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.

Sean Couturier returned and helped save the Flyers’ season

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PITTSBURGH — After four straight blowouts to open their first-round series, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers finally played a close game on Friday night. Thanks to a goalie switch that saw Michal Neuvirth replace Brian Elliott, and a couple of smaller lineup changes, as well as the return of one of their best players — Sean Couturier — the Flyers were able to keep their season alive with a 4-2 win to force a Game 6 in Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon. (3 p.m. ET, NBC).

Couturier missed Game 4 due to a lower-body injury, but was able to return to the lineup on Friday to play the role of hero, scoring the game-winning goal with 1:18 to play in the third period.

The goal came after the Penguins were sloppy with the puck in their own zone and failed to clear on two different occasions, allowing the puck to come to a wide open Couturier at the blue line. From there, he fired a long-distance shot that deflected off of Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin and into the back of the net.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Given that he was limited to just 16:55 of ice-time and did not play on the power play at all, it was pretty clear that he was not anywhere close to 100 percent. Just consider that during the regular season he averaged more than 21 minutes per game and was playing more than 24 minutes in the first three games of the series. He refused to say after the game how he was feeling (he was twice asked to put a percentage on it and refused both times) but it was obviously enough to make an impact in what was to this point the biggest game of the Flyers’ season.

“I was just trying to take it one shift at a time, win your one-on-one battles, keep it simple,” Couturier said when asked what his mindset was. “Don’t want to overdo things or overthink the game. That was kind of the mentality I had, just keep it simple, keep my shifts short, make sure I was ready to go and fresh for the next shift.”

While his game-winning goal will be the moment that everybody remembers until puck drop on Sunday, it was his play on the penalty kill — and the Flyers’ penalty kill as a whole — that was probably the difference in the game.

Heading into this series the special teams matchup was going to be an important one to watch because the Penguins had the NHL’s best power play during the regular season. The Flyers, conversley, had one of the league’s worst penalty kills. Throughout the first four games when the Penguins power play clicked — and when the Flyers gave them ample opportunity to allow it to click — the Penguins won decisively.

On Friday, it most definitely did not click. And just as was the case in Game 2, the Flyers were able to win based on the strength of that penalty kill.

More than 40 percent of Couturier’s ice-time on Friday night came with the Flyers shorthanded. During that time he helped the Flyers not only go a perfect 5-for-5, but also score a shorthanded goal and completely shut down the Penguins’ power play, limiting the unit to just four shots on goal. At one point in the second period the Penguins had a 4-on-3 power play for more than a minute-and-a-half and not only failed to score, they failed to get a shot on goal and only attempted one (it was blocked, naturally, by Couturier). Couturier was the lone Flyer forward on the ice for almost the entire situation.

“We did a good job, but they had a lot of chances,” said Couturier of the Flyers’ PK. “[Neuvirth] bailed us out a few times, and we have to be more disciplined. That is too many penalties. We put ourselves in trouble because they can take over the game when they go on the power play. It’s tough to gain momentum. Tonight we fought hard, found a way to win.”

From almost the minute he arrived in the NHL at the start of the 2011-12 season Couturier has been one of the league’s top defensive forwards, even if he wasn’t always recognized for it in awards voting. Even though it is a defensive award, it still almost always goes to a player that also has huge offensive numbers. After getting elevated to the team’s top-line this season and playing alongside Claude Giroux, he went on to have a breakout year offensively that saw him shatter all of his previous career highs, scoring 31 goals and recording 76 total points. On Wednesday, it was announced that he is, for the first time, a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward.

“Him being in the lineup gives a boost to everybody just because of what he means to our hockey team,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol. “At the end of the day it comes down to going out and doing the job. He did that. Obviously he played a few less minutes tonight than he normally does, but I thought he did a heck of a job, especially on the PK, where was a huge factor for us. His play down the stretch was great, not just on the game-winning goal.”

It was not just Couturier’s return to the lineup that made an impact for the Flyers on Friday.

Hakstol also made a number of lineup changes (Dale Weise and Robert Hagg in; Travis Sanheim and Oskar Lindblom out) including the decision to go with Neuvirth in net after he had played just 59 minutes of hockey over the past three months.

It turned out to be a huge call.

After getting horrendous goaltending in three of the first four games, Neuvirth stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced on Friday. The two goals he did allow were not great (a bad wraparound goal to Bryan Rust; a shot through the five-hole by Jake Guentzel off the rush) but he did end up making the save of the night in the final minute of regulation, just moments after Couturier’s goal to give the Flyers the lead, when he robbed Sidney Crosby on the doorstep.

With that, a series that has been defined by blowouts and lopsided scores is now a little more interesting as the Flyers return home and look to push it to a seventh game.

If they get goaltending and penalty kill work like they did on Friday, they will.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Jets chase Dubnyk, eliminate Wild in Game 5

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Friday’s Game 5 against the Winnipeg Jets was do-or-die for the Minnesota Wild. It turned out someone may have forgotten to tell the Wild.

Despite not having Josh Morrissey, Dmitry Kulikov, Toby Enstrom, Mathieu Perreault and Nikolaj Ehlers in Game 5, the Jets roared out to a 4-0 start through 20 minutes, chasing Devan Dubnyk, en route to a 5-0 win to advance to the second round.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Dubnyk lasted just 11:59, as he allowed four goals on 10 shots and was replaced by Alex Stalock.

Jacob Trouba started the party in Winnipeg scoring just 31 seconds into the game:

Bryan Little, Brandon Tanev and Joel Armia also found the back of the net for the Jets. Mark Scheifele added a power-play tally early in the third frame to extend their lead to 5-0.

The Wild were better in the second period, but they still couldn’t figure out Connor Hellebuyck, who ended up making 30 saves for his second straight shutout.

This is the third year in a row that Minnesota has been bounced in the opening round. In 2016, they were eliminated in six games by the Dallas Stars and last year they watched St. Louis take them down in five.

Even though they finished the year with over a 100 points, it’s another disappointing end for Bruce Boudreau’s squad. It’s tough to envision them making major changes to the roster because Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are under contract for six more years. It’ll be interesting to see what they can do to shake up this roster or their staff. General manager Chuck Fletcher has some work to do this summer.

As for the Jets, they move on to face the winner of the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche series. Winnipeg definitely looked explosive in Game 5, and they’ll need to keep rolling if they want to reach the Western Conference Final.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Michal Neuvirth gets Game 5 start for Flyers; Couturier returns to lineup

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With their season on the line on Friday night the Philadelphia Flyers are making a change in goal.

Michal Neuvirth, who has played just 59 minutes of NHL hockey since Feb. 18, will get the Game 5 start in goal when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Neuvirth replaced Brian Elliott in Philadelphia’s Game 4 loss on Wednesday night after Elliott gave up three goals on 17 shots, the second time he was benched in the first four games. The Flyers have already used three goalies in this series with Elliott, Neuvirth, and Petr Mrazek all getting playing time. None of them have played well.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

When healthy Neuvirth had the best numbers out of the group during the regular season, but health has been a constant battle for him the past few years.

The other big lineup news for the Flyers on Friday will be the fact that center Sean Couturier will be returning after sitting out Game 4 with a lower body injury. He may not be 100 percent, however, given that he took pregame line rushes on the team’s third line between Scott Laughton and Wayne Simmonds. Valtteri Filppula was skating on the first line alongside Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Among the other changes for the Flyers: Robert Hagg will replace Travis Sanheim on defense, while Dale Weise will play on the fourth-line instead of Oskar Lindblom.

Related: Penguins will not have Patric Hornqvist in Game 5

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Barkov, Karlsson, O’Reilly are 2018 Lady Byng Trophy finalists

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Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers, William Karlsson of the Vegas Golden Knights, and Ryan O’Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres have been named as the three finalists for the 2018 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, the NHL announced on Friday. The award, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, is given “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

The winner will be announced during the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 20.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

The Case for Aleksander Barkov: The Panthers center certainly has the “high standard of playing ability” part down with a season that saw him lead the team with 78 points and finish tied for third in goals with 27. Barkov played the fifth-most minutes (1,743:32) among NHL forwards and only picked up seven minor penalties. This is the second time he’s been named a finalist in the last three seasons.

The Case for William Karlsson: Karlsson had a monster of a season with 43 goals and 78 points during the Golden Knights’ historic first year. In playing 1,534:47, the 25-year-old forward racked up only 12 PIMs. Should Karlsson win, he would become the first player to win an end-of-season trophy for a team in its inaugural season since Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers won the Byng and Hart Trophy and in 1979-80.

The Case for Ryan O'Reilly: O’Reilly missed one game this season and logged 1,686:10 of ice time for the Sabres. He recorded only one penalty all season, way back on Oct. 24 versus Detroit, a slashing call. His one penalty is the fewest among NHL players who suited up for at least 41 games this season. He’s a previous winner having taken home the trophy in 2014 while a member of the Colorado Avalanche.

2018 NHL Award finalists
Bill Masterton Trophy (Saturday)
Norris Trophy
Selke Trophy
Vezina Trophy

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.