2007/2008 Season

After eliminating Canada’s hockey capital (Montreal) it is only fitting that the next obstacle for the New York Rangers to climb would be Canada’s capital (Ottawa) in a rematch of their 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals won by the Rangers in seven games after trailing three games to two.

This year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals features many intriguing off-ice and on-ice stories that bear watching.

Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson has split his time this season tending goal for the Senators and tending to his wife Nicholle as she battles cancer – a situation that I am all too familiar with and as a result wish Craig and Nicholle nothing but the best.

Clarke McArthur’s triumphant return from missing nearly two full seasons recovering from a concussion and its aftermath was capped off with his Game 6 winning goal in overtime to eliminate the Boston Bruins.

Of course, one can’t talk of the senators without mentioning the “impending domination” of perennial Norris Trophy candidate Erik Karlsson and Anderson’s mastery over the Rangers (10-5-3 with a 1.77 GAA, .941 SV% and four shutouts).

In the minds of a lot of Rangers and Senators fans, this series will go a long way in deciding which team won the Mika Zibanejad-Derick Brassard trade. Early returns look good for the Sens as “Big Game Brass” is tied for second in the playoffs with eight points while Zibanejad has half as many points for the Blueshirts. Speaking of Brassard, the series reunites him with his former Rangers BFF Mats Zuccarello.

Alain Vigneault will be coaching against the organization that gave him his first NHL job as he served as an assistant coach for Ottawa for three and a half years.

Vigneault offered an interesting take to the media on the Zibanejad-Brassard trade leading up to the start of the series. The Rangers were able to acquire a 2018 second round pick from Ottawa in that deal which, in turn, allowed the Rangers to package a 2018 second round pick to Detroit as part of the Brendan Smith deal.

All of these off-ice and on-ice stories make for nice print and on-air talking points, but the main story for this series will come to down to “1-3-1” – the defensive system used by Ottawa’s coach Guy Boucher. It is a system that Boucher started when he was Tampa Bay and caused Philadelphia Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette to mock Boucher’s strategy.

The Rangers ability, or inability, to break the 1-3-1 is the key to the series. Job (sounds like rob) is to be as patient as Job (sounds like robe) when it comes to breaking Ottawa’s trap. In order to counter Boucher’s plan to stifle puck movement through the neutral zone, the Rangers must resist resorting to what MSG.com Rick Carpiniello likes to call their “fancy-boy” way of playing hockey where the Blueshirts put more reliance on piling up style points rather than shots or goals.

Whether they like it or not, the Rangers will have to play dump-and-chase hockey (emphasis on their need to chase). Considering on how much Boucher relied on his top four defensemen against Boston (without Mark Borowiecki who missed four of the six games, but should be back sooner rather than later), the Rangers can make good use of putting bodies on the Ottawa d-men, especially early in games.

In a discussion on the NHL Network, the analysts believed that the Rangers physical pressure on Karlsson would pay off late in shifts/periods/games. If the Rangers attack and put bodies him, they can take advantage of Karlsson – and by extension the rest of the Ottawa blueliners.

The Rangers need to implement a strategy that former Canadian Junior Brian Kilrea used to employ. In racking up nearly 1,200 wins with the Ottawa 67’s, Kilrea’s forechecking strategy was “asses and eyeballs”. In Kilrea’s book, “They Caller Me Killer”, Bryan Trottier explained what Kilrea means by “asses and eyeballs”:

“If you see their asses, let’s pressure like hell! If you see their eyeballs, we’ll just send one,” Trottier explained.

In addition to hard forechecking and dump-and-chase, the Rangers will need to be in constant motion to break the 1-3-1 with quick crisp passes – as opposed to their preferred method of looking to stretch the ice with long passes (which can play into the Senators’ trap).

In addition to patience, the Rangers will have to remain disciplined and not try to force a round peg into a square hole. The importance for discipline carries over to eliminating, or at least limiting, the lazy stupid penalties they took against Montreal – like all of those high sticking penalties late in the series.

In a way, the Rangers will have to do like they did in the Montreal series, adjust their style of play to meet the needs of the game. It is something that Derek Stepan recognizes.

“You have a game plan, but you also have to be ready to take what series’ give you and I think that’s how teams succeed in the playoffs,” Stepan admitted to Larry Brooks of the New York Post. “We have superstars on our team, but we don’t rely on superstars taking over games. We’re team-oriented and built that way.

“I go back to what Marty [St. Louis] preaches about the importance of being able to make adjustments. That’s what he did as an individual to be able to succeed in the league for so long, and that’s what teams need to be able to do.”

It is ironic that Stepan mentioned St. Louis because Marty was part of that Lightning team that implemented the 1-3-1.

Of course, the easiest way to break the 1-3-1, or any trap for that matter, is to get the lead and then add to it. The more Ottawa falls behind, the greater the pressure is to change their style of play and open the game up – which will play to the Rangers skill and speed advantage.

One way for the Rangers make sure they get the early lead is to win the special teams battles. The Rangers penalty killing helped do them in during their Game 3 loss and their power play goal in Game 6 helped win the series. With the way Anderson and Henrik Lundqvist are playing goals are expected to be at a premium so the special teams should be crucial.

Interestingly enough, success on special teams hasn’t been all that successful for playoffs teams this year. Calgary leads all playoff teams in PP% (37.5) and they were swept in four games. Minnesota and Montreal had the playoffs best penalty killing units (93.3) and both of those teams are out of the playoffs.

The Rangers need some of their young stars to pick up their play in the Ottawa series. Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller were far too inconsistent in the Montreal series, although Hayes began to show life towards the end of the series. Kreider and Miller got lucky after taking some really stupid penalties late in the series and can’t afford to do so now. With Montreal and the Carey Price Affair a memory, perhaps Kreider will regain his confidence to go to the net utilizing his size and speed.

While Stepan helped ice the series with his empty net goal, two points in six games is not going to get the job done – especially when you are only winning 37.2% of your faceoffs. That was the one part of Hayes’ game that was strong (57.6%).

The Rangers had success against Price when took advantage of him going down to the ice early. While he is a very athletic goalie, Anderson can fall into that same trap as well. The Blueshirts will need to get traffic in front of him in the hopes he will have problems going side-to-side and picking up the puck through traffic.

