In the Eastern Conference, only one of the three Canadian-based teams are in playoff contention. At 85 points, the Toronto Maple Leafs sit second in the East. They are only five points back of the Eastern Conference leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Maple Leafs only deal at the trade deadline of any substance whatsoever, ironically came with their fierce longtime rival, the Montreal Canadiens. The Maple Leafs acquired Czech sniper Tomas Plekanec from the Canadiens with prospect Kyle Baun for two American Hockey League players in Kerby Rychel and Rinat Valiev, and a second round draft pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Rychel and Valiev have NHL experience, just not this season. Rychel has played 37 games with the Blue Jackets and Valiev has played 10 games with the Maple Leafs.
Despite getting only 24 points in 60 games this season, Plekanec does have the skill set to be a difference maker in Toronto after 983 games in Montreal. Pleakanec had a career high 70 points for the Canadiens in the 2009-10 season and added another 11 postseason points that year as Montreal advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the Philadelphia Flyers.
However for Plekanec to be effective, he will need to play more than he has in his first two games in Toronto. Plekanec is at his best if he is around the 15 minutes per game range, than being in the 11-13 minute range. However Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock needs to find the fine balance of playing Plekanec a little bit more, but not interrupting the chemistry of the Maple Leafs offense that has been quite productive this year. At 218 goals, they only have 10 fewer goals than the Tampa Bay Lightning, who lead the Eastern Conference at 228 goals.
The Canadiens also acquired defenseman Mike Reilly from the Minnesota Wild for a fifth round draft pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Entry Draft. Reilly has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 38 games. The trade led to a hilarious tweet by the Edmonton Eskimos, which said “Mike Reilly to Montreal? You can always dream @MTLAlouettes…” The Eskimos all-star quarterback namesake also got into the action by saying on Twitter “My skating is about as good as my French but I do have one heck of a slapshot.”
The Senators meanwhile traded people away. Among the players they let go in the last three weeks included Dion Phaneuf to Los Angeles, Derick Brassard to Pittsburgh and Ian Cole to Columbus. The Senators traded Phaneuf to the Kings on Valentine’s Day for Marian Gaborik. Getting out of Ottawa in tumultuous times and moving to southern California may have been the best Valentine’s Day gift that Phaneuf could have given his wife, Elisha Cuthbert, who is an elite actress and model.