It’s time for another Screen Shots column, in which we break down a few hockey topics into smaller sections for your reading pleasure. Let’s get to it.
– I saw some people deliberating about the future of Chicago Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews leading up to the NHL’s March 21 trade deadline. Let’s be clear – it would take an extraordinary trade offer, or some displeasure between the team and the two stars that has never been hinted at, for Toews and Kane to be moved before this, or any deadline. Both of them are signed through next season, and it is far more likely they sign contract extensions – perhaps, at a significant reduction in their current $10.5-million-per-season salaries – than it is we’ll ever see them wearing a different franchise’s uniform.
By the time their current contracts expire, Kane and Toews will be at or very close to their mid-thirties. Nobody is suggesting they’ll be happy if, next season, Chicago continues to struggle as they have in recent years. However, the optics of moving on, once and for all, from the glory days of the Kane/Toews Era, will not be positive for the Hawks, even if it is the right thing to do from a team perspective. Instead, as their on-ice impact fades, both players will be looked to for mentorship and veteran knowhow for a new core of talent.
In winning three Stanley Cup championships, Toews and Kane cemented their links to Chicago forever. It will be extremely difficult for Hawks management to break those bonds, especially if the two of them prefer to remain in the Windy City for good.
– Few believed the Anaheim Ducks would be sticking around the playoff race this season, but here we are, a couple of months before the regular season ends, and they’re tied with Edmonton for the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference. That’s a huge credit to head coach Dallas Eakins, but it’s still going to be a challenge for Anaheim to stay ahead of the charging Dallas Stars (who are just a single point behind them, while having three games in hand on the Ducks).
Missing out on the playoffs after a surprisingly strong start to this season would be a bitter pill to swallow for Anaheim and its fans. But we can’t forget that the Ducks just hired Pat Verbeek as their new GM, and that progress isn’t always so big that it can push a team from last place in their division one year, to a top-four spot the following season. Making a smaller jump should still be recognized as a positive for the organization, and it is now up to Verbeek and Eakins to build on the foundation of young players currently wearing Ducks jerseys.
– Speaking of teams that probably aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, the New York Islanders will be closely watched as the trade deadline nears. Being decimated by the COVID-19 virus dug the Isles a hole in the standings they likely won’t be able to climb out of to secure a post-season slot, but they have climbed out of the Metropolitan Division basement, and could play spoiler for another team or two with playoff aspirations.
Other than soon-to-be UFAs Zdeno Chara, Zach Parise, Cal Clutterbuck and Andy Greene, the Islanders don’t have top-ranked pure rental talents to offer up by the deadline. That said, CapFriendly.com projects Isles GM Lou Lamoriello will have more than $13.9 million in salary-cap space to play with at the trade deadline. Lamoriello’s most former employer, the Toronto Maple Leafs, might choose to use them to make their own trades fit under the cap, but Lamoriello will drive a hard bargain and may wind up getting more in return for that type of transaction than any deal involving one of his current players.
From an Isles fan’s perspective, it stinks to say it is all but impossible for them to recover from such a brutally unfortunate first half of the year, but the standings don’t lie, and the league’s points system isn’t going to be charitable to them. Lamoriello must keep the future in mind for his group, most of whom are under team control at least for next season. There’s still lots to like on Long Island, but there are times fate deals a blow too cruel to recover from in a matter of weeks or months, and this feels like one of those times.