In addition to shutting down Brassard and Karlsson, the Rangers will have to deal with the resurgence of Bobby Ryan who scored four goals and three assists against Boston. He was using his Rick Nash-like ability in a way that the Rangers need to see from Nash and their big forwards.


Many Rangers fans were pleased with the extra rest they received thanks to eliminating the Canadiens in six games instead of the usual seven games it always seems to take the Rangers. Frankly, the rest probably did more for Ottawa given the four overtime games they played against the Bruins – not to mention the “healing time” Karlsson’s hairline fracture in his foot received. The Senators captain averaged over 30 minutes of ice time that was topped off by nearly 42 minutes in double overtime in Game 5. Karlsson had to battle through cramps in that game so any extra rest for him was welcomed.

This series is going to be like the typical Rangers death struggle when it comes to the playoffs. There are going to be time when they resemble the team that started the season 13-4-0 and then there will be times when they play like the team that limped home during the final few weeks of the regular season.

Ottawa’s trap is sure to lead some ugly hockey at times, and that is to be expected. The Rangers response to the trap will determine the outcome of the series. As we have seen this year, home-ice is not the advantage it is cracked up to be. The Rangers were the NHL’s road warriors while the home team in the Ottawa series was just 1-5.

In the end, the Rangers depth, skill and speed will win out. The Rangers won their second straight playoff series against Montreal in six games so I expect the Rangers will win their second straight seven game series against Ottawa.

Once again, if you are looking to talk Rangers playoff hockey just visit Rangers Report 2.0. It is a place where we have serious (and sometimes not so serious) discussions on the Rangers and hockey.

Also, don’t forget to follow Rick Carpiniello on MSG.com for his unique takes on all things New York Rangers ACCORDING TO CARP.

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Back to the bargaining table.

The NHL’s brand-new offer to the NHLPA could be the last hope in conserving the aeason and with this offer comes hope.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the offer today.

“In light of media reports this morning, I can confirm that we delivered to the Union a new, comprehensive proposal for a successor CBA late yesterday afternoon,” he said in a statement. We are not prepared to discuss the details of our proposal at this time. We are hopeful that once the Union’s staff and negotiating committee have had an opportunity to thoroughly review and consider our new proposal, they will share it with the players. We want to be back on the ice as soon as possible.”

A new round of bargaining is set to begin this weekend.

The two sides will satisfy in person on Sunday after a teleconference on Saturday.

The owners reportedly lightened needs about making income arbitration and complimentary company harder to attain as well as changed the specific agreement variance from five percent to 10 percent.

There is also a one-time buyout in 2013-14 that will assist a team get under the $ 60 million cap and it will not count towards the salary cap.

If this doesn’t work, the period will most likely be canceled. The owners have held off over half the games already and online sports betting say any longer would make it impossible to have a season.

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Well those grinches at Outdoor Life Network, er Versus, um NBC Sports Network (or whatever they are calling themselves today) cost Ranger fans a chance to relive the movie “Groundhog Day”. No, Glen Sather did not make an appearance (which would be a sure sign of the Apocalypse). Instead, it was Rangers owner James Dolan appearing at the post-game press conference (which was not covered by MSG so that we could watch Boomer & Carton in 60 – oh boy) meaning there are six more weeks left in the Knicks season ?

With the Knicks floundering after spending beaucoup bucks in free agency and trades (sound familiar), Dolan spoke with the media for the first time since the 2005-2006 season – according to both Andrew Gross of The Record and Steve Zipay of Newsday.

As I am sure everyone has heard, Dolan was praising the job Sather has been doing since redoing his strategy in 2004. Jimmy should probably have mentioned something about the Lockout and the Salary Cap in the next breath, but why ruin a good story.

Rather, Dolan invoked the name of the Stanley Cup in reference to something Dolan gave to Sather (insert your own punch line) that was not be returned until the Rangers recapture the Cup.

Of course Dolan’s Stanley Cup statement drew the attention of his coach who responded as only John Tortorella can.

“Thanks a lot, Mr. Dolan,” Torts retorted. “I’m just as shocked as you guys are. We just have to go about our business. I have my owner up here talking about a Stanley Cup. That’s a bunch of bullshit. We need to take one day at a time.”

You have to love the coach for having the cojones for calling out his owner. Then again, having the best record in hockey tends to give you a bit of leeway with your boss.

Tortorella has taken a lot of heat during his tenure with the Rangers and some of it has been deserved. Despite his “safe is death” mantra at the start of second go-round with the Rangers (remember he had a four-game stint at the end of the 1999-200 season), the Blueshirts have not been an offensive juggernaut mainly due to their woefully inconsistent power play.

Whether it is stubbornness on his part in terms of systems or player selection, Torts has not been able to bring any consistency to that part of the team’s game.
Some fans roll their eyes whenever Tortorella starts running out different line combinations – even though every coach in the NHL does it. Those fans see the Rangers struggles as a result of his line juggling , rather than his reacting to the team’s offensive (and defensive) struggles.

You could even get on him for his “treatment” of Sean Avery if you are so inclined.

The one thing that you cannot complain about is the one thing that has the Rangers in the position they are in. He holds his players accountable for their actions.
About a week ago Tortorella sent his team back into their locker room after the team’s sluggish start to a practice following a day and half off.
Michael Rupp, who has been around the block a few times, addressed the coach’s style in an interview with the Blueshirts United web site.

“That’s Torts through and through, I think,” Rupp offered. “You have guys who have strong games, and they have one shift of not being good and it’s addressed. I think that’s important. There’s too many times I played on teams where a guy is in a position on a team or has a niche and is told to just go with it. Maybe over a course of 20 games he’ll be good for us. Well that’s not good enough, and here it’s not like that. So if it’s kicking us off the ice for a minute or sitting one of our top guys for a couple of shifts, everyone is accountable and we understand you have to bring it every time you step on the ice.”

That belief is not one that is held by Rupp alone. Six days prior to Torts pulling his team of the ice, CBC’s Elliotte Friedman touched on a similar belief.

