Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen and Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle are prominent names in the NHL trade rumor mill in the wake of the Ryan Johansen–Seth Jones trade.
Maybe it should have.
The deal in itself wasn’t significant, one minor leaguer for another. But adding Tokarski to a netminding stable that already includes Frederik Andersen, John Gibson and Anton Khudobin suggests the Ducks are are all in a row to make another swap, one that will probably involve Andersen.
The 26-year-old has been the team’s starter for more than two seasons, posting a 60-25-10 record with a 2.38 GAA and .915 save percentage. The perception is that he’s a better-than-average goaltender. He’s had some playoff success, too, going 8-1 while leading Anaheim to series wins over Winnipeg and Calgary last year before dropping a coin-flip seven-gamer to the eventual champion Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals.
But as well as he's played it’s always been a matter of time before Andersen had to make way for Gibson. And after a brilliant month in which the 22-year-old phenom went 5-3-1 with a 1.62 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage and three shutouts, that time appears to be now.
So the Ducks are willing to sell a goalie who can step in as a No. 1. Problem is, there aren’t a lot of buyers at the moment.
Both Calgary and Arizona have been mentioned as possible destinations for Andersen, but it’s hard to see Anaheim GM Bob Murray being motivated to strengthen a team his Ducks are battling for a Pacific Division playoff spot. And at the moment, neither of those clubs are necessarily interested. Rookie Louis Domingue has done a terrific job filling in for the injured Mike Smith with the Coyotes. Karri Ramo has looked sharp for nearly a month now, winning nine of his past 14 starts for the Flames.
Buffalo could use the help, but the Sabres have committed to Robin Lehner and would like to give him time to show what he can do once he returns from an AHL conditioning assignment.
The most likely scenario then? Murray goes into wait-and-see mode until another team, preferably in the Eastern Conference, runs into trouble at the position and comes calling.
• The Blue Jackets might not be done dealing. Beat writer Aaron Portzline reported on Thursday that the Rangers are kicking the tires on winger Cam Atkinson.
That makes sense from New York’s perspective. After left-shooting Mats Zuccarello, the Blueshirts are dressing Jayson Megna and Jesper Fast on the right side. That’s thin. Atkinson, who’s on pace for his third consecutive season of 20-plus goals, would be a nice add to their mix.
What’s tougher to understand is why the Jackets would want to move him. Atkinson, at 26, is young enough to be considered part of their future. He’s a consistent scorer. His work ethic is unquestioned. He’s signed for two more years at a very reasonable $3.5 million per. And he seems to be a favorite of coach John Tortorella.
If a deal returned a promising young defenseman, you could understand why GM Jarmo Kekäläinen might listen to offers. Hard to imagine the Rangers being the team to send one their way, though.
Rychel, the second of three first-round selections made by Columbus in the 2013 draft, is a smallish power forward with top-six potential, but more likely drifts between the third and second lines. He’s played in just 16 NHL games, recording three assists.
The consensus outside the organization appears to mirror the Blue Jackets’ thinking: good prospect, but hasn’t done enough with the time he’s had to force his way onto the roster permanently. And that makes his demands a little hard to stomach.
Portzline reports that the Maple Leafs, Flames, Canadiens, Ducks, Bruins, Red Wings and Rangers have all picked up the phone, although Kekåläinen's caller ID would likely reveal a few more teams than that. Of those, Montreal seems like the most natural fit. The Habs have a need for physical forwards who can drive the net and create havoc. And they have a surplus of young defensemen, including 2010 first rounder Jarred Tinordi, to tempt the Jackets.
No telling what Kekåläinen is thinking, but one thing is clear: he’s under no pressure here. Rychel has no leverage and is locked in for another two years on his entry level deal. Whatever happens will happen strictly by the GM’s timetable.
• Fedor Tyutin is another Blue Jacket who might be in play. Veteran defenders are always in demand ahead of the deadline, and while the 32-year-old doesn’t generate much offensively (just two assists this season), he has the best possession numbers among Columbus’s blueliners. Add in the ability to chip in on the penalty kill and handle top-four minutes and it’s easy to see how he’d attract attention. Keep in mind though that Tyutin has two years remaining on a deal that carries a $4.5 million cap hit, a tough pill for most contenders to swallow. If he goes, the Jackets will have to take back some salary in return.
