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THE EDGE OF LORI: Settling in for Spring

By Lori Bennett

Sports Columnist

NHL Noise

The dust has settled on the NHL trade deadline season, and it’s time to consider the winners and losers as we settle in for the final stretch of games before the playoffs.

There were some standouts in the group of buyers.

The Tampa Bay Lightning continue to establish themselves as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. They acquired two significant bottom six forwards in Brandon Hagel and Nick Paul. They also added AHL call-up depth in Riley Nash. Every other team in the East is chasing the Lightning.

The Florida Panthers led the charge, adding big defencemen Ben Chiarot and Robert Hagg, and winning the Claude Giroux sweepstakes.

The Boston Bruins won the race for Hampus Lindholm and then added Joshua Brown for defensive depth.

The NY Rangers added veterans to support their young players including forwards Andrew Copp and Tyler Motte, as well as Justin Braun on defence.

The Toronto Maple Leafs tried to address the defensive woes of recent playoffs by adding Ilya Lyubushkin and Mark Giordano, but whether they have done enough to compete beyond the first round is in serious question.

The Carolina Hurricanes were shockingly quiet, adding just Max Domi for forward depth. The Penguins snuck in a buzzer beater and added Rickard Rakell up front.

Activity in the Western Conference was considerably less dramatic.

The Colorado Avalanche were busiest, adding big bruising defenceman Josh Manson, big forward Nico Sturm, depth forward Andrew Cogliano, and Finn Army Knife Artturi Lehkonen, which might have been the smartest addition of the day. With these moves, Colorado is the verified team to beat in the west.

The Minnesota Wild are chasing the Avalanche, adding young centre Tyson Jost, brawny Nicolas Deslauriers, and winning the Marc-Andre Fleury lottery.

The Calgary Flames are my sleeper to watch in the west. They added Tyler Toffoli early, and then transformed their centre group by adding Calle Jarnkrok and Ryan Carpenter.

The Edmonton Oilers were relatively quiet after signing Evander Kane as a UFA earlier in the season. They added Brett Kulak on defence and Derick Brassard as forward depth.

The St. Louis Blues added defenceman Nick Leddy.

Ravaged by injuries, the LA Kings raised the white flag and added only depth defenceman Troy Stecher. The Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators did nothing to blink at.

Amongst sellers, the clear-cut winners were the Montreal Canadiens. In the Toffoli deal to Calgary they added a 2022 1st round pick, forward prospect Emil Heineman, Tyler Pitlick and a 5th round pick in 2023. In the Chiarot deal to Florida they gained a return of a 2023 1st round pick, forward prospect Ty Smilanic, and a 4th round pick. But they didn’t stop there.

The Habs pulled off three deadline day trades. Kulak was moved to the Oilers for picks – a 2nd and a 7th – and defenceman William Lagesson. Lehkonen went to Colorado for top defence prospect Justin Barron and a 2nd. The Habs ended the day by moving goaltender Andrew Hammond to the New Jersey Devils for AHL forward Nate Schnarr. The retooling Habs are heading into the draft in Montreal with 14 picks to play with.

The Ottawa Senators had somewhat of an odd deadline. As sellers, they moved Zach Sanford and Josh Brown for picks and prospects. Nick Paul, a power forward they might have preferred to keep, went to Tampa for Mathieu Joseph and a pick. The Sens also inexplicably dealt for Travis Hamonic, a player the Vancouver Canucks dressing room was glad to shed, but the weirdest was the deal that wasn’t.

Vegas Golden Knights traded Evgeni Dadanov to Anaheim to create cap space, but the deal was inevitably nixed by the NHL.

The Ducks were on Dadanov’s no-trade list, which was allegedly not shared with Vegas when they acquired him from the Sens in the summer. Whoops!

The rosters are pretty much set. Playoff positions are being finalized. It’s time for hockey fans to settle in for the upcoming run to the Stanley Cup.

Raptors Racket

On Thursday the Raptors hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers, kicking off their final 10-game stretch of the 2021-22 season. Eight of those are home games, and the Raps are making their final push to make the playoffs. With a record of 40-32 to begin the stretch, the Raptors were hoping to move out of seventh place into sixth and avoid the play-in tournament. The Raptors defeated the Cavaliers with a final score of 117-104, moving them into a tie with Cleveland for sixth place in the East. The race will be tight.

Blue Jays Babble

Spring training is underway! The Jays open their regular season at home on April 8th against the Texas Rangers. This week they made another deal to refine their roster, moving outfielder Randal Grichuk to the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Raimel Tapia and infielder Adrian Pinto on Thursday. The Jays essentially exchanged a right handed batter for a leftie.

As William Zinsser said, “The sound of the bat is the music of spring training.”

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