In a January 3, 2012 CBC.ca blog, Friedman wrote, “New York head coach John Tortorella can be very tough, but it’s clear the Rangers respond to him. Why? Several players say it’s because they respect the fact he treats every player the same, no matter where they fit in the lineup. One added that if you have a couple of bad shifts in a row, he makes it clear you may not get many more.”

While speaking to The Record’s Gross about the practice incident, Tortorella provided insight into why the coach was quick to dismiss Dolan’s talk about the Stanley Cup.

In speaking about his team leaders and the trust he has in them Tortorella stated, “It has to be sustained in the room. I trust this group. I just don’t want it to slip. We have so much more work to do with this club. I just don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We’re heading down the right road. I want to make sure we keep heading down the right road and not detour.”

Things are going well, for now, and the future is looking promising. Both Michael Sauer and Steve Eminger have resumed skating with the team, albeit both are wearing non-contact jerseys. When both are healthy and cleared for game action, it is going to put the coaching staff in a tough, but desirable, position of having to decide who plays, who sits and who ends up in the AHL.

This forthcoming depth on defense will put the Rangers in a position to strengthen their depth at forward. While a top-six scoring winger would be a great addition, it will come at heavy price in terms or prospects, draft picks and future salary cap space.

The Rangers need to tread lightly come the trade deadline. On the plus side, they do have the option of jettisoning Wojtek Wolski’s $3.8 million cap hit to the AHL if the right player is available at the right price.

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New York – New seating bowl. Wider concourses. Same old Rangers.

Yes, hockey is back in the five boros and the Rangers, after a lengthy road trip that took them from Stockholm to Winnipeg, finally get to come to the place they call home.

And with a fresh modern look to boot.

Yet, be it in Sweden, Manitoba or Manhattan, the same Blueshirt team is here and the work in progress, well…didn’t progress tonight.

After a really nice first period, which coach John Tortorella called “the best all season” the Rangers reverted to their old lethargic ways, giving up three third period goals and dropping a 4-2 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I thought we had a pretty good first and some sustained pressure,” said Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. “We created some opportunities, as well as got some bodies to the net in the first.

“In the second and third we just weren’t doing that. It was definitely disappointing, especially with all the anticipation. We wanted to start with a win in the new building.”

Maybe it was the two disallowed goals, both of which had Callahan bumping Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson, which would have put the Rangers ahead 3-0 after one, but ultimately made the Blueshirts settle of a 1-0 score on Dan Girardi’s first light of the lamp this season. at 6:23 into the game.

“We did a lot of good things,” said Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson. “We did, fortunately, survive the first period.”

And after surviving, the Leaf’s took the wind out of the Rangers sails just 1:20 into the second when Matthew Lombardi put his second of the year behind Henrik Lundqvist to tie the game.

With that came the end of any energy the Rangers gained from the first period and it was all Leafs for the next 38 or so minutes. NHL Betting Lines couldn’t have predicted that.

Lundqvist was able to survive a 16 shot Toronto second with the score tied, but then the wheels fell off in the third.

“I think we were lethargic and mentally we were lethargic,” Tortorella said. “You get juiced from coming back home and playing in front of your crowd, But from then on after they score their goal we struggled with our energy and making passes. We did it as a team.”

And that was too much for Lundqvist, who stopped 32 shots this evening, but let three third period goals in before Michael Del Zotto got one back with less than five minutes left in the game.

“i have to look over the game tomorrow and see what I have to adjust,” Lundqvist said. “I felt pretty good and I was surprised by a couple of goals. I wasn’t as sharp as I have to be mentally.

“Obviously, we’re very disappointed to start like this at home.”

More play like this and they may have trouble making the playoffs.

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New York, NY – When the New York Rangers acquired winger Wojtek Wolski; it was for his nose to the net. Well that instinct paid off for the Rangers as Wolski and keeper Henrik Lundqvist helped to lead the Rangers (26-16-3) 1-0 victory over Vancouver (28-9-6) in hockey action on Thursday night.

“We played incredible, Wolski said after the game. “The whole team played awesome. It was good for me to get my first goal and it was amazing we got a shutout.” The winger would continue by saying. “It was exciting. The fans, our team and our coaching staff were involved putting the effort into it. We are excited to get the win.”

In what was a playoff type atmosphere at Madison Square Garden as the 18,200 fans in attendance rocked the Garden early and often the Canucks set the pace early, putting the pedal to the medal on offense. They started to bombard Rangers keeper Lundqvist early as Christian Ehrhoff tried for a 27 foot slap shot at the 1:37 mark, which was stoned by the Blueshirts keeper.

New York was able to get a good opportunity at the 5:19 mark in that frame when Mats Zuccarello tried for a 44 foot wrister, which was saved by Canucks keeper Cory Schneider. Vancouver would then regain their offensive pace as Jannik Hansen tried for a 40 foot wrister at the 10:42 mark, but that shot was denied by Lundqvist.

Both teams would have good offensive opportunities, but neither would be able to score as they would go into the locker room scoreless after the first period of play. In spite of some solid play the Blueshirts were out shot by the Canucks by a tally of 11-8.

The Blueshirts struck on their first and only goal of the game in the second period of play. That Rangers goal was tallied on their second power play opportunity. The penalty occurred at the 6:49 mark when Canucks center Manny Malhotra was sent to the sin bin for two minutes for hooking Rangers center Artem Anisimov.

Wojtec Wolski (7) would then strike for his first goal in a Rangers uniform at the 7:18 mark; he would drive his way to the net and tally a nine foot wrister which was set up by Marian Gaborik (13) and Brandon Dubinsky (21) to give the Blueshirts the 1-0 lead.

“I went hard into the net and was able to find that puck for my first goal,” Wolski said. “I will take them however I can get them. I don’t care how pretty they are. It helps that we won. I am excited.”

On playing with Gaborik he had this to say to NY Sports Day, “He is a great player. Every time he is out there, he is a threat. He pushes the defense back. He really makes sure that every time he is out there, they notice them.

Vancouver would have a golden opportunity to strike for their first goal, as at the 14:53 mark Marc Staal was sent to serve a two minute penalty for tripping Canucks winger Alex Burrows. Then Vancouver would have a 5-on-3 opportunity as at the 16:06 mark Chris Drury had to serve a 2:00 delay of game penalty.

