Trade Deadline Winners/Losers
The trade deadline this season was again slow just like it was in 2011. The majority of the significant deals happened prior to deadline day and those deals were fewer than normal as well. The largest deal that went down this trading season was the deal that happened between Columbus and Los Angeles involving Jeff Carter heading to LA for Jack Johnson and a 1st round pick. On deadline day the largest deal occurred just at the deadline when the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks exchanged some very young and promising forwards with Cody Hodgson going to Buffalo and Zack Kassian going to Vancouver. So who did well at the deadline and who didn’t?
Nashville is clearly trying to make their deepest run through the playoffs in franchise history and they acquired some key pieces that will help in their pursuit. A couple of weeks before the deadline they acquired Hal Gill from the Montreal Candiens to solidify their top 6 and supplement the young talent toward the bottom of that group. At the deadline GM David Poile then acquired Andrei Kostitsyn to help add some offensive punch. The highest scoring forward on the roster currently is sitting at 18 goals on the season and Kostitsyn has three 20 goal seasons to his credit, so he will be able to add some much needed scoring depth. Finally, Nashville added the size and toughness piece that any playoff team covets in obtaining Paul Gaustad from the Buffalo Sabres. Gaustad will immediately help Nashville on the penalty kill, in the face-off circle, and he will help in shutting down some of the dynamic forwards in the Western Conference.
While some will argue that Poile overpaid for all three of his acquisitions, it is clear he is sending a message to the fans, the team, and his big name free agents in Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. Poile shipped out promising prospect Blake Geoffrion, a 2012 1st round pick, 2012 2nd round pick, and 2013 second round pick to get the players he wanted. He was bold in his dealings, but Nashville had a solid squad before the additions and will most likely be even better after them.
After losing in the Stanley Cup Finals to a more physical Boston Bruins team it seems that Mike Gillis is not about to let toughness be a detriment once again. Previously Gillis has added Byron Bitz and Dale Weise to his team and has now added a budding power forward in Zack Kassian. Kassian is in his rookie season, but will bring a very physical game and some offensive ability to the already solid Canucks team. Kassian will most likely not be forced to play more than 3rd line minutes and will be part of the answer for any teams who want to try to take it to the Sedin Twins.
Gillis also acquired Sammy Pahlsson from Columbus, which will bring a veteran with a Stanley Cup who can win face-offs, kill penalties, and play in a shutdown role. Marc-Andre Gragnani will add some offensive punch from the backend as a 7th defenseman while the acquisition of Andrew Gordon will add to the depth up front. Gillis did have to give up a young, talented center in Cody Hogdson to get Kassian, but had to give up little else to help his team make another run at the Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Surprised by this one since Tampa probably won’t make the playoffs? Steve Yzerman is clearly not looking at this season as his end game. He was able to retain key pieces of the core like Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos and move out players like Pavel Kubina, Steve Downie, Matt Gilroy, and Dominic Moore to obtain assets for the future. Kubina and Moore will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season and are both in their thirties. Steve Downie and Matt Gilroy will also be free agents at seasons end with Downie most likely due a raise in the process.
In the process Yzerman has shed some salary to give himself cap flexibility in the coming seasons and was able to begin re-shaping his defensive group. He was able to obtain Brian Lee from the Ottawa Senators and Keith Aulie from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Leafs GM Brian Burke was said to have had numerous offers for Aulie and even though Yzerman had to give up a promising young forward Carter Ashton to get Aulie, most around the league agree that Aulie has a bright NHL future. Brian Lee was a former first overall pick and never really seemed to fit in with the Senators, but was finally starting to look like a promising young defenseman this season and a change of scenery will do him some good.
Another part of this transformation for Yzerman was his ability to acquire number draft picks in the process to help enhance his prospect pool and have some other trade chips. He obtained a 2012 first round pick, 2012 second round pick, and a 2013 second round pick. This will give him 2 first rounders and 3 second rounders for the deep 2012 NHL Entry Draft, with one of the potential to have a top 5 pick and 3 picks in the top 35 players available.
The Washington Capitals did nothing at the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline. They are currently sitting outside the playoff picture in unfamiliar territory and not making the playoffs does not seem like an option for owner Ted Leonsis. They have already tried a coaching change to stir things up, but Dale Hunter has had time to turn things around with no success. It is clear that the roster needed some change and it did not happen. Washington will need to make some moves at the NHL Draft and in the off-season if they hope to make things better for next season.
