Sunday, March 1, 2009

Breaking the Silence- My Trade Deadline Wish List

                Despite the fact that I have been watching hockey (you're welcome) more than any other sport, and in fact, probably more than any other activity outside of going to the gym and studying (make any inference about my social life from this statement that you wish- it is probably justified), I have remained relatively silent about the subject so far in the 2008-2009 season.  Thumbing through the archives, it turns out that the last strictly NHL column that I wrote was back in June when I made a half hearted attempt at following the draft.  The reasons are twofold.  First of all, there hasn’t been that much to talk about.  The season has been compelling enough, but nothing has jumped out at me as something that needed to be addressed.  Alas, there was one thing that normally I would jump at the chance to editorialize about, the Sharks dominance of the Western Conference (at least for the first half).  Due to the inconvenience of starting college with the lofty expectations of not carrying a 1.5 GPA through my freshman year, time was scarce. (I actually could care less, it's just that I just need a 2.0 to play hockey)

While I had plenty to say about the Sharks, and I relished the chance to brag about them, I kept putting it off while they were on their historically hot start.  After a while, I decided that it would be too late to talk about the start, but I could still probably find an angle.  While searching for this angle it occurred to me, I had refrained from writing about my favorite team for two or three months, and they had been unstoppable.  To break my own streak in the middle of their hot streak would have been terrible karma, selfish (plus I wasn’t exactly looking for ways to kill time).  Alas, like all good things, the Sharks tear came to an end.  Unfourtunately though, they are a paltry 8-8 since the all-star break.  Therefore, I have deemed it safe to break my silence on the NHL, just in time for what is often one of my favorite dates on the NHL calendar.

Last year, I wrote an (excessively) extensive wrap up of the NHL trade deadline, going through every trade.  This year, I am taking the other side.  With just over 65 hours until the deadline as I write this, there are a number of deals (some of which are for selfish reasons, others that I just think would be good for both sides/the NHL).  So here is my NHL trade deadline wish list.  3 moves (with cap space considered), in no particular order that I would like to see go down before noon on Tuesday.

(Players are listed under the team that they would go to, with their cap figures in parentheses- years include 2008-2009 season)


San Jose-

Tim Connolly (3 years- 2.9 M)



Jonathan Cheechoo (1 year- 3.0 M)

2010 2nd Round Pick


This trade would be a slam dunk for San Jose.  Connolly would fit perfectly between Michalek and Clowe, making that one of the top second lines in the NHL (it already is with Pavelski).  Connolly’s game is more powerful than that of Little Joe, giving the second line a devastating forecheck that could wear down defensemen, especially in a seven game series.  As much as I like the Sharks team as is, I can’t shake the feeling that they need one more scorer.  If Pavelski moved down to the third line (with Grier and Mitchell if he comes back and is effective, Roenick if Mitchell needs more time), that gives San Jose three legitimate scoring lines.  Cheechoo is an effective scorer on a first or second line, but is little more than a grinder if on a checking line (although he does a good job of it). 

On top of that, to have an additional $3 million coming off of the books this summer would be a good thing for San Jose.  If San Jose uses Connolly as a rental and loses him in July, they have $3 million in cap space to re-sign Clowe and Mitchell and possibly Roenick, Grier and Blake, which would potentially clear space to go after a free agent.  If they re-sign Connolly, even better.  The second rounder would be going back to Buffalo, as the Sharks acquired it for Craig Rivet last summer.

As far as Buffalo is concerned, this deal makes sense, mainly if they think they may lose Connolly in the offseason.  Cheechoo, while having a terrible year, is still a valuable asset.  He will likely never sniff 50 goals again, like he did in 2006, but he is more than capable of helping a team win hockey games.  As I alluded to above, Cheechoo is something of a chameleon.  Put on the third line, he accepts his role, and plays a grinder’s game, but his production suffers.  He is most valuable when playing with a playmaker (Drew Stafford anyone?), going to the net, and scoring goals.  In San Jose, he has been shut out by a team with too many good scorers.  A change of scenery would do him good, and while it would be somewhat of a risk, it is certainly worth it (with the draft pick sweetening the deal for Buffalo).

(plus he has some of the best cellys in the league, which is at least the equivalent of a second round draft pick, right?)

(note:  I wouldn’t feel good about moving Cheechoo as a Sharks fan.  I like him as a player.  I really do.  I just think that he has a lot more value for about 25 other NHL teams.  Not only is it best for the Sharks to unload a $3 million role player- he is, like it or not- but it would be the best thing for Cheech.  I really do believe he can be a star in this league again, but he has to be on a first line to do it, and that’s not what the Sharks need from him.  This really would be better for all parties involved.  I promise.)



Vinnie Lecavalier (11 years- 6.78 M, moves to 7.72 starting in 2009-2010)


Tampa Bay-

2009 First Round Pick

2009 Second Round Pick

2010 Second Round Pick

Alexei Kovalev (1 year- 4.5 M)

Mathieu Dandenault (1 year- 1.725 M)

Robert Lang’s Contract (1 year- 4.0 M)


($10 million in expiring contracts and Draft Picks/Prospects)


Believe it or not, this trade really does work for both sides.  For Montreal, it is a no brainer.  They lack a go-to scorer, which Lecavalier is in spades.  On top of that, it really is important for the Habs to have a French-Canadian star.  No one is more provincial than Quebeckers.  Lecavalier, in terms of talent, really is in the same league as the Crosbys, Malkins and Ovechkins, but he is largely forgotten (since 2004) on the Gulf Coast.  Put him in Montreal and he becomes the biggest star in the league (in his own market, at any rate). 

Did I mention that they don’t have to give up a single player of value to get him?  They were willing to keep Kovalev home just a week ago, Dandenault wants out anyways, and Lang is out for the year.  This makes them exponentially better, and they will sell about 5 million jerseys in the next two weeks. 

For the Bolts, it is a bit of a tougher sell, but there is certainly logic in the deal.  They aren’t winning with Vinnie, and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to build the depth they sorely need with a contract approaching $8 million next year.  Sure, plenty of teams have been able to compete with one player making more than that, but the Lightning’s cap situation really is dire.  Next year, they are on the hook for $36 million to just 11 players (players from a team that may finish dead last at that).  Ideally they would package Ryan Malone’s God awful contract in the Lecavalier deal, but the Habs really can’t afford it.  While those three guys are worthless to the Habs, who can win now, they have major value to the Lightning simply because they will open up cap room in the offseason.  The more I write about this, the more it makes sense (but wait, there’s more).

All the cap talk is one thing, but that doesn’t even factor in the fact that the Lightning have a half empty building in the worst economy in 80+ years.  Is there any way, I mean any way that they are going to spend $55 million if that is where the cap is next year?  You are telling me that it doesn’t make sense to shed what will probably be about a sixth of the payroll on a team that has no chance of making the playoffs anyways?  Think about how much sense it makes to have an NHL team in Nashville, Miami, Tampa Bay, Raleigh and Atlanta, then think about the complete opposite of that.  That’s how much sense this makes.

All this saving money is nice, I hear you saying, but what about the on ice product?  I would say I’m glad you asked, but the fact is the Lightning owners don’t care….

                Seriously, they could care less….