In spite of the advantage Vancouver would not be able to get on the board, due to some excellent defense. That defense was led by Brian Boyle who blocked two shots during that time, which would keep the Canucks off the board.  Thanks to that unselfish play the Blueshirts were able to hold on to their lead, while also gaining the shots advantage by a tally of 24-20.

“I was saying to Brandon Dubinsky, ‘that was a lot of fun to get a kill like that.’ You get back to the bench and everyone is involved and patting you on the back. I was happy to be a part of that,” Brian Boyle would say on the penalty kill.

Lundqvist would take the game from there continuing his stellar play in the third period of play. Vancouver would not back down without a fight as they would continue to try to press the offensive momentum. Starting at the 2:21 mark when Keith Ballard would try for a 46 foot shot that would be denied by the Blueshirts keeper.

One of the more impressive saves for the Swedish keeper was at the 13:46 mark, as he stopped a Ryan Kesler 22 foot wrister. Kesler, who at the time was falling to the ice, was still somehow able to put off a good shot. In spite of that effort Lundqvist would be better.

“I think we definitely played the way we had to play to win this game,” said Lundqvist. “Penalty kill came up big-they were huge for us in the second period. We played really smart in the third period. The last couple of minutes they came really hard but you have to respect that.”

The Blueshirts keeper would finish the night the games number one star making 31 saves in his sixth shutout of the season. The keeper was also able to match his uniform number as he now has 30 shutouts in his career.

“30 is a good number. Hopefully I can keep it going a little bit longer,” Lundqvist would say of the number of shutouts in his career. “Every shutout is important. This was a good win to come back and answer with. It is so important to respond with two points. This helps us in the standings.”

New York will now go on the road for a Saturday night 7:00 p.m. face-off with the Montreal Canadiens. This is the second time this week that these two will play each other, as the Rangers look to avenge a 2-1 loss that the Habs handed to them on Tuesday night, where you can find more information at Hockey Betting Odds at BetUS Sportsbook.

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The New York Rangers, like most NHL teams, are striving for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and ultimately a Finals win. However, at this juncture with their current squad, current schedule and current standings, the Rangers will settle for simply playing well enough regularly enough.

Forget the fan angle for a second, though. Going over the roster and the chemistry is great for a Rangers’ specific puff piece – but what we’ll speak about here are New York’s odds—realistically—to make the playoffs given their competition.

Per the current NHL standings, the Rangers are near the bottom of their Atlantic division, with only New Jersey showing worse on the ice. Overall, the Penguins are heavy favorites to pull out a division win. They’re barely behind the Atlantic-leading Islanders at the moment, and most suspect that Pittsburgh will pull out ahead as the season wears on. At least that’s where the odds point.

It’s important to remember that sports-betting is nothing like playing at a casino online. There’s nothing “fixed” in sports, and any given team can break through and end up winning. However, odds makers earn a living by sizing up the players, team chemistry and competition and then making a judgment call on a team’s chances to actually do well in a season.

For the Rangers in particular, the betting world doesn’t like what it sees right now. New York is currently at about 15:1 to actually make the playoffs, and they’re a 40:1 shot to come through and make it to or win the Stanley Cup Finals.

As the season progresses, most gamblers following the lines will quickly find out that hockey numbers isn’t anything at all like internet blackjack. For every game the Rangers play, their odds will increase or decrease.

Currently, things aren’t looking that bad for the New York Rangers to make the playoffs. Although it’s only a few games into the season, a spade must be called a spade. And if there were only a few games left in the season, then NY would essentially be a coin flip in realistic terms. But since there are over 70 games left, some realize that an average start doesn’t make a great team, hence the 15:1/40:1 betting odds still going strong.

Time will tell how the Rangers end up, obviously. Maybe in a few weeks the team will score better odds. The important thing to note is that an odds maker’s perspective isn’t a fan perspective, nor is it written in stone. Anyone could be wrong and the Rangers could have a fantastic season.

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The 2010 NHL Draft can be described as a “Tale of Two Forwards”. Everyone expects Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin to be the first two players selected on Friday night, June 25. However, the order of their selection is still up in the air. Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini is playing his cards very close to the vest – and possibly with good reason. According to James Murphy in his NESN blog, the top pick in the Draft might be in play.

“There was plenty of speculation – and there promises to be more – that the Bruins and Oilers may swap picks because the Bruins reportedly have their hearts set on Hall, but so far, all Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and Oilers GM Steve Tambellini have done is admitted to talking,” Murphy wrote on June 11. “Both Seguin and Hall (along with other prospects) visited Boston recently, but there is still no indication as to who will go first”.

While the Hall-Seguin Debate continues, the next Draft topic is the possible run on defense as Cam Fowler, Brandon Gormley and Erik Gudbranson could go three through five. Much as there is debate on Hall or Seguin, the same debate can be made among the three defensemen.

NHL Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire provided insight into his scouts providing a past or current NHL comparable for each of their Top 30 North American skaters.

“As unfair as it is to the NHL players in making these comparisons, we feel it provides the public a good idea what they could expect from these prospects,” McGuire explained to NHL.com. “It offers them a visual picture and recognizable name to associate with each of the players with. Keep in mind, these brainstorming comparisons could be something we see in the form of leadership, a specific shot, toughness, or skating ability.”

Each player has ratings for the following scouting services: The Hockey News (THN), McKeen’s (McK), TSN.ca (TSN), NHL’s Central Scouting (CS), and International Scouting Service (ISS). CS breaks down their ratings by North American skaters, European skaters, North American goaltenders and European goaltenders. TSN ranked the Top 75 players and listed fine Honorable Mentions. In an exclusive to NHL.com, CS provided a prospects’ comparable NHL player for their Top 30 North American skaters – and is listed here when applicable. ISS also provided a prospects’ comparable NHL player.

The draft positions are as of June 23 and presume that no trades will have been made since then.

1. Edmonton Oilers – Taylor Hall – LW
THN: # 1 —– McK: # 1 —– TSN: # 1
CS: # 2NA (Zach Parise) —– ISS: # 1 (Pavel Bure)
Hall is the pick with the first overall selection based on his ability to score (three years of 40+ goals) and his success in the Memorial Cup and World Junior Championships – a plus for an Edmonton team looking to return to the heydays of the 1980s.

