NHL Trade Deadline Approaching Fast
With the exception of major league baseball, no sport has as much upheaval at the trade deadline as the National Hockey League. This season, teams are faced with a double whammy as rosters freeze February 12th for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
By the time they unfreeze following the Olympics teams will have just 63 hours before the trade deadline hits to make any further moves. This short window makes right now a busy time for everyone across the league.
There are a fair number of teams that are already rebuilding or stocking up for a playoff run. There are still quite a few names that are rumored to be on the trade block, with teams figuring out if they are to be buyers or sellers.
With a limited time with which to work with, General Managers are scrambling over one another to find the right combination of assets to deal away to improve their team’s standing. Will it pay off, or will it blow up in their faces when all is said and done?
Today we’re going to take a look at a few deals that went down this weekend, and profile some names that very well may change jerseys before the deadline comes and goes. Whether a team is looking for a superstar or a grinder, a prospect or a pile of draft choices, phones will be ringing off the hook the next few weeks.
Flames Deal with Leafs to Try and Douse Losing Ways
The Calgary Flames were a team expected to contend in the tough Northwest Division.
However, a nine game losing skid and a 3-9-3 mark in their last fifteen games forced a shakeup in Alberta.
Two of the brothers of hockey’s first family, the Sutters, made a blockbuster deal with the floundering Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs have seen another season hit the proverbial shredder, as they’ll miss the postseason again.
Going west are forwards Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, and Jamal Mayers along with defenseman Ian White. Coming back to Toronto are the cornerstone of the deal, Dion Phaneuf, along with Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie.
Production wise, it would seem the Leafs gave up two of their top forwards, but Stajan is not a top center and Hagman is inconsistent in his production at best. Still, when you aren’t lighting the lamp you need to make changes.
The big key for Toronto is the acqusition of Phaneuf, who is a throwback defenseman who isn’t afraid to use the body or his fists to make a play. He helps solidify the blueline corps of the Leafs, and is under contract for the next four seasons following this one.
Meanwhile, Calgary takes on two players (Stajan and Mayers) who are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season and a third (White) who is a restricted one. This doesn’t seem to be the greatest of strategies, going with a short term attempted solution to a problem. EDGE: Leafs
Leafs Pluck Ducks Off a Pond
Not done by any stretch of the imagination, Toronto GM Brian Burke made a deal with the team he formerly worked for, the Anaheim Ducks.
In that trade, he moved underachievers Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake in exchange for goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere, who was rotting in Anaheim.
Burke helped himself here by getting rid of two dead weights with one movement, and adding some value.
Toskala’s play had fallen off dramatically since coming to Toronto, with his save percentage dropping a full three points and his goals against up nearly a full goal per contest since 2007-08.
Blake never lived up to expectations after signing a fat contract. He potted 40 goals for the Islanders in his final season with them, but put up just 52 in two and a half seasons with the Leafs. That’s not the kind of production you want from a $4 million player.
Giguere helps the Leafs goaltending situation for the next year and a half while he is under contract and should be a good mentor for rookie netminder Jonas Gustavsson.
He paid immediate dividends Tuesday night, where he blanked the New Jersey Devils 3-0, snapping the Leafs five game losing skid. Unless Randy Carlyle can get more out of Blake and Toskala than Ron Wilson this deal is a no brainer too. EDGE: Leafs
Rangers Bring Jokinen to Broadway
Eleven months ago, Olli Jokinen was considered the piece that was going to put the Flames over the top in the Western Conference, or at least get past the first round of the playoffs.
He lit the lamp eight times in his first six games wearing a Calgary uniform, then vanished off the page.
He didn’t score his final thirteen games in the regular season. While he had two goals and five points in the first round of the playoffs, the Flames were still vanquished in six games.
Jokinen’s numbers didn’t improve any this season, as he tallied just 11 goals in 56 games before being traded to the New York Rangers along with Brandon Prust.
The Rangers have been desperate for a goal scorer and hope that being in the limelight can rejuvenate Jokinen’s career. It may
In exchange, Christopher Higgins, himself a disappointment after being the centerpiece of a deal that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal goes back to Calgary. Ales Kotalik, who has bounced a few places since last year’s deadline, heads west as well.
It will be interesting to see if a change of scenery helps any of those involved as they all have underachieved on their respective franchises. I’m not sold that either team really makes out on this deal as it appears to be an exchange of mismatched parts. I reserve judgment at the moment until we see what transpires down the home stretch. EDGE: Even.
Faces Expected to Move
Ilya Kovalchuk Seeks Greener Pastures
With the Atlanta Thrashers struggling again it is no surprise that Ilya Kovalchuk is the hottest commodity on the trade market.
After all, who wouldn’t want someone that can score seemingly at will? There are quite a few teams who are lacking in game breaking goal scorers.
He’s tallied at least 41 goals in each of the past five seasons, and put up 31 so far this year in just 49 games so far in 2009/10, putting him on pace for 50.
He’s a deadly sniper that posts more than a point per game over his career to date, and he’s only 26 years old.
While he is a free agent after the season, teams will do what it takes to add him to the fold. Teams will be lining up to throw truckloads of cash Kovalchuk’s way if he isn’t locked down.
There is no shortage of suitors for Kovalchuk’s services and the star winger has been informed with certainty he’ll be traded according to a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Los Angeles Kings are expected frontrunners for Kovalchuk, as they have a solid young nucleus and the cash available under the cap to acquire him. Speculation also swirls around New Jersey and Philadelphia while Boston and Vancouver are on the fringes.
Rumor has it that the deal could be done as soon as this weekend. Atlanta is at the point where they have no choice but to deal him away and hope that they get a decent enough return on their investment. Don Waddell is under the gun with Kovalchuk just as he was with Marian Hossa in 2008.
UPDATE: Kovalchuk was dealt last night to the New Jersey Devils along with defenseman Anssi Salmela. In exchange, Atlanta received defenseman Johnny Oduya, forwards Niclas Bergfors and Patrice Cormier, and a first round pick. The teams also exchanged second round selections.
Marty Turco: A Star Waiting to Fall?
On the goalie front, there are always teams that need a solid netminder to spell their number one.
There are even fluid goaltending situations where goalies are 1 and 1A like there was in Carolina a few years ago with Arturs Irbe and Cam Ward.
Marty Turco has seen the peaks and valleys as a goalie in the NHL over his career. What he isn’t used to is wondering if he’s going to be traded.
Currently Turco is splitting time with Alex Auld in Dallas, a place that he has spent his entire career.
While he has seen more action than Auld, he’s five years older (34 to Auld’s 29), and is far more expensive (a $5.7 million cap hit as opposed to Auld’s $1 million.)
With teams in need of a solid second goaltender, or a veteran presence, it is highly possible that Turco could be moved before the deadline. The question is which particular team might be interested in acquiring his services.
Buffalo could use Turco though they would want to unload salary in order to make the deal work. Patrick Lalime simply doesn’t cut it and with the hard charging Senators on a roll (winners of 10 straight), it might force Darcy Regier’s hand to make a move.
One other team that could use a veteran goaltender is the Kings. They have two quality young goalies in Jonathan Quick and Erik Ersberg, but they have a combined zero games of postseason experience.
Will a Hurricane blow Ray Whitney Out of Carolina?
One of the most high profile rental players on the market is Ray Whitney of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Whitney is a long time veteran of the ice wars as a seventeen year veteran and 1046 career games to his credit.
He also has taken part in 83 postseason contests in which he has tallied 18 goals and 43 points.
A good veteran forward who is a leader and a good locker room presence is something always in demand.
Whitney has proven to be productive even in his later years, as he posted 77 points in 82 games last season, then added 11 more points in 18 playoff games.
Even this season on a struggling Carolina team, he has posted 16 goals and 25 assists for 41 points in 54 contests. Teams needing a shot in the arm would be wise to consider Whitney.
There is no lack of suitors for him at this point. Teams that are pursuing Whitney include the Montreal Canadiens, the Los Angeles Kings and the Boston Bruins, a team that has been floundering badly of late.
The Canadiens are suffering on the front line especially with the loss of Mike Cammalleri and could use someone like Whitney to make an impact. The Habs have no active player with more than 14 goals.
Boston has struggled with injuries to Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm along with the disappointing season from Michael Ryder. Peter Chiarelli has made him available too though it is unclear if anyone will take on his salary.
The Kings could use a solid play making forward to help take the pressure off the young players like Anze Kopitar and Alexander Frolov. Adding Whitney could make sense as a stabilizing force with a Kings team that is still very young in its nucleus.
With the deadline approaching it will be interesting to see what teams bolster their teams for a deep postseason run. If past seasons are any indication expect a flurry of movement in the coming days before the Olympic freeze and then the actual deadline on March 3rd. We’ll keep you informed as deals and details become known.