Beware, sensitive souls and touchy nitpickers – you’re about to read a column adjudging the winners and losers of the NHL’s annual trade deadline.
Before you flash your fangs and begin to type out an expletive-laden email suggesting the victors and vanquished of deadline day can’t truly be determined for years, understand that I am in full agreement with you. Trouble is, history is forever evolving, always being re-written, eternally relative to the perspective of those who pen it.
So kindly bear that in mind when you scan your eyes below this paragraph and get a load of one sod’s views on the trade deadline’s annual rite of multiple passages. If it makes you feel better, we’ll go the politically correct route and separate the teams into The Winners and The Win-Challenged.
Phoenix: For a man who needs league approval every time he makes a financial transaction, Coyotes GM Don Maloney went buck-wild Wednesday and made it rain trades like a Wall St. financier.
Maloney came away with (a) the hit-and-miss scoring skills of Wojtek Wolski; (b) veteran knowhow in Derek Morris and Mathieu Schneider; (c) some scoring depth in Lee Stempniak; and (d) some extra defensive help at forward in Petteri Nokelainen.
Even better – the only player of consequence deleted off Phoenix’s roster was Peter Mueller. That’s a hell of a vote of confidence in the current group that already has rewarded Maloney with an unexpectedly magical season.
Washington: Much more was and is expected of the Capitals than the Yotes, but Caps GM George McPhee almost was as active as Maloney. McPhee also paid mostly in draft picks, bringing solid citizens Scott Walker, Eric Belanger, Milan Jurcina and Joe Corvo into the fold while only sending Brian Pothier off his NHL roster in return.
I’m still not completely convinced Washington should be pinning their hopes on goalies Semyon Varlamov and Jose Theodore. But if they fail in this post-season, it won’t be because of character flaws.
Carolina: We all suspected Jim Rutherford would be an active GM on Deadline Day. But few believed he’d ship out five NHLers – and Ray Whitney wouldn’t be one of them.
To be sure, dealing away Walker, Corvo, Aaron Ward and Stephane Yelle will take some wind out of the Hurricanes’ sails the rest of the year. The good news is that this team still has a late-season playoff push (however improbable) in it, as well as a handful of draft picks and prospects with which to surround an already-solid core.
Anaheim: It was only earlier this season that the Ducks looked like foul fowl and were far closer to securing the No. 1 draft pick this summer than a playoff berth.
However, after the moves GM Bob Murray made Wednesday, it is wholly apparent that management believes this group can make another post-season run.
Adding Aaron Ward is a nice depth deal for the rest of this season. And bringing in Joey MacDonald and Curtis McEhlinney won’t be their downfall. Of course, acquiring the overpaid Lubomir Visnovsky is not without its risks. But if Scott Niedermayer retires in the off-season, at least they now have the dependable offensive defenseman that Ryan Whitney was not.
Pittsburgh: If it wasn’t before, Ray Shero’s blueprint for success has been made clear with the Alexei Ponikarovsky trade: hold onto your star three centers (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal) and keep feeding them a steady diet of wingers on short-term or expiring contracts.
Ponikarovsky has trouble avoiding bad penalties and is a streaky scorer, but he’ll likely post the best points-per-game average of his nine-year NHL career over the next 20 games. Acquiring him for a mid-tier prospect (Luca Caputi) – and dumping an onerous salary (belonging to blueliner Martin Skoula) in the process – represents a job very well done.
Florida: Anybody remember that wonderful letter sent out by Panthers management at the beginning of February? The one apologizing profusely for yet another lousy season from the Panthers? The one promising that the organization would “move quickly and efficiently to overcome (its) shortcomings and reshape (the) franchise on a much more solid foundation”?
Yeah, that one. Well, Florida acquired Craig Weller, Byron Bitz and a second-round pick on Deadline Day. If this is what they’re calling this “quick and efficient”, I am officially suspecting Toyota has bought majority ownership in the team and nobody told us.
Calgary: First, Darryl Sutter trades for another former Maple Leaf in Vesa Toskala. Then, he waves the white flag on 23-year-old Dustin Boyd, sending him to Nashville for a fourth-round pick. Then he deals for Steve Staios to help eat up some of the cap space he created in the Dion Phaneuf swap.
Perhaps you can discern method from madness in Sutter’s Deadline Day dealings. I cannot.
Philadelphia: (I’m very tempted to write this section using Kanye West’s patented all-caps communication tactics, but I’m going to retain my dignity and ask you to just imagine these next three paragraphs in block letters. )
Dear Paul Holmgren: You’ve been a Flyer for a long time. Longer than Madonna has paid producers to come up with music she claims as her own creation. So you must know the role and ramifications of bad goaltending in modern-day Flyers history.
Which makes me wonder – especially in light of Ray Emery’s season-ending injury – why in the name of Roman Cechmanek did you not make a deal for another goalie and leave Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton holding the team’s future in their well-traveled hands?
Are you intentionally flipping the bird to fate, or do you really just appreciate tradition no matter which form it takes? Please advise before thousands of Philadelphia-area stomach linings are completely eaten away by ulcers.
Los Angeles: If I were to tell you an NHL GM would trade a 24-year-old NCAA force and potential NHL power play menace in return for a 33-year-old center who missed 30 games after knee surgery last year, you’d think former Lions GM Matt Millen switched sports, right?
Wrong. Dean Lombardi did it Wednesday when he brought in Jeff Halpern from the Lightning for Teddy Purcell and a third-round draft pick. You have to like what Lombardi has done since taking over as Kings GM, but I can’t help but wonder if he could’ve had Alexei Ponikarovsky at the same price.
The bottom line: The Kings were in the mix for Ray Whitney and Ponikarovsky. They wound up with Halpern and Fredrik Modin.
Perhaps they didn’t overpay, but nobody can guarantee that’s a good thing.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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