Trade Deadline: That's A Wrap
With popcorn bowls thoroughly emptied, F5 keys permanently indented and an irreplaceable sick day burned for trade deadline day 2012, many fans are left with a touch of disappointment as few teams sprung into action on Monday afternoon. The day featured more so-called “hockey deals” than out and out fire sales and salary dumps. Many clubs still felt that they were in the running at six and eight points out with roughly 40 points still on the table and elected to stand pat. Let’s evaluate the deals that did go down on the NHL’s busiest transaction day…
As predicted in the preview article here on Faceoff Factor, the Nashville Predators reunited the Belarusian brothers Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn. Andrei provides a big body and a terrific shot to the lineup. Nashville’s biggest downfall over the years has been their inability to score goals and Andrei can certainly help that. They gave back the 5th round pick from the Hal Gill trade, so it was basically just for a 2nd rounder in 2013. If the Kostitsyn brothers can heat up at the right time, the Predators might be able to fill the old onion bag with more regularity.
The Predators then paid a big price late in the day by adding big, defensive forward Paul Gaustad (with a 4th round pick) for a 1st rounder in 2012. The Sabres asking price was a high one but they stuck to their guns and got a team to bite. Nashville ranks in the bottom five in both faceoff percentage and hits this season and Paul Gaustad will go a long way to remedying that. The price might be a little high, but the Predators have a good prospect pool and David Poile is of the mindset that that first round pick will be 30th overall at this rate.
In the first “hockey deal” of the day, the Minnesota Wild swapped out a defensive stalwart in Nick Schultz for a more offensive minded defender in Tom Gilbert. Gilbert replaces the skill they lost in the Marek Zidlicky deal and helps their transition game. The Oilers get a good defensive player that will help ease the transition of some of their younger defensemen such as Jeff Petry, Oscar Klefbom and/or Martin Marincin as they work their way up in the organization. Nick Schultz, who thinks the game well, and Ladislav Smid will be very good at protecting tenuous leads late in games for years to come. Minnesota makes a statement with this deal that puts all the fans stuck in 2003 on notice that this isn’t the old, trapping, passive Wild from yesteryear. It’s a good fit for both teams.
Steve Yzerman made plenty of deals out in front of the deadline, but didn’t sit on his hands on Monday. He swapped prospects with Toronto to help upgrade his defense. The Lightning get big, rangy, defensive defenseman Keith Aulie for former first rounder Carter Ashton. It was a numbers game in Toronto: they have plenty of NHL-ready defensemen and could stand to spare one. Aulie is a future second pairing shutdown defender. Ashton is a power forward that drives the net hard and plays a good two-way game. You wonder a little about his skating but he can get around the ice well enough. He’s still a work in progress and might be a full year or two away but he should eventually endear himself to Maple Leafs fans in the not-too-distant future.
The Sharks, who like Nashville, struck out on Rick Nash, improved their depth on the wing in a deal with Colorado. They nabbed the much-sought-after Daniel Winnik and speedster T.J. Galiardi in exchange for young grinder Jamie McGinn and prospects Michael Sgarbossa and Mike Connolly. The Sharks improve their ghastly penalty kill with Winnik and Galiardi. Winnik can protect the puck well and play a versatile role in any lineup. Galiardi is fast and can forecheck well, but his inconsistent scoring effort throughout his career has made him a question mark so far in his young career. On the other side, Jamie McGinn is a vicious, spirited forechecker that bangs and crashes and goes to the net with authority. He doesn’t look like any more than a low-tier third liner but he can be valuable to the organization. One of the unsung keys to this trade is prospect Michael Sgarbossa. Undrafted but signed by the Sharks, Sgarbossa has taken off since his OHL trade to Sudbury. He’s currently third in the OHL in scoring, he plays with an edge, he’s a fan favorite and looks like he’s got a pro career ahead of him. Mike Connolly had a terrific NCAA career and is off to a hot start in the AHL with 30 points in 40 games for Worcester. He doesn’t project as highly as Sgarbossa, but might provide quality organizational depth.
