Another week has come and gone in the National Hockey League, putting some space between the All Star break and now. It also brings us that much closer to the trade deadline, which will go off next Monday. Who will be buyers at the trade deadline in an effort to try and make a late push for the postseason? Who will be dumping off assets in an effort to stockpile picks, prospects, cheaper players and the like to plan for free agency in the offseason? We’ll find out a lot about that this week as the trade deadline draws ever closer.
There has been plenty of other exciting stuff flying around the NHL this week. The Dennis Wideman saga continues to wind through the appeals process. Some minor deals have been made and at least one major name has been seemingly taken off the market, at least for now. We saw a major milestone achievement take place this week as a player continues to defy Father Time. Throw in a couple guys that are coming back off injured reserve to the mix and it will make to an interesting race to the deadline. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what’s big news in the NHL this week.
Jaromir Jagr Moves to 3rd All Time in Goals: It’s hard to forget when Jaromir Jagr broke into the league. The Penguins selected the talented forward, complete with his mullet, with the fifth overall pick in the 1990 NHL Draft. He paid immediate dividends as he was placed alongside Mario Lemieux and the Penguins saw their fortunes change overnight. Pittsburgh won a pair of Stanley Cup championships and Jagr racked up five Art Ross Trophies as the league’s leading scorer.
He moved on to play for Washington, the Rangers (where he had a 54 goal, 123 point season) and spent three seasons in Russia before returning to the NHL in 2011-12 at 39. Jagr signed a deal with the Flyers. Since then, he spent time with Dallas, Boston, New Jersey and now Florida. He’s spent the last season plus with the Panthers. Jagr turned 44 on Monday and he continues to be an effective player in the NHL even at his advanced age. Saturday night against the Winnipeg Jets, Jagr scored twice, giving him 20 goals on the season. In the process, Jagr passed Brett Hull for third all-time in goals as he now has 742 in his career. His 1,845 points are 4th all-time and he could surpass Gordie Howe’s 1,851 in the near future. Whether he gets to surpass Mark Messier (1,887) may depend on whether he comes back again next season.
Still, congratulations to Jagr for his achievement. It takes a lot of heart and dedication to continue to play at that level at such an advanced age.
Wideman Saga Reaches Next Chapter: The Dennis Wideman saga has been going on since before the All Star break. He was suspended for 20 games after his hit on linesman Don Henderson after Wideman was hammered into the boards by Nashville’s Miikka Salomaki in a 2-1 Calgary defeat on January 27. The 20-game suspension is the minimum under rule 40.2 that indicates that the league believes there was intent to injure the ref.
The suspension was originally handed down and upheld by the league’s disciplinary committee. Wideman and the NHL Players Association appealed the suspension, which sent the decision to league commissioner Gary Bettman. After a prolonged review that didn’t conclude until earlier this week, Bettman upheld the original suspension, which is one of the longest in league history. Wideman and the Flames’ defense is that Wideman sustained a concussion on the hit from Salomaki. The problem with that argument is that Wideman himself denied that he was knocked woozy in the postgame press conference. In addition, the two doctors that the Flames sent in support of that statement were shredded by Bettman because they didn’t actually examine Wideman in person. In addition, they weren’t contacted until it came down that Wideman may have been facing an extended suspension for the incident. Bettman’s entire ruling of the statement can be found here.
Calgary has just one line of recourse left at this point if they don’t want to see Wideman continue to sit in the press box. He’s missed nine games already: the Flames big recourse right now is to go to an independent arbitrator. Calgary and Wideman has made the decision to appeal to the arbitrator. James C. Oldham is expected to hear the case on Thursday, which is expected to only take one day. This marks the first time that a player has gone to an independent arbitrator since the new collective bargaining agreement was signed in 2013.
The issue with that is: while the arbitrator can reduce the suspension, it can also be potentially increased should the arbitrator decide to do so. Suffice it to say that the potential for playing with fire, no pun intended, is there for the Flames. Wideman could find himself in hot water regardless of what happens at this point in time.
Henderson Still Out After Wideman Hit: While we’ve discussed the repercussions for Wideman in excessive detail already, there’s the flip side to this equation. Don Henderson, the linesman that was hit by Wideman in that incident, still has not returned to the ice at this point in time. At this point, it seems that there is no timetable for his actual return. See, while Wideman claimed he had a concussion but actually didn’t, things are a bit different for Henderson.
A source has stated that Henderson has been dealing with concussion symptoms from the hit and has been dealing with back issues as well. Henderson underwent a MRI this week to see if there was any brain injury that came because of the incident. He hasn’t been back on the ice since and it’s looking increasingly likely that you won’t see him back this season. When one factors in that Henderson is 47 and has been a NHL official since 1994, this may well be the impetus for him to hang up his skates and retire from officiating. Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun had this to say about the situation Friday:
“Several sources told the Sun that Henderson had been feeling pressure from the NHL Officials Association long before the hit to retire as the association has been trying to get some of its older members to exit the game like 53-year-olds Mike Cvik and Rob Martell did earlier this year. Henderson’s concussion could potentially expedite that process, meaning there’s a chance he’s officiated his last game.”
Jake Allen Back Between Pipes for Blues: The St. Louis Blues will get a shot in the arm this week as they get their starting goaltender back. Jake Allen, who hasn’t been in net since January 8 with a lower body injury, was activated after missing 17 games. St. Louis went 12-3-2 in his absence as Brian Elliott held down the fort for the Blues. Allen has gone 18-10-3 with a 2.17 GAA, .924 save percentage and five shutouts on the year.
The downside for the Blues is that while Allen returned to the mix for St. Louis, they lost their second leading scorer as Alex Steen went on the shelf with an upper body injury. He had 17 goals and 30 assists for St. Louis but was injured Saturday night against Arizona. Steen was hit by Kevin Connauton in the first period and left the game. He’s expected to miss at least four weeks of action before getting re-evaluated.
It will be an interesting week in the NHL as we see what unfolds leading up to the trade deadline. We’ll keep you up to date on all the big moves that take place and the ones that don’t in this space next week!
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