The Wild are 1-6-3 in their past 10 games, including back-to-back shutout losses, and trail the Colorado Avalanche by one point for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. The Avalanche are tied in points (61) with the Chicago Blackhawks.
“It hasn’t been a lot of fun going to sleep at night,” general manager Paul Fenton said before the Wild’s 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday. “When I do go to sleep I find myself crying like a baby, just like most babies do.
“Am I making phone calls? I’m guaranteeing you I’m making phone calls, receiving phone calls, entertaining phone calls,” Fenton said. “That’s just the seat that I’m sitting in right now.”
The phone calls yielded something on Wednesday when the Wild traded forward Charlie Coyle to the Boston Bruins for forward Ryan Donato and a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Coyle had 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 60 games with the Wild. Donato had nine points (six goals, three assists) in 34 games with the Bruins, but was reassigned to Providence of the American Hockey League on Jan. 28.
It doesn’t help that Minnesota lost center Mikko Koivu to a season-ending knee injury Feb. 5, and defenseman Matt Dumba has been out since rupturing a pectoral muscle Dec. 26. But Fenton wasn’t using those injuries as an excuse for the Wild’s recent poor results.
“Look at St. Louis, look at what happened to their goaltending. All of a sudden, they get confidence and that’s what this league is all about is confidence,” Fenton said of the Blues, who have won 11 straight games to move into third place in the Central Division.
“If you can get some confidence and maybe take that next step, we can go on a roll like them.”
The question is whether the Wild need to make trades to do that. They tried to change the complexion of the team when forward Nino Niederreiter was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for center Victor Rask on Jan. 17. Since the trade, Niederreiter has 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in 14 games for the Hurricanes; Rask has two points (one goal, one assist) in 10 games with the Wild.
If the Wild do make a trade, they probably won’t touch their goaltending. Devan Dubnyk is signed through 2020-21 and Alex Stalock through 2021-22.
One possibility is forward Eric Staal. The 34-year-old, who has 37 points (17 goals, 20 assists) in 59 games, can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Fenton said he’s talked to Staal’s agent, but “it doesn’t mean I’ve talked to him about a contract or an extension.”
The Wild have three more games before the deadline, a stretch that starts against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; MSG, FS-N, FS-WI, NHL.TV). If the Wild continue to fall, it may be time for big changes.
“Just like you see the roster and the points say we are in the playoffs right now,” Fenton said. “So again, if it comes down to a difficult decision come Monday, then I’ll make the difficult decision.”
The Penguins have made a few changes to their roster during the season, and general manager Jim Rutherford doesn’t foresee them doing much more.
“There are areas where we can get stronger, but we can do it with the players we have,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday. “I don’t feel that we need to add a player to make us stronger at any position.”
The Penguins acquired forwards Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann from the Florida Panthers in a trade for forwards Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan, as well as a second-round pick and two fourth-round picks in the 2019 NHL Draft on Feb. 1. Bjugstad has five points (two goals, three assists) in 10 games for the Penguins, and McCann has three points, all goals, in 10 games. Pittsburgh also traded defenseman Jamie Oleksiak to the Dallas Stars for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft Jan. 28.
Defenseman Marcus Pettersson, acquired by the Penguins from the Anaheim Ducks in a trade for forward Daniel Sprong on Dec. 3, has 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 35 games. Rutherford said he plans to re-sign the 22-year-old.
The Penguins (32-21-7) have won back-to-back games and are third in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind the second-place Washington Capitals (33-20-7) and five behind the first-place New York Islanders (35-17-6). Pittsburgh plays the San Jose Sharks at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, SNP, ATTSN-PT, NBCSCA, NHL.TV) before playing the Philadelphia Flyers in the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday.
Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu hasn’t been in the Sabres lineup much lately, and according to his representative, the 26-year-old defenseman would like to go where he’d play a more regular role.
Beaulieu’s agent, Kent Hughes, told The Associated Press in January that his client would prefer to be traded if his situation with the Sabres did not change. Beaulieu has seven points (three goals, four assists) in 28 games. He played 17:18 in Buffalo’s 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on Tuesday, but that was his first game since the Sabres lost 1-0 to the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Jan. 30.
Beaulieu is in the final year of his contract.
“He’s not unhappy in Buffalo,” Hughes said. “He’s just looking for more of an opportunity to play.”
Beaulieu told the Buffalo News on Monday that he’s frustrated.
“It’s important for me to keep grinding away here. Time is ticking,” he said. “There [are] not many games left, and you want to get in as many as you can. But it’s tough. You try to stay in shape and practice hard. It’s tough, but part of being a pro. I have to make the most of the situation I’m in.”
The Sabres (28-24-7), who have lost three straight games, are six points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card in the East. They play the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; SUN, MSG-B, NHL.TV).
It appears the Capitals have something in the works after a waiver-wire switch on Wednesday. The Capitals originally put forward Dmitrij Jaskin on waivers but soon changed that plan, placing forward Devante Smith-Pelly on waivers instead.
“There is lots going on right now,” coach Todd Reirden said before the Capitals donated a Stanley Cup championship ring to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. “We’re always trying to improve our team and the direction we’re going and get better. There are lots of moving parts right now in a number of different spots.”
Smith-Pelly, 26, has eight points (four goals, four assists) in 54 games for the Capitals. Bob McKenzie of TSN tweeted that much speculation surrounds the Capitals seeking to trade for a depth forward, potentially with the Los Angeles Kings. A trade cannot be completed until Smith-Pelly is claimed or clears waivers on Thursday.
The Capitals (33-20-7), who are second in the Metropolitan Division, three points behind the first-place New York Islanders, play the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, TVAS, TSN4, NBCSWA).
Forward Micheal Ferland, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, was the subject of trade rumors as 2018 ended. But now that the Hurricanes are within reach of a playoff spot, will they make a run at signing Ferland?
“I don’t know if I’d use the term ‘making a run’ at somebody as much as continuing to let everybody know we have interest and we would like them to be here and that you are valuable to us,” Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon told NHL.com correspondent Kurt Dusterberg on Tuesday.
The 26-year-old has 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 51 games, including five points (two goals, three assists) in his past five games.
The Hurricanes (31-23-6) are one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card in the East. Carolina plays the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, FS-SE, NHL.TV).