Jake Guentzel to the Hurricanes highlights busy night before NHL deadline

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Near the Jake-or-break stage of the NHL trade deadline, the Carolina Hurricanes made the right late-night deal to take one of the top forwards off the board on Thursday.

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Jake Guentzel is on his way from the Pittsburgh Penguins to Tobacco Road, beating Friday’s 3 p.m. EST cut-off. He’s an ideal two-way left winger with 58 career playoff games for the Pens.

While conservative Canes general manager Don Waddell had been mulling a significant move to keep up with conference competitors, it looks like he paid light for a playoff rental situation versus re-signing $6 miilion man Guentzel long-term. Guentzel and Penguins’ 2018 first rounder Ty Smith, a defenceman, were exchanged for winger Michael Bunting, who rejoins Pens’ GM Kyle Dubas from their Toronto days, three prospects and two conditional draft picks, including Carolina’s first rounder this year. Pittsburgh will also retain 25% of Guentzel’s salary.

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In shifting Guentzel, Dubas has signalled his team’s post-season hopes are done. There are too many teams to jockey ahead of before even getting to current wild-card holders Tampa Bay and Detroit. A 6-0 loss for Pittsburgh on Thursday to Washington followed the trade chatter. While the deal means Dubas pumps needed reserves into the farm system with wingers Ville Koivunen, Vasily Ponomarev, Cruz Lucius and whatever the picks yield, missing playoffs again will be a tough pill for Sidney Crosby to swallow in a personal renaissance season.

The Hurricanes already had good news Thursday when goalie Frederik Andersen was activated for the first time since a blood-clotting issue sidelined him in November.

Meanwhile, with Noah Hanifan going from Calgary to Vegas Wednesday night, and Joel Edmundson leaving Washington for Toronto on Thursday, the once plentiful market of defencemen is shrinking as the clock ticks.

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Arizona’s Matthew Dumba, held out of the Coyotes’ game against Minnesota on Thursday, and Ottawa’s Jeff Chychrun, are two of the highest regarded available blue-liners from teams out of the playoff hunt.

The Flyers, who’ve sorted their trade-or-sign Nick Seeler/Sean Walker conundrum by moving the latter to the Avs, had shown interest in Chychrun.

Goaltender Jacob Markstrom, whom most thought was on his way to New Jersey a few days ago, is still in Calgary, which is already pick and prospect-rich after sending Hanifan to Vegas and defender Chris Tanev to Dallas.

Markstrom, with a full no-movement clause, could force his team’s hand either by Friday or in the off-season, while Jersey was hoping to land him and rescue its own precarious playoff position. GM Tom Fitzgerald held out Tyler Toffoli on Thursday night, already making his most drastic move earlier this week, firing coach Lindy Ruff.

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It might not matter for anyone else in the East the way the Florida Panthers are chewing through the schedule. Before hosting the Flyers, among their strengths were a league-low 2.37 goals-against average and more road wins than any other team.

They’ve surpassed the wild-card Lightning as the Sunshine State’s Cup favourites, though the Bolts remain eager for a move Friday and added forward Anthony Duclair from the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

Though defencemen and forwards are eclipsing any of the well-known goalies at this year’s deadline, Montreal is still over-loaded in its crease with Samuel Montembeault and Cayden Primeau clearly their future, likely leaving 33-year-old Jake Allen the odd man out.

The Canadiens have fielded some calls on veteran blue-liner David Savard, but there is no great enthusiasm to move him unless a bidding war ignites late Friday.

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The Sabres kept warhorse blueliner Erik Johnson out another game, while two forwards who were high on their list to move, Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons, likely benefitted from Casey Mittelstadt’s surprise swap on Wednesday to Colorado, as both played against Nashville after the club’s leading scorer went West.

In addition to icing Dumba, Arizona put kept winger Jason Zucker in the press box.

The Leafs went back to their near empty cupboard for two more draft picks to secure Edmundson from Washington.

For GM Brad Treliving to add anyone else of note, or a gritty bottom-six forward, it will have to be a roster player that goes, as it’s unlikely they deal this year’s first-round draft pick.

The status of a Thursday-night injury to first-line winger Matthew Knies, however, could change the picture.

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