                I’m not joking, complete indifference…

                Really, it is a non-factor….but I will tell you anyways.  As I said the Lightning can’t win with Vinnie.  That much has been proven.  Let’s say that they get rid of the $10 million that expires from this deal, so that leaves them with $29 million in payroll.  Now, they probably don’t spend the entire $55 million, but they could certainly spend around $45 (easy for me to say, I know, but really, they could).  That leaves them $16 million to fill 10 roster spots.  With that kind of flexibility, they could go after a prize like Marion Gaborik, Mike Cammalerri or Daniel Sedin (all UFAs), pick up a $3-4 Million dollar player such as the aforementioned Connolly, Mike Comrie, Brian Gionta or Johan Franzen (also UFAs) and have plenty of room to fill the rest of the roster with solid depth, and still be $10 million under the cap.  On top of that, they are probably not going to win many games with Kovalev, St. Louis, Prospal and a bunch of AHLers.  While this sounds like a bad thing, it means that they will be in the top 2-3 (at worst) in a draft loaded with top end talent.  Now they are building around Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, their prize free agent signing and Jonathan Tavares, Viktor Hedman or “worst case” Matt Duchene or Evander Kane.  That may not win in 2010, but you can bet that if they play their cards right, it will by, say, 2012.  

This really is the single best thing that could happen for the National Hockey League.  Unfortunately, NHL owners are, almost without exception, unable to look big picture, as the Lightning would have to do, which makes this unlikely to go down, because God forbid they have to tell their “fans” that they traded Dan Boyle and Lecavalier in the same year! Even if it is the best thing for their team.  If David Stern ran the NHL, he would absolutely make this happen.


(I really could keep going, but I’m starting to get mad thinking about how much sense this makes and the fact that it will never happen, let’s just move on.)





Anywhere (other than the Southeast division with the possible exception of Washington)-

Ilya Kovalchuk


Vinnie at least won a cup in Tampa, Kovalchuk is a top 5 talent in the NHL and plays in empty buildings, but only until early April.  They won’t trade him, but if there is any justice in the world he will leave in the summer of 2010.  What an enormous shame it would be for him to stay in Atlanta much longer.


(Ok, that doesn’t count, I’ll do one more)


Gary Betteman



David Stern


If you have ever read me before, you don’t need an explanation, if not read this, this, this (not direct, but pretty scathing), this, or thisThat’s 6 Betteman slams in 30 sports columns (four of the posts are notes, one isn’t about sports) we are around 1 in 5, that is Simmons-Isaiah territory.


(Fine, one more real one)


(I would do Jay Beowmeister for Chris Pronger, but that would be good for this guy and the Ducks, and it is my wish list.  The only place that Pronger gets traded on my wish list is to Siberia in exchange for a turd sandwich, but I already did two joke trades, and I couldn’t find the turd sandwich’s cap figure.  That and the fact that this trade doesn’t really make sense for either team, I just wanted to do the turd joke.)



Olli Jokinen (2 years- 5.2 M)



Derick Brassard (2 years- 1.24 M)


I really don’t know why Phoenix would want to trade Jokinen, he is probably the best player on a young team that has a chance to be good as early as next year, and he isn’t in a contract year.  Everyone else seems to think he could move, though, so I am more than happy to go with it. 

                For Columbus, this is a statement move.  That statement: we want to win now.  Jokinen isn’t old, and they really wouldn’t be getting worse down the road, but that is certainly the message in dealing a guy who was the best rookie in the NHL before going down.  It would be difficult to part ways with Brassard, but the upside is too large to turn down.  Nash and Jokinen would thrive together, not to mention be one of the scariest first lines in hockey and give the Jackets a legitimate chance to go deep in the playoffs.  It is a particularly large upgrade for this year, as Brassard is out for the rest of the season.

                Again, I don’t really get dealing Jokinen, but as long as they are going to, they can’t do any better than this.  The injury shouldn’t bother them, they have no real shot of contending this season, and Brassard is young enough that he will make a full recovery.  More importantly, this keeps with the two things they are looking to accomplish.  Picking up the 21 year old Brassard would keep with the build for the future strategy currently in place, and they manage to dump most of Jokinen’s contract, which is the only logical explanation why they would want to get rid of him this year. 


So, three trades, three win-wins.  I don’t ask for much Gary (debatable, I know, but go with it), just get this done for me.

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