NHL Week in Review (February 24-March 2)

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The NHL season has been a very different league this year as the shortened season has not only affected the play on the ice but the attitudes in the offices. Teams are working with a very different timetable than they are used to meaning that they have to think a little outside the box. This can be seen in many moves made so far in the season and that includes the surprising amount of trades that have already happened this year. One of these moves would make major news this week as the Calgary Flames would attempt to pull off a very aggressive move. The Flames are a team that is struggling to find an identity with most in the organization believing they are a few players away from the playoffs. People outside of the organization see the teams as one that needs to change and possibly blow the team up to begin a youth movement to get back to the playoffs. It is a team that needs to change but does not think it needs to change and so they are looking for ways to add another piece to the puzzle to finish what they think is a potential playoff team. With that attitude Calgary’s General Manager Jay Feaster would use a strategy not often used in the NHL as he would go for a Restricted Free Agent. An RFA is a player who is under 27 years old and has received a qualifying offer from his current team. If someone is a restricted free agent they may not sign with any team they want as teams may submit an offer sheet that can be signed by the player but gives the player’s current team the right to match the offer and prevent him from leaving. The biggest RFA this year was Ryan O’Reilly who would not accept the Colorado Avalanche’s qualifying offer and would decide to stay in the KHL and hold out for a bigger contract. The Avalanche were willing to move on without O’Reilly as they had begun to shop him around the trade market. Then the Flames would throw a wrench into the plans as they would submit a 2-year $10 million offer sheet that Ryan O’Reilly would sign. It was an aggressive move on the part of the Flames who were looking to get a centre that they desperately need and were trying to become a better team. For the signing the Avalanche would not be left empty-handed as they would receive a 1st and 3rd round draft pick from the Flames if they would not match. The Avs clearly wanted the player and not the picks as they would match the offer sheet and sign O’Reilly to a 2-year $10 million deal bringing him back to the Avalanche roster. It was a brief move that showed the willingness of some teams to go outside of the norms of the league to find ways to win. The story would not end with the Avalanche’s matching though as news would arise that would bring the Flames management from aggressive to stupid. A rule in the new CBA would state that any RFA who played in any league after the NHL season started would be eligible for waivers if he signed with another team. This was the case for Ryan O’Reilly who played two games in the KHL after the NHL season began. With that if the Calgary Flames had signed him and the Avalanche had not matched O’Reilly would have to clear waivers before he could be added to the Flames roster. This means he would be exposed to the entire NHL that could pick him up for the 2-year $10 million deal. That would mean that the Calgary Flames would lose a 1st and 3rd round pick to the Avalanche while having the player they wanted go to another team with no compensation. It could have been a disaster for the Flames if Colorado had not matched the offer. For Jay Feaster it may have been the end of his time in Calgary. It still might be as the Flames need something to change in their team and starting at the top may be the right way to go about this. In the end the decision to go after a player without knowing the rules or calling the NHL offices to make sure of the rules could be the undoing of Feaster and potentially a new path for the Flames. It is a perfect example of the desperate times for many GMs as they look to any option to get a deal done and help their team before it is too late and sometimes that can lead to big mistakes that may change teams for better or for worse.


(Thoughts on the past week in the NHL)

Trading Time
The NHL Trade deadline is on April 7th but that won’t stop teams from trying to get better entering into the last 24 games of the season as the trades have already started with multiple teams already beginning the trade period and it doesn’t look to stop

Dipietro Saga Continues
Rick Dipietro was a trend setter as he would be the first player to sign a massive deal that totaled $67.5 million over 15-years and since then he has not lived up to the contract with injuries ending most seasons and now he will sit in the AHL after being sent down this week

The Realignment Debate Begins
The NHL would create a new four conference system but it was not perfect as there would be fewer teams in the west and more in the east making a playoff spot in the east harder to come by which the NHLPA would not like and means more debate is to come on the new realignment


NHL Standings

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (28)
2. New Jersey Devils (25)
3. Philadelphia Flyers (23)
4. New York Rangers (20)
5. New York Islanders (18)
Northeast Division:
1. Boston Bruins (30)
2. Montreal Canadiens (30)
3. Ottawa Senators (27)
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (26)
5. Buffalo Sabres (19)
Southeast Division:
1. Carolina Hurricanes (23)
2. Winnipeg Jets (21)
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (19)
4. Washington Capitals (17)
5. Florida Panthers (17)


Western Conference
Central Division:
1. Chicago Blackhawks (39)
2. St. Louis Blues (24)
3. Detroit Red Wings (23)
4. Nashville Predators (23)
5. Columbus Blue Jackets (14)
Northwest Division:
1. Vancouver Canucks (26)
2. Minnesota Wild (22)
3. Edmonton Oilers (20)
4. Colorado Avalanche (19)
5. Calgary Flames (18)
Pacific Division:
1. Anaheim Ducks (32)
2. San Jose Sharks (24)
3. Phoenix Coyotes (23)
4. Los Angeles Kings (22)
5. Dallas Stars (22)


Detroit Red Wings 8 – 3 Vancouver Canucks
– The Red Wings had a rough start to the season as they struggled to put together wins but they seem to be turning the corner as they begin to put up wins this time against the Canucks putting them back near the top of the division

Montreal Canadiens 5 – 2 Toronto Maple Leafs
– The Canadiens have come out of nowhere to sit at the top of the Northeast Division while the Maple Leafs are looking to get there and playing well but this game would go to the Canadiens who would get revenge for their season opening loss

Colorado Avalanche 5 – 4 Calgary Flames
– The Calgary Flames had tried to sign RFA Ryan O’Reilly the day they would play his current team adding a bit of bitterness to this divisional rivalry and the Avs would get revenge matching the offer sheet and winning with a late comeback

Pittsburgh Penguins 7 – 6 Montreal Canadiens (OT)
– The Canadiens have been on a hot streak lately but they could not overcome the Penguins in a high scoring affair that saw Brandon Sutter score the overtime winner to give the Pens the win and force the Canadiens out of the top spot in the Northwest


Next Week:
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings (Sunday March 3rd; 12:30 pm EST)
– The Detroit Red Wings are on the rise and they will look to make a real impact in the league as they try to be the first team to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in regulation while the Blackhawks look to continue their historic streak

Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Wednesday March 6th; 7:00 pm EST)
– The Senators continue to deal with injuries and yet continue to win as they take on the Leafs in the battle of Ontario for the second time this year and look to continue to beat their provincial rivals

New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders (Thursday March 7th; 7:00 pm EST)
– The battle of New York enters its third stanza as both teams have split the first two games and they are looking to try to fight to stay out of the bottom of the Atlantic division with two teams struggling to get back to winning

Minnesota Wild vs. Nashville Predators (Saturday March 9th; 8:00 pm EST)
– The Wild are paying dividends for their big offseason acquisitions in Ryan Suter and Zach Parise and one of them will return to the city where he spent most of his career as Ryan Suter makes his return to Nashville

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