By Neil Keefe
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And Brian Monzo
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We are one day closer to the Monday’s NHL trade deadline. Brian Monzo joined me to continue our running dialogue from Thursday on the deadline.
Keefe: I’m not sure if the Devils will ever lose again. At least it doesn’t seem like it. Every time I look at their 16-1-2 mark over the last 19 games, I can’t believe how bad they were at the beginning of the season.
Whenever former Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner’s name is mentioned now it is in connection to his departure from New Jersey to Dallas – when the Devils’ turnaround started. Now it’s not just because of Langenbrunner since Martin Brodeur and the prior coaching played a role in it as well, but do you think the Langenbrunner move served as a wake-up call for the team? Do you think that new leadership on the team made the other Devils realize they can’t be complacent?
Monzo: I think the Langenbrunner thing is just coincidental. That said, the Stars have gone into the tank since they acquired him. I think the turnaround has a lot to do with coaching. Jacques Lemaire has the team playing an all-around better game. Ilya Kovalchuk has looked like a different player (almost as if he’s been “let loose”) and he’s playing at a great pace. Travis Zajac’s game has been better too. Brian Rolston has been better as has Patrik Elias, so it isn’t just one thing.
Zach Parise said in a recent interview that when John MacLean was coaching, they were playing hard, but not doing the right things. Since the coaching change, the Devils are playing hard and making the right plays.
Keefe: The Islanders are only two points behind the Devils, and have nearly the same chance of making the postseason as the Devils, but no one is talking about the Islanders the way they are talking about the Devils. I’m guessing that is a combination of the streak the Devils have been on as well as the young age of the Islanders.
There has been a lot of frustration and embarrassment for Islanders fans over the last several years, but it looks like that is close to changing for a long time, and Long Island should be home to good hockey year in and year out once again. Would the Islanders risk taking one last shot at the postseason this year with the possibility of moving a piece that might help them in their plan for the future?
Monzo: I think the Islanders will move Radek Martinek for a draft pick at the deadline, but aside from that, they should sit still.
The Islanders have an enormous amount of young talent in John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau as well as Calvin De Haan, Nino Niederreiter and Brock Nelson. Matt Moulson is on the verge of his second straight 30-goal season. If they can ever get their goaltending and arena situation straightened out, it’s going to be a great ride for Islanders fans sooner than later.
I also believe Doug Weight will have an executive role with the organization next season.
Keefe: The Penguins brought back Alexei Kovalev, which is a nice blast from the past and should help an offense that is missing the best player in the world (Sidney Crosby) and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins haven’t been the same, obviously, since Crosby indefinitely and Malkin for the season, and Kovalev should improve their offense.
From the run they were on during 24/7 to where they are now is a shock, and the Penguins have looked vulnerable without their two stars, but rightfully so. The expectations for the 2010-11 Penguins have certainly changed dramatically since the holidays, but can this team still make a long run in the postseason as currently constructed?
Monzo: That’s a good question. The addition of not only Kovalev, but James Neal from Dallas is going to help this team right now (Neal for the future as well).
I think they will try and add one more offensive player, as well as a defenseman for their run. Two players that pop out to me are Jason Arnott from New Jersey and Dustin Penner from Edmonton. If New Jersey, despite their run, thinks they can get something good for Arnott, I can see them moving him. If Pittsburgh offers a first-round pick, I can see that happening. Penner is a power forward, and is a solid power-play guy, and has scored 20-plus goals in almost every season he has played. The price would be a little heftier, but the reward would be better. With the news of Brooks Orpik out for over a month, I think they will look to add Jim Vandemeer or Steve Staios.
Keefe: I’ve never been a fan of Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli in Boston. I thought that maybe a collapse down the stretch or possibly an early exit from the postseason this year would be a reason for their departure after the way they blew the Flyers series last year and lost the home Game 7 to the Hurricanes the year before.
I know they helped to rebuild a team that was pretty terrible after the previous regime traded away Joe Thornton in the middle of his MVP year, but there has just been a lot not to like about them since they have taken over.
It looks like Julien and Chiarelli won’t let my wish come true since they have been very active at the deadline and have added talent and depth, which is something they had been hesitant to do in the past. Do you think Boston is done making moves?
Monzo: The Bruins are a scary franchise. They continue to impress me with the moves they have made, starting last season in moving Phil Kessel, enabling them to draft Tyler Seguin and trading for Nathan Horton. This season, they picked up Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley providing a lot of leadership and depth. All of this, without top center Marc Savard for most of the season.
For whatever reason, I’ve never been able to buy into Tim Thomas as a top goalie, but he has proved me wrong. The Bruins have what it takes this season to go all the way. As far as the deadline, I can see them grabbing one more defenseman as some depth going into the final stretch of the season.
Keefe: The Rangers still have two tough tests with the Capitals on Friday and the Lightning on Sunday before the trade deadline. On Thursday, we talked a lot about what the Rangers might do over the next three days, but has anything changed with them in the last 24 hours?
Monzo: I really think the Rangers will do all they can to grab Bryan McCabe from the Panthers. He has to waive his no-trade clause, but I think it will get done. They will continue to ponder Brad Richards, but I expect the asking price will be too much. My gut still tells me he stays in Dallas for the rest of the season.
I’d be shocked if the Rangers don’t move Matt Gilroy on Monday, even with the injury to Marc Staal. There have been some rumblings about Paul Stastny being moved from Colorado, and he would be a perfect fit in New York, but again, the asking price will be high. The Avalanche are in rebuilding mode, so they will be looking to add draft picks if they can on Monday.
Keefe: How about an update outside the metro area? Are there any other names of interest that might be moved before Monday?
Monzo: Although he wants to stay in Ottawa, the Senators may move pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Chris Phillips.
The Panthers don’t want to move center Stephen Weiss, but with the Panthers in “sell” mode, he may look to get traded. The Panthers had six picks in the first two rounds of the NHL draft last season and may look to do something similar this season.
The oft-injured, but very talented Tim Connolly will likely be shopped out of Buffalo. He is unrestricted on July 1 and isn’t expected to re-up with the Sabres.
Also, I’d be shocked if Ales Hemsky doesn’t go to Los Angeles, if he is moved. They are “one player away” from a very long playoff run.