaps that gets the Blueshirts into high gear on the Kesler front. The asking price for Vancouver would have to start with Derek Stepan, one assumes.

I was also told Tuesday morning that the Red Wings still have not gotten into any player discussion with Vancouver on the Kesler front. While both clubs are believed to have talked on Thursday, to this point, it hasn't gotten past that.

Is veteran Detroit GM Ken Holland lying in the weeds to see how the Kesler thing plays out? Perhaps.

Or maybe he's just more focused on what he really needs, a top-four defenseman.

We told you Monday of Detroit's interest in Christian Ehrhoff. That remained as of Tuesday morning, according to sources, but it wasn't going to happen at the sticker price the Sabres had on him.

Same as Detroit, Philadelphia's real need is a top-four defenseman. They really like Alexander Edler, but at this point it appears the Canucks aren't keen on trading him unless it's a whopper of an offer.

And on Callahan
You just sense this has to be decision day on the Ryan Callahan front, right?

The Rangers play on Wednesday, so if you're the Rangers, I would think you want to fish or cut bait here with your captain.

Either you get him signed Tuesday or you begin the process of trading him.

Will the Rangers go higher than $6 million a year? Will Callahan, who went south of $6.5 million, go even lower?

It's decision time.

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