Welcome to the NHL Trade Buzz. There are 21 days remaining until the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET; Feb. 24), and NHL.com has all the important news, rumblings and analysis heading toward the deadline.
Here is a look around the League at the latest deadline doings:
New York Rangers
Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers is at the top of the wish list for eight teams, according to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic.
The forward has been the subject of trade rumblings because he can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Athletic is reporting that the Rangers are looking for a return like the one they got for Kevin Hayes last season ahead of the deadline and months away from the forward becoming an unrestricted free agent. The Rangers traded Hayes to the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 25 for forward Brendan Lemieux and a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Kreider will be a game-time decision for the Rangers against the Dallas Stars at Madison Square Garden on Monday because of an upper-body injury sustained during a 1-0 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.
He has 35 points (18 goals, 17 assists) in 50 games and is one of 15 NHL players to score at least seven power-play goals each of the past three seasons. He took part in the Rangers’ morning skate and it doesn’t appear this injury is serious so it’s unlikely to have an impact in his immediate future, but it’s worth watching Kreider over the next few weeks.
The Rangers (25-21-4) are nine points out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
Toronto Maple Leafs
When Kasperi Kapanen was a healthy scratch for the Maple Leafs in a 2-1 win against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, there was speculation the forward was being held out for a possible trade. But he said Monday it was a result of being late for practice Friday after oversleeping.
“It’s not me not caring, it was just an honest mistake and it happens and I just had to own up to it,” Kapanen said. “I don’t want my teammates to think I’m not serious about this. I got sat out and that’s that.”
Coach Sheldon Keefe said the scratch was not a punishment, rather the Maple Leafs using it in hopes of giving Kapanen a reset.
The Maple Leafs (28-17-7) are allowing 3.21 goals per game and 32.5 shots per game, each the eighth-highest in the NHL, so they need help on defense.
There is no indication Kapanen, in the first year of a three-year contract with an annual average value of $3.2 million, will be moved, but he has 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 51 games and leads the Maple Leafs with two shorthanded goals and has shown he can play in all situations. He certainly is versatile enough for a team looking to add depth in its top nine.
He said the deadline isn’t something that concerns him.
“It’s always going to be there, it’s no surprise,” he said. “I don’t read into that stuff. I’m just focusing on being with the guys here.”
The Maple Leafs, who are third in the Atlantic Division, might be changing their approach as far as updating their goalie position behind Andersen. Michael Hutchinson has won four straight starts and has a .948 save percentage in that stretch. TSN’S Bob McKenzie said on “Leafs Lunch” Monday that Hutchinson’s play could have the Maple Leafs focus on other areas.
“What Hutchinson winning his last four starts does is it creates less of a frenzied environment.” McKenzie said. “The backup goaltender issue is not a front-burner issue for the Maple Leafs, but in a perfect world maybe the Leafs would like a higher-quality backup goaltender who can definitely spell Freddie Andersen off for more games and push him more internally.”
New York Islanders
The Islanders called up forward Kieffer Bellows from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League on Monday in hopes of improving their scoring.
The Islanders (29-15-6) are 2-3-3 in their past eight games and 7-8-4 since Dec. 17, a stretch that has seen them average 2.79 goals per game.
If Bellows, who leads Bridgeport with 16 goals and 24 points, can invigorate the offense, it could lessen the pressure on the Islanders — who have the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. — to make a trade.
“I think that like any team in the situation we’re in, whatever we can do to get better we’re going to do,” general manager Lou Lamoriello said Monday. “We know who our players are at this point. We’ll just have to see how things transpire over the next few weeks.”
The Blackhawks claimed defenseman Nick Seeler on waivers from the Minnesota Wild on Monday.
Chicago (25-21-6) is three points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card in the Western Conference. Seeler provides depth and physicality on defense, and only costs them a pro-rated amount of his $725,000 salary for this season. He is signed through next season.
Seeler has played six games this season, most recently Dec. 7, but last season he averaged 7.94 blocked shots per 60 minutes of ice time, a number that would lead Chicago defensemen this season.