2. Boston Bruins – Tyler Seguin – C
THN: # 2 —– McK: # 2 —– TSN: # 2
CS: # 1NA (Steve Yzerman) —– ISS: # 1 (Steve Yzerman)
Seguin in a close second and an excellent “consolation prize” as the Bruins reap the benefits of Toronto signing Phil Kessel. While Hall might be the better scorer, Seguin might be the better overall player.

3. Florida Panthers — Erik Gudbranson – D
THN: # 5 —– McK: # 4 —– TSN: # 3
CS: # 4NA (Dion Phaneuf) —– ISS: # 7 (Chris Pronger)
Just like the Hall-Seguin decision was a tough call, so is the Gudbranson-Fowler-Gormley race. The Panthers should go with Gudbranson who brings size (6-4/195), a developing offensive game and solid skating for someone his size. However, new GM Dale Tallon could throw everyone for a loop and take Jack Campbell here.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets – Cam Fowler – D
THN: # 3 —– McK: # 6 —– TSN: # 5
CS: # 5NA (Mike Green) —– ISS: # 5 (Duncan Keith)
While the Blue Jackets could use some help at forward to team with captain Rick Nash, Fowler’s offensive ability and skating skills are already NHL-ready and are too much to pass on. While he still needs to be more physical, it should come as he matures.

5. New York Islanders – Brett Connolly – LW
THN: # 4 —– McK: # 7 —– TSN: # 8
CS: # 3NA (Peter Forsberg) —– ISS: # 13 (Chris Stewart)
While the Islanders could very well select Brandon Gormley, GM Garth Snow should go with one of the Draft’s most elite offensive players. There is a concern over his hip flexor injury, which limited him to 15 games. However, his upside is too much to pass on and he should form a deadly offensive pairing with John Tavares.

6. Tampa Bay Lightning – Brandon Gormley – D
THN: # 7 —– McK: # 5 —– TSN: # 4
CS: # 6NA (Chris Phillips) —– ISS: # 3 (Nicklas Lidstrom)
Steve Yzerman has the chance to set the tone for his administration in Tampa Bay. You can expect him to call on his experience in Detroit. While there are good forwards available, Gormley gets the call because blue chip blueliners are much harder to come by as Yzerman brings in a complement to Victor Hedman.

7. Carolina Hurricanes – Nino Niederreiter – RW
THN: # 8 —– McK: # 10 —– TSN: # 7
CS: # 12NA (Erik Cole) —– ISS: # 6 (Brendan Shanahan)
GM Jim Rutherford will be very busy in LA as the Hurricanes have 11 total draft picks (including three second rounders and a pair of third rounders). If Carolina does not move up, then Niederreiter brings in a solid power forward to team with Eric Staal.

8. Atlanta Thrashers – Jack Campbell – G
THN: # 13 —– McK: # 3 —– TSN: # 9
CS: # 2NA Goalie —– ISS: # 1 Goalie (No comparison)
With the Thrashers having dealt away their second 1st round pick, Atlanta will look to shore up their goaltending situation by drafting the netminder who backstopped the USA to the World Junior Championship. His decision to bypass the University of Michigan in order to play for Windsor (OHL) will speed up his path to the NHL.

9. Minnesota Wild – Ryan Johansen – C
THN: # 12 —– McK: # 8 —– TSN: # 6
CS: # 10NA (Jason Spezza) —– ISS: # 8 (Eric Staal)
The Wild will get some pressure from home to draft Duluth-born Derek Forbort, but Minnesota has not gone overboard to draft home town talent. Plus, the Wild need to add depth at forward and Johansen is a solid two-way center who can play in all situations. Johansen has been a fast rise as he continues to fill out physically which means the best is yet to come.

10. New York Rangers – Vladimir Tarasenko – RW
THN: # 14 —– McK: # 20 —– TSN: # 16
CS: # 2E —– ISS: # 4 (Ziggy Palffy)
The Rangers figure to be in the chase for Johansen, Niederreiter and Skinner. In the end, the Rangers should go for Tarasenko who has big-time scoring ability. The 18-year-old held his own in the KHL. The Rangers are one of the few teams who have the means (i.e. money) to get around the lack of a transfer agreement. They showed no fear when they drafted the late Alexei Cherepanov in 2007. GM Glen Sather could use this pick as “incentive” in a deal to move one of his bad contracts.

11. Dallas Stars – Derek Forbort – D
THN: # 11 —– McK: # 18 —– TSN: # —– TSN: # 11
CS: # 9NA (Erik Johnson) —– ISS: # 10 (Erik Johnson)
The 18-year-old combines size (6-5/200) and solid skating into a package that projects to a top three d-men at the very least. Teams will be looking for these type of blueliners hoping to follow the success of Buffalo’s Tyler Myers.

12. Anaheim Ducks – Mikael Granlund – C
THN: # 10 —– McK: # 9 —– TSN: # 13
CS: # 1E —– ISS: # 15 (Saku Koivu)
The time is coming when both Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne will have to hang up their skates. At 18, Granlund is playing in Finland’s elite league and playing well (40 points in 47 games). The 5-10/180 center has excellent hockey sense and will be a perfect replacement for fellow Finn Saku Koivu.

13. Phoenix Coyotes – Nick Bjugstad – C
THN: # 9 —– McK: # 33 —– TSN: # 19
CS: # 13NA (Andrew Brunette) —– ISS: # 21 (David Backes)
Ownership problems didn’t hamper the franchise during the season, but might play a part in the Draft. GM Don Maloney might be willing to wait on a prospect like Bjugstad, whose uncle Scott played in the NHL. The 18-year-old Bjugstad has the size and skill, but he needs to find and maintain a consistent level of play.

14. St. Louis Blues – Alexander Burmistrov – C
THN: # 6—– McK: # 13 —— TSN: # 12
CS: # 11NA (Maxim Afinogenov) —– ISS: # 14 (Denis Savard)
With new goaltender Jaroslav Halak in hand, and having dealt Lars Eller, St. Louis should turn to Burmistrov. Alex is as skilled a playmaker as there is the Draft. However, he must bulk up on his slight frame (5-11/157 on a good day). He uses his speed and puckhandling skill to compensate for his lack of size. Concerns about the KHL should be lessened given that he played with Barrie in the OHL last season.

