Monday, February 28, 2011
Trade deadline: Jury in or out?
By Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun
We break down the day's action to see which teams look like obvious winners and which teams will have to wait to be proved right or wrong.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Rookie GM Steve Yzerman got his shopping done early by adding Dwayne Roloson and defensemen Marc-Andre Bergeron and Eric Brewer. The Lightning now represent a legitimate threat to the usual Eastern Conference powers.
New York Rangers: The Rangers added a big, veteran defensive body in Bryan McCabe without giving up significant assets. Then, they resisted the temptation to chase down Brad Richards and kept what is a fine group of mostly homegrown players intact. They may not win the Cup this year but they didn't follow the rocky deadline path GM Glen Sather has followed in the past.
Vancouver Canucks: Thought it was interesting that Vancouver GM Mike Gillis added two former Montreal Canadiens to a roster that is Canada's best hope in a long time to take the Stanley Cup north of the border for the first time since 1993. Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre have been around the media circus in Montreal. They understand. And even though Higgins is out with a broken thumb, both bring skill sets that complement an already deep and talented Canucks roster.
Los Angeles Kings: Will Dustin Penner make Kings fans forget Ilya Kovalchuk and Brad Richards? He might. The Kings added the top-six forward they've been coveting and now look ready to challenge Vancouver, Detroit and San Jose.
Pittsburgh Penguins: GM Ray Shero has done a masterful job in a difficult situation, what with the uncertainty surrounding captain Sidney Crosby. He has talented winger James Neal moving forward regardless of whether Crosby comes back this season or not. Plus if Crosby does return, Neal and Alexei Kovalev represent two big upgrades on the wing for a team that is among the toughest teams to play against in the league.
Boston Bruins: They might have overpaid for Tomas Kaberle and Chris Kelly, but they filled their needs nice and early and didn’t have to sweat it out Monday at the deadline. The Bruins haven't lost since picking up Kaberle, the move paying immediate dividends. The B's acted quickly and decidedly and are a serious Stanley Cup contender because of it. Great job by GM Peter Chiarelli.
Los Angeles Kings: GM Dean Lombardi was able to address his most glaring need, a top-six forward, without losing a player off his current roster and most notably, without dealing away the organization's most prized prospect in Brayden Schenn. Dustin Penner is a solid upgrade and should play his best hockey back in SoCal now that he's removed from an Edmonton market where he might have felt too much pressure to continually justify the massive offer sheet the Oilers lured him with. Under immense pressure, Lombardi delivered and he still has Schenn. Fantastic.
Vancouver Canucks: The Western Conference leaders didn't need much but they added a couple of complementary pieces Monday that could prove useful. They got some third-line offense in Chris Higgins and some fourth-line sandpaper in Max Lapierre. More importantly, GM Mike Gillis added two players who are ready for the fishbowl and expectations of hockey-mad Vancouver, both additions having cut their teeth in the biggest frying pan of all in Montreal. Don't discount that factor in Monday's additions.
Pittsburgh Penguins: If Sidney Crosby doesn't return, the Pens are toast anyway, but in the meantime, GM Ray Shero showed once again why he's one of the shrewdest deal-makers in the business, year in and year out (Marian Hossa, Bill Guerin) making impact trades that help his team. James Neal was a big-time add-on and filled a huge need on the wing. Alexei Kovalev, well, who knows what he'll produce, but Shero gave up next to nothing for him. Brilliant pre-deadline by Shero.
St. Louis Blues: We won't really know for a few years, but the more you talk to people around the league, the more GM Doug Armstrong is lauded for the biggest trade of the season when he picked up Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattentirk from the Colorado Avalanche. Sure, there's a chance Erik Johnson lives up to his first overall draft billing, but between Alex Pietrangelo and the inclusion of Shattenkirk in the deal, the Blues should more than survive the loss on the blue line. In Stewart, they picked up a franchise-type power forward who combined with David Backes will terrorize the league for years. Take a bow, Mr. Armstrong.
Washington Capitals: We like and understand the addition of defenseman Dennis Wideman with Mike Green looking as if he's going to be out for some time with a head injury. But the Caps paid a steep price for Jason Arnott, a guy who frankly hasn't delivered the goods in the playoffs the past couple of years in Nashville. Arnott’s Stanley Cup-winning goal was a long time ago. A long time ago.
