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Winners and losers of the 2014 trade deadline

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It’s been a crazy 48 hours in the National Hockey League, with a flurry of transactions and player movement. So, let’s make snap judgements about who did well and who didn’t!

Winners

Montreal

source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

The Habs grabbed the deadline’s big fish, Thomas Vanek, for prospect Sebastien Collberg and a conditional second-round pick, a remarkably low price compared to what the Isles spent earlier this season on the pending free agent.

Montreal made other moves, too, including grabbing cheap goaltending insurance in Devan Dubnyk (Nashville is retaining part of his salary). But the real star was Vanek, who has 21 tallies this year and has been one of the league’s most consistent goalscorers over the last few seasons. He’s set to join a team boasting nine 10-goal scorers (led by Max Pacioretty, with 29).

From a short-term perspective, you could argue the Canadiens are the big winners, while the long-term winner is:

Buffalo 

One could joke the 2014 and 2015 NHL Drafts should take place in Buffalo since the Sabres hold all the picks. While that’s hyperbole, it’s only slight — GM Tim Murray (and former GM Darcy Regier) have netted a ton of selections by flipping their various assets.

On Wednesday, the Sabres moved Matt Moulson and Jaroslav Halak juuust under the deadline after it looked like they might take the last day off. Murray also decided to keep Chris Stewart — one of the pieces acquired in the Ryan Miller-Steve Ott deal to St. Louis — which has its advantages, as he has a year remaining on his contract.

While technically not a trade, the Sabres also grabbed Cory Conacher for nothing off of waivers. That was a low-risk moved by Murray, who knows Conacher from their time together in Ottawa.

Rangers (short-term)

Maybe it would be most appropriate to say that Blueshirts head coach Alain Vigneault “won” on Wednesday as his team traded Ryan Callahan for Martin St. Louis. Vigneault pleaded for a more offensively explosive team earlier this season and now he has it, inheriting Tampa Bay’s leading scorer and the NHL’s reigning scoring champ.

Make no mistake about it, though, the Rangers probably could have kept Callahan if they truly wanted to. Maybe that comes down to GM Glen Sather playing hardball … or maybe Vigneault wanted a better fit for his system?

Worth noting the Rangers added some defensive depth by getting Swiss blueliner Raphael Diaz out of Vancouver for a fifth-round pick. All in all, a good day in the Big Apple.

Lightning (long-term)

Right now, the St. Louis deal stings — both in terms of how it transpired and what it leaves the Bolts with for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs. There are positives, though. Even with Callahan’s fearless, shot-block style in mind, the Bolts got a decade younger today as Callahan is 28 while St. Louis is 38.

The Bolts also received a first and conditional second-round pick in the deal, which is a positive “look towards the future” move for a team that dealt away its disgruntled captain, and was hamstrung by his desire to only join one team. The first-rounder is also in the highly coveted ’15 Draft, which is set to include wunderkinds Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Dylan Strome.

And hey, Callahan always could stick around Tampa Bay beyond this year…

Los Angeles

Back in 2011-12, the Kings made a big trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets in nabbing Jeff Carter, who helped them win a Stanley Cup.

Could history repeat itself with Marian Gaborik?

The Kings largely used pieces from previous goalie trades (a third-rounder in the Ben Scrivens deal; Matt Frattin from the Jonathan Bernier swap) to grab Gaborik for a low-risk price. the 32-year-old carries health risks as always, yet the thought of a guy with two 40+ goal seasons on his resume added to a squad that includes Anze Kopitar and Carter must leave Western Conference teams somewhat concerned.

Washington

The Capitals came into the deadline with two question marks: goaltending and scoring depth. They traded for Halak to push Braden Holtby in net and grabbed Dustin Penner to help boost their secondary scoring. GM George McPhee needed to make moves this week, and he delivered — without altering the current roster very much.

Bargain hunters

Ales Hemsky only cost Ottawa a third and fifth-round pick, the same cost as Marcel Goc  (Pittsburgh) and Brandon Pirri (Florida)… One-time All-Star Stephane Robidas (injury and all) went to the Ducks for the low price of a fourth-rounder… Penner netted the same charge leaving Anaheim for the Capitals.

In short, there were deals to be had. Kudos to the clubs that found ’em.

Losers

Islanders

Specifically, Islanders GM Garth Snow. Parts I and II of the Thomas Vanek trade represent disappointing results for the Isles, although some may take solace in Snow at least getting something for the coveted sniper.

Do note we said “some.” Not “many.”

Vancouver

Canucks GM Mike Gillis didn’t move Ryan Kesler and was skewered for how he handled the Roberto Luongo situation. He’s losing in the court of public opinion and, while that might not sound like much, it is the kind of failing that can get you fired.

If there’s a bright side, the goalie controversy (well, the latest goalie controversy) is over and there’s still the option of dealing Kesler at the draft, when his stock should still be high. You know, assuming he doesn’t get injured again.

Alberta teams

The Sabres raking in picks makes Calgary and Edmonton look bad. The Oilers made a lot of moves and added some goaltending depth, but didn’t get much in return for Hemsky/Nick Schultz and were unable to recoup their second-round pick at the ’14 Draft, something GM Craig MacTavish wanted to do.

The Flames, meanwhile, did nothing. It’s true that pieces such as Michael Cammalleri weren’t carrying heavy hype coming into the deadline, but now one wonders what he provides as a pending free agent… for a rebuilding Calgary team.

Draisaitl’s growth raises questions for Oilers

EDMONTON, AB - NOVEMBER 29:  Leon Draisaitl #29 of the Edmonton Oilers faces off against Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 29, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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It’s easy to forget about Leon Draisaitl.

Mostly because he’s not Connor McDavid, and that’s who everyone thinks of when they think of the present-day Edmonton Oilers.

They also think about the other first overall draft picks: Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, only the latter of whom is still with the team.

But back to Draisaitl — imagine if (insert your favorite team) had a 21-year-old forward with 11 goals and 11 assists in 28 games. You’d be pretty excited about that guy, right?

That’s the season Draisaitl’s currently enjoying. The third overall draft pick in 2014 (yeah, it’s about time the Oilers started to win), he’s scored four goals in his last four games — and no, he doesn’t always get to play with McDavid.

But the two youngsters have looked good together on special teams, and there have been times when coach Todd McLellan has decided to load up the top line.

“Leon has no trouble playing the wing. He’s done it before,” McLellan said, per the Edmonton Journal. “Sometimes you have a little security there too because Connor and Leon both understand how to play low in the D-zone and the first guy back can assume that position. You also have two centers who can take face-offs as long as you’re not exposed on other lines.”

Long term, the Oilers would probably like Draisaitl to center his own line. Where he ends up may depend on what they do with Nugent-Hopkins, the 23-year-old center who heard his name plenty in trade rumors as the Oilers tried to shore up their blue line over the summer.

Though scoring isn’t a huge problem for the Oilers, they could still use an offensive defenseman to help the power play. So far this season, they’ve been making do with Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera, but adding a real specialist could take their power play from good to great.

The Oilers may also need to shed some salary at some point. It’s nothing urgent right now, but Draisaitl is a pending restricted free agent and McDavid’s entry-level deal ends after the 2017-18 season. You can imagine what the captain’s second contract might look like.

Remember that Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli has never shied away from making trades, and that June’s expansion draft could be preceded by a number of deals.

Yes, Chiarelli would have to think long and hard about trading an all-situations player like Nugent-Hopkins, but depending on the return, it might be something he’d consider.

Related: With McDavid and RNH, where does Draisaitl fit for Oilers?

Panthers happy to be home after what ‘felt like a one month trip’

Gerard Gallant, former Florida Panthers head coach, gets into a cab after being relieved of his duties following an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
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When the Panthers headed out on the road 12 days ago, they’d won three of their last four games and Gerard Gallant was the head coach.

How things change.

Gallant was fired, quite infamously, after the first of six away games (a 3-2 loss in Carolina). The club proceeded to lose four of its next five, but did a decent job of securing some points with a shootout defeat in Chicago, and back-to-back OT losses in Boston and Philadelphia.

Now, the Panthers are just glad to be back home.

“It felt like a one month trip,” Jussi Jokinen said, per the Miami Herald. “I think it will be nice to go home and spend [Wednesday] with the family, and get our thoughts away from hockey. That will probably be good for all of us.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean things are going to get easier.

The Panthers host the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins tonight, a team that’s won three straight and absolutely torched the scoreboard while doing so. Pittsburgh scored a whopping 19 goals over that span and, quite incredibly, only one came on the power play.

So there’s that to deal with. What’s more, Florida will be without Jonathan Marchessault tonight, while Keith Yandle is a game-time decision.

After the Pens game, Florida hosts Vancouver before heading back onto the road for a three-game swing through Minnesota, Winnipeg and Colorado.

Wings get good news on injury front as Athanasiou, Marchenko ready to return

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 15:  Andreas Athanasiou #72 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 15, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Red Wings 4-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Detroit has won two straight, and could have two key players back for Friday’s home date with Columbus.

Speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou, who’s missed the last 12 games with a knee injury, has been activated from IR and is ready to go for tomorrow, while d-man Alexey Marchenko — out since Nov. 20 with a shoulder ailment — will either return to face the Jackets, or on Sunday against Philly.

It’s great news for a Red Wings team that’s been hit hard with injuries. Darren Helm, Tyler Bertuzzi, Brendan Smith and Justin Abdelkader were already missing due to various ailments.

Athanasiou, one of the fastest players on the team, was off to a pretty solid start before getting knocked by Canucks d-man Nikita Tryamkin on Nov. 10. He had four goals and five points in 13 games, and was averaging 12:06 TOI per night.

Marchenko, one of the club’s key penalty killers, was averaging over 18 minutes per game prior to getting hurt.

Both returns come at a key time for the club. Detroit currently sits four points back of Philly for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference — with a game in hand — and now has a big home stretch coming up. The Wings will play their next five at Joe Louis against the Blue Jackets, Flyers, Coyotes, Kings and Ducks.

Not getting any easier: Slumping Avs take on the Bruins in Boston

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 11:  Head Coach Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche (C) looks on from the bench during the third period against the Winnipeg Jets at Pepsi Center on November 11, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Losers of six straight, five of them in regulation, the Colorado Avalanche will be in tough again tonight.

The Avs will be missing captain Gabriel Landeskog and defenseman Erik Johnson when they take on the Bruins in Boston. Landeskog (lower body) is getting closer to a return, but he’s not ready yet. Johnson (broken leg) is going to be out a while longer.

Meanwhile, the Avs’ season has been slipping away. They’re already 10 points back of a wild-card spot, and it’ll be hard to make up ground against a Boston team that’s gone six straight without losing in regulation.

The Bruins fought back from a 3-0 deficit last night in Washington, where the Capitals eventually won, 4-3, in overtime.

The Avs, meanwhile, are coming off a 4-3 loss in Nashville. They played the Preds close, and had a strong push late, but ultimately couldn’t beat Pekka Rinne on any of their 13 third-period shots.

“For me, that was the hardest we played — that was the best game we played in a couple weeks,” coach Jared Bednar told reporters. “We had some chances to square that game up.”

Bednar, of course, was a late replacement for Patrick Roy, who abruptly resigned in August. The Avs started the season with three wins in their first four, but have gone 6-13-1 since, at times admitting they’ve been “awful.” 

     Read more: Deadline target? Iginla will ‘cross that bridge when it comes’

The Avs play Saturday in Montreal then finish their road trip Sunday in Toronto. For Colorado’s sake, at least those two opponents have their own issues. The Canadiens are suddenly down two centers, while the young Maple Leafs are still learning how to win.

Tonight at TD Garden, the Bruins will be significant favorites, even though they played last night on the road. Boston (15-10-2) has one of the best lines in all of hockey with Patrice Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

That’s the challenge facing the Avs, who better figure it out soon; otherwise, they’ll need a Christmas miracle to get back into the playoff race.