Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Making Sense of the NHL Trade Deadline

The trade deadline having passed a few hours ago, 45 players have changed zip codes, and 23 draft picks have changed hands over the course of 25 trades. Maybe not quite what some were hoping for, (especially if you live in North America and English is not your first language), but still quite a bit of activity. To put it all in perspective, I have gone through each move, given each team a grade and tried to make sense of what each move means. Granted I don’t know the full story with most of these trades, but these are just my knee jerk reactions to each one. Here goes...

Penguins: A
Marian Hossa, F
Pascal Dupuis, F

Thrashers: B+
Erik Christensen, F
Colby Armstrong, F
Angelo Esposito, C
2008 first-round pick

The Thrashers did what they had to do here. Hossa wasn’t going to re-sign, and it seems pretty clear that they don’t quite have it this year in Atlanta (they don’t have the depth for a playoff run). At first glance it appears that they did a great job. Sure they lost a star, but they picked up two good young proven NHLers, a blue chipper and a first rounder. Not bad, so why not an “A”? The Thrashers were sellers in a market flooded with buyers. Christensen and Armstrong are good players, but Thrashers’ GM Don Wadell had said that he wanted help right now for Hossa. It is hard to believe that that is as good as he could have done if he actually thinks they can make a run this year.

From the Penguins perspective, this is a great move. There is no question, they gave up a lot. Adding Hossa to Crosby and Malkin gives the Pens three top ten forwards. Once Crosby returns (any day now, according to reports), the lineup that the Penguins will have up front will be downright scary. Hossa was the prize of the trade market, and the Penguins have to feel great about landing him. This once again makes them a favorite in the east.

Rangers: D
David LeNeveu, G
Fredrik Sjostrom, F
Josh Gratton, F
Conditional draft pick

Coyotes: B+
Al Montoya, G
Marcel Hossa, F

The D for the Rangers is not so much for this particular deal, but for their extraordinarily underwhelming performance at the deadline. The Rangers not only should have been a major buyer, they needed to be. Right now they are a talented team, but they have a few major pieces missing (particularly on the back end), and some dead weight that could have attracted interest from teams looking to unload (rhymes with blogger). This ended up being the biggest deal that the Blueshirts pulled off today. It isn’t enough to make them a true contender, which I don’t believe they are as is.

In a vacuum, this trade may not be great, but it certainly isn’t crippling. Montoya is a talented young goaltender, but his value won’t get any higher playing in the AHL or sitting behind Lundqvist, and he isn’t about to take over the starting role. Sjostrom in particular is a good young player, a first rounder who hasn’t quite worked out yet but has potential, and although LeNeveu will likely simply replace Montoya in Hartford, he isn’t a bad throw in for the Rangers. Gratton should provide some toughness if he gets in the lineup, but with Avery and Orr already available (both guys who bring more skill wise) that is unlikely. Overall it is about a “C” for the Rangers.

For the Desert Dogs, this is a good move. Hossa should be able to contribute as soon as he returns to the lineup, and Montoya will be a starting goaltender in a few years if not sooner in Glendale.

Panthers: C
Chad Kilger, LW

Leafs: C+
2008 third-round pick

It is difficult to find a whole lot to say about this one. Kilger is a decent player, a big guy who should probably be a third or a fourth liner, so not an awful pickup for the Panthers. The interesting thing about this is that these are two teams that are going nowhere. They are tied 6 points out of the playoffs, but neither has near enough talent to make a run, so the pickup of Kilger seems trivial. So even though Kilger’s value is probably a little bit higher than a third rounder, because of the timing and situation of this trade, I’m giving the Leafs a higher grade on this one.

Caps: C
Alexandre Giroux, LW

Thrashers: C
Joe Motzko, RW

Both are young, but not that young (Motzko is 28, Giroux 26), and neither has played regularly in the NHL. Both will likely be in and out of the lineup in their new home. It is hard to find a whole lot to say about this deal, it almost seems like two of the busier teams today making a trade for the sake of making a trade.