Phoenix Coyotes: We understand that GM Don Maloney's hands were tied fiscally. And the Coyotes have been surprisingly potent offensively, ranking 11th in the league in goals per game. But it still seemed counterproductive to give up Scottie Upshall (16 goals) and defenseman Sami Lepisto to bring back injury-prone Rostislav Klesla even if Klesla represents much-needed size on the back end.
Detroit Red Wings: It seems like a small thing given how well starter Jimmy Howard has done, but Detroit GM Ken Holland is hanging his hat on the belief that veteran netminder Chris Osgood can return from a sports hernia injury that has kept him out for weeks. With a number of goaltenders available, including popular former Wing Ty Conklin, who was put on waivers by St. Louis this week, it would have seemed logical to be safer than potentially sorry if Osgood can’t answer the bell and grab another goaltender before the deadline.
Nashville Predators: We know Nashville Predators GM David Poile did add Mike Fisher a couple of weeks before the deadline itself, but with the injury to top center Marcel Goc and the need to not just make the playoffs but make some sort of run, we were a bit surprised Poile didn't make even a minor deal on Monday.
Dallas Stars: Can't help but think Joe Nieuwendyk will kick himself over not moving the most sought-after player at the deadline, especially if the Stars miss the playoffs, and he will double-kick himself if he can’t get Richards to re-sign in Dallas after that. Not sure he got full value for James Neal in an earlier deal with Pittsburgh, and now he may lose a guy who could have helped restock the team for years to come.
Dallas Stars: One NHL GM told ESPN.com recently that Joe Nieuwendyk had the most unenviable situation in recent memory on his hands in Brad Richards. Trade him and you likely wreck your playoff chances. Keep him and you risk getting nothing in return for a valuable asset next July. Nieuwendyk would have been second-guessed no matter what he chose to do, in this case keeping Richards for the playoff run. If the Stars have a deep run, it'll be the right call. If they miss the playoffs or lose in the first round, it’ll be deemed a brutal decision. Unfair, but the truth.
Montreal Canadiens: The Habs didn't add an impact forward as their fans had hoped and more importantly perhaps, didn't add any toughness to a soft lineup. We think GM Pierre Gauthier was smart, however, for not selling the farm in future assets in exchange for a rental player. Fact is, the Habs are not just one player away from winning the Cup. This wasn’t the season where it was worth paying that kind of price. The long-term view was more important, even if Montreal fans aren't happy with the lack of activity Monday.
Florida Panthers: Really depends on how you view it, right? Is Dale Tallon on his way to rebuilding the Panthers like he did the Blackhawks, stripping them bare and starting over, or is he simply shedding salaries because his owners don't want to spend money anymore? Probably a bit of both. Tallon has a keen eye for young talent, so Panthers fans should be encouraged that he's aggressively started the rebuild. But the instability at the ownership level and penny-pinching ways are a major, major red flag.
Ottawa Senators: Bryan Murray did his best impersonation of Tallon, moving bodies over the past few weeks with tremendous urgency and kick-starting the rebuild in a serious manner. The concern, however, is just where is all this headed? Was it really a smart idea to keep Phillips for three more years at $3 million-plus a season? Are there enough prospects ready to make the jump next season? Tough questions. A lottery pick in June will be a blessing, however, and Craig Anderson may end up being the best trade Murray has made in a long time, if the netminder continues the way he's played since arriving in Ottawa and the Sens can re-sign him at a reasonable rate before July 1.
Washington Capitals: The Caps are a better and deeper team today then they were yesterday after picking up Dennis Wideman and Jason Arnott. But we put them in the Jury's Out category because we feel they overpaid for Arnott, which displays the level of desperation on a team that has more pressure than any other to win this season. And quite frankly, the jury is indeed out on this mystifying team that has forgotten how to score goals and felt the need to add Arnott and Marco Sturm over the past few days to help upgrade an offense that couldn't be stopped last season. Credit to GM George McPhee for not standing idly by Monday, but question remains whether this team has the right stuff.