Did the NHL move the trade deadline and not tell me? With over a week before the trade deadline (February 28th), general managers are getting an early jump on the trade market. In the past few days, teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs have been selling, and teams like the Boston Bruins have been buying. The St. Louis Blues raised eyebrows by trading Erik Johnson, their first overall pick in 2006, to Colorado, and also sending their captain Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay. Ottawa created a new fan favorite in Nashville, shipped their agitator Jarko Ruutu to Anaheim for a pick, and swapped goalies with Colorado. Atlanta also completed a four player swap with Boston. So who were the big winners of the pre trade deadline extravaganza? Who’s left to be had? Who’s going to buy? Who wants to sell? All of this is yet to be seen, but it’s always fun to make a few guesses. But first, let us take a look at what has already unfolded
Who are the big winners so far? We might as well name this section the Northeast division. The Ottawa Senators started to rebuild and stockpile picks, starting with the Mike Fisher deal with Nashville. Fisher, who is married to country music star Carrie Underwood, was instantly loved by the music city. Ottawa, already slated to pick first this summer, adds a first rounder, as well as a second rounder in 2012. Less significantly, they shipped Ruutu to Anaheim for a 6th rounder, and traded goalie Brian Elliot, a young guy who has failed to meet expectations, to Colorado for veteran net minder Craig Anderson. Anderson is having a down year, but should be a great mentor for the young Robert Lehner.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have also started to rebuild. This offseason, they stole Kris Versteeg from the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. Now, they have acquired a first round pick and a third round pick for him. They also sent defenseman Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim and got a top prospect back in Jake Gardiner. After shelling out picks for signing RFA Phil Kessel from Boston, the Leafs have actually gotten something else back from the Bruins. Following twelve years with the team, Tomas Kaberle is now a Bruin. In Exchange, they got a first rounder, and another former first rounder, Joe Colborne. Brian Burke looked like he dug the Leafs into a big hole, but now it seems he’s pulling them back out of it. But don’t feel bad for Boston. They added an elite offensive defenseman for their run at the cup. With Kaberle setting up Zdeno Chara on the point, the Bruins could become a real threat this post season.
The St. Louis Blues made a couple of moves of their own, with mixed results. Their first move came with trading captain Eric Brewer, a UFA at years end, to Tampa Bay for a 2nd round pick and Brock Buekeboom, son of NHL great Jeff Beukeboom. (BOOOOOK!)
The second move came when the Blue sent their former first overall pick Erik Johnson, along with Jay McClement and a conditional FIRST round pick to Colorado for Chris Stewart, young gun Kevin Shattenkirk, and a 2nd round pick. It’s a peculiar move. Although Shattenkirk is a nice prospect, and Stewart is really making a name for himself in the league, it seems like a steep price to pay. On top of a guy who is supposed to be the cornerstone of your franchise, the Blues decided to add a first rounder. We will see if this pays off for them.
So after all of this, who is left out there? What teams are looking to move bodies? What teams are looking to add pieces for the playoff push?
First, you must start with the Edmonton Oilers. Last in the western conference again, this team is in need of serious rebuilding. They have their starting point in Taylor Hall, last years first overall pick. Now, they need to surround him with the right pieces. To do that, they need to clean house. Look for Dustin Penner and/or Ales Hemsky, both with 1 more year left on their deal, to be moved for picks/prospects in the upcoming week. The Panthers could be moving around some players, but they don’t have a whole lot to give. Maybe Marty Reasoner can fetch them a 2nd round pick. If Bryan McCabe comes back from a broken jaw soon, he could be moved. He’s a UFA at seasons end, and is a talented offensive defenseman.
On the other end of the spectrum are the buyers. What teams are looking to add for a playoff run? What teams are on the edge? One team that definitely needs to make a move is the Washington Capitals. Their division rival Tampa Bay Lightning have been adding pieces since acquiring goalie Dwayne Roloson from the Islanders, and now lead the Southeast division. The Capitals have yet to respond, and if they want to go far this post season, they may need to make a move.
Two teams on the edge of this spectrum are the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres. First, the Rangers. John Tortorella has been hard pressed to get much from his team on a consistent basis. After losing six in a row, the Rangers squeaked out a couple of wins against the Penguins and Kings, before getting completely shutdown by the Devils. Offense has been hard to come by overall for the team. Defensively they have been solid, but adding another scoring threat may be necessary. But it’s a tough situation. In seventh place (and only a sex point hold on a playoff spot) are they in a position to be able to risk a lot? If they add big pieces, and miss the playoffs by one point again, GM Glen Sather’s head could be on the chopping block.
The Buffalo Sabres, in ninth place, are four points from the final playoff spot. They have been winning a lot of games, but they to are in need of an offensive push. They currently have given up more goals overall than they have scored. For new owner Terry Pegula, set to take over in the next couple of days, a playoff appearance to start his reign as owner would be great for his image in Buffalo.
The controversy in Dallas has been what to do with top center Brad Richards. Richards is an elite player, but he is a UFA at seasons end. The Stars’ first choice would be to lock him up long term. But that might not get done, as he may look to test the open waters of free agency. So the tough choice Dallas must make, is to keep him for the playoffs and lose him for nothing, or trade him and get pieces for the future while they can. If they do the latter, it would be a huge mistake for the organization moving forward. The Stars are in a tough battle for the playoffs. The entire Pacific division holds a playoff spot, and the stars, in sixth place, are only three points from leading the division. If they move Richards, they send a clear message, to not only their fans, but any player they bring in, or attempt to bring in for the future, that this organization doesn’t have to guts to try and win. Do yourself a favor Dallas, and keep Richards. It may be the best thing you do this season.
If deadline day looks anything like the past few days have, it should be a busy day in the NHL. Whatever happens though, the rest of the NHL season is sure to be exciting, as teams gear up for the playoff push. Every team, no matter where in the standings they are, will play their toughest hockey of the year, as the top teams battle for playoff position, and the bottom teams battle for their NHL jobs.