The Blue Jackets have their sights set on competing for the Stanley Cup this season, but they may end up doing it without veteran defenceman Jack Johnson. Johnson has asked the Blue Jackets to trade him, not because he doesn’t want to be a part of the team any longer, but because he’s thinking of his future. The 31-year old, can become an unrestricted free agent July 1 and has been his ice time drop this season. Contract talks between the Blue Jackets and Johnson’s camp have not gone overly well, which presumably led to the trade request. It’s unclear what the Blue Jackets are asking for in exchange for Johnson, as the club plans on making a run at the Cup this post-season. In 46 games with the Blue Jackets so far this season, Johnson has registered two goals and five assists for seven points. He is making $5 million in salary this season, though his salary cap hit is just over $4.357 million.
Durable forward Andrew Cogliano has agreed to a $9.75 million, three-year contract extension through the 2020-21 season with the Anaheim Ducks. Cogliano hasn’t missed a game in his entire 11-season NHL career. The speedy two-way forward has played in 829 consecutive games for the Edmonton Oilers and the Ducks, who acquired him in 2011. His ironman streak is the fourth-longest in NHL history and the longest active streak in the league. Including playoffs, Cogliano has appeared in 889 straight games, the second-longest streak to start a career in NHL history. Cogliano is a standout penalty-killer with 17 career short-handed goals. He has 149 goals and 202 assists in his career, including five goals and 13 assists this season.
Dominik Simon admits he got a little wide-eyed as he closed in on his first NHL goal. The only thing left for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ rookie forward was to put the puck in a half-empty net. Simon did just that as he and Phil Kessel scored milestone goals to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-2 victory against the New York Rangers on Sunday night. Kessel’s 20th of the season was his 700th point that put the Penguins ahead for good. Simon added: “It feels unbelievable to score the first one. It’s even better with the win”. Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin also scored as the Penguins got their season high-tying fourth straight win and fifth in six games. Rookie Tristan Jarry, making his fourth straight start, stopped 26 shots to pick up his career-best fourth straight win.
Listen to me when I tell you it is time that you begin paying attention to the Bruins again. No, they do not “still suck.” No, they do not need to trade Tuukka, or Chara, or Krejci, or Backes. Yes, they are good. Very good, in fact, and you need to begin paying attention to them again. And here’s why… Coach Bruce Cassidy’s squad is in its bye week with a 23-10-7 record and a second-place standing in the Atlantic Division. All this while enduring 155 man-games lost due to injury. When this NHL season began, in many preseason predictions, your Bruins were not considered to be a team that would see postseason action. They were considered to be a team with veterans who had won a Stanley Cup in 2011 and a team with too many holes due to the lack of experience in the lineup. The young players had potential but not enough game action to be ready to contribute to a playoff run. Veterans Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Rask, all holdovers from that Stanley Cup team, have all battled injuries and/or illness but when healthy have been walking definitions of leadership on and off the ice. Chara is playing his best hockey in three years. He no longer needs to try to do too much and his game is flourishing. He is sixth in the League with a plus-20. Remember when his Time On Ice was an issue? That is not the case any longer. The coaching staff has reduced his ice time to an average of 23:20 per game which ranks 29th in the NHL and he has not missed a game all season. I will answer your question as to how can the coaches do that, in a moment. Bergeron, who missed the first five games of the season with a lower-body injury, may be having the best season of his career. His game has never been more complete in all three zones of the ice and is fourth on the club in scoring with 32 points in 35 contests. Like Chara, he carries a plus-20 rating (seventh-best in the NHL). And did you hear Bergeron was named the League’s First Star for the week ending January 8th? All he did that week was score five goals and two assists in three games with four of those lamplighters coming in the club’s tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes on January 7th. His third goal of the night was his 700th point of his NHL/Bruins career. Of course, his mastery in the faceoff circle continues to be one of his fortes. He has won 57.7-percent of his draws with 60.4-percent of those wins in the defensive zone. Marchand leads the team scoring with 40 points (27th in the circuit) on 17 goals and 23 assists. The 29-year-old forward is ninth with a plus-19. Put it all together and Marchand will represent the Bruins at the 2018 All-Star tournament in Tampa Bay. Krejci has spent 18 games on the injured list but when in the lineup, Boston is a much better team especially on the power play. He has contributed 17 points in 22 games. The Bruins are 14-6-2 with the 31-year-old center in uniform. After a slow start to his season followed by a concussion, Rask has been the toast of the town and the NHL. He has been a lot better pretty good while compiling a 14-8-3. He’s carrying a .920 save percentage which ranks him among the top ten of the League’s goaltenders while his 2.23 goals against average ranks Rask third in the NHL. Add to that that the Finnish native’s efforts were rewarded with his being named First Star for the Month for December by the NHL and you have a puck-stopper worthy of Vezina Trophy consideration.
The Arizona Coyotes will have to decide if it’s worth shopping defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson now in order to allow a team to get two playoff runs during his current contract. The Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers are listed as team’s who have shown interest in Ekman-Larsson, though the ask from the Coyotes remains “extremely high”. Chayka is looking for two high-end roster players and a first-round pick in return for his star defenceman. Through 45 games this season, Ekman-Larrson, 26, has seven goals and 20, he’s on pace to top his 2016-17 totals, but once again fall short of the 20-goal mark which he topped in back-to-back seasons from 2014-2016. Logging an average of 24:33 per game on the last-place club has left Ekman-Larsson with a career-worst minus-40 rating, last in the NHL. While Chayka is believed to be weighing his options with Ekman-Larsson, Garrioch reports he’s already made up his mind on Niklas Hjalmarsson and is shopping the veteran defenceman. Brought in during the summer in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, Hjalmarsson has four assists in 19 games with the Coyotes. The 30-year-old is signed through next season at a $4.1 million cap hit. Hjalmarsson’s contract includes a 10-team no-trade list and Garrioch reports there’s a strong belief the Swede would prefer to not play in a Canadian city.