Mailbag: Eichel s chances of winning Hart Trophy; holiday wish list - NHL.com
|NHL.com 24 Dec 2019 at 11:30|
Eichel is a candidate for the Hart Trophy, which is awarded to the Most Valuable Player of the regular season. The Buffalo Sabres forward had points in 18 straight games before being held without a point in a 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Monday. He has shot up my list for Hart Trophy candidates and right now he d be No. 2 behind Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon if I had a vote. The Sabres are 13-8-5 in games in which Eichel has a point and 4-5-2 when he fails to score a point. They lost 6-1 against the Flyers in the one game he missed this season. Eichel has eight more goals (24) and 17 more points (51) than Victor Olofsson, who is second on the Sabres.. He doesn t have another driving force on his team like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for the Edmonton Oilers, or Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak for the Boston Bruins.
The Sabres need more scoring. They could look for help in a trade if they re still in the race. But they need the players on the team to give Eichel help. Forward Jeff Skinner had two points, both assists, in his past 10 games. He needs to pick up his production.
The New York Rangers have to go with what the market dictates if and/or when they decide to trade Kreider, a forward who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The Devils didn t get an NHL-ready player from the Arizona Coyotes in their trade for Taylor Hall, who is also a pending UFA. There may have been a trade or two that included an NHL-ready player that New Jersey general manager Ray Shero was contemplating, but he opted to get a two draft picks, including a first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, and three prospects from the Coyotes for Hall.
I wouldn t expect the Rangers to get a package that enticing if they decide to trade Kreider, but it s not impossible to think they can do so. The Rangers traded center Kevin Hayes, who was a pending UFA, to Winnipeg before last season s NHL Trade Deadline and got two draft picks, including the Jets first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and forward Brendan Lemieux. I thought that was a steal for the Rangers. Lemieux has since become an integral third-line and second power-play unit forward for the Rangers. The Jets were knocked out of the playoffs in the Western Conference First Round. Hayes was traded to and signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers sent that first-round pick and defenseman Neal Pionk back to the Jets to get defenseman Jacob Trouba.
That trade could also serve as a cautionary tale of why a team won t give up that much in a trade for only Kreider. My guess is, if the Rangers choose to trade Kreider, the will need to make it a bigger trade if that want to get more than a prospect and/or a high draft pick.
A healthy Sidney Crosby, because the NHL is always better when the Pittsburgh Penguins captain, who has been out since Nov. 9 after having core muscle surgery, is playing. He s 40 games away from 1,000 for his career, a mark he would have hit long ago if not for his injuries. For Arizona Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper, who is week to week, to overcome his lower-body injury sustained on Dec. 19 in enough time to regain his place as a Vezina Trophy candidate. For rookie forwards Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils and Kaapo Kakko of the New York Rangers to pick up their play and production enough to stop any questions about if they were the right picks, because they were the right picks and it sometimes takes 18-year-old players time to adjust to the NHL. Whatever Marchand and Pastrnak do to make news and highlights during 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis because we all know the forwards know how to play to the crowd and have some fun doing it. An overcast New Year s Day in Dallas with the temperature around 45 degrees at puck drop for the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators at Cotton Bowl Stadium (2 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS). Snow in Colorado Springs, Colorado on Feb. 15 for the 2020 NHL Stadium Series game between the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings at Air Force Academy Falcon Stadium. Stanley Cup Playoff races in each conference that come down to April 4, the last day of the regular season. Better yet, the game between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers being for one playoff spot, because the Battle of Alberta could use it. For McDavid and Draisaitl to battle until the end of the season for the Art Ross Trophy as the League s leading scorer. For Alex Ovechkin to become the ninth player in NHL history to score 700 goals, certainly reasonable considering the Washington Capitals forward is 19 away and has 23 this season. For Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom to react well to his treatment for Ewing s Sarcoma and have a chance to live a healthy life and resume his career if possible. Ditto for Calgary Flames assistant general manager Chris Snow, whose has been diagnosed with ALS.
Definitely not a complete turnover, but I expect Fletcher to be active in the offseason regardless of what happens this season. Some of what he does will depend on the availability of forwards Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) and Lindblom. It s too early to make that determination. But I wonder if Fletcher s aggressiveness will be focused on defensemen.
Outside of Ivan Provorov, the defensemen for the Flyers could be in flux. I m not sure what the Flyers will do with Shayne Gostisbehere, who has been hit or miss at times this season and will have three years remaining on his contract. Justin Braun can become an UFA. They might like him enough to re-sign him. If they fall out of the race, the Flyers could trade him. Matt Niskanen and Travis Sanheim will have each have one year remaining on their contracts. Philippe Myers and Robert Hagg can become restricted free agents. Hagg is arbitration eligible. I expect each to be back barring a trade. And goalie Carter Hart will have one year left on his entry-level contract. Safe to say he s not going anywhere.
There are veteran forwards under contract who also aren t going anywhere, including Claude Giroux, Hayes, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek. The Flyers may want to try to trade van Riemsdyk and Voracek, but their contracts make that difficult. Van Riemsdyk will have three years remaining on a five-year contract and Voracek will have four years left on an eight-year contract after this season. Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl could still be contributing. Morgan Frost and Joel Farrabee should continue to progress. Depending on Patrick and Lindblom, there will be room to make some depth additions.