Preds: B
Brandon Bochenski, F

Ducks: C
Future considerations

It is hard to grade this one, because future considerations are tough to judge. In this case they shouldn’t be a whole lot. I will give the Ducks a C, only because they didn’t lose anything they will miss, but we don’t know what they got yet, so we will hold off judgment for now. As far as the Predators are concerned, they came away pretty well. Bochenski will be a solid checker (he will see more ice in Nashville which is why he is a solid pickup even though you can’t fault the Ducks for being willing to part with him), and although we don’t know what they are giving up, it is hard to imagine that it will be much.

Preds: B
Jan Hlavac, F

Lightning: B
2008 seventh-round pick

It is hard to call getting Jan Hlavac and Brandon Bochenski gearing up for a run, but the Preds, who have the 8 slot right now in the west, certainly made themselves a little bit better today. They acquired two solid NHLers and didn’t give anything of consequence up. As for the Lightning, it is time to enter re-building mode (they did today) so it is difficult to criticize getting rid of anyone in a contract year, or acquiring any draft picks.

Ducks: C
Jean-Sebastien Aubin, G

Kings: C
2008 seventh-round pick

I feel like draft picks (especially late rounders) had more value than they should have today. All I really have to say about this one is that Aubin is a solid backup, and probably should have gotten a 4th or 5th rounder. He really has limited value for either team, this trade seems pretty trivial.

Wings: A
Brad Stuart, D

Kings: A-
2008 second-round pick
2009 fourth-round pick

This is a great move on both sides. Stuart is a very good defenseman. The Wings haven’t had any trouble scoring this year, but Stuart should still help in that regard, he is great rushing the puck and in the offensive zone. The Wings have been a bit lethargic of late, so this should help them find the form they had for most of the season.

As for the Kings, I love this almost as much. Stuart was gone after this year, and the Kings are 16 points out of a playoff spot. It would have been nice to get a first rounder, but there were enough top tier defensemen available that two picks with one being a second rounder is pretty good value for Stuart.

Ducks: C-
Jay Leach, D

Lightning: C+
Brandon Segal, RW
2008 seventh-round pick

I don’t know why the Ducks even bothered with this one. Leach has no chance of cracking the NHL in Aniheim. Segal is a longshot to be a regular in Tampa, but he is at least young, something that the 29 year old Leach is not for a player with 4 career NHL games played. The draft pick may be the most valuable part of this trade, and I stand by my statement that late rounders have been over-valued.

Ducks: B+
Marc-Andre Bergeron, D

Isles: C
2008 third-round pick

Although they made four deals today, this was the only one of any significance for the Ducks. I actually really like it. Bergeron is a tough defenseman as a number 2 or 3, which he won’t have to be for the Ducks, and he has plenty of playoff experience. This deal gives coach Bombay’s crew unbelievable depth on the blue line.

For the Islanders, this deal should have been pretty good, in the market established today a third rounder isn’t bad for MAB. The problem that I have with this move is that the Islanders, 2 points out of a playoff spot should have been either a decided buyer trying to make a run, or a seller. They ended up staying on the fence here. They signed Comrie, but only to a one year deal, an indication that they like their team and want to make a run. Same with the Davison pickup, so why deal one of your best defensemen for a mid-rounder? That combination makes no sense to me.

Pens: F-
Hal Gill, D

Leafs: A
2008 second-round pick
2009 fifth-round pick

NO SKILL HAL GILL! Seems like a lot for a guy that can’t skate... Then again he has been bouncing around the league for so long that it isn’t even worth criticizing teams for taking him anymore. If I was 6-7 250 I could be so rich right now... (if you still need convincing that this trade makes no sense, I just used two ampersands [...], just think of those as me sitting at my computer shaking my head wordlessly. Can I give Pittsburg a G?)

Wild: B+
Chris Simon, F

Isles: A
2008 sixth-round pick

This trade makes sense on a lot of levels. Ted Nolan was probably one of the best coaches to help Simon by all accounts, but at a certain point there are just too many skeletons hanging around for someone to be successful for an organization. Anything that the Isles got back for him is gravy, so to speak. For the Wild they got a player who can still be a power forward and an enforcer in the NHL, and they got him for practically nothing. Sure, Simon is a longshot to have another successful NHL season after all of the discipline issues, but it isn’t like the Wild gave much up to take this gamble.

