Every NHL Team's Biggest Blunder in the Last 5 Years

Allan MitchellFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2014

Every NHL Team's Biggest Blunder in the Last 5 Years

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    NHL teams do their due diligence on every transaction and work hard to limit mistakes. The idea of making trades is to borrow from areas of strength in order to address weaknesses.

    There are times when the best-laid plans blow up, and when it happens, managers sometimes answer with their jobs. No team in the league can avoid these kinds of trades, but some are more harmful than others.

    Here's a team-by-team look at the biggest blunders over the past five seasons.

Anaheim Ducks Acquire Francois Beauchemin

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    The Deal: On February 9, 2011, the Anaheim Ducks traded Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner and a fourth-round selection to the Toronto Maple Leafs for trusted defenseman Francois Beauchemin.

    The Purpose of the Trade: The Ducks acquired a reliable veteran who could play 22-24 minutes per night and face the opposition's best players. Anaheim gave up a lot of its future, but Beauchemin would give the Ducks years of quality service.

    What Went Wrong: Toronto received a top-flight young defender in Gardiner, who looks poised to have a long run as a useful puck-moving defenseman in Toronto. Lupul regained his health and started filling the net, and the draft pick was used by the Leafs as part of the Dave Bolland trade. Anaheim received short-term value with Beauchemin but paid a heavy long-term price to get it done.

Arizona Coyotes Trade Kyle Turris to Ottawa Senators

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    The Deal: On December 17, 2011, the Arizona Coyotes traded Kyle Turris to the Ottawa Senators for David Rundblad and a 2012 second-round pick.

    The Purpose of the Move: The Coyotes rushed Turris to the NHL and then grew impatient with his lack of progress. The trade was made in order to move on from a failed lottery pick and get value while it was still available.

    What Went Wrong: Arizona didn't wait long enough for Turris to mature. The young forward is a brilliant player in Ottawa and is getting offensive results despite playing tough opposition. The return has not delivered on the same level. David Rundblad never established himself with the Coyotes and was sent away for a draft pick. The second-round selection in the original trade ended up being dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Antoine Vermette.

Boston Bruins Trade Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars

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    The Deal: On July 4, 2013, the Boston Bruins traded Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button to the Dallas Stars. In return, Boston acquired Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Joe Morrow and Matt Fraser.

    The Purpose of the Move: The Bruins were frustrated with Tyler Seguin's performance in the 2012-13 postseason and dealt away a big part of their future. Boston is a veteran team, and Seguin is a very young and maturing talent. It was not a good marriage in the spring of 2013. 

    What Went Wrong: Predictably, Seguin continued to mature and impact the NHL game. He was traded for talented players who were nevertheless shy on talent, and Dallas now has one of the brightest stars in the game. The Bruins added to their depth, but are an aging team that is unlikely to uncover a similar player in the near future.

Buffalo Sabres Trade Daniel Paille to the Boston Bruins

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    The Deal: On October 20, 2009, the Buffalo Sabres traded Daniel Paille to the Boston Bruins for a third-round selection in the 2010 draft.

    The Purpose of the Move: The Sabres were a very good team in 2009-10, and Paille was the odd man out up front. Buffalo dealt him after only two games, and Paille filled a role effectively in Boston. In 2011, Paille was part of the Stanley Cup-winning Bruins team and remains effective through this day.

    What Went Wrong: Buffalo kept waiting for Paille to turn into the player the team projected him to be instead of seeing him for what he's become in Boston. A useful role player who can play a two-way game has value—certainly more than the Sabres received in the deal. The draft pick was used on Kevin Sundher, who is having a difficult time scoring in the AHL.

Calgary Flames Trade the Pick That Turns into Zemgus Girgensons

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    The Deal: On June 22, 2012, the Calgary Flames traded the No. 14 overall selection to the Buffalo Sabres for picks No. 21 and No. 42 in 2012.

    The Purpose of the Move: Calgary arrived at the No. 14 overall selection and decided to deal down. The best offer came from Buffalo, who dealt its first- and second-round picks for the right to take Zemgus Girgensons. Corey Pronman from Hockey Prospectus ranked Girgensons as the No. 14 prospect in the draft. The Flames drafted Mark Jankowski and Patrick Sieloff with their selections, who both ranked far lower on his list.

    What Went Wrong: Girgensons turned out as advertised and is already a going concern in the NHL. Jankowski is taking a long time to develop, and Sieloff is developing as expected, but neither player is close to having Girgensons' skill set.