It really seemed that after Jay Feaster went off on his team last week that the Flames would attempt to be active at the deadline, but they did nothing other than sign Tim Jackman to an extension. To Feaster’s credit, it will be difficult if not impossible to blow-up the Flames roster because players that are on it that have any value all have some sort of no-trade or no-movement clause. These clauses really handcuff Feaster in what he is able to do unless these players agree to waive these clauses for a chance at a fresh start, but something has to be done to change the core group in Calgary and get things going in the right direction.
Teams That Should’ve Done More
General Manager Pierre Gauthier was able to ship out two pending unrestricted free agents for a return of promising prospect Blake Geoffrion (a Montreal Legacy) and two 2nd round picks (one in 2012 and one in 2013). The fact of the matter is Gauthier needed to do more because in Montreal the time for success is always now. Many teams were after Travis Moen and he may walk via free agency, but Gauthier chose to hang on in the hope of resigning him. From there it would have been difficult to make any other moves because of the horrible contracts that exist on Montreal’s roster. The Montreal fans and media however do not care about anything other than success and since the Canadiens have not had any in a while, it may cost Gauthier his job.
Columbus Blue Jackets
“Wow” is really all that can be said here. Scott Howson was able to recover from a blunder he made last summer with the acquisition of Jeff Carter by flipping him to Los Angeles for Jack Johnson and a 1st round pick. This trade was definitely overpayment by the Kings for scoring help that they desperately needed and Jack Johnson and a top pairing defenseman that will help solidify the Blue Jackets top pair for years to come.
From this trade forward there was a gross mismanagement of assets and questionable tactics on the part of Howson. First, he dealt Antoine Vermette to Phoenix for a 2012 2nd round pick, a 2012 5th round pick, and an injured minor league goaltender in Curtis McElhinney (UFA at seasons end). So for a 2nd line center (for Phoenix) with 600 NHL games, over 300 points, and 40 playoff games at age 29, all you could get was a 2nd and a 5th round pick? Buffalo received a first rounder for Paul Gaustad, a 2nd and a 3rd was compensation for Johnny Oduya/Nicklas Grossman, and a 1st rounder was the price for Kyle Quincey. All of the aforementioned players are less valuable to the teams that acquired them than Antoine Vermette should be to Phoenix. If I was Howson, I would have been asking Don Maloney for a 1st rounder or a second and a prospect like Alex Ruutu or Andy Miele.
The Sammy Pahlsson trade is another one where Howson failed to get the value should have when he received only two 4th round picks and an ECHL player. Pahlsson has 800 NHL games, 80 playoff games, and a Stanley Cup ring. How about a 2nd and a 4th? Or a 3rd and a prospect like Jordan Schroder or Eddie Lack? Two trades without getting equal return. Is Paul Gaustad really worth that much more than Pahlsson, when both are UFA’s at the end of the season?
With all of that considered, Howson also lost serviceable defenseman Grant Clitsome on waivers to Winnipeg for nothing and rumor has it that Philadelphia also put in a claim for Clitsome as well. So two playoff bound teams were interested and Howson could not get anything for this player? Other assets could have been dealt as well since Howson stated in so many words that he was going to try to rebuild. UFA to be Derek McKenzie was of interest to several teams, Prospal could have fetched a great return, but Howson chose to extend him, and Fedor Tyutin could have fit somewhere if not for his raise and extension.
The last thing that needs to be addressed here is the Rick Nash fiasco. If the rumored last minute offer from the Rangers of Dubinsky, Erixon, J.T. Miller, Christian Thomas, and a 1st round pick was true, it was probably the right move for Howson to turn it down with the offer being all about potential instead of help right now. Howson is moving forward with the assumption that the offers will be better come the summertime, but that is a gamble.
Despite the trade itself, Howson threw Nash “under the bus” to his teammates and Columbus fans by telling everyone that Nash had requested the trade. While I understand that this may have been in retaliation for Nash’s agent speaking out, it was uncalled for on the part of Howson. Nash now has an awkward situation with fans, his teammates, and the Columbus media for the rest of the regular season. Howson needed to get the deal done and keep his mouth shut about Nash’s request because, let’s be honest, Nash has earned at least that much. In addition to that, Columbus has also had problems luring free agents/players in the past (see: Jeff Carter) and Howson just made it that much worse if he remains the GM there. Why would you want to play for a GM that you can’t trust?
While the “Fail for Nail” sweepstakes is on in Columbus, it will be beyond me if Scott Howson is the one at the podium announcing the pick for the Blue Jackets. The only way I see him being the GM there next season is if he gets the deal for Nash he has been trying to get all along and then some.