Rangers: C
Christian Backman, D

Blues: B
2008 fourth-round pick

The Rangers are an expensive, hyped and supremely talented squad up front that need major help along the blue line (and with third and fourth line depth, but that is another issue), and your answer is a career – with twice as many PIMs as points? Backman isn’t an aweful player, but he certainly isn’t enough for the Rangers, as I said above. Who let Isaiah Thomas and James Dolan sit in for Glen Sather today?

For the Blues, they are still a couple of years from contention, it is hard to criticize them giving up almost anyone on their roster to get picks and build around Johnson. This is a small step, but in the right direction for St. Louis.

Caps: B
Matt Cooke, LW

Canucks: C
Matt Pettinger, LW

Cooke is an interesting player. He doesn’t score a lot of points, but he always seems to be involved. Anyone who has watched the Canucks play over the last few years on any sort of regular basis can attest to his impact. Pettinger’s scoring hasn’t shown up this year, but he is liked by scouts in the league. All in all I would say this is a pretty even deal, and definitely one of the more intriguing ones (by two teams that should be in the playoffs) not involving a star.

Caps: B+
Sergei Fedorov, C

Jackets: B-
Theo Ruth, D

Am I the only one who can see Fedorov being rejuvenated by playing alongside countrymen Alexander Ovechkin? Probably not (Caps GM George McPhee for one would probably agree). Ruth is a freshman at Notre Dame right now, a USNTDP product who may help the Blue Jackets down the road (he is also 4 months older than me and just got traded for a 3 time MVP, which is depressing), but he is a small price for the Caps to pay for the potential secondary scoring Fedorov is still capable of, even if he hasn’t shown it lately.

Aves: C
Adam Foote, D

Jackets: A
2008 or 2009 conditional first-round pick
2009 conditional fourth-round pick

Assume that the Jackets get both picks, and this is a great move by them. Even if they come away with a first rounder, dumping Foote while they are going no where this season and Foote isn’t getting any younger is a great move. Foote could help (as could recent signee Peter Foresburg) but someone should remind the Aves that it is not 2001. Apperently this is a team that believes they can compete for a cup this year, odd considering that they are 4 points out of a playoff spot. Granted they have at least set themselves up for a run to get in with their moves in the last 48 hours.

Stars: A
Brad Richards, F
Johan Holmqvist, G

Lightning: A
Jeff Halpern, C
Jussi Jokinen, F
Mike Smith, G
2009 fourth-round pick

All the reactions after this trade have lauded the Stars and focused on Richards. Rightfully so, Richards is a top 30 forward, and probably the second best player moved today (behind Hossa), but make no mistake, they gave up quite a bit to get him. Jokinen and Halpern were both key components for the Stars who will be able to help the Lightning as the re-build around Lecavalier and St. Louis. Adding Richards was a great move for the Stars who have both the Sharks and the Ducks breathing down their neck in the Pacific.

One weird thing about this deal, why throw in the backup goaltenders? How did that go down? Dallas- “So it is agreed, Richards for Jokinen, Halpern and a pick?” TB- “Sure, but only if we can throw in Smith for Holmqvist.” Dallas- Why, they are practically the same player.” TB- “yeah but it makes it look like we are doing more.” Dallas- “Good point, call league offices.”...

For the record I know Holmqvist was a starter, but he never should have been. The Lightning haven’t had a legitimate #1 goaltender since Khabibulen (nailed that spelling) left. Maybe they should have considered this with 5 valuable players and about 20 teams looking to get better at the deadline. With that one sentence I put more thought into the Tampa goaltending situation than their front office has in 3 years. What was I talking about again? Oh right, trade deadline, moving on.

Capitols: A+
Cristobal Huet, G

Canadians: B-
Second-round pick

Our first A+ of the day! Wow, I’m turning into Mr. Wood (note: I’m not turning into Mr. Wood). The Caps had a great day, and this was easily the highlight of their moves. The Caps got a bona fide #1 goaltender, and all they gave up was a draft pick. This move alone made them the clear cut favorite in the southeast. Kolzig shouldn’t be a starting goaltender in the NHL at this point in his career and even though it will be weird watching someone else in net night in night out, Huet is a giant upgrade at this point in time.

