Tomorrow is the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline. In a few days, it will be March - the final full month of the 2017-18 NHL regular season. The Metropolitan Division has opened up a little bit but not very much. Seven out of eight teams have legitimate playoff hopes - and there are only five spots available. Plenty of teams will be making some tough decisions by 3 PM ET on Monday. What they do or do not decide to do will go a long way as to what will happen next. For this snapshot, we can only take it one week at a time.
Here is how the division standings look at the moment:
And here is the schedule for this upcoming week of games. Games within the division are highlighted in yellow:
For this week’s Metropolitan Division snapshot, I will highlight the last trade each team has made prior to today. Some have been active before Monday’s deadline. There’s even a trade within the division.
Washington Capitals: On February 21, 2018, the Capitals moved their 2019 fifth round pick to Montreal for defensemen Jakub Jerabek. It’s not a big deal, but one of the division’s best teams does not need to make big deals. Here is Kevin Klein’s post about the deal at Japers’ Rink.
The Washington Capitals have slipped to second in due part of Pittsburgh being hot and the Caps stumbling a bit. In a four-game week, the Capitals started things off well with 3-2 win over Buffalo. But then they lost 4-2 and 3-2 in regulation to Tampa Bay and Florida, respectively. The Capitals hosted Buffalo again last night and beat them definitively, 5-1. This split the week in terms of points. It was enough to re-take first place for the time being. They are by no means safe, but they are at the top for another week.
If they want to secure that first place spot, then they’ll have to do a bit more than earn half of the potential points. They open the week with a back-to-back set: at Columbus on Monday and hosting Ottawa on Tuesday. The former will impact the lower part of the division, the latter is a trap game. The Capitals will be off until they host Toronto at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. It’s a tough match up and on a bigger stage than usual. The Capitals would do well to take that one.
Philadelphia Flyers: On February 19, 2018, the Flyers acquired Petr Mrazek from Detroit for a conditional fourth round pick in 2018 and a conditional third round pick in 2019. Detroit is retaining half of Mrazek’s salary too. Philadelphia’s top two goaltenders are hurt and they needed goaltending help. Not that Mrazek has been amazing, but he just needs to be league average to help the Flyers’ campaign. Here is Kurt R’s post about the deal at Broad Street Hockey.
The Flyers have been hot. The Flyers have not lost since losing in a shootout to New Jersey back on February 12. The Flyers crushed the Rangers last Sunday, they edged Montreal in OT last Tuesday, they beat Columbus 2-1 last Thursday, and they handed Ottawa yet another ‘L’ yesterday to extend their winning streak to five games. They swept this past week. They climbed up to second place and inserted themselves in the fight for first place. The Flyers will look to extend the winning streak at Montreal on Monday night followed by a home game against Carolina on Thursday and a tough game in Tampa Bay on Saturday. Philadelphia has emerged in 2018; do not be surprised if they continue to thrive in the stretch run of this season.
Pittsburgh Penguins: On February 23, 2018, the Penguins came out huge in a three-team deal involving Ottawa and Las Vegas. The initial deal was rejected by the league, but this is what went through. The Penguins ended up with Derick Brassard, Vincent Dunn, and Ottawa’s 2018 third round pick from Ottawa and Tobias Lindstrom from Vegas. Vegas took Ryan Reeves and a 2018 fourth round pick from Pittsburgh and a 40% of Derick Brassard’s salary from Ottawa. Ottawa received Ian Cole, Filip Gustavsson, and Pittsburgh’s first round pick in 2018 and Pittsburgh’s third round pick in 2019. The Pens are clearly “going for it” and strengthened their already dangerous group of forwards with Brassard. Their window for success is open and they aren’t keeping it status quo. Here’s Hooks Orpik’s reaction to the deal at PensBurgh.
The Penguins were rolling. They entered this week with their last loss being a shootout loss to Dallas on February 9. Their last regulation loss was to New Jersey back on February 3. The Pens were about to sweep their second week in a row. They crushed Columbus and Carolina. However, they went into a goal-fest with Florida and amazingly did not win. It was a 5-6 loss in regulation. While losing eventually happens, the loss sent them to third place for the time being as they’ve played one more game than Philadelphia. The Penguins can make it a positive by using it as motivation to get back to winning ways. To do so will impact the division. They’ll host the Devils on Tuesday, visit Boston for a tough game on March 1, and then host the Islanders on Saturday. They got stronger with the Brassard trade; let’s see if they’ll take first place after this week.
New Jersey Devils: On February 22, 2018, the Devils made history. They made their first ever trade with the New York Rangers since the franchise moved to New Jersey. The news came right after a loss to Minnesota, but the deal was apparently struck in the afternoon. The Devils acquired Michael Grabner, who was New York’s top goalscorer, for the Devils’ 2018 second round pick and Yegor Rykov. It’s a rental for a Devils team, a clear sign that they want the playoffs now. Here is my post about the deal, here at All About the Jersey.
Ensuring a playoff spot will take some work. While the Devils have been in fourth for the past week or so, they’ve dropped some opportunities to help themselves out in this past week. They beat Carolina late in overtime last Sunday, which gave the Canes a point. They lost in regulation to Columbus, 2-1, and then in regulation to Minnesota, 4-2. With a close win over the Isles, they are a bit safe in fourth for the moment. The Devils do need to continue to get results to get to the postseason like they want. This week will be tough. They’ll visit the Penguins on Tuesday followed by a back-to-back set at Florida (who is playing much better as of late) and Carolina (another division game) later in the week.