Carolina Hurricanes Sign Cam Ward Long Term

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    The Deal: On September 30, 2009, the Carolina Hurricanes signed goaltender Cam Ward to a six-year contract extension. The value of the contract was $37.8 million.

    The Purpose of the Move: Carolina won a Stanley Cup in 2006 with Ward playing brilliantly. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP that spring and has been the starting goalie for the Hurricanes since.

    What Went Wrong: Ward has been average in most seasons since the Cup victory in 2006, and last season he performed poorly. The contract expires in 2016, and Carolina is spending a lot of money on a goalie who is below average.

Chicago Blackhawks Trade Dustin Byfuglien to Get Below Cap

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    The Deal: On June 24, 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks traded Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and Akim Aliu to the Atlanta Thrashers. Chicago received Marty Reasoner, Joey Crabb and Jeremy Morin, plus first- and second-round picks in the 2010 draft. 

    The Purpose of the Move: On June 23, Pro Hockey Talk ran a James O'Brien story that gave details of the developing trade and the reasons behind it. O'Brien quotes a tweet from USA Today columnist Kevin Allen breaking the deal and discusses Chicago's need to cut payroll. A follow-up article by Joe Yerdon via Pro Hockey Talk confirmed the complete trade and added some details. The original cap difficulties were a result of an error by Dale Tallon. An account of the story is available from an Associated Press article via ESPN. 

    What Went Wrong: Chicago was never going to win this deal, but the first- and second-round selections had a chance to help the team's cause. The first-round selection was spent on Kevin Hayes, who famously refused to sign with the 'Hawks recently. The second-round selection was Justin Holl, who signed with Chicago's AHL team, according to this article by Jason Gonzales of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Colorado Avalanche Trade Craig Anderson to the Ottawa Senators

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    The Deal: On February 18, 2011, the Colorado Avalanche traded Craig Anderson to the Ottawa Senators for Brian Elliott.

    The Purpose of the Move: As this Adrian Dater article from The Denver Post indicates, the Avalanche had soured on Anderson—one year after he had delivered a stellar performance. Colorado received only Brian Elliott in return in a year that Elliott had struggled and was deemed a backup.

    What Went Wrong: Colorado walked away from Elliott, who would emerge as a solid goaltender in St. Louis. Anderson became an impact goaltender in Ottawa, thriving in the Eastern Conference and returning to previous form. The Avalanche paid a heavy price for Semyon Varlamov in the summer of 2011, but he would solve Colorado's goaltending problems.

Columbus Blue Jackets Acquire Marian Gaborik from New York Rangers

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    The Deal: On April 3, 2013, the Columbus Blue Jackets traded Derick Brassard, John Moore, Derek Dorsett and a sixth-round selection in the 2014 draft to the New York Rangers. In exchange, the Blue Jackets received Marian Gaborik, Steven Delisle and Blake Parlett.

    The Purpose of the Move: Columbus had traded Rick Nash to the Rangers and was in need of a high-scoring winger. Gaborik was not flourishing in New York and came available at a significant but manageable price.

    What Went Wrong: Gaborik never did fit in, finally getting traded to the Los Angeles Kings at the 2014 trade deadline. The Rangers made out like bandits, with Brassard and Moore emerging as quality additions and Dorsett chipping in as a role player.

Dallas Stars Acquire Alex Goligoski

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Deal: On February 21, 2011, the Dallas Stars traded James Neal and Matt Niskanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Alex Goligoski.

    The Purpose of the Move: An article by Adam Kimelman of NHL.com at the time of the trade gives the background on the move. Pittsburgh badly needed the offense that Neal would provide, and Niskanen was an extra sweetener. Goligoski was a productive defenseman who could play heavy minutes and help on offense; he was clearly regarded by Dallas as the best player in the trade.

    What Went Wrong: Pittsburgh got the best player in this deal. James Neal exploded offensively with the Penguins, and Niskanen blossomed into a productive defender with a complete skill set. Goligoski remains a productive player, but this was a poor deal for the Stars. 

Detroit Red Wings Acquire Kyle Quincey from Tampa Bay Lightning

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    The Deal: On February 21, 2012, the Detroit Red Wings traded Sebastien Piche and their 2012 first-round selection to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Kyle Quincey

    The Purpose of the Move: Detroit was an aging team and needed additional help on the blue line. Nicklas Lidstrom was nearing the end, and Quincey—originally a Detroit draft pick—was an established veteran.

