NEWS: NHL Trade Deadline Review
The NHL trade season has now passed and deadline day brought plenty of excitement. To see all the trade transactions (back to January 2014), check out CBS Sports’ listing of trades. Read on to see my highlights, winners, and losers.
It seems like old news now, but the first big deal of this year’s trade season was Buffalo sending Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues. Buffalo received Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, and William Carrier to fill out the roster. More important for Buffalo were the picks received (2015 1st rounder and 2016 3rd rounder). Buffalo ended up flipping Halak to the Washington Capitals at the deadline along with a 2015 3rd round pick and got Michal Neuvirth and Rostislav Klesla. Neuvirth has a career 0.910 save percentage and a 2.67 GAA.
One of the biggest names in Defense trade targets was the New York Islanders’ Andrew MacDonald, who went to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers sent back Matt Mangene, a young prospect, and a 2014 3rd round and 2015 2nd round pick. Once MacDonald was off the market it put pressure on other teams who were looking to lock up solid help on the defense. One example is the Boston Bruins who ended up with Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter (from waivers). Both are depth defenseman – Meszaros being displaced off the Flyer’s roster when they added MacDonald.
Another big goaltender move saw the Vancouver Canucks sending Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers along with Steven Anthony and getting back Jacob Markstrom and Shawn Matthias. The trade was especially interesting because it appeared that Luongo would be teammates with Tim Thomas who both had been part of a dramatic storyline during the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. But the Panthers would end up trading Thomas to the Dallas Stars in return for Dan Ellis, a depth goaltender. Oddly enough, the Panthers had planned a Tim Thomas Bobblehead day this Sunday 3/9. Maybe a nice collectible if you live in Sunrise, Florida?
The two biggest deals involved high scoring forwards. The Tampa Bay Lightning sent Martin St. Louis to the New York Rangers and the Islanders sent Thomas Vanek to Montreal. St. Louis may be the blockbuster deal, as it involved a rare captain for captain trade seeing the Rangers send Ryan Callahan and picks (2015 1st round, 2014 2nd round (can become 1st round)) to Tampa Bay. This also was a strange trade as both the Rangers and Lightening are current playoff contenders, and are in the same conference. The Vanek trade also makes headlines because it was very one sided with the Islanders only getting a prospect and conditional picks in return.
There were many other moves that could make an impact on teams as they push for the playoffs. The LA Kings could see a spark to their offense with the addition of Marian Gaborik from the Blue Jackets (reminiscent of when the Kings got Jeff Carter in 2012 and then won the Stanley Cup). The Boston Bruins were unable to land a top four defenseman to help handle the loss of Dennis Seidenberg, instead getting depth defensive help. David Legwand was traded from the Nashville Predators (the only team he has ever played for) to his hometown Detroit Redwings, where he may be able to help stabilize a forward group that has multiple injuries. The fun now starts to see which moves worked, and which did not.
I think Buffalo may be the biggest winner long term. Jhonas Entroth and Neuvirth will be a serviceable goalie tandem who have a cap friendly contracts expiring in 2015 and totaling $3.75 million per year. They are no longer tied to Miller who appeared to be fatigued with playing in Buffalo. The front office was also shaken up with Pat LaFontaine resigning from his position as President of Hockey Operations. It’s now Tim Murray’s show. Buffalo has sent the message that they are rebuilding and will have the most amount of cap space to work with next season. Murray has the cap room to secure core players or sign free agents. He has secured future picks to be able to continue strengthening the future of the organization. Finally, they have a young potential star in Zemgus Girgensons to build around.
The Canadiens have won the immediate trade deadline. They absolutely stole Thomas Vanek from the Islanders, and immediately closed the gap with Divisional and Conference rivals. Vanek is a known thorn in the Bruins side, scoring as many as 61 points in the 53 games he’s played against Boston, and Montreal knows that he will make the playoffs interesting. The only downside for Montreal is Vanek will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. It’s unlikely Vanek won’t want to test free agency, so Montreal is unlikely to be able to retain him past this season. Their insurance is that the picks they gave to the Islanders are conditional based on how far the Habs go in the playoffs.
The Florida Panthers are my final winner. They are another team that has set themselves up to be able to rebuild. They have a core of young talent in players like Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Dmitry Kulikov. They added Brandon Pirri in a low key deal with the Chicago Blackhawks for picks, but Pirri will now have an opportunity to fight for an NHL roster spot. Roberto Luongo has history with the Panthers, spending six seasons early in his career with the Cats, making his transition back much easier. Finally, Dale Tallon was given the green light by ownership to spend to the cap. The Panthers will have the third most cap space next season giving Tallon plenty of room to beef up the roster, and with future picks stocked up he can strengthen the core via the draft as well.
The Islander were absolutely fleeced in their two deals. Sending Thomas Vanek to Montreal and Andrew MacDonald to the Flyers completely undoes previous work to strengthen the team. MacDonald is emerging as a top four NHL defenseman and was a home grown fan favorite. Vanek is a perennial 20+ goal scorer who succeeds in Eastern Conference competition. The Islanders seemed to give up on a strategy of building around emerging core players – instead walking away with a handful of picks (two of which are conditional on Montreal doing well in the playoffs) and a prospect in Sebastien Collberg who they got from Montreal. Garth Snow has been inconsistent in his decisions – flip-flopping the strategy and direction of the organization. Fans should be incensed.
Luongo has been sliding in Vancouver ever since the 2011 Stanley Cup loss to the Bruins. Conflict was brewing with the organization, and became clear when John Tortorella sat Luongo out of the Heritage Classic against Ottawa. Luongo was vocal in his disappointment and this likely accelerated his departure. The Canucks were also in lots of rumors that Ryan Kesler was being dealt. Ultimately none of the offers for Kesler came to fruition and Vancouver seems stuck. The Canucks appear to be in the same mold as the Islanders, with inconsistent strategy and decision making leading to chaos. It sounds like ownership was also intervening, making it nearly impossible for commitment to a purposeful direction. Vancouver could miss the playoffs for the first time in six years.
The Lightning didn’t lose this deadline because their return for St. Louis was lacking, but more because of what it says about the organization. When your Captain collapses mentally, demands to be traded, and only provides one team as your option – it put Steve Yzerman in a position that is nearly impossible to come out a winner and sends a terrible message to the locker room. Sure they will get Ryan Callahan, a Captain himself, but he was having his own conflict with the Rangers as he tried to nail down an extension and couldn’t settle on terms. The Lightning were playoff contenders who were about to get Steven Stamkos back from injury and reunited with St. Louis, now that is gone and you can’t help but feel it’s weakened the team.