27 February 2007

30 team analysis: post-deadline

published at SportsBlurb.com and Sportingnews.com

Yesterday’s NHL trading deadline provided not just the opportunity for countless fans around North America to abuse the F5 button on their keyboards at work, but more importantly the opportunity for each of the 30 teams to take stock of their situation, determine whether to buy, sell, or hold, and then act – all by 3pm EST. Hockey fans were not disappointed as no less than 25 separate deals were made on Tuesday.

Rather than analyze each trade, let’s take a quick run down the standings and see where each team stands as of today with rosters solidified for the stretch run, and whether each team has improved for the present, future, or not at all…


Buffalo Sabres

The team I believe is the most talented in the league (when healthy, which apparently is never) finally made one of the more anticipated moves of the past two years yesterday when they moved Martin Biron to Philadelphia to free up cap room that enabled them to acquire Dainus Zubrus from Washington later in the day. The Sabres - also being somewhat experienced in patchwork rosters of late - also added defensive depth at the deadline. In the end the Sabres are ready to make their run at the Cup – they expect everyone back for the playoffs at which point the skilled Zubrus would give Buffalo as deep a front nine as has been seen in recent memory.

Deadline analysis: Heavy on short-term gains, and a huge gain, but the organization is deep enough that there won’t be much (if any) long-term effect felt.

New Jersey Devils

As could probably have been expected, GM Lou Lamoriello played it conservatively and made no moves other than moving defenceman David Hale to Calgary. New Jersey as always is relying primarily on Martin Brodeur and defensive play, although their offence can be counted on to produce if necessary. The Devils seem to lie in the weeds each year, likely due to their unspectacular nature, and are confident they can make a run to the finals this year with the team they’ve had all year.

Deadline analysis: N/A

Tampa Bay Lightning

While the Lightning didn’t make any moves that could be considered “major” the one I like this year was acquiring tough defenceman Shane O’Brien from Anaheim. Tampa has surged of late and sits in a position atop the Southeast Division by the slimmest of margins. With Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis tearing up the league right now, the Lightning may be a team beginning to peak at the right time.

Deadline analysis: mostly short-term gains in the sense they gave up first and fifth round picks in the 2007 draft this past week to literally strengthen their club.

Ottawa Senators

Ottawa was rather silent this past month, the only big move was getting winger Oleg Saprykin from Phoenix. While Saprykin has never put up huge numbers he is in the midst of his best season offensively and is only 26. He could be a good investment and give the Sens more scoring depth.

Deadline analysis: mild on both - short-term gains by giving up a second rounder, but if Saprykin blossoms in Ottawa this will be a gain felt past this playoff season.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Two decades ago we had Dave Semenko protecting Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri. George Laraque now plays the part of Semenko, and will give Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin more room to maneuver, much to the chagrin of Eastern foes. I’m not as enamored with the deal for Gary Roberts – he may provide the occasional spark but I worry about him keeping up with the fast-moving Pens.

Deadline analysis: short-term gains in the sense that they now believe they can make a run in the playoffs, freeing up the incomparable Crosby to pile up the points.

Atlanta Thrashers

On paper it looks like the Thrashers were huge winners this past week, acquiring such names as Keith Tkachuk, Alexei Zhitnik, and Pascal Dupuis, these moves in context reek of desperation. The Thrashers – once a tight rival with Buffalo for first in the Eastern conference – have been in a freefall and are within a bad weekend of falling out of the playoff picture. These moves were made to frantically get them into the playoffs this year, but in two or three years fans will rue the day they gave up a load of picks plus Braydon Coburn.

Deadline analysis: Very much short-term gains. The organization isn’t close enough to seriously contend or deep enough to quickly recover from the kind of moves they made.

Montreal Canadiens

Meet the new team – same as the old team. Essentially true, minus veteran defenceman Craig Rivet to San Jose for Josh Gorges. Did Bob Gainey consider his team sellers or buyers? Apparently neither, as this once-strong team has dropped since team MVP Cristobal Huet went down for the season.

Deadline analysis: N/A. And surprisingly so. Gainey will still have work to do with a number of unrestricted free agents to deal with.

Carolina Hurricanes

Bolstering their attack with Anson Carter and old friend Josef Vasicek, the Hurricanes need to find that Stanley Cup magic of a year ago, and fast, lest they view the playoffs on TV. Not huge acquisitions, but they should give the Canes three lines they can feel confident with.

Deadline analysis: short-term gains, without much long-term effect at all (2008 fifth-round pick for Carter). They should be good enough to squeak into the playoffs.

New York Islanders

Wow. We’ll address it further down in Edmonton but the shocker of the deadline was Ryan Smyth going cross-continent to the pesky Islanders. Add Richard Zednik and Marc-Andre Bergeron to the mix and Garth Snow was among the busiest of general managers this week. Smyth’s potential contributions cannot be overstated; he’s a Ted Nolan type of guy in spirit and is having one of his most productive seasons. The Isles got deeper and could give someone trouble in the first round…if they make it.

