NHL Notebook: Eastern Conference teams continue to load up as Devils acquire Timo Meier and Lightning add Tanner Jeannot
Photo credit:© Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
By Cam Lewis24 days ago
The Eastern Conference keeps getting stronger.
Since the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled the trigger on a deal that netted them Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari, the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and New Jersey Devils have made major moves.
Boston sent a similar package of draft picks to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathway that the Leafs dealt to St. Louis in the aforementioned O’Reilly and Hathaway trade. Orlov has suited up alongside Charlie McAvoy on the team’s top defensive pairing while Hathaway gives the Bruins added depth to their bottom-six forward group.
Tampa paid a significant price to acquire gritty forward Tanner Jeannot, sending former first-round pick Cal Foote and five draft picks to the Nashville Predators…
An undrafted signing out of the WHL, Jeannot broke out last year with 24 goals and 41 points and he racked up 130 penalty minutes. He’s having a down season this year, with five goals and 14 points over 56 games, but surely his shooting percentage will increase from 5.7 percent.
The Lightning are giving up quite a bit here for a struggling winger but they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt after back-to-back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances.
Even if he doesn’t produce much offensively, Jeannot will make the Lightning more difficult to play against. He’s a very effective forechecker who wears opposing defenders down with speed and heavy hits. He’s reportedly going to suit up on Tampa’s third line with Nick Paul and Ross Colton, a trio that’ll aim to get under the skin of their opponents.
Everyone knows that the Leafs and Lightning will again meet in the first round of the playoffs this spring but the two teams are battling each other now for home-ice advantage. The Leafs are currently four points up but Tampa has one game in hand. The Lightning beat the Leafs in Game 7 in Toronto last year.
And then there are the Devils, the team who won the Timo Meier sweepstakes. They sent four players and three draft picks off to San Jose to acquire arguably the best forward available on this year’s trade market…
There had been some speculation that the Leafs could go out and add Meier in order to give the team another high-quality scoring option in their top-six but it became clear they wouldn’t be able to pull off such a move after they added O’Reilly from the Blues.
Meier, who the Sharks selected at No. 9 overall in the 2015 draft, has 31 goals and 52 points through 57 games this season. He’ll be in line for a huge payday in the off-season as he’s a restricted free agent with a $10 million qualifying offer. The Devils are one of the few contending teams out there who could feasibly add Meier and get him re-signed without having to shed another contract to make it work.
There’s some valid skepticism about how far New Jersey’s goaltending can take them in the playoffs but this might make them the team to beat in the Metro Division. They’re currently three points back of the Carolina Hurricanes for the top spot but they’ve played one more game.
When you add the New York Rangers and Islanders, who traded for Vladimir Tarasenko and Bo Horvat respectively well before the trade deadline, six teams in the Eastern Conference have already made major additions to their roster.
It’ll be interesting to see how other teams respond before Friday’s deadline. The Hurricanes will surely make a splash in order to stay at the top of the Metro Division. And then are surprising teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres along with underachievers like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers who need to decide if they’re going for it or looking to the future.
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