Ah yes, that all important quest for lottery. Some teams strive for Lord Stanley, this season many teams are doing their best to get Nail Yakupov.
Today the Montreal Canadiens threw their hat into the ring. Just three points out of a lottery position, they sent the serviceable Spacek to Carolina, a UFA to be, for the declining but younger and more highly paid Tomas Kaberle. Presumably the justification or at least excuse for this is to improve the powerplay. Unfortunately, there’s not much logic to that. The Boston Bruins powerplay last year went into reverse when Kaberle landed in the Hub. The Carolina Hurricanes powerplay is better than the Canadiens this year yet both are in the bottom five league wide. Kaberle’s numbers have also been in decline for the past several seasons, and with 3:58 second of PPTOI with the Canes, it’s hard to figure out how the Habs think this is an improvement.
The Carolina Hurricanes are limping along in 28th place in the NHL. While Spacek probably can’t hurt their lottery hopes, with his injury issues it does give them further opportunity to shuttle players back and forth between the NHL and AHL. If they are unlucky one of the youngsters could be good enough to boot them from a lottery position.
The Blue Jackets have worked hard for the last month but are still at the bottom of the NHL’s standings. If they manage to win Saturday against the Boston Bruins they might slip from the best odds for the man called the greatest Russian prospect since Ovechkin.
The Anaheim Ducks are doing their part to stay in the mix for Yakupov. With scoring depth among their many issues have decided to allow Devante Smith-Pelly to play in the World Junior Tournament. As he’s recently found his scoring touch, it’s clear that the five to seven games he’ll miss as part of the tournament are important. With two key divisional matchups against the San Jose Sharks during the tournament, the Ducks are nearly assured of being passed by the Blue Jackets.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the surprise to jump beneath the hammer. With Marcel Goc doing a creditable job as their number one goaltender they are in danger of slipping from the lottery despite a goal differential 29 worse than the division leading cross state theoretical rivals the Florida Panthers. As a franchise that has finished in the bottom five multiple times since the lockout, clearly what they need to do is draft more offense.
The sixth iteration of the New York Islanders five year plan might just be completed by this Russian. With nearly 30 years elapsed since the last time the Islanders won a Cup, they are in prime position for a stealth trip to the top of the lottery odds. The loafing about in 27th is the perfect pose. All they need to do is trade a few of their veterans between January and the deadline and they can plunge those last three spots into 30th. If Pierre Gauther can’t take any of their contracts off their hands maybe they can bring up Anders Nilsson to get some more NHL seasoning.