For the Canadians, there isn’t a whole lot to be said about this trade. Huet wasn’t indispensible, but it is a certainly a huge risk to turn it over to a 20 year old in net with a month left in the season in fifth place. Again, this isn’t a horrible move, just a big risk.

The real story in French Canada has to be disappointment. The day started with rumors of cleaning rooms for press conferences and near certainty Hossa was going to don the CH sweater. A major letdown for the passionate Habs fans that the only deal of the day involved giving up their starting goaltender, and that all they came away with was a draft pick.

Aves: C
Ruslan Salei, D

Panthers: C+
Karlis Skrastins, D
2008 third-round pick

My main impression of Salei is still his despicable cheap shot on Mike Modano that could easily have ended Modano’s career, so it is hard to handicap this one. Looking at the two players, the edge goes to Salei, but not by that much, the pick pretty much makes this one a scratch. Again, not a deal that should have much of an impact.

Sharks: A
Brian Campbell, D
2008 seventh-round pick

Sabers: A-
Steve Bernier, F
2008 first-round pick

For anyone who doesn’t know, there is no way I could possibly be objective on this one, but I’ll do my best. Campbell is, simply put a stud. I can’t wait to see him don teal. Seventh in the league in scoring among D, and good on the PP, Campbell is a number one defenseman, something the Sharks have lacked for a long time, and exactly what they need. Interesting throw in, the seventh rounder, I guess Dougie just wanted his money’s worth.

As for Bernier, I like this deal for the Sabers. Bernie has underachieved somewhat of late for the Sharks, but has shown flashes of brilliance. A change of scenery should do him well. Also, with so many top tier defensemen rumored to move, this is pretty good value (an established second liner and a first rounder) for the Sabers.

That wasn’t so bad was it?

Blues: B-
Cam Janssen, F

Devils: B-
Bryce Salvador, D

Interesting, definitely a move towards the future, for the Blues. St. Louis native Janssen hasn’t played a game this year, but he is only 23. As for Salvador, he should be a good pickup to give the Devils a little bit of added depth on the blueline, which will come in handy come playoff time. A solid deal on both sides, certainly not earth-shattering though.

Blackhawks: B
Andrew Ladd, F

Canes: B
Tuomo Ruutu, F

A fresh start for the underachieving Ruutu could be exactly what he needs. Ladd is a guy who is capable of helping right away in Chicago, but that isn’t what they need. I would have liked to see the Hawks a little bit more active today, with so many potential impact players available it would have been good to see them go after a Brad Richards or a Martin St. Louis to go along Havlat, Toews and Kane.

Panthers: D
Wade Belak, F

Leafs: B+
2008 fifth-round pick

I’m wearing down here as we are past the 3000 word mark, so I’m going to keep this one short. I hate this trade for Florida. Why in God’s name are they trading draft picks when they are well out of a playoff spot and clearly don’t have the talent to contend in the next couple of years? As far as the Leafs go, they don’t really miss Belak, but they didn’t get much in return either.

Senators: A
Martin Lapointe, F

Hawks: C
2008 sixth-round pick

Lapointe is a good player on the ice who will provide veteran leadership off of the ice. This is a great move for the Senators. As far as the Hawks go, Lapointe is too old to be in their long term plans, and those are the only plans that they can worry about at this point. Unfortunately, a sixth rounder is not nearly enough to make this a move that will help them significantly long term.

Isles: A
Rob Davison, D

Sharks: C-
2008 seventh-round pick

To be honest, I really wanted to give the Sharks a lower grade for this one. Davison is a versatile player who brings a lot to the table. He is only average as far as skill level, but he is an energy guy who can play forward or defense. A seventh round pick for him is an absolute steal. The only thing that keeps the Sharks from a D or an F on this deal is that they simply don’t have room for him. Davison can play forward, but not well enough to crack the Sharks top 12, and with the addition of Campbell, it would be tough for Davison to get into half of the remaining games.

Well, there it is, 5 hours and 3,400 words later, there is your trade deadline wrap. Should be fun to see how some of these play out.

No comments: