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The Edge of Lori: Let the NHL frenzy begin

By Lori Bennett

Sports Columnist

NHL Noise

It’s finally trade deadline day. By 4:30 p.m. in Newfoundland you’ll know how it all went down. The week leading up to the deadline was action-packed.

While general managers refined their teams, Alex Ovechkin was breaking records. On Tuesday, March 15, Ovy scored his 767th career goal to pass Jaromir Jagr on the NHL all-time goal-scoring list and take sole possession of third place. Ovechkin is 36 and has four years left on his contract beyond this season. Just two players are ahead of him – Wayne Gretzky currently holds the record at 894, while Gordie Howe has 801 goals for second place. Ovy may be getting a little long in the tooth, but I say he does it.

Several teams extended players before the deadline. The Carolina Hurricanes extended Jesperi Kotkaniemi and the Colorado Avalanche extended Pavel Francouz. The San Jose Sharks made the biggest deal, locking up elite goal-scoring centre Tomas Hertl and breaking the hearts of playoff teams who hoped he would become available.

Teams are keeping a close eye on a couple of defencemen – Hampus Lindholm in Anaheim and John Klingberg in Dallas. If their teams are unable to extend the unrestricted free agents, they may hit the market by Monday. The Toronto Maple Leafs could use either of those guys – surely the Spring lovers won’t go to another post-season without addressing their D group.

Meanwhile, two defenders were on the move. The Ducks traded Josh Manson to Colorado for defence prospect Drew Helleson and a second round pick, dropping the first domino. Then the Montreal Canadiens moved Ben Chiarot for a haul. The Florida Panthers sent a 2023 first round pick, forward prospect Ty Smilanic and a fourth round pick to claim the bruiser off the market. For new GM Kent Hughes, getting a solid return for Chiarot was essential at this deadline, and he nailed it landing a first rounder in next year’s deep draft.

The Calgary Flames also got in on the action. After adding Tyler Toffoli from Montreal on Valentine’s Day, they added Calle Jarnkrok from Seattle for second, third and seventh round picks in three consecutive drafts. Jarnkrok is a versatile player who can play all three forward positions. The Flames are all in and stocking up for a playoff run. It is expected they will add a defenceman before the end of business Monday.

Elsewhere, the Panthers moved Frank Vatrano to the NY Rangers for a 4th round pick. This was a cap-clearing move that allowed them to deal for Chiarot. The Avalanche dealt Tyson Jost to Minnesota for Marco Sturm. Colorado got a little bigger and gained some wiggle room under the cap in this one.

Injuries and illness are wreaking havoc. The Arizona Coyotes, who have been rebuilding since the last Chevette rolled off the assembly line, are shopping defenceman Jakob Chychrun. The Boston Bruins are interested in the young D, but an ankle injury has thrown a wrench into that plan. The Dallas Stars are trying to claim a playoff spot without top defender Miro Heiskanen, who is out indefinitely with mononucleosis. The Vegas Golden Knights may miss the playoffs for the first time in franchise history while they play without Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone and Robin Lehner.

Claude Giroux was honoured on Thursday for playing his 1000th game with the Philadelphia Flyers and he will leave Philly having played exactly that many. Giroux is in the last year of his contract and will be moved before the Monday deadline. The Flyers confirmed after the game that Giroux would not play in games on Friday and Sunday while they awaited a trade. The Panthers and Avalanche were the leading candidates at press deadline.

Here are some things to watch for. The Leafs and Flames will duke it out for the same coveted defencemen. The Habs will make at least one move that puts Kent Hughes on the GM map. The Sens and Canucks will tweak around the edges, and the Oilers and Jets will try to avoid paralysis by analysis.

Raptors Racket

With just three weeks left in the regular season, the Toronto Raptors remain steady in seventh place in the Eastern conference. On Wednesday they closed out a six game road trip with five wins and a loss. It’s looking like playoff basketball will return to Toronto this spring.

Blue Jays Babble

The Jays have been busy shoring up their line up. Last weekend they signed leftie Yusei Kikuchi to a three year deal worth $36 million. Kikuchi joins a starting rotation that includes Jose Berrios who was added at last season’s trade deadline, Kevin Gausman who was signed as a free agent in the fall and returning arms Hyun Jin Ryu and Alek Manoah. With a bolstered rotation, Ross Stripling and Nate Pearson become available from the bullpen. Then on Tuesday they signed another leftie, reliever Andrew Vasquez, to a one-year deal.

On Wednesday morning the Jays addressed the hole at third base, finalizing a trade with the Oakland Athletics to acquire All Star and Gold Glover Matt Chapman. Leaving Toronto are four prospects. Chapman is under contract for the next two seasons.

Are the Jays done? With the change in MLB rules to increase the number of teams to make the playoffs, the management group in Toronto is pouncing on opportunity.

Let’s hope it pays off in the Fall.

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