• Keith Yandle’s name is generating some buzz. The 29-year-old defenseman is heading for unrestricted free agency this summer and the sense is that the Rangers won’t let him skate away for nothing after giving up Anthony Duclair to acquire him just a year ago. Yandle is a mixed bag—a mobile puck mover with team-leading possession numbers who struggles at times with coverage in his own zone—but it’s easy to see a contender liking what he’d add to their mix. It’s been rumored that he could be moved as a rental to Tampa Bay, possibly as part of a package to obtain Drouin, although the logic of adding another expiring contract to Steve Yzerman’s already crowded plate is a bit leaky. If Yandle is dealt, look for the Rangers to acquire another veteran left D to fill his spot ahead of the playoffs.
• Could Kevin Hayes be on his way out as well? The underperforming winger (0-3-3 in his past 17) has spent a couple games in the press box as a healthy scratch, and was ripped in the press by coach Alain Vigneault. “In Kevin’s case, I think we made it clear our expectations about him and what we felt he could do were very high,” Vigneault told the New York Post last week. “Obviously, he hasn’t lived up to that. Did we overestimate his possibilities? I don’t know, time will tell. But I do know that what I’m seeing now and what we’re seeing now is not good enough.”
“I think we all have our tipping points, and I think Kevin has had an extra-long leash, especially considering [center Derek Stepan] was out for quite some time,” Vigneault said. “But there’s just nothing going on. At the end of the day, we’re at the point now where we have to make some decisions in the best interests of the team.”
Pretty harsh. And while you can’t rule anything out when a team has won just five of its past 15 games, that felt more like a come-to-Jesus moment for the 23-year-old than the planting of a For Sale sign. Considering how little forward help is in the pipeline, it makes sense for the Rangers be patient with Hayes.
• The Rangers made one minor move on Friday, sending struggling forward Emerson Etem to the Canucks for Nicklas Jensen and a sixth-round pick. It's a deal that brings a higher offensive upside to Vancouver and more grit and speed to the Rangers.
Etem, acquired last summer in the deal that sent Carl Hagelin to Anaheim, never found his groove in New York. There were questions about his conditioning from the start of training, a real problem for a player whose game is built around speed. Inconsistency dogged him and he was in and out of lineup, skating in 19 games and registering just three assists. He'll have a chance in Vancouver to reunite with former Medicine Hat linemate Hunter Shinkaruk. The duo teamed up to score 110 goals in the 2011-12 season for the Tigers.
Jensen was taken by the Canucks with the 29th pick in the 2011 draft, a time during which Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was behind the Vancouver bench. He has size (6-2, 202) and skates well, but has struggled to score with any consistency in the AHL. He played five games with Vancouver in 2014-15, but has yet to appear in the NHL this season, in part because he was approaching waiver eligibility. By moving him now, the Canucks avoided the risk of losing him for nothing if he failed to clear waivers.
The numbers game
• The Capitals are the first team to win at least 30 of their first 40 games of a season since 2012-13 when the Blackhawks (31-5-4) and Penguins (30-10-0) did so.
• Caps sniper Alex Ovechkin needs three goals to reach 500 for his career (799 games played so far). The five fastest NHL players to reach 500: Wayne Gretzky (575 games), Mario Lemieux (605), Mike Bossy (647), Brett Hull (693), Phil Esposito (803).
• Along with their franchise record 11-straight wins, the Panthers have tied their team mark of five straight road wins, the second time they’ve done it this season.
• The great Roy McGregor offers his well-considered take on the unbelievable run by the Florida Panthers.
• Does the Seth Jones—Ryan Johansen deal signal the return of the old-fashioned hockey trade?
• Love him or hate him, NBC and TSN analyst Pierre McGuire has changed the way we all watch hockey.
• Denmark’s success at the World Juniors is the next step on a carefully cultivated path that leads to legitimacy as a world hockey power.
• Finally, if you have a few bucks to spare check out the GoFundMe page set up for Adam Brady, the Lincoln Stars forward who was seriously injured in a car accident over the Christmas break. Get well soon, Adam!