The Edmonton Oilers swung a deal last night to acquire goaltender Al Montoya from the Canadiens for a fourth rounder in this year’s upcoming draft. Immediately this should push Laurent Brossoit back to the AHL after he had an extended role filling in for Cam Talbot. The conditional fourth becomes a fifth rounder if Al Montoya plays less than seven games between now and the end of the season. Like the Oilers in the West, The Canadiens aren’t having a very good season over in the East. Rumours about Max Pacioretty have surfaced, so dealing their backup netminder isn’t some wacky idea from Mars. Montoya has a lifetime .908 SV% in 159 NHL games, which isn’t terrible. He comes with a cap hit of just a touch over 1MM (1.0625), and that’s not bad at all. He’s signed through 2018-19 with that number, so unless the Oilers have Jonas Gustavsson version 2.0 walking through the door, it’s a good bet that you’ll see him on this roster next year as well. That’s another box that can be checked off, as there was some questions about Brossoit should Talbot miss any extended time. Brossoit has played 13 games so far this season, far more than anyone would have expected based on last year’s totals. One big concern I have is that Montoya is coming off a concussion. He hasn’t seen game action in over two months. The good news? Montoya’s healthy chomping at the bit to get back on the ice. Prior to the deal, he was practicing again with the Canadiens, which suggests that game action isn’t too far down the line. A healthy Al Montoya is a good enough insurance policy should Talbot need a night off or more. This is a good deal for the Oilers, even if it’s a few months too late.
The New York Rangers are battling for playoff positioning in the Metropolitan Division and have their sights set on post-season play this spring. And while the team is likely to add to its roster by the Feb. 26 trade deadline, they are also focused on next season and beyond – as it pertains to veteran left wing Rick Nash, anyway. The Rangers would like to sign Nash to a contract extension. Nash, 33, is in the final year of his eight-year, $62.4 million contract. While his annual salary cap hit is $7.8 million, he’s earning $8.2 million in actual salary this season. Nash wants to stay in New York, and the feeling certainly appears to be mutual, though contract talks have not begun. He will undoubtedly see his salary reduce on his next year, be it with the Rangers or another club in July, when he can hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent if unsigned. He’s on pace for 34 points this season, as of now, which would give him three-straight 30-point seasons after registering 42 goals and 69 points with the Rangers in 2014-15.
Here are 3 burning questions entering the second half:
How high will the Golden Knights finish?
The question has gone from how good they’ll be for an expansion team, to whether they can make the playoffs, to whether they can win the division or the conference or even the Presidents’ Trophy. Through 40 games, they’re 28-10-2 with 58 points. They have the second-best record in the League in terms of point percentage (.725) behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (.762). Could they come back to Earth? Sure. But haven’t yet, and why put limits on them at this point? They could secure home ice in the playoffs for a round or two or three or four. They have the best home record in the NHL (17-2-1) and Marc-Andre Fleury, the goaltender who carried the Pittsburgh Penguins through the first two rounds of the playoffs last season.
Who will make a splash before the trade deadline?
Keep an eye on the 2017 Stanley Cup finalists. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has acquired defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and center Riley Sheahan already, and the two-time defending champs are a point out of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Nashville Predators GM David Poile is the boldest in the business and has made the biggest trade of the season, acquiring center Kyle Turris from the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 5. Afterward, Poile said, “If I needed to make another trade, we still have our first-round pick.” The Predators made the Stanley Cup Final for the first time last season, and remain in win-now mode.
Will the Penguins make the playoffs?
It’s certainly possible they will miss. The Los Angeles Kings missed in 2014-15 after winning the Cup twice in three years (and are fifth in the NHL standings with the same core now). The Penguins have played a lot of hockey over the past two years and look lethargic sometimes, like they did in their 4-0 loss against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. But then, just like that, they can look like themselves again, like they did in their 4-0 win at the New York Islanders on Friday. Center Sidney Crosby had four points (one goal, three assists) against the Islanders. Forward Daniel Sprong had two goals. Can Crosby rediscover his form? Can Sprong make an impact as a midseason call-up the way forwards Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary did the past two seasons? Could the Penguins end up as a wild card and first-round nightmare for a team like, say, the Capitals?