Don Waddell received his fair share of criticism last season when he paid an arm and a leg for Keith Tkachuk and his Atlanta Thrashers were then swept out of the NHL playoffs in the first round.
That deal was thought to have scared off other general managers from giving up too much in return for rental players at this year’s trade deadline.
Guess again. Waddell stunned many around the hockey community at Tuesday’s trade deadline when he picked up an impressive package in return for Thrashers sniper Marian Hossa and forward Pascal Dupuis from the Pittsburgh Penguins – more than recouping his losses from last year’s Tkachuk deal and getting some help for this year’s playoff chase.
Waddell was able to play off competing interest in Hossa from Montreal, Boston, Ottawa and Detroit to drive the price up as the 3 p.m. ET deadline neared. It worked to perfection.
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would have believed that Hossa could have fetched forwards Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen, 2007 first-rounder Angelo Esposito and a first-round pick in the 2008 entry draft.
Even with the new additions, the Thrashers probably won’t make the playoffs this season but they’ve set themselves up nicely going forward.
Pittsburgh paid too much for Hossa – and that will catch up with them later – but in the very short term the Pens get some credit for taking a run in a wide-open (some would say mediocre) Eastern Conference. Hossa brings his soft hands to an offence spear-headed by star forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
In the process, not only did the Penguins get better for the next three months but they prevented conference rivals Ottawa and Montreal from getting their hands on Hossa. It was a double-whammy for the Pens. Their time is now.
That’s exactly what the Dallas Stars were thinking when they beat out Vancouver, Chicago and Columbus for the services of centre Brad Richards.
The Stars have been impressive in rising up to second in the Western Conference but ask anyone around the game and they’d tell you they weren’t quite in the same league as Detroit, San Jose and Anaheim. That changed with the Richards deal. The 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner brings big-game experience and an impressive two-way game to a club that needed to find more offence.
The critics will point to the less-than-impressive season Richards was having in Tampa Bay but when you consider he was stuck behind Vincent Lecavalier up the middle and had less-than-stellar players as wingers, it’s obvious Richards will bring more to the table on a more talented team. And he’ll come with a chip on his shoulder after being the discarded star in Tampa’s Big Three.
Championships are won down the middle in the NHL and Dallas can now boast a 1-2-3 punch of Richards, Mike Ribeiro and Mike Modano at centre. An impressive coup for co-GMs Brett Hull and Les Jackson.
The San Jose Sharks were picked by many to win the Stanley Cup before the season but have suffered through an inconsistent season. Sometimes GMs fall in love with their teams and can’t recognize a need for change. Credit GM Doug Wilson for making the bold move of acquiring defenceman Brian Campbell from the Buffalo Sabres – a top-notch power-play quarterback that will instantly help a unit that lags 20th overall in the NHL. And here’s betting Campbell – slated for unrestricted free agency July 1 – ends up staying in San Jose past this season.
Colorado and Washington were also winners – the Avs adding Peter Forsberg on Monday and following that up with veteran defenceman Adam Foote and blue-liner Ruslan Salei on Tuesday. The Capitals signalled they want to make the playoff party when they added goalie Cristobal Huet, centre Sergei Fedorov and winger Matt Cooke – and they didn’t give up much either.
The big loser on this day? That’s easy – Montreal. That might be unfair to GM Bob Gainey, who’s done a marvellous job of rebuilding the Canadiens since his arrival. But the bottom line is a Montreal team that is challenging for the Eastern Conference title made one move on trade deadline day – dealing away a goalie in Huet who had played the majority of games this season. Say what?
There’s no question Carey Price was going to take over next season and maybe even over the next few weeks, but keeping Huet as playoff insurance would have been more prudent even if fellow rookie Jaroslav Halak has shown promise. And we already outlined Montreal falling short in acquiring Hossa. A tough day if you’re a fan of the Montreal Canadiens.
The Ottawa Senators get a pass. Yes they failed in acquiring Hossa or any top-notch offensive talent but in the big picture, they added Cory Stillman, Mike Commdore and Martin Lapointe over the past month, Lapointe bringing his two Stanley Cup rings to Ottawa at the deadline.
The reality for this struggling Ottawa team is that the answer lies from within the dressing room. Time to start playing like contenders again.
Fans of the Vancouver Canucks are surely unhappy that neither Richards nor Florida’s Olli Jokinen came aboard. But GM Dave Nonis stuck to his guns and didn’t deviate from the prospects he was ready to deal. He wasn’t going to destroy his core group with a nervous deadline deal.
And what about the defending Stanley Cup champs? The Anaheim Ducks didn’t do much other than adding defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron and goalie J.S. Aubin. They didn’t do much last year either, only adding Brad May, but it seemed to work out just fine for them.
The Ducks are a force to be reckoned with and won’t regret being silent again at the deadline.