The NHL’s trade deadline might have lacked sizzle, but a few moves could end up packing some punch.
The flurry of deals made Wednesday saw mostly role players, minor-leaguers and draft picks change hands. It’s the second consecutive year that the final day of trading passed without a signature, blockbuster move – perhaps a function of the salary-cap system which seems to have handcuffed several general managers.
Many of those men began the day with the will to make a big deal, but simply struggled to find a way to make it happen.
“We’re prepared to improve in every way we can all the time,” said Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis. “If there isn’t an improvement there, you can’t manufacture it. It’s not something I have complete control over – you have to have partners that are prepared to give you what you want for the price you want to pay. If you can’t find that, you can’t find it. …
“There was tremendous competition for not a whole lot of players.”
Ilya Kovalchuk and Dion Phaneuf changed addresses before the Olympic break and no one with a similar profile moved after it was over.
With that in mind, here’s a look at five interesting moves on deadline day:
1. Phoenix acquires Wojtek Wolski from Colorado for Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter: A move with some risk on both sides as they exchanged former first-round picks. This was the signature trade on a busy day for Coyotes GM Don Maloney, who brought in five NHL players to help with an important playoff push. They’ll be looking for Wolski to join the top line and contribute offensively, an area the team felt it could use some improvement. “It was the one name that made a tremendous amount of sense,” Maloney said of Wolski.
In Mueller, the Coyotes part with a 21-year-old who has seen his production drop in each of his first three NHL seasons. He’ll get a fresh start in Colorado alongside Jones, a Coyotes minor-leaguer this year. The Avalanche will be looking for further development from the two young forwards.
2. Anaheim acquires Lubomir Visnovsky from Edmonton for Ryan Whitney and a sixth-round pick: A deal of two recent Olympians, Whitney arrives in Edmonton with a smaller cap hit than Visnovsky (US$4 million over the next three seasons vs. $5.6 million). He’s also younger and will be looking to get his career back on track after experiencing some struggles in California. This is a move made with the long term in mind for Edmonton.
In Visnovsky, the Ducks add a blue-liner a with fairly strong offensive upside. Anaheim is hovering near the middle of the pack in the Western Conference but could be dangerous come playoff time.
3. Buffalo acquires Raffi Torres from Columbus for Nathan Paetsch and a second-round pick: The Sabres add some grit and get it from a guy who has an expiring contract and is in the midst of a solid season. Not very much risk in that. Torres was an important part of Edmonton’s long playoff run in 2006 and will be looking to make a similar contribution in Buffalo.
For Columbus, this is a part of the rebuild. They likely weren’t going to retain Torres beyond this season and get a player and pick in his place.
4. Calgary acquires Steve Staios from Edmonton for Aaron Johnson and a third-round pick: A deal between Edmonton and Calgary? That alone makes this deal noteworthy. “There’s a nice healthy rivalry between the two clubs,” said Staios. After spending the past eight years in Edmonton, he’ll make the move south and try to help get the Flames into the post-season. Staios brings depth to the blue-line and another veteran presence to the dressing room.
5. Washington acquires Eric Belanger from Minnesota for a second-round draft pick: Even though this move didn’t garner much attention, it could end up being notable as the games get increasingly important. Belanger adds some nice depth to a Capitals team that is already well-stocked with scorers and could see time on the penalty kill. The veteran centre should also bring a little more defensive awareness to the NHL’s top team.