How 5 Stanley Cup hopefuls have fared since NHL trade deadline
One month later, traded players still searching for fit with new clubs
Sometimes, when a team dramatically alters its lineup, time is required for the newcomer to settle in to his new surroundings.
For example, the Toronto Maple Leafs have gone a middling 15-8-4 since they acquired an accomplished veteran defenceman and Stanley Cup champion in Jake Muzzin after the all-star game in late January.
Meanwhile, with no major moves, the Calgary Flames have put together an 8-6-0 mark and the Montreal Canadiens have gone 8-6-1 since the trade deadline.
The Ottawa Senators, meanwhile, have predictably struggled since unloading all their high-end talent, sitting 5-8-1 since the deadline. But more recently, without playoff pressure and a new interim coach in Marc Crawford, the Senators have rebounded and won four of their past six outings.
So with that in mind, enough time (30 days) has elapsed to check in on the five teams that made the biggest moves at the NHL trade deadline.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Record since trade deadline: 7-7-1, 15 points in 15 games.
Situation: Columbus has six games remaining, and back-to-back shutout wins have pushed the Blue Jackets to two points behind the Canadiens for the final wild-card spot in the East. Columbus has a game in hand and owns the tiebreaker over Montreal with 41 regulation and overtime wins (ROW) compared to the Canadiens' 39. A key outing is slated for Thursday when the Habs visit Columbus.
The skinny: The Blue Jackets went all-in on this season when general manager Jarmo Kekalainen chose to keep pending unrestricted free agents Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Columbus then shipped out more assets to supplement that core with forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, and defenceman Adam McQuaid. If John Tortorella's side fails to make the playoffs, the end result will knock this franchise back years, especially if their free agents walk. But Duchene, who has scored three goals and eight points in his 17 games with the Blue Jackets, has just as much pressure. He could be a difficult sell if he misses the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season.
WATCH | Habs' rout of Panthers sets up showdown in Columbus:
Record since trade deadline: 7-5-1, 15 points in 13 games.
Situation: Nashville is just two points behind the Central Division-leading Winnipeg Jets, but only two points ahead of the surging St. Louis Blues. Both the Jets and Blues have played one fewer game. The Predators would love to pass Winnipeg to avoid the Blues in the first round of the playoffs, but they also need to stay ahead of St. Louis for home ice in the first round.
The skinny: The Predators acquired Wayne Simmonds from the Philadelphia Flyers hoping he would give a boost to the 30th-ranked power play in NHL. That hasn't been the case. Simmonds only has one goal — at even strength — with his new team. Nashville's power play has gone 4-for-26 for a 15.3 per cent success rate, slightly better than the team's season-long 12.7 percentage, since Simmonds was added.
Record since trade deadline: 10-2-3, 23 points in 15 games.
Situation: The Penguins, riding a three-game win streak, are in a battle for home ice in their first-round series against the New York Islanders. With five games remaining for both teams, Pittsburgh and New York are tied with 95 points and 40 regulation wins. Both teams have a 2-1-1 record against each other. The Penguins have the next tiebreaker with a better goal differential at plus-33 to the Islanders' plus-24.
The skinny: The addition of physical defenceman Erik Gudbranson in a straight-up trade for forward Tanner Pearson has made a big difference for the Penguins. With Olli Maatta's return from a shoulder injury slated for Friday and Kris Letang in and out of the lineup for the past month with an upper-body injury, the Penguins should finally have a healthy blue line for the playoffs.
Vegas Golden Knights
Record since trade deadline: 10-2-1, 21 points in 13 games.
Situation: Back-to-back losses to the Detroit Red Wings and Blues have the Golden Knights destined to finish third in the Pacific Division, with an intriguing first-round matchup against the San Jose Sharks lying in the wait.
The skinny: The addition of veteran right winger Mark Stone from the Senators has been a nice fit for Vegas. He has four goals and eight points in 13 games and fortified the Golden Knights' top two lines. Soon after arriving in Vegas, Stone inked an eight-year extension ($9.5 million US annually) making the deadline deal one for the long haul.
Record since trade deadline: 8-6-0, 16 points in 14 games.
Situation: The Jets have a slim two-point lead over Nashville in the Central Division, with remaining games against Montreal, Chicago, Minnesota, Colorado and Arizona — all teams either trying to hold on to a playoff spot or desperately trying to get in.
The skinny: The acquisition of 6-foot-5, 216-pound centre Kevin Hayes has given the Jets size and depth down the middle. Hayes recently found instant chemistry centring a line between Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine. In their first game together, Connor scored a hat trick to push his goal total to a career-high 32. Both Laine and Connor also scored in the new trio's next game, a 5-2 loss to the Dallas Stars.
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