Deadline analysis: Extremely short-term gains. Giving up prospects and draft picks alike, this is a potential reward for Islanders’ fans who suffered through a rough and comical spell. However in years to come it could cost them in terms of organizational depth, as Ryan Smyth is an unrestricted free agent come July.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Currently in tenth place in the East, the Leafs made just one move by once again calling on Yanic Perreault to end his season with a loss while wearing the blue leaf on his chest. Winning more faceoffs is nice, but they still need to jump over two teams to make the playoffs. Only a return to health and better defensive play will save the Leafs this year.

Deadline analysis: N/A. Perreault is a fine addition but by himself he isn’t going to be the reason the Leafs make the playoffs or not.

Boston Bruins

I confess to not understanding the direction of this team at all – every time I think I have a handle on them….they deal a promising young forward like Brad Boyes, while retaining some of their more desirable older talents that could be used in deals to rebuild properly. I am a big fan of defenceman Dennis Wideman – it was an absolute joy to watch him control the point throughout his junior career - but Boyes has the talent to be the kind of offensive player the Bruins need. Currently the net take from last year’s Joe Thornton deal is Marco Sturm.

Deadline analysis: long-term gains, I have to believe. They need to have a very intelligent off-season and commit to a three-year program of rebuilding.

New York Rangers

Not much left in the tank for the Rangers, as no major moves were made outside acquiring defenceman Aaron Ward and French Canada’s favourite player Sean Avery.

Deadline analysis: N/A as they didn’t do much buying or selling of any impact.

Florida Panthers

Another lost season for Florida, and a step back after making noises last season that they might be on the verge of a playoff birth. The Todd Bertuzzi experiment was a disaster, marked by injury and constant reminder of their departed franchise goalie – finally the team parlayed Bert into some draft picks. Further picks were gained for Gary Roberts and Joel Kwiatkowski.

Deadline analysis: long-term gains.

Washington Capitals

It’s hard to believe the Caps were actually flirting with the playoffs for much of the season, considering how far they’ve fallen. They sold off a number of assets, including Zubrus and Richard Zednik. Their take from Buffalo in the Zubrus deal was nice, getting a first-round pick and promising young center Jiri Novotny who should have a nice career in Washington.

Deadline analysis: long-term gains.

Philadelphia Flyers

Odd. For the most part they’ve done a fine job of beginning to retool and gain returns on their veterans, dishing Peter Forsberg, Zhitnik, and the disappointing Kyle Calder and gaining a lot of young talent and some extra draft picks. The Martin Biron trade I don’t understand – Biron will be a free agent in a few months when he wouldn’t have cost the Flyers anything. Perhaps they’re hoping to entice Biron to sign with them long-term before the season is up. Perhaps ex-Sabre legend Don Luce (Philadelphia’s Director of Hockey Development) was simply giving his old team a boost.

Deadline analysis: very impressive long-term gains. The shocking negative turnaround this year will have bottomed out and the Flyers could return to respectability as soon as next season.


Nashville Predators

The biggest name to be dealt in years, Peter Forsberg’s acquisition by Nashville is two-fold: to bring the Cup to Nashville and to keep the team in Nashville. Well-documented attendance woes have plagued this franchise, which is a shame because the Predators are as deep and talented as any and sits poised for a run through the West – they lack very little.

Deadline analysis: very much short-term. Forsberg needs to be healthy and will likely be gone next year. Giving up two draft picks and young talents Ryan Parent and Scottie Upshall was a very steep price to pay for possibly only two months of Foppa Forsberg.

Anaheim Ducks

Count me among those surprised more wasn’t done by the Ducks. The Western favourites for the entire first half of the season, Anaheim is still near the top but has shown cracks in their once seemingly-formidable attack. Veteran character player Brad May was added (for the aptly named goaltender Mike Wall) from Colorado, and they oddly gave up Shane O’Brien for a first round pick that I was convinced they would flip for a big name.

Deadline analysis: nearly nothing done, if anything the first round pick and young goaltender Gerald Coleman are a nice long-term gain. Not expected.

Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver is a funny case - while they've been one of the hotter clubs in the past few months, almost all of it can be attributed to one Roberto Luongo in net, emerging as a viable Hart Trophy candidate. Buying into the theory that anything can happen in the playoffs, the Canucks make two minor deals for forward Bryan Smolinski and defenceman Brent Sopel that will not vastly alter their attack but shore up their depth chart for this year only (both are unrestricted free agents come summer).

Deadline analysis: short-term.

Detroit Red Wings

Taking a shot at Todd Bertuzzi could look fantastic in the end – if healthy, Bert will add some needed grit to the surging and highly skilled Wings lineup. If they can recapture just a little of the old Bertuzzi snarl and convince Kyle Calder that he really is a good player this team is coming out of the West.

Deadline analysis: short-term. A good boost that, in my eyes, makes them the current favourites to come out of the West.

Dallas Stars

Jumping on the trading bandwagon early by grabbing Ladislav Nagy, they improved their depth via Los Angeles by trading for defenceman Mattias Norstrom and forward Konstantin Pushkarev.