    What Went Wrong: Detroit rarely makes a misstep, so there aren't many candidates for biggest blunder in the last five years. This transaction is an example because Tampa Bay used the pick on goaltending prospect Andrei Vasilevski, who is an outstanding young prospect. Trading first-round picks is not a foundation of Detroit's success, and this error was made for short-term gain.

Edmonton Oilers Trade Andrew Cogliano to Anaheim Ducks

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    The Deal: On July 12, 2011, the Edmonton Oilers traded Andrew Cogliano to the Anaheim Ducks for a 2013 second-round selection.

    The Purpose of the Move: Edmonton had a plethora of small forwards and traded one of its better ones for a draft pick. Cogliano was questionable as a long-term solution at center, so the Oilers dealt him to Anaheim.

    What Went Wrong: Edmonton began the following season with a lack of depth and experience on the wing—where Cogliano could have helped—and struggled in the Western Conference. What's more, the draft pick was two years after the trade, and Marco Roy struggled with injuries in 2013-14. He may never make the NHL, let alone reach Cogliano's level of play. The Oilers' roster failures over the last five years are many, but this one represents a typical lack of vision.

Ed Jovanovski Returns to the Florida Panthers

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    The Deal: On July 1, 2011, the Florida Panthers signed veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski to a four-year, $16.5 million deal. The signing was announced on the Panthers website

    The Purpose of the Move: New GM Dale Tallon wanted to bring in a veteran group to improve things in Florida. The team added Brian Campbell during this period and wanted to bring more experience to the blue line.

    What Went Wrong: Jovanovski's role as an NHL defenseman had been reduced markedly before the contract was signed. His playing time was reduced, and the results were going the wrong way, indicating Jovanovski was unlikely to be a productive player at any time during the contract. Florida would buy him out in 2014. This Canadian Press article via NHL.com confirmed the transaction.

Los Angeles Trades for Dustin Penner

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    The Deal: On February 28, 2011, the Los Angeles Kings traded Colten Teubert, their 2011 first-round selection and a conditional pick to the Edmonton Oilers for Dustin Penner.

    The Purpose of the Move: The Kings were on a march to the Stanley Cup—they would not win until 2012—and felt the investment was worth it. Penner was a big winger with soft hands, and Los Angeles was always looking for goals.

    What Went Wrong: Penner did contribute to the Kings' Stanley Cup run in 2012, but it was not a smooth relationship. He would sign with the Anaheim Ducks in 2013, which meant the Kings had nothing left to show for their first-round pick in 2011. Edmonton chose defenseman Oscar Klefbom, who is just beginning to emerge as an NHL player.

Minnesota Wild Acquire Cam Barker from the Chicago Blackhawks

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    The Deal: On February 12, 2010, the Minnesota Wild traded Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy to the Chicago Blackhawks for Cam Barker.

    The Purpose of the Move: Cam Barker was a famous young player, a complete defensive prospect who didn't establish himself in Chicago. The Wild liked Barker well enough to give up a prospect of note in Nick Leddy, along with a veteran near the end of his career in Johnsson.

    What Went Wrong: Barker didn't do any better in Minnesota than he had in Chicago. The Wild gave him a lot of opportunities, but as time went on other defensemen passed him. Barker would eventually play for Edmonton and Vancouver before leaving the NHL.

Montreal Canadiens Acquire Scott Gomez

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    The Deal: On June 30, 2009, the Montreal Canadiens traded Ryan McDonagh, Doug Janik, Chris Higgins and Pavel Valentenko to the New York Rangers. Montreal received Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt and Michael Busto.

    The Purpose of the Move: For much of this century, Scott Gomez has been supplying his teams with solid two-way performances. From 2000 through 2009, he delivered quality offense to go along with the steady overall play. He was a valuable player at the time of the trade.

    What Went Wrong: Gomez saw his scoring fall off sharply as he was asked to play a specific defensive role in Montreal. The Rangers ended up getting a brilliant player in McDonagh, who blossomed as an NHL defenseman after the deal.

Nashville Predators Acquire Paul Gaustad from Buffalo Sabres

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    The Deal: On February 27, 2012, the Nashville Predators traded their first-round pick in 2012 for Paul Gaustad and a 2013 draft pick.

    The Purpose of the Move: Nashville was desperate for a two-way center who could give the team size and win faceoffs. Gaustad is not a gifted offensive player but is reliable and can score some goals.

    What Went Wrong: NHL teams don't trade their first-round picks often, and when they do it's almost always for skill. Gaustad is a role player, and that type of acquisition shouldn't require a first-round selection. Gaustad provided solid play for Nashville, but the first-round pick had far more value. Buffalo would use the pick to move up in the 2012 draft and acquire Zemgus Girgensons. Calgary made the pick, selecting Mark Jankowski at No. 21 overall.