Mike Gillis and the Vancouver Canucks were aggressive buyers as expected on Monday. They failed to nab a big fish but they added some piranhas. They moved minor league rearguard Taylor Ellington and two 4th round picks for tested playoff warrior Samuel Pahlsson. Then they swapped out top prospect Cody Hodgson and depth defenseman Alexander Sulzer for Sabres top prospect Zack Kassian and slick, puck-moving blueliner Marc-Andre Gragnani in the most surprising move on deadline day. Hodgson, a future top-two center, was somewhat lost in the shuffle behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler but could be a kick start to a culture change in Buffalo. He is in the race for the Calder Trophy despite his limited minutes though. Zack Kassian is a wrecking ball that has good goal-scoring potential. The former first round pick was an AHL all-star in his first pro season and has 7 points in his first 27 NHL games. He’s an abrasive winger that will provide some goal scoring on Vancouver’s third line until he evolves into a top-six forward.
Marc-Andre Gragnani was terrific for Buffalo in their last playoff campaign – their best defender overall as a rookie. This year has been a different story. He’s had some problems defensively and with turnovers but Alain Vigneault and his staff had done a good job setting Christian Ehrhoff straight when he was a Canuck and figure they can work the same magic with Gragnani. Sulzer is nothing more than organizational depth, but Hodgson probably has the highest upside in the deal. It’s another situation where it’s a good fit for both organizations.
Boston waited until the final horn to make some depth moves. They scooped up former Bruin Brian Rolston from the Islanders along with fringe defenseman Mike Mottau from the Islanders for two minor leaguers with little upside in Yannick Riendeau and Marc Cantin. Rolston provides a cannon of a shot and little else at this point, Mottau brings little to the current group of defensemen. Greg Zanon was brought in from Minnesota in exchange for fading prospect Steven Kampfer. Zanon is a fearless shot blocker that can eat third pairing minutes with no problem. Small moves, but they are the defending Cup champs that didn’t have a ton of roster overhaul in the offseason. They add a couple of vets without giving up any remotely useful assets and call it a day.
The Chicago Blackhawks went into the day with a slumping team and a couple of holes behind their side of center. They failed to address any needs and paid a sizeable price for it. Johnny Oduya was brought in from Winnipeg for a 2nd and a 3rd round pick. Oduya is another puck mover, which Chicago didn’t need. He’s a great skater with good retrieval skills but a defensive specialist he is not. The Jets pre-replaced Oduya when they grabbed Grant Clitsome off waivers from Columbus (whispers around the league suggest that they were not the only team to put In a claim for him). Terrific asset management by rookie GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and a poor job of addressing needs by Stan Bowman.
I’ll just touch briefly on the last remaining minor NHL deals:
The Rangers worked all day on Rick Nash and forgot to address their defensive needs. They used a 5th round pick on 6-foot-8 pugilist John Scott from Chicago. Scott is a fringe NHLer at best and offers no upgrade to their current group of d-men.
The Senators swapped Brian Lee with Tampa Bay for Matt Gilroy. Gilroy, an offensive defenseman that really hasn’t panned out that well at the NHL level, joins his third team since signing as an undrafted free agent with the New York Rangers. He moves the puck well but is a little loose on the defensive side of the game. Brian Lee was drafted as an offensive defenseman and after that didn’t work, he worked on becoming a defensive defenseman. He’s proven to be better at the latter but is still nothing more than a #6 at the NHL level. Strange deal as this is a net loss for Ottawa right off the bat. The Lightning also added defensive d-man Mike Commodore as a favor to the Red Wings for a conditional 7th rounder. Yzerman at least recognizes that the defense he put together was a horrific travesty this year that really exacerbated their average goaltending.
The biggest deal of the day didn’t happen between the Rangers and Rick Nash despite a healthy offer believed to include Brandon Dubinsky, top prospects Tim Erixon, Christian Thomas and J.T. Miller and a first round draft pick. Scott Howson then proceeded to throw Rick Nash under the bus stating that he demanded the trade. Explaining that if he revealed Nash wanted out that his value would go down. And while that would be the case, he still let the cat out of the bag but failed to move him before the 3 pm trading deadline. With the way Howson’s reign of error has transpired, it wouldn’t be surprising if Columbus’ next move wasn’t trading Rick Nash but firing Scott Howson.
With so many buyers and so few sellers, the cost of players was too high for most GMs to pull the trigger on deals. It was a good day for the players, as very few were uprooted and shipped out but a relatively timid day for fans that love to watch the fireworks of a furiously-paced deadline day.