I told you in our Post-Break Outlook that the Jackets needed to string together some wins to separate themselves from the pack. After a 2-3-0 skid the Jackets are now 7-3-1 (15pts) since the All-Star break. They currently sit in 6th place – tied for points with Vancouver who has a game in hand on them. It’s not the cluster that we saw at the break, but still only 5 points separates 5th place Vancouver from the 11th place Kings.
What you have to be aware of though is the number of games remaining at this point. The Jackets are in 6th, yes – but they’ve also played more games than the teams surrounding them. Scariest of all is the Stars, who sit 1 point back (from Columbus), but have played 2 less games. Their play since the departure of Sean Avery, and the resurgence of Marty Turco has been reminiscent of their juggernaut last year. Though, on the bright side (for Columbus fans) is that the second leading scorer for the Stars – Brad Richards – could be out for 6-8 weeks… that hurts.
Onto TRADE TALKS! – we keep creeping closer and closer to the March 4th trade deadline. Mathieu Schneider is already out of the picture – but with only a handful of points his only value was veteran experience. Here are the names that most intrigue me, and their potential suitors:
10. Doug Weight, New York – I’m starting off this party with some boring old farts. Guys that still have some production, and plenty of playoff experience. Currently Weight is out for about 5 more weeks – putting his return past the trade deadline. Could he still garner some interest? – Maybe. The only way a team takes a gamble on Weight though is gonna be for a bag of pucks. Let’s say Weight to Florida for a 3rd round pick.
9. Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis – The Blues are currently 7 points out of the playoff picture, and Tkachuk is a UFA come July. Tkachuk is having a decent season and could interest some playoff contending teams – he would of course have to waive his no-trade clause. Look for him to go to a team looking for 2nd or 3rd line depth – as well as leadership. For no particular reason, my gut says Washington.
8. Mark Recchi, Tampa Bay – Recchi is on pace for a 50+ point season. With his production and playoff experience (along with a cheap price tag and UFA status this summer) he could raise some eyebrows of clubs looking for veteran depth too. One team to me that screams a lack of veteran experience is Chicago. Yep, send Recchi to Chi-town.
7. Nik Antropov, Toronto – Leafs Overlord Brian Burke has made it well known that the asking price for this monster center/wing is a first round draft pick. That’s a pretty steep price for a guy that will be UFA come July. If Antropov is shipped it will be to a team that he’ll resign with in the off-season. I’m sure the prospect of Nik makes Hitch’s chops wet, but don’t expect to see him here – you know what would blow people away? How about a blockbuster deal involving swapping the Sedin twins (also UFA) to T.O. for Antropov and maybe some other goodies. Regardless, I’m saying that Antropov is heading to Vancouver or Montreal.
6. Jay Bouwmeester, Florida – Last summer it seemed almost a sure bet that Jay would be dealt at some point this season or the Panthers would risk losing him to free agency. Now… it’d be a tough pill for the fans to see Jay shipped out in the thick of a playoff race. There is still some time to sort out the standings, but don’t be shocked to see the deadline pass without seeing Jay’s name in the headlines. Since I’m on a role for crazy trade-mates though… I’ll send Bouwmeester to Edmonton for a pick and a player.
5. Ryan Smyth, Colorado – Word is that the Aves are looking to cut payroll and the GM is asking teams to submit bids. I honestly don’t see a deal being struck this year. Smyth’s production has been pretty good this season, but he’s making s crap-load of money – $16.5 mil over the next three years. Is there anyone looking for a scoring winger? Let’s say this has to go down, I put Smyth to Pittsburgh for Ryan Whitney. Yes, I just said that.
4. Chris Pronger, Anaheim – Seems crazy, but the Ducks could miss the playoffs this year. With 61 points and the fewest games remaining, it’s starting to look like a reality. If that’s the case Pronger could be moved for a longer-termed gain (he has only 1 year remaining on his contract). Pronger would be pretty enticing for a team looking to really beef up their blue line for the playoffs as well as the following season. Pronger to the Rangers in a deal involving Petr Prucha. Ha ha ha ha!
3. Alex Kovalev, Montreal – Boy, here’s a guy who’s had a seesaw ride the past two seasons. From being booed, to worshiped, and now benched – this high potential winger is likely done in Montreal after this season. If the Habs decide to ship Kovy at the deadline don’t expect it to be to the Pens, a team with a desperate need for talented wingers. No, I’m sending Kovy to Edmonton… maybe for Erik Cole?
2. Kari Lehtonen, Atlanta – The former no. 2 overall pick has not exactly performed as such. Still, Atlanta could find some use for Kari. The rumor I’ve heard is sending him to the Flyers in return for a prospect – maybe Van Riemsdyk or Claude Giroux. Seems like a win-win, the Flyers get the tending they need for a playoff push, and Atlanta continues a strong rebuilding campaign. Honestly, if there’s any team that scares me (in four years) it’s Atlanta – two first-rounders in ’08, a likely top-5 this year, as well as a slew of prospects (Angelo Esposito anyone?).
1. Olli Jokinen, Phoenix – The Yotes have seemingly put a for-sale sign on their prize take during last year’s draft-trade frenzy. A team looking to gobble up Jokinen is not doing so for his playoff experience though (zero games). Olli’s probably one of the more intriguing players on the block; only a year left on his contract at $5.5 mil – not bad for a true number one center. You’ll hear the boys at the Dispatch argue that he’s not on the radar, but they said the same thing at the draft (and we still made a push to acquire him). I’d wet myself, but don’t go into a comma if the Jackets end up as possible suitors. It’d be a multi-player deal on our end: let’s say Jokinen for this year’s number one pick, Rusty Klesla, and Maxim Mayorov.Posted in Bluejackets buzz Tagged: Nik Antropov, Olli Jokinen, Season Outlook, Trade Rumors