New Jersey Devils Sign Ilya Kovalchuk to a Career Contract

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    The Deal: On September 4, 2010, the New Jersey Devils signed Ilya Kovalchuk to a career contract. Details of the deal were published by ESPN New York, using information made available by Scott Burnside and The Associated Press.

    The Purpose of the Move: New Jersey was a veteran team that was badly in need of a franchise player. Kovalchuk was a brilliant winger and young enough to cover many years of the deal.

    What Went Wrong: The contract signed by the Devils and Kovalchuk circumvented portions of the CBA agreement. This March 2014 article from NHL.com explains the findings of the independent arbitrator and the final penalties imposed on New Jersey by the NHL.

New York Islanders Acquire Thomas Vanek

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    The Deal: On October 27, 2013, the New York Islanders traded Matt Moulson and first- and second-round picks in 2015 to the Buffalo Sabres for Thomas Vanek

    The Purpose of the Move: The Islanders wanted an elite sniper for the emerging team and felt confident they could take a step forward with the upgrade over Moulson. The risk involved in the deal: Vanek would be a free agent at the end of the season.

    What Went Wrong: New York never got untracked in 2013-14, mostly because of poor goaltending. As the season wore on, it became obvious Vanek would not sign with the Islanders, and the team traded him to Montreal at the deadline. The Islanders flushed their top two picks in the 2015 draft, which is being heralded as one of the very best of the century.

New York Rangers Acquire Rick Nash

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Deal: On July 20, 2012, the New York Rangers traded Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick in the 2013 draft to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Rangers received Rick Nash, Steven Delisle and a third-round selection in 2013. 

    The Purpose of the Move: The Rangers were rumored to be interested in Nash going back years and finally got their man in 2012. Nash is a power forward with across-the-board offensive skills and a marquee player.

    What Went Wrong: Nash is not aging well, and his foot speed is a growing concern. Meanwhile, the players acquired by Columbus are an emerging group and should be productive for the rest of the decade and beyond.

Ottawa Senators Trade Ben Bishop to Tampa Bay Lightning

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    The Deal: On April 3, 2013, the Ottawa Senators traded Ben Bishop to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Cory Conacher and a fourth-round selection in 2013.

    The Purpose of the Move: The Senators enjoyed the luxury of three bona fide goalies: Craig Anderson, Bishop and the emerging Robin Lehner. Bishop's quality performances for the Senators were inferior to the other two, and Ottawa dealt him at the deadline in order to get as much value as possible.

    What Went Wrong: Bishop emerged as an impact goaltender in Tampa Bay, solving the goaltending issues and becoming a team leader. Ottawa received minimal return, which was somewhat explained by Bishop's value at the time. However, the Senators could have gotten greater value for either of their other two goaltenders.

Philadelphia Flyers Acquire Luke Schenn from Toronto Maple Leafs

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    The Deal: On June 22, 2012, the Philadelphia Flyers traded James van Riemsdyk to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Luke Schenn

    The Purpose of the Move: The Flyers were in dire need of improvement on defense, and Schenn was a young defensive defenseman with a strong reputation for effective play. Van Riemsdyk had a similar reputation but was a completely different player type—an offensive player with 30-goal potential.

    What Went Wrong: The values of the player types in this case are not equal. Schenn has struggled in Philadelphia, but even an effective stay-at-home defenseman doesn't have the value of a quality offensive player. Van Riemsdyk enjoyed his first 30-goal season in 2013-14, and it is likely the first of many in his career.

Pittsburgh Penguins Sign Marc-Andre Fleury to a Long-Term Contract

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    The Deal: On July 3, 2008, the Pittsburgh Penguins signed Marc-Andre Fleury to a seven-year, $35 million contract.

    The Purpose of the Move: The Penguins drafted Fleury No. 1 overall in 2003 and were building toward a Stanley Cup when he signed the long-term deal. Pittsburgh would eventually win the championship in 2009, with Fleury playing all but 24 minutes in the playoffs.

    What Went Wrong: Fleury is an average goaltender who is being paid $5 million a season. Much has been made of his postseason shortcomings, but Fleury is average in all areas and is overpaid for his contributions. The Penguins lack depth in other areas, partly due to his contract.

