Fans aren’t the only ones trying to keep up with speculation, rumors and innuendos as the NHL’s Feb. 25 trade deadline nears.
Players attempt to fact-find for themselves to discover what’s true and what isn’t this time of year, because who enters and who exits their locker room could determine the outcome of their season.
“Everybody knows it’s there, right?” Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “Everyone likes to have their ear to the ground a little bit, have a couple lines in the water to see what’s happening.”
Schmidt’s sources already have been put to the test this winter because forward Nick Bjugstad, his teammate for three seasons at the University of Minnesota, was traded from the Florida Panthers to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 1. Schmidt didn’t have any insight on what the Knights might do, but admitted he would love to be “a fly on the wall” in general manager George McPhee’s office.
“You always love to hear it, to see what it’s really like to stand in one of those rooms and see what’s said,” Schmidt said. “What they say about us in there or when they’re trading guys. You do it in video games, and I feel like it’s not the same as in real life.”
Schmidt isn’t the only one around the league looking for inside information. NBC Sports Network analyst Keith Jones, a nine-year NHL veteran, said players routinely get together this time of year and gossip about the deadline.
“You’re looking around and having conversations with the players in that locker room or at dinner or grabbing a beer and you’re saying, ‘What are we going to do?’” Jones said. “You are on high alert. You are well aware of what’s happening around you and around the league. Every player wants to have his name on the Stanley Cup, so you’re always playing GM around the rest of the guys trying to figure out the piece that you need and who it’s going to be.”
Some players, such as Knights defenseman Shea Theodore, spend less time chatting. To him, there’s only one thing to worry about at the deadline.
“Obviously, you don’t want to be a guy that’s looked at to be moved,” Theodore said. “Teams are going to make moves and try to find pieces that fit. I think as players we just have to keep playing.”
Matthews hits 100
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews scored his 100th and 101st NHL goals in his 187th game Thursday, becoming the 10th player since the 1987-88 season to hit that milestone that quickly.
Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen, who gets to see Matthews’ shot every day in practice, said part of what makes the 21-year-old dangerous is his unpredictability.
“I don’t think there’s one place he really scores all his goals,” Andersen said. “He keeps the goalies on their toes. As a goalie, it’s even tougher when you don’t know what’s coming. It’s tough to react when he has that quick release.”
Blue no more
The St. Louis Blues quickly went from afterthought to playoff contender after the All-Star break.
The Blues have won nine straight games to move from sixth place in the Central Division to third. St. Louis’ goal differential improved from minus-14 to plus-8 during the winning streak.
Three stars of the week
1. Nikita Kucherov, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning
The favorite to win the Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP) had another strong week to help the Lightning become the first team to reach 90 points. Kucherov had 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in his past four games.
2. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues
The 27-year-old had 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in five games to keep the Blues undefeated in February. Tarasenko has at least a point in 11 straight games.
3. Brad Marchand, LW, Boston Bruins
The 30-year-old kept the Bruins afloat with leading scorer David Pastrnak sidelined with a thumb injury. Marchand had eight points (three goals, five assists) in four games.