Photo Credit:Don McPeak \ USA TODAY Sports Images
Goal scorers, play makers, defensemen, draft picks, goalies, what do NHL teams need to be successful? Well, all of those things, but if your team already has a few of those components, trade deadline day is a great day to stock your teams shelf with the ones you don’t have. Some GMs may be desperate to get rid of a guy who is a pending unrestricted free agent, some may want to load up for a playoff run and of course, there are always some, more often than not out of Long Island, who just leave you scratching your head and saying…WHY?
Trade deadline day was not as epic because the amount of trades today, however, because of the names that moved. Goal scoring names like Vanek, Moulson, St. Louis and Gaborik were some of the players that will be wearing a new jersey for the remainder of the year. More shocking are the players, or rather the lack there of, that went back for such high profile NHL stars. Mainly draft picks and sub level prospects were on the move the other way. Nothing wrong with draft picks of course. The sinking organization of the Buffalo Sabres seemed to understand that and did a very good job stocking themselves up for a bright future filled with young talent and likely a few more losing seasons before they can attempt to emulate the successes of Pittsburgh and Chicago when it comes to building through the draft.
So who won and who lost the day? Who made moves that leave something to be desired? And who stood pat thinking that they are either bad enough to stay low and get some draft picks or good enough to run with the big dogs without even having to make a move?
5. Washington Capitals
Alexander Ovechkin is one of those pure talent players who likes to crash and bang with the best third liners that the NHL has to offer. What if, however, Ovechkin did not need to make his own space out on the ice. Nicklas Backstrom sure is a great talent and can get Ovie the puck, but what if they had a giant winger who would go into the corners and pulverize anyone who stood in their way? Dustin Penner can surely do that, and he can also play a little bit of hockey, as he has a thirty goal season under his belt as well as a Stanley Cup. Penner is used to playing with supreme talent (Getzlaf and Perry) and he is used to knocking some bodies around to let the stars, be stars.Seems like a perfect fit on a line who have been struggling to find some balance on their left side.
The Caps, however, had another uncertainty that was met today. The see-saw of goalies in the last few years has gone from Michael Neuvirth to Semyon Varlamov to Jose Theodore and had landed on Braden Holtby for awhile until they handed it back to well, Neuvirth. Enough was enough in Washington and they decided Holtby was staying but Neuvirth was out the door. Enter Jaroslav Halak, yes, THE Jaro Halak who upset the Caps those many years ago in 2010, when the Caps were in first place and Ovie was poised to do what Crosby had done just one year previous, win it all! Well you know what they say, if you can’t beat’em, wait four years and make a move for him at the deadline after he had already been traded to another team. It is a common expression. The Caps now seem set up front and in goal, and the only thing will be to see how their D can do in the playoffs now that the roster is set.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning / New York Rangers
The trade that brought Martin St. Louis to New York was really a toss up. Ryan Callahan went the other way along with a couple of high draft picks in next years draft. On the surface, the Rangers are getting a two-time Art Ross trophy winner and all they are giving up is their captain. In the points and talent department, Callahan does not hold a torch to St Louis. The picks balance the trade out rather well, but also, given the age of the players that were swapped, Tampa seems to be in a better position moving forward. St Louis is nearing retirement and Callahan is in the prime of his career at 28 years old. However, the Lightning will need to hope that they can get Callahan under contract after this year. The Lightning are doing well this year despite the fact that they really do not have much talent across the lineup. They will hope to pick some talent up with the picks that came with the trade, while the Rangers, who are in a dogfight for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, really need help in the present. Marty St. Louis can be that help, the scoring threat that can take some pressure off of Rick Nash and give the Rangers some scoring depth. Looks like a win-win.
3. Montreal Canadiens
Sebastian Colberg is not a prospect to be taken lightly. He is a very solid Swedish youngster who has a decent chance of playing in this league one day. The same could actually have been said of Vanek when he was a young player, but the fact is, he is older now and he eclipsed 30 goals in the NHL four times in his career and 40 goals twice. Goal scoring? Do the Canadiens’ need any of that? They need it desperately. The only stronger goal scorer who changed address today was Marian Gaborik, which may be debatable, but still the Canadiens seem to have come out ahead of this deal. For a rental player, giving up one prospect and a pick is not a bad deal. You get a guy who will help you instantaneously and you gave up a guy who your scouts tell you may only ever end up playing on your third line. They already have Lars Eller, so Colberg was more than a moveable part. Sitting third place in the East, a fairly weak Eastern Conference no less, the Canadiens might think that this is the year to make some noise, with an elite goaltender (Olympic Gold medalist Carey Price) and now some scoring to back that up, a wild ride through the playoffs is a possibility. With the Bruins and Penguins hurting, you never know.
2. Buffalo Sabres
For a team that really did not acquire any NHL ready talent for the remainder of the NHL season, the Buffalo Sabres really did a bang up job. With pending free agents Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek already shipped out before the trade deadline arrived, they were left with Jaroslav Halak and Matt Moulson to move. In both of those trades, for Miller and Vanek, they had already received a few draft picks. Today, they decided to sell the farm, and look for a new farm at the NHL draft. They got rid of any loose ends and traded it to stockpile assets. They shipped Halak out to Washington and they’ll see what that third round pick, and young goalie Michael Neuvirth, will bring them. Halak is a fine NHL goalie, but at his age, and with a team that is not ready to win any time in the near future, he was a very moveable and sought after piece of a puzzle for another team. Next! They got rid of Matt Moulson because, just as the story goes for Halak, the same goes for Moulson at a different position. The Minnesota Wild needed some scoring to settle themselves into a playoff spot, so they came inquiring and the Sabres were more than happy to oblige. They also got Torrey Mitchell, a very useful NHL roster player, and two solid draft picks. Without landing anyone who will wow the crowd this year at the First Niagara Center, the Sabres fans’ have to be happy that the future, barring some horrible drafting, at least has the promise of being bright.
1. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings did very well for themselves in acquiring some much needed offense. A team stacked with talent, who have had a very tough time scoring goals, have definitely picked up a key asset in the quest for another Cup. The defensive style of Daryl Sutter clearly is not conducive to goal scoring, nor does it suit a sniper like Gaborik. Or does it? Marian Gaborik has hit the 30 goal mark seven times in his career and five of those times were under the defensive mastery of coach Jacques Lemaire. He even once reached 40 goals while in Minnesota. Perhaps in some twisted joke of the hockey Gods, a pure scorer like Gaborik can flourish under a defensive system. The Kings are definitely hoping he does and when it comes to addressing a need, Dean Lombardi has sure done well for his team on this day. Need a scorer? Get the best one available. What more can you ask of a GM if you are a coach.