Finally, February is here. The Pittsburgh Penguins closed January with a 9-3-0 record, but it some ways, the more things change — at least in the standings — the more they stay the same. Pittsburgh is still searching for a third-line center.
That cliche is true in more ways than one, as a familiar face could return to the Penguins:
Matt Cullen Return to Pittsburgh?
There won’t be a Yinzer that doesn’t like hearing this. It’s possible Cullen could return to the Penguins before the trade deadline. Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette speculated as much so in his 20 Thoughts column this week.
Mackey made it clear that no trade is imminent between the Penguins and Minnesota Wild, but it’s hard to argue that Cullen wouldn’t be a perfect fit back in Pittsburgh. Yes, Cullen is struggling to the tune of four goals and 11 points in 49 games, but back playing in Mike Sullivan’s system would likely do wonders to the 41-year-old’s stats. And he’s still tremendous at winning draws.
Not to mention, Cullen would instantly return to being an essential leader in the Penguins locker room. It’s been well documented here at PGH Now how much the team misses greatly “locker room guys” such as Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino, and Cullen.
New York Rangers sellers at the deadline
A potential sell-off was a developing story for the second part of January, but Larry Brooks of The New York Post gave it some new treads this week when he argued the Rangers will need to convince management in the next 13 games before the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 26 to avoid a full-on fire sale.
According to reports, that could include Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, Mats Zuccarello, Ryan McDonagh, and Nick Holden.
I have an outsider’s perspective, but from afar, I have a hard time believing these reports unless the Rangers fall entirely off the map in the next two weeks. Heading into February, the Rangers are just one point out of the final playoff spot.
The Rangers are the organization which traded valuable draft assets for Eric Staal and Keith Yandle. They want to win a Stanley Cup as badly as any team in the league. That will remain their goal, especially with 35-year-old Henrik Lundqvist in net, unless the team falls out of contention.
If the organization does decide to sell, though, it would be a great thing for the Penguins. As bad as things look for the Rangers at the moment, they are only three points behind the Penguins with two games in-hand. A fire sale at Madison Square Garden would finally knock out one Metropolitan division team.
John Tavares 2018 Free Agency
The New York Islanders took a couple of hits on the chin over the last two nights. Forst, they lost to Florida on Tuesday, 4-1, and then to Toronto, 5-0, Wednesday. As one would expect, captain John Tavares wasn’t at all too pleased, calling his team’s play unacceptable.
The Islanders and Rangers are tied, one point back of the second Wild Card position (Philadelphia). As has been the case with the Islanders for the last year and a half, hockey media immediately put the team’s recent play in context to how it could alter Tavares’ contract decision.
Right now, things aren’t looking good for the Islanders. This week, The Athletic’s Craig Custance reported Tavares’ pending free agency is already affecting the market, as teams could be reluctant to add players with multiple years remaining on their contracts before the trade deadline to save salary cap space for Tavares.
The Steve Stamkos contract saga drug on until the final minute. It looks like Tavares could do the same.
If true, Tavares’ contract delay could have significant ramifications at the deadline. Not only could rental players such as Evander Kane be worth more on the market, but teams not involved in the Tavares sweepstakes could also find it cheaper (due to a lack of a bidding war) to add a player with term.