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This is it. The last week before the Olympic break. Back in 2010, the Olympics essentially created two trade deadlines as some teams scrambled to make their moves before the Winter Games started. Ville Leino, Olli Jokinen, and Dion Phaneuf were among the guys moved last time around in the two week period before the Olympics.
That’s of course in addition to the New Jersey’s bold decision to acquire Ilya Kovalchuk, who they later signed to a 15-year contract. Devils fans can get their first good look at him since April 2013 when Russia takes on the United States on Feb. 15.
So will we see a similar flurry this time around? It was light on the trade front last week and Buffalo Sabres forward Matt Moulson suffering an arm injury doesn’t help matters. Still, we might end up seeing at least one big name get moved…
ARE RYAN CALLAHAN’S DEMANDS TOO BIG FOR THE BIG APPLE?
That seems to be what everyone is saying lately. This story really started to pick up last week when the New York Post reported that Callahan was seeking a seven-year, $42 million extension. That’s actually not a ridiculous demand. It’s more than we would recommend dishing out for him, but the fact that he thinks he can get it makes sense after Toronto dished out $36.75 million over seven years for David Clarkson last summer.
Still, the Rangers seem to have balked at that, in part because they’re not sure if he’s durable enough to warrant that kind of term at that price. Consequently, this story evolved over the weekend with reports that NHL teams are now getting permission to speak directly to Callahan’s agent. Furthermore, it’s been suggested that Rangers GM Glen Sather wants to get this done before the Olympics rather than wait until the trade deadline.
For a team to trade its captain when it’s hot and in a position to make a playoff run is very unusual. On the one hand it would be a bold move that demonstrates a forward thinking attitude as it would prevent them from losing him for nothing over the summer or, potentially just as bad, overpaying to keep him. At the same time, it wouldn’t be shocking if this proves to be a negotiating tactic to try and pressure Callahan into lowering his demands.
WHAT ABOUT RYAN MILLER?
In the words of Steve Ott, the Buffalo Sabres “embarrassed” Ryan Miller on Saturday. Buffalo has been terrible this season while Miller has had to try to make the best of it. Although the Sabres would like to re-sign the 33-year-old goaltender, they probably will trade him rather than risk watching him walk to greener pastures over the summer.
The question is what can you get for him and it will be interesting to see the answer. You might assume that he would command a high price, but keep in mind, rental goaltenders are not exactly a high-demand commodity.
There are certainly teams that could use Miller – heck, he would be an upgrade for most squads – but it would disrupt their existing goalie tandems and teams that are already contenders don’t do that very often this late into the campaign. And it almost has to be a serious contender because who else would sacrifice a top round pick and maybe more while potentially upending their long-term situation in goal for the sake of a guy that might just leave them over the summer?
To put it another way, if you look at the teams that rank among the top three in their respective divisions at this stage in the season, you aren’t likely to find any of them that are eager to push aside their current starting goaltender. Although as long as we’re speculating, you could throw a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins in there, given Marc-Andre Fleury’s recent playoff history and the uncertain availability of Tomas Vokoun. But again, would getting that kind of insurance be worth Buffalo’s asking price in the Penguins’ situation?
TORONTO’S TAKING CALLS FOR NIKOLAI KULEMIN
Obviously, that’s not going to attract the same kind of attention as the Callahan or Miller speculation, but a lot of the time it isn’t the team that makes the big splash that wins the Cup. Kulemin has regressed since his 30-goal, 57-point campaign in 2010-11, but he’s still a nice complimentary player and the Maple Leafs probably aren’t asking for much.
He might prove to be the type of addition that pushes an already fantastic squad over the edge.
PAVEL DATSYUK HASN’T PLAYED IN A MONTH, BUT HE’LL PLAY IN THE OLYMPICS
When it comes to injured players and the Olympics, teams can be put in awkward situations.
This tournament only comes once every four years and for some of these guys, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Although the NHL pays the bills and they all want to win the Cup, a shot at securing gold for your country has to be a very high priority for many of them.
The Detroit Red Wings have opted to respect Datsyuk’s decision to play for Russia in his home country despite the fact that he’s been out since Jan. 1 with a lower-body injury. They just have to hope that the experience serves to shake off the rust and motivates him rather than aggravates his condition.
OVECHKIN AND KESSEL
When Phil Kessel is hot, almost no one is better. He had his second hat trick of the season on Saturday to become the second player this season to reach the 30-goal mark. Not counting the shortened campaign, he has now reached that milestone in every season since the Maple Leafs acquired him.
Kessel doesn’t typically get brought up in a debate over the best player in the league today, but since the start of the 2011-12 campaign, he ranks second in the league with 195 points in 187 contests. Only Evgeni Malkin has topped that mark.
Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin found the back of the net for the eighth time in his past nine games on Sunday. He’s never scored less than 32 goals in a campaign, but he was on the decline before Capitals coach Adam Oates started working with him last season. It’s great for the sport that the two were united as it would have obviously been a shame if a player that started off with such promise fell into the camp of merely great while still in his mid-20s.
As it is, Ovechkin is 28 and has already netted 410 goals. At this rate, it’s entirely possible that he’ll reach the 500-goal milestone before he turns 31.