15. Florida Panthers Jeffrey Skinner – C
THN: # 25 —– McK: # 12 —– TSN: # 10
CS: # 34NA —– ISS: # 9 (Steve Shutt)
If Jack Campbell should happen to drop to this spot, GM Tallon would be wise to draft him. If not then Skinner gets the call from Florida in an attempt to replace the production loss with the trade of Nathan Horton. Skinner scored 70 goals last season – including 20 in the playoffs

16. Ottawa Senators – Jonathan Merrill – D
THN: # 31 —– McK: # 23 —– TSN: # 22
CS: # 21NA (Jordan Leopold) —– ISS: # 11 (Rob Blake)
One scout told the THN that Merrill was in the same class as Forbort and Gormley. He combines size (6-3/200), skill and hockey sense – although he still has some maturing to do based on his suspension by the USNTDP for violating team rules. However as ISS wrote, “Merrill has Norris Trophy potential”.

17. Colorado Avalanche Austin Watson – RW
THN: # 15 —– McK: # 19 —– TSN: # 14
CS: # 14NA (Kris Draper) —– ISS: # 12 (Jordan Staal)
Watson is a solid two-way forward who competes hard and works every shift and projects out to be a team leader. Watson is an excellent complement to Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny, and might be a future captain of the Avs.

18. Nashville Predators – Quinton Howden – C/LW
THN: # 23 —– McK: # 37 —– TSN: # 26
CS: # 19NA (Todd Bertuzzi) —– ISS: # 16 (Jamie Langenbrunner)
With Jason Arnott and Dan Hamhuis traded in the days leading up to the Draft, the Predators are a bit of a wildcard when it comes to figuring out their selection. Howden is the solid two-way player Nashville likes. He averaged a point a game in Juniors and was used as a checker by Canada in international play. Howden has outstanding hockey sense combined with a hard shot that is accurate (he won the accuracy contest in the Prospects Game). At 6-2/180, he will add some size to Nashville’s forward corps – especially as he matures and gets bigger.

19. Los Angeles Kings – Emerson Etem – C/RW
THN: # 17 —– McK: # 14 —– TSN: # 17
CS: # 8NA (Glenn Anderson) —– ISS: # 18 (Martin Havlat)
Etem and the Kings are a natural fit given that the forward was born in Long Beach, CA. His game is keyed by his speed – which might have been helped by his inline skating when he was younger. He uses his speed to key his offensive game. He needs to gain consistency and learn to be less of a perimeter player.

20. Pittsburgh Penguins – Jarred Tinordi – D
THN: # 22 —– McK: # 25 —– TSN: # 23
CS: # 38NA —– ISS: # 25 (Robyn Regehr)
Tinordi is a chip off the old block as he is a physical defensive d-man like his father Mark who played in the NHL. The Penguins showed that they missed the size and physical play of Hal Gill so Tinordi is a perfect replacement. Despite his size (6-6/205), Tinordi is a good skater and passer. The best part is that he will get bigger – and better.

21. Detroit Red Wings – Evgeny Kuznetsov – C
THN: # 18 —– McK: # 11 —– TSN: # 24
CS: # 3E —– ISS: # 19 (Slava Kozlov)
Detroit has a long history of success with Russian players so they might not be scared off – even though Kuznetsov played in the KHL as a 17-year-old. He as skilled an offensive player in the Draft and he is not afraid to mix it up despite his size (6-0/172). He has represented Russia in various tournaments with mixed results, but when he was on he was head-and-shoulders above the rest of the players.

22. Phoenix Coyotes – Dylan McIlrath – D
THN: # 26 —– McK: # 15 —– TSN: # 15
CS: # 17NA (Ed Jovanovski) —– ISS: # 31 (Boris Valabik)
You have to love a player who is given the nickname “The Undertaker” as one scout did when talking to THN. As you might expect, McIlrath is a physical player who uses his size extremely well (6-4/212). McIlrath really made his bones when he beat Alex Petrovic in the Prospects Game. While he still needs work handling the puck, he has a big-time shot from the point that will allow him to see some tine on the power play.

23. Buffalo Sabres – Riley Sheahan – C
THN: # 19 —– McK: # 26 —– TSN: # 21
CS: # 22NA (Jordan Staal) —– ISS: # 22 (Keith Tkachuk)
Sheahan played as a top six forward at the University of Notre Dame and showed his versatility by filling on defense for a few games due to injuries. At 6-2/200, Sheahan adds much-needed size to Buffalo’s forwards as he projects as a power forward who is more playmaker than scorer at this point in his career.

24. Chicago Blackhawks – Calvin Pickard – G
THN: # 27 —– McK: # 32 —– TSN: # 31
CS: # 1 NA Goalie —– ISS: # 2 Goalie (No comparison)
Pickard, whose brother Chet was a first round pick by Nashville in 2008. Pickard relies on technique as opposed to physical attributes. He is a poised goaltender who is mentally strong – traits that he needed with a poor Seattle (WHL) team where he saw almost 500 more shots than the next WHL goalie.

25. Vancouver Canucks – Mark Pysyk – D
THN: # 16 —– McK: # 16 —– TSN: # 20
CS: # 7NA (Duncan Keith) —– ISS: # 17 (Kris Letang)
With three d-men going into the final year of their contract, and combined with the tragic death of Luc Bourdon in May 2008, the Canucks need to look at adding depth to the blue line. Pysyk is a top pairing d-man whose game is based on hockey sense, strong skating and passing. While his game is an offensive one, Pysyk is a very good defender who has some room to grow (6-1/175).

26. Washington Capitals – Tyler Pitlick – C
THN: # 21 —– McK: # 35 —– TSN: # 25
CS: # 18NA (Mark Parrish) —– ISS: # 20 (Travis Zajac)
There is some talk that Minnesota State-Mankato center might leave college for Medicine Hat (WHL). Tyler’s uncle Lance played defense in the NHL. Pitlick will fill out beyond his 6-2/195 frame and add to his ability to be both a finesse and power player. His has the skill sets to be a fine number two center behind Nicklas Backstrom.

27. Montreal Canadiens – Brock Nelson – C
THN: # 29 —– McK: # 62 —– TSN: # 34
CS: # 25NA (David Backes) —– ISS: # 26 (James Sheppard)
As the Canadiens decide what they are going to do with their goaltending, the Habs have concerns on defense (thanks to expiring contracts) and size at forward. Nelson has the size (6-3/205) and puck skills that teams want and he is a strong two-way player. There is some concern that he excelled against lesser talent at Warroad High School. Nelson does have hockey in his genes – his uncle is Dave Christian (1980 Olympian) and his grandfather is Bill Christian (1960 Olympian).

28. San Jose Sharks – Ludvig Rensfeldt – LW
THN: # 32—– McK: # 29 —– TSN: # 37
CS: # 5E —– ISS: # 27 (Johan Franzen)
The 6-3/195 LW put up dazzling numbers with Brynas Jr. in Sweden (21-29-50 in 39 games), but scouts were still uncertain about his ability to play at a high level on a consistent basis. While inconsistency might be his middle name, the 18-year-old’s ability to produce offense makes him a potential linemate for Joe Thornton down the road.

29. Anaheim Ducks – Jaden Schwartz – C
THN: # 30 —– McK: # 22 —– TSN: # 29
CS: # 28NA (Derek Roy) —– ISS: # 23 (Daniel Briere)
Schwartz was an offensive machine in the USHL with Tri-City his 83 points were the most since Thomas Vanek scored 91 points in 2001-2002 as he played apart in almost 50% of the Storm’s goals. While he does have size (5-10/180) or flashy speed, Schwartz relies on outstanding hockey sense and puckhandling ability.

30. Chicago Blackhawks – Charlie Coyle – C/RW
THN: # 33 —– McK: # 30 —– TSN: # 32
CS: # 24NA (Bob Sweeney) —– ISS: # 28 (Patrick Marleau)
The Stanley Cup champions are faced with salary cap problems that could strip the team of its winning assets. They could look at a goaltender, but the value is not there at this point in the Draft. While still battling some inconsistency, the 18-year-old cousin of Tony Amonte uses his size (6-2/200), vision and hockey sense to power his game. Like his cousin Tony, Coyle will be attending Boston University.

First Round Draft Pick Transactions

1. Pick # 2 – Boston Bruins receive Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2010 1st and 2nd Round Picks, and a 2011 1st Round Pick for Phil Kessel.
2. Pick # 13 – Phoenix Coyotes receive Calgary Flames’ 2010 1st Round Pick, C Matthew Lombardi, and Brandon Prust from Calgary for Olli Jokinen and 2009 3rd Round Pick.
3. Pick # 15 – Florida Panthers receive Boston’s second 1st Round Pick (#15), a 2011 3rd Round Pick and Dennis Wideman for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell.
4. Pick # 24 – Chicago Blackhawks receive Atlanta Thrashers’ 2010 1st Round Pick (#24), 2010 2nd Round Pick (#54), Marty Reasoner, Jeremy Morin and Joey Crabb for Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel, and Akim Aliu. Atlanta previously acquired New Jersey’s 2010 1st round pick, Johnny Oduya, Nicklas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier for Ilya Kovalchuk and Anssi Samela. Teams are also swapping 2010 2nd round picks.
5. Pick # 29 – Anaheim Ducks receive Philadelphia Flyers’ 2010 1st Round Pick, 2009 1st Round Pick, Luca Sbisa, Joffrey Lupul and a conditional 2010 or 2012 3rd Round Pick for Chris Pronger and Ryan Dingle.

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While the New York Rangers season is over, there is still a reason to cheer today because May 15 is the team’s birthday. On May 15, 1926 the NHL granted a franchise to the owners of Madison Square Garden. However, the Rangers were not the first New York hockey team, nor were they the Garden’s first tenants.

Famous (or infamous) New York bootlegger Big Bill Dwyer bought the striking Hamilton franchise and transplanted them in the Garden. Tex Rickard, the 1920s version of Charles and James Dolan, was in charge at MSG. He promised Dwyer that Garden management were content with being the New York American landlords and that MSG would not seek their own franchise. That promise lasted all of one year.

While Dwyer’s team was not a hit on the ice, they were a hit at the box office – a fact that was not lost on Rickard. Not only did Rickard go back on his promise to Dwyer, he also instituted a plan that later Ranger GMs would try – they went about spending money to build the best team possible. John Halligan and John Kreiser relate the following story in their book “Game of My Life: New York Rangers”.

“Rickard and his associate at the Garden, Col. John S. Hammond, were determined to be much more than a mere expansion team (not that anyone would know what the term meant in 1926). And that’s just what they did. Recalled [Conn] Smythe, ‘I knew every hockey player in the world right then. Putting that whole team together, many of whom had never played pro hockey before, cost the Rangers about $32,000.’”

Smythe never lasted long enough to see his Rangers hit the ice because he was fired after a dispute with Hammond and Rickard over Babe Dye. Hammond wanted the Rangers to sign Dye while Smythe was opposed.

“In Deceptions and Doublecross: How the NHL conquered Hockey”, Morey Holzman and Joseph Nieforth listed a couple of reasons for the souring of the Hammond/Smythe hockey relationship.

One story had Smythe being disenchanted with Dye’s reputation as a player organizer (i.e. a union type of player). Another story they tell relates how the Chicago Blackhawks owner, Major Frederic McLaughlin, bragged how he one-upped Col. Hammond when the Major’s Blackhawks acquired Dye. Smythe told Hammond that Dye was past his prime.

Interestingly enough, McLaughlin and Smythe were both right. Dye scored 25 goals in 41 games for Chicago in 1926-27, but only produced one goal in his final 58 games as he never recovered from a broken leg at the start of training camp in 1927-28.

With Smythe out of the picture, Rickard turned to Lester Patrick who, along with his brother Frank, formed the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (later the Western Hockey League) – and the rest is Ranger history.

As for the deposed Smythe, he used his Ranger severance to purchase the NHL’s Toronto St. Patricks which Smythe renamed the Toronto Maple Leafs – and the rest his Leafs history.

By the way, the aforementioned Dye finished his injury-shortened NHL career by playing his last six games with Smythe’s Maple Leafs during the 1930-31 season.

It does give one a moment to pause to consider how Ranger history would have changed had Smythe given in to Hammond.