Deadline analysis: short-term, giving up some draft picks but worthwhile as Dallas is almost an unknown in the wild West, but could cause damage in the playoffs.

San Jose Sharks

Two years in a row the Sharks have caught a big name, and this year it was Bill Guerin on deadline day. Adding the veteran scorer and Craig Rivet at the blueline should bolster the league’s best powerplay and hopefully help their surprisingly average even-strength play.

Deadline analysis: short-term gain but very big impact.

Minnesota Wild

Very little to discuss here. Dominic Moore from Pittsburgh isn’t going to make anyone’s end-of-year big trades list. Minnesota is comfortable in the skin they’re in

Deadline analysis: N/A. Getting Moore for a third round pick isn’t bound to impact them tremendously one way or the other.

Calgary Flames

A very active February saw the Flames attempt to shore up their two-way play: first re-acquiring pivot Craig Conroy from the Kings and next a big deal with Boston getting Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau. These moves may not immediately give the Flames the boost in the standings, as two points are currently the difference between third and eighth place in the conference. But the Flames are as tough as any team, and are a tight challenger to Detroit for kings of the West.

Deadline analysis: extremely short-term, depending on whether they sign some of their acquisitions.

Edmonton Oilers

The impact in Edmonton of trading Ryan Smyth cannot be overstated. “Captain Canada” has played 12 years in Edmonton, through thick and thin, and has come to personify the grit and independence of central Albertan hockey fans. Fans thought he’d be re-signed last summer when money was freed up in Edmonton, but his impending unrestricted free agency status loomed all year. When it became apparent that the Oilers would need a lot of help to make the playoffs, GM Kevin Lowe risked the wrath of fans everywhere by dealing Smyth to the Islanders for a hefty return. When (if) the furor dies down the result is this: Smyth could still conceivably return to Edmonton, an organization made much richer in the long run by gaining the Islanders’ first round pick this June along with young forwards Ryan O’Marra and Robert Nilsson.

Deadline analysis: long-term

Colorado Avalanche

One of the myriad rumours to come down on deadline morning was that Joe Sakic had agreed to consider being dealt to a contender. As it turned out no move was made, and we’ll likely never know if that was even a possibility. But it should have been – Sakic would have been second only to Forsberg in terms of name-value, and second to none in terms of talent dealt. Considering the take other teams got for over-the-hill veterans this year, Colorado could have cleaned up in dealing Sakic while coming to a tacit understanding that they could re-sign him over the summer, allowing him to finish his career in Colorado.

Deadline analysis: N/A.

St. Louis Blues

A complete disaster only a few months ago, St. Louis has been more than respectable since the new year. It wasn’t enough to make a serious playoff push, and by dealing their veterans for a stockpile of draft picks they are well on the road to regaining their spot as one of the more stable NHL franchises. Brad Boyes could be a steal.

Deadline analysis: long-term. By gaining a load of picks in the upcoming draft and making the right moves to free up millions in salary cap room, the Blues could completely remodel their organization in short-order and within three years be back in the playoff hunt.

Phoenix Coyotes

Although I’ve ripped the Phoenix organization for the better part of a year, there have been worse teams in recent months. And they sensibly sold off a number of assets in the past month to get a number of draft picks, including 2007 first, second, and third rounders. The Shane Doan extension I don’t fully understand, if only for the price at which he was re-inked (five years, $4.6 million per year). Phoenix still has a lot of work to do, and hopefully they’ll learn from hedging their bets between the young and old and next year jettison the fossil brigade in exchange for a youth movement they can get a good head-start on with the June draft.

Deadline analysis: long-term, if they use the picks wisely.

Chicago Blackhawks

Long out of the playoff race, the Hawks did a little selling and some old-fashioned three-way dealing. They acquired forward Jason Williams from the Red Wings in the trade while managing to get a second round pick from Vancouver in exchange for the moribund Bryan Smolinski.

Deadline analysis: semi-long-term gains, with the hopes they can rebound and somehow challenge for a birth next year.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Another franchise seemingly spinning their wheels, in some circles they were a trendy long-shot pick to make the playoffs. Instead they remain three points out of last in the West, and without a handful of picks other floundering franchises managed to compile over the past month. Only names of semi-note are the dealing of backup goaltender Ty Conklin to Buffalo and picking up goaltender Brian Boucher off waivers. The remaining schedule this year and the prospects for next year are, once again, not that exciting.

Deadline analysis: N/A.

Los Angeles Kings

Regular readers of this space will know that I’m bullish on the Kings’ future, both in terms of their small core of young talent at the NHL level and those just under the radar. Each of their veteran deals this month was the right move, gaining them draft picks this year in each round from two through five, and in 2008 in the first and fourth. Patience and focus is the key, and the only way to properly rebuild a franchise (pay attention Bruins fans). This method is rough, as the path to the bottom is steep but once committed to, the rebound is quick (see also: Buffalo) and rewarding in terms of young and cheap talent.

Deadline analysis: long-term. Poised for strength by 2009.

No comments: