Just a few random thoughts as the NHL takes a brief Christmas break….
The Winnipeg Jets are pretty much out of the playoff race.They’re 9 points (remember they have to finish AHEAD of another team) back of the final wildcard berth in the WC and I can’t see them catching either Nashville or Minnesota.
Unless they have an unlikely win streak in the next couple of weeks, the Jets (whose playoff chances are currently at 12% according to Sports Club Stats) should start thinking about next season.
That means they should try and maximize the return they can get for Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd who are coming up on UFA status. And that also means they should make some moves as soon as possible since a team acquiring them could use the help down the stretch not just after the trade deadline at the end of February.
That raises the question of which teams might be in a position to take on their contracts.
In the case of Big Buff, I think we should keep and eye on the Los Angeles Kings who are in a position take take a strong run at another cup.
After shedding the Voynov and Richards contracts, the Kings are sitting with about $4 million in free cap space and could easily fit his contract under the cap.
That raises the question…do the Kings have the pieces necessary to acquire Buff from the Jets?
They don’t have a 1st round pick but they do have some intriguing prospects that might tempt Winnipeg.
Hockey’s Future has a great rundown of what the Kings prospect pool looks like here and I think there are enough quality players in Ontario that could help the Kings piece together a deal.
As for Andrew Ladd, it might be harder for the Jets to part with him since he is their team leader and a consistent scorer but it makes sense for the Jets to move him and further bolster their prospect pool with a possible eye on re-signing him in the offseason.
A team I would keep a close eye on here is the Florida Panthers who have stated they are searching for a scoring winger and, of course, Ladd has a connection to Dale Tallon from their Chicago days.
The Panthers have more than $6 million in free cap space and just a ton of blue chip prospects that might tempt Winnipeg.
The Jets already have the deepest prospect pool in the league and could perhaps add to it significantly if they get a lottery pick and a good return on Byfuglien and Ladd.
A bitter pill for Jets fans this season but also a huge opportunity for the team.
What About Those Canucks?
In my pre-season prognostications, I had the Canucks making the playoffs…not because they’re much good but because Arizona, Calgary and Edmonton are pretty bad. That Anaheim has been horrid has helped make me look pretty smart although I, and no one else, saw that coming.
Well, the Canucks, at the break, are clinging to the last Pacific Division spot despite going 4-5-1 in their last 10 games. But we need to consider a few things here.
The Canucks have had just a brutal schedule up to now with multiple long road trips and have only played 14 home games compared to 22 on the road.
Their next 7 straight games are at home so, if they can get their act together on home ice (5-6-3), they have a chance to pull away from the pack.
We should have a pretty good idea how this will turn out by January 15.
Picking a team out of the bottom of the scrap heap to perhaps take a run at the last Pacific Division playoff spot is tough since the pretenders are so closely packed and the results could depend on injury and/or a great deal of luck.
But going into the break, the hottest team in hockey is the Calgary Flames (8-2-0).
Calgary is being led offensively by 22 year old phenom Johnny Gaudreau who has 10 goals and 16 points in his last 10 games.
Bu that’s not the whole story.
TJ Brodie has played 25 games since returning from injury…their record in that 25 games is 14W-9L-2OTL
That folks is a playoff calibre stretch of games and also worth noting is that the Flames play 7 of their next 8 games at home where they have a stellar 11-5-0 record.
Gloomy in Edmonton
Both the Canucks and Flames have the Oilers next on their dance cards and it’s likely the Oilers will have to win both to stay in the race as remote as their chances actually are.
Those 2 games are followed by LAK, ANA and ARZ so a week from today the Oilers could be hanging on or out of contention by New Year’s Day.
Based on schedule and momentum, I would wager Calgary will be in a playoff spot a week from now.