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Thank you John Davidson. The New York Rangers have acquired defenseman Christian Backman from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a fourth round draft pick. Backman is not the physical defenseman the Rangers need, but he does add offensive depth on the blue line without costing the Rangers any of their prospects. Backman has a history of injury problems. Since January 2008, he has missed 21 games with a knee injury and recently a left foot injury. In 2005/06, he missed time with a left foot injury.

Backman was a teammate of Henrik Lundqvist during the lockout and on Sweden’s 2006 gold medal winning Olympic Hockey Team. Backman is 27-years-old and is 6-foot-4 and 206 pounds. In 45 games this season, he has 1 goal and 9 assists with 30 PIM. He has played 228 career NHL games and has scored 19 goals and 45 assists with 130 PIM. He was the Blues 1998 first round draft pick (24th overall).

Is the best trade the Rangers could have made? Absolutely not, but considering what they traded it isn’t all that bad. There was no reason for Glen Sather to overpay for a rental player. Reports indicate that Backman has one more year left on his contract at $2.4 million – not all that bad of a cap hit – and it is within reason where the Rangers could move him next season if they so choose.

As some expected the day Don Maloney went to Phoenix, the Rangers have traded goaltender Al Montoya and left winger Marcel Hossa to the Coyotes in exchange for winger Fredrik Sjostrom, goaltender David LeNeveau and left winger Josh Gratton. This trade is a case of Sather moving two players who could be RFAs for some young talent. While Hossa would not be a big free agent loss, the Rangers could have run into problems keeping Montoya. The Blueshirts could face another team offering Montoya a lucrative offer – leaving the rangers with the option of matching (not likely) or receiving draft pick compensation based on what Montoya’s salary would be. In addition, Montoya had fallen behind Finnish netminder Miika Wiikman so one has to wonder if he had fallen out of favor with Rangers management.

The 6-foot-1 and 217 pound Sjostrom can play both wings and came from the same Swedish team as Lundqvist – although the two were not teammates. The 24-year-old was Phoenix’s first round draft pick in 2001 (11th overall). In 51 games this season, he has 10 goals and 19 assists with 14 PIM. I would expect that he will battle for playing time with Ryan Hollweg on the fourth line.

The 6-foot-1 and 187 pound LeNeveu was the Coyotes 2002 second round draft pick in 2002 (46th overall). The 24-year-old turned pro after his sophomore season at Cornell University. With hindsight being 20/20, he would have better off staying in school because Phoenix rushed him to the NHL due to the unsettled nature of their goaltending situation. He has appeared in 6 games this year and is 2-1-0 with a 3.86 GAA and an 894 SV% with Phoenix. He has also played 37 games with their AHL affiliate in San Antonio. He is 13-20-2 with a 2.97 GAA, a 907SV% and 2 shutouts. In his NHL career, he has played in 21 games and is 5-9-2 with a 3.38 GAA and an 888SV%. The one interesting note about LeNeveu is that he has worked with Rangers goaltending coach Benoit Allaire in the past. If Allaire can return LeNeveu back to his collegiate form, he could be the steal of the deal for the Blueshirts.

The 6-foot-2 and 214 pound Gratton provides the Rangers organization with another enforcer – something that is needed given Colton Orr’s “upper body injury” and the fact that minor league tough guys Mitch Fritz and Francis Lessard are out for the season. Once Orr is healthy, Gratton is ticketed for Hartford. The 25-year-old was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2004. In 28 games with the Rampage, Gratton played in 38 games with 5 goals and 9 assists to go along with his 124 PIM. He was teammate of former Rangers draft pick Dylan Reese while in San Antonio. Gratton skated in one game for Phoenix and did not score – although he did pick up 5 PIM. In 87 career NHL games, Gratton scored 2 goals and 1 assist with 237 PIM.

Christian Backman Scouting Report from: thestar.com
ASSETS: Moves the puck well out of the defensive zone. Has an excellent frame and displays plenty of poise from the back end. Owns intriguing offensive upside.
FLAWS: Must add more strength in order to survive the rigors of the NHL. Once he fills out, he must use his size more so as to keep forwards honest.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top four defenseman.

Fredrik Sjostrom Scouting Report from: thestar.com
ASSETS: Has a terrific combination of speed, skill and defensive instincts. Is willing to take a hit in order to make a play.
FLAWS: Needs to make better adjustments to the North American game. Is a bit undersized by NHL standards.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top six winger.

David LeNeveau Scouting Report from: thestar.com
ASSETS: Has an ideal frame for the goaltending position. His combination of first-rate talent and perfect demeanor make him a can’t-miss NHL goalie prospect.
FLAWS: Could stand to add more bulk to his 6-1 frame, so as to better handle the lenghty schedule of the pro game.
CAREER POTENTIAL: No. 1 goaltender.

Josh Gratton Scouting Report from: thestar.com
ASSETS: Is big, strong and as tough as nails. Can drop the gloves against the very best enforcers in the NHL. Understands his role and is a good teammate.
FLAWS: Doesn’t have the speed or skill required to play a regular shift at the highest level. Has a tendency to get into penalty trouble from time to time.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Fourth line enforcer.

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We are 15 minutes away from the 3pm trade deadline and things have come to a grinding halt. The only trade that has been announced in the last hour was the one where the New York Islanders picked up a knuckle-dragging defenseman. The Fishsticks acquired Rob Davison from San Jose for a seventh round draft pick – probably because the NHL doesn’t go beyond seven rounds any more. The 27-year-old is 6-3/220 and will provide Colton Orr some fodder in a week or so.

You have to love the NHL Network. They have John Ferguson Jr. and Mike Milbury in studio as their “General Manager experts”. What is the matter; Kukla, Fran and Ollie weren’t available? The group was talking about Vancouver needing to bring in offense when someone said what are they going to do trade Roberto Luongo – who would do that? Milbury laughed it off by saying he had DiPietro in his back pocket. Of course, what he should have said “I had DiPietro in my back pocket and not a clue in my brain!”

While the deadline is 3pm, you can expect deals to be announced for a couple of hours after that. Teams have to send confirmation of the trade to the NHL by 3pm and then the NHL reviews the deals to make sure there are no contract or salary cap implications.

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