Vincent Lecavalier. Jay Bouwmeester. Marian Gaborik. Scott Niedermayer. Tomas Kaberle.
There’s no denying there are some very attractive names being bandied about as the March 4 NHL trade deadline creeps closer.
Any one of those guys, though, is going to cost a contender a first round draft pick, a top prospect and probably a player or two who can step right into the lineup. (That’s what Pittsburgh gave up last season to pry Marian Hossa away from Atlanta.) And it’s also interesting to note that, for all of the last-minute trading frenzy, it’s actually very rare for the team that “wins” on deadline day to also win the Stanley Cup. Anaheim added Brad May at the 2007 deadline and Detroit brought in Brad Stuart last season. Tough customers who contributed and earned their rings, but they weren’t exactly post-season difference-makers.
Here are a few players – all of whom are eligible for unrestricted free agency at the end of the season – who might come relatively cheaply and pay off in a big way:
Filip Kuba, Ottawa: One of the few bright lights on Ottawa’s blueline – or anywhere in Ottawa, for that matter – Kuba can handle big minutes and help the power play.
Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis: He won’t come WalMart cheap – which is good, because then he’d probably just fall apart or give you lead poisoning – but Tkachuk is still a potent power forward after all these years. It just doesn’t happen every night and he’ll be 37 when the playoffs begin. But placed on a team where he’d be relied upon for scoring and leadership support, rather than a lead role, Tkachuk could be a very valuable addition.
Niclas Havelid, Atlanta: One of those defensemen who quietly and efficiently goes about his business, Havelid is a two-way player who can man the point. And he could slide into just about any team’s top-four.
Bill Guerin, Islanders: If you lose out on Tkachuk, there’s always Guerin.
Doug Weight, Islanders: He helped Carolina to the Cup in 2006, when he was 35. Now he’s 38, coming off a couple of lackluster seasons and is out with an injury until late March. Weight might not have much left to give – although, he was playing well this season before going down in mid-February – but he’ll come cheap.
Chris Neil, Ottawa: This is the kind of move an astute team like the Red Wings would make. Neil is tough and gritty first and foremost, but can also play and contribute some offense. By the end of the season, he’ll be a veteran of more than 500 NHL games and went to the Stanley Cup final with the Sens in 2007. Even though he’s out with a lacerated calf until after the deadline, don’t expect that to diminish Neil’s value.
HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin don’t like each other. On the ice, for sure, and probably off it, too.
And that could be the best thing that has happened to the NHL since Walter met Phyllis.
For the NHL, this is Kobe-Shaq, Red Sox-Yankees and Hatfield-McCoy, all rolled up into one. The league couldn’t ask for more than for its two most exciting players to be bitter enemies who will do anything and everything in their power to beat the other guy. That’s sport at its simplest and at its best. And there probably hasn’t been a rivalry like this, between the tip-top players in the NHL, since Ted Lindsay and Maurice Richard used to kill each other between goals in the 1950s.
Not that Ovechkin and Crosby are going to drop the gloves and trade million-dollar haymakers, but it’s safe to say their rivalry has gone from media fantasy to hard reality. Best of all, these guys are in their early, early 20s, they’re in the same conference and they’re surrounded by a bevy of talented teammates. This should be merely the beginning; if we’re lucky, we have 15 years of “Sid hates Ovie” to look forward to.
Please, please, please let the Penguins and Capitals meet in the playoffs.
SAME OLD STRANGER RANGERS
Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan and Martin Straka, three of New York’s top five scorers last season, are long gone. Scott Gomez and Chris Drury haven’t taken over the team, as projected two summers ago when the Rangers signed the pair of free agents to massive, long-term contracts.
By all accounts, No. 1 defenseman Wade Redden has been an unmitigated flop this season – and he’s under contract for five more years at $6.5 million per. Markus Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev, added last summer to replace the lost offense, looked good in October, but haven’t been very visible since. And the rest of the forward spots are taken up by the likes of Lauri Korpikoski, Blair Betts, Fredrik Sjostrom and Aaron Voros – capable role players, but who exactly is doing the scoring?
A quick perusal of the Rangers lineup betrays an obvious fact – they’re not particularly talented, even on the top two lines, and if it wasn’t for star stopper Henrik Lundqvist they wouldn’t even be a playoff contender. They’d be bad, maybe not Islanders-bad, but still pretty bad.
So don’t be too upset, Tom Renney. It wasn’t your fault.
But Glen Sather? It might be time for that long, tough look in the mirror. The Rangers have made the playoffs just three times in the past seven seasons with Sather as GM – the three seasons Renney coached – and have won a total of two playoff rounds since 2000.
New York is 287-263-81 during Sather’s tenure, which is over .500 – but not really, in this 21st century age of shootouts and loser points and three-point games. A Sather-run franchise hasn’t had a good draft since Paul Coffey and Grant Fuhr were teenagers. Free agent after free agent has come in and performed below expectations.
It’s time for the Rangers GM to make the ultimate move and ditch the dead weight in the front office: Himself.
Walter? Phyllis? Who?
In case you were wondering, “Walter and Phyllis” is a reference to Wayne Gretzky’s parents.
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