San Jose Sharks Trade Christian Ehrhoff to Vancouver Canucks

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    The Deal: On August 28, 2009, the San Jose Sharks traded Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich to the Vancouver Canucks for Daniel Rahimi and Patrick White

    The Purpose of the Move: The Sharks were attempting to create more cap room, as this article from The Hockey News by the Canadian Press indicates. Two weeks later, San Jose made the trade for Dany Heatley.

    What Went Wrong: San Jose gave up a tremendous amount in a two-week period. Ehrhoff was offloaded for two prospects who never developed, and the payment to get Dany Heatley was severe. The Sharks did enormous damage to their emerging team in their pursuit of him.

St. Louis Blues Acquire Ryan Miller from Buffalo Sabres

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Deal: On February 28, 2014, the St. Louis Blues traded Jaroslav Halak, William Carrier, Chris Stewart and two first-round selections to the Buffalo Sabres. In return, the Blues acquired Ryan Miller and Steve Ott. 

    The Purpose of the Move: St. Louis felt a need to upgrade in goal, acquiring a proven veteran No. 1 in Ryan Miller. The Blues also added a trusted veteran forward in Ott.

    What Went Wrong: The Blues received little on their massive payment for Miller. He was mediocre for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs and then did not sign in St. Louis leading up to free agency. A big portion of the Blues' future is in Buffalo, in exchange for a couple of months' worth of average work.

Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Radim Vrbata to Arizona Coyotes

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    The Deal: On July 21, 2009, the Tampa Bay Lighting traded Radim Vrbata to the Arizona Coyotes for Todd Fedoruk and David Hale. 

    The Purpose of the Move: The relationship between Vrbata and the Lightning did not go well, as indicated by this article at TSN. When Vrbata expressed interest in returning to the NHL, the Lightning pulled the trigger and dealt him to the Coyotes.

    What Went Wrong: Vrbata's early NHL career was unsuccessful, but as he matured, the Czech winger blossomed into a quality scorer. The Coyotes acquired him for very little, and he delivered quality over several seasons.

Toronto Maple Leafs Sign David Clarkson to Lucrative Deal

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    The Deal: On July 5, 2013, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed David Clarkson to a seven-year, $36.75 million deal.

    The Purpose of the Move: When an NHL winger with size scores 30 goals, it sets in motion wild and crazy activity among general managers. In the case of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Clarkson was a rugged winger who could serve as both sniper and policeman based on a very small resume. He scored 30 goals in 2011-12 and then another 18 in the shortened 2012-13 season. After that, Toronto arrived with the money.

    What Went Wrong: David Clarkson has enjoyed one 30-goal season. In other years, he has scored fewer than 20, and last year with Toronto he scored five goals. He is the highest-paid role player in the NHL and will be for some time.

Vancouver Canucks Trade Roberto Luongo to Florida Panthers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Deal: On March 4, 2014, the Vancouver Canucks traded Roberto Luongo and Steve Anthony to the Florida Panthers. In exchange, the Panthers traded Jacob Markstrom and Shawn Matthias to Vancouver. 

    The Purpose of the Move: The Canucks needed to get out from underneath Luongo's massive contract. In dealing him, the club confirmed at least a small rebuild and acquired a chance to start over.

    What Went Wrong: Vancouver made two errors. It traded off Cory Schneider when it appeared it would be unable to deal Luongo and then committed too much money to goalie Ryan Miller. Miller is the third best goalie in the group.

Washington Capitals Acquire Martin Erat

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    The Deal: On April 3, 2013, the Washington Capitals traded highly touted prospect Filip Forsberg to the Nashville Predators for Martin Erat and Michael Latta

    The Purpose of the Move: Erat was suffering through a poor season in Nashville but had several seasons of success on his resume. The Capitals needed veteran help on the wings and pulled the trigger.

    What Went Wrong: Erat did not emerge from his slump, and Forsberg continued his development as a quality prospect. The short term and the long term do not favor Washington in this trade.

Winnipeg Jets Sign Ondrej Pavelec to a Long-Term Deal

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    The Deal: On June 25, 2012, the Winnipeg Jets signed Ondrej Pavelec to a five-year, $19.5 million contract. 

    The Purpose of the Move: The Jets saw Pavelec play well in several games down the stretch and decided to commit to him as their starter. The cap hit was reasonable, and he had been drafted and developed by the organization.

    What Went Wrong: Pavelec is well below average as an NHL goalie and has been since his arrival. The Jets have been stubbornly committed to him despite evidence and look like they'll remain on this course for the near future. In 2013-14, Pavelec finished No. 46 out of 51 regular goaltenders in save percentage.