Columbus Blue Jackets: On January 22, 2018, Columbus made two minor deals. They sent John Ramage to Arizona for future considerations. They also received Jeff Zatkoff from Los Angeles for future considerations. I have no idea if the future considerations are the same. That the deals involve them means that they’re not deals that should impact Columbus. Here are the posts about both deals by Elaine Shircliff at The Cannon: Ramage deal, Zatkoff deal.
Columbus saw their losing streak get extended last Sunday with a 5-2 loss at home to Pittsburgh. That streak ended when they held on to beat the Devils 2-1. The losing resumed with a 2-1 loss at Philadelphia. Against Chicago last night, they would prevail in a 3-2 regulation win. That result is big as it put them two points ahead of the Isles and three points ahead of the Canes for the second wild card spot. They would do well to obtain more success. Unfortunately, they have a tough week coming up. They’ll host the Capitals on Monday before embarking on a three-game road trip through California. Columbus will face Los Angeles and Anaheim back-to-back later this week and then face San Jose next Sunday. Columbus has plenty of talent, but staying where they are at minimum will not be easy at all.
New York Islanders: On February 24, 2018, the Islanders sent a 2019 third round pick to Edmonton for Brandon Davidson. The Islanders’ defense has been lacking. I don’t think Davidson will be enough to stabilize it. He’s a solid hand. He can help a bit. But it seems to me the issues are more systemic; something Davidson is not likely to fix all alone. Dan Saraceni at Lighthouse Hockey has this post about the deal made yesterday.
This was not such a good week for the Islanders. They lost 5-2 at home to Minnesota. Remember when teams just lost at Barclay’s Center? Those days are in the past. The Isles took Toronto to a shootout - and lost for a 4-3 final result. Against the Devils, well, New Jersey retired Patrik Elias’ number and the Devils were 4-0 when they retired a jersey number. That record is now 5-0 as the Islanders lost 2-1 to the Devils. One point out of six is no way to take control in a tight playoff race. The Islanders need points and fast. They’ll have to get them out of Montreal in a home-and-home set on Wednesday (at Montreal) and Friday (in Brooklyn) and Pittsburgh, who the Isles will visit on Saturday night. Montreal is likely their best bet seeing as the Pens have been on fire.
Carolina Hurricanes: On July 4, 2017 (yes, 2017), Carolina sent a 2018 fifth-round pick to Las Vegas for Marcus Kruger. The forward has not done much in Carolina with only one goal, five assists, and 30 shots on net in 48 games with the Canes. I suppose that’s why he was acquired for only a fifth rounder. Justin Lape at Canes Country has this post about the depth deal back then.
Carolina has done a lot of the right things against the Devils last Sunday. They needed a late equalizer to force overtime - and they lost it late in that overtime. It was at least a point, but still a third straight winless game after blowing out Los Angeles in the prior week. The winless streak became four games when Pittsburgh wrecked them 6-1 on Friday. In Detroit, the winless streak extended to five games as the Canes lost 3-1. As with the Isles and Jackets, the Canes really do need something instead of hoping the teams around them continue to fail to take control of fifth place. As with the Jackets, this coming week will be a challenge for them. They’ll visit the mighty Boston team on Tuesday followed by a back-to-back within the division: at Philadelphia on Thursday and hosting New Jersey on Friday. Fourth through seventh can be described as “if not now, then when” given this past week.
New York Rangers: On February 23, 2018, the Rangers sent Michael Grabner to New Jersey for the Devils’ second round pick in 2018 and Yegor Rykov. If that pick becomes somebody and Rykov comes over from Russia and adapts to the NHL game, then it’s a deal that can work out for the Rangers. It’s still very much a deal only a selling team does. Expect more selling as the rumors have heated up around Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash. By the time you read this, there could have been another trade by the Rangers. Here is Joe Fortunato’s breakdown of the Grabner deal at Blueshirt Banter.
The Rangers have been giving away points to opponents. They have been winless in their last six games. In this past week, they lost 7-4 to Philadelphia in MSG, they lost 3-1 at Montreal, and they lost 4-1 to Minnesota back at MSG. Their freefall has meant this Metropolitan Division is only tight between seven teams instead of eight. How bad is it? A team from the Atlantic Division (Florida) has now surpassed them in the Eastern Conference standings. As they continue to sell, Rangers fans will be seeing some more ‘L’s soon. At best, they can be spoilers. In this coming week, the Rangers will host Detroit before going to Western Canada. The Rangers will take their crummy road record into Vancouver on Wednesday, Calgary on Friday, and Edmonton on Saturday. If you believe the Rangers should tank as hard as possible, then the schedule appears to give them the chance to do so.
That was the week that was and the week that will be for the Metropolitan Division. Tomorrow will be a busy day for everyone between what is rumored and what is actually reported to happen. There will be an open post for it tomorrow. In the meantime: What do you think will happen in this coming week? When will the two Pennsylvania-based teams cool off? Can the Devils at least secure fourth place? Does anyone want to take control of the second wild card spot? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division in the comments. Thank you for reading.