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.

In prepping Vegas for draft, McPhee cites ‘outstanding’ record with Caps

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George McPhee is a veteran of the draft process, having presided over nearly 20 during his time with the Caps.

This year, he’s in a unique position — spearheading the first draft for the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights — and he suggests his past success should set him up well for the future.

“I think we have an outstanding staff,” McPhee said, per the club website. “I think our draft record in my previous job was outstanding.”

Assessments like these are always up for debate — draft success is somewhat subjective, and there are inevitably a bunch of misses among the hits — but McPhee does have a strong history of drafting and developing players, and could point to the current Capitals as validation to his claim.

The active roster has 11 players that were original draftees (Braden Holtby, Philip Grubauer, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Tom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Nicklas Backstrom), with goalies Holtby and Grubauer — both fourth-round picks — emerging as pretty good finds.

McPhee’s strategy? Go big or go home.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever played it safe going to the draft,” he explained. “I believe in swinging for the fences, and trying to find someone who can be a real difference maker. The difference makers are those core guys on your team, those 4-5 players that become elite players are the ones that can really take you a long way.

“They are hard to find. Those are the ones I’d like to swing for.”

At this year’s draft in Chicago, Vegas should have a shot at landing an impact guy. The club will have the same odds of winning the lottery as the team that finishes with the third fewest points this season and, though it’s considered a weak draft overall, there is some serious talent at the top end.

WHL Brandon’s Nolan Patrick, QMJHKL Halifax’s Nico Hischier and OHL Windsor’s Gabriel Vilardi are all considered high-end prospects and — importantly — all three play center. For a team that’s building from scratch, filling that position is of vital importance.

McPhee acknowledged this is a weaker draft, but contended those are the ones “where the best teams excel.” He theorizes that with fewer quality players available, the strongest teams emerge with the good ones.

He also shared how the Golden Knights plan to land ’em.

“We’re really aggressive,” he said. “We try not to play it safe very often.”

B’s ink prospects Fitzgerald, Johansson to entry-level deals

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Boston has brought a pair of talented youngsters into the fold.

Forward Ryan Fitzgerald, who just wrapped his senior season at Boston College, and defenseman Emil Johansson — who spent this year playing in the Swedish Hockey League — have signed their entry-level deals and will begin playing with the club’s AHL affiliate in Providence.

Fitzgerald — who’s father, Tom, is the assistant GM in New Jersey — scored 31 points in 34 games for BC this year, serving as an alternate captain. He was originally taken by Boston in the fourth round (120th overall) of the ’13 draft.

Johansson, 20, was a seventh-round pick in ’14 that’s panned out pretty well. He scored a career-high seven goals and 17 points in 49 games for Djugardens this year, appearing in three playoff contests.

 

 

Ducks send Stoner to AHL on conditioning loan

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Clayton Stoner is going to play some hockey again.

The Anaheim Ducks announced today that the 32-year-old defenseman has been assigned to AHL San Diego on a long-term injury conditioning loan.

Stoner has not played since Nov. 15. He had abdominal surgery in December, at which point the Ducks said he’d miss an additional 4-6 weeks. But a setback in his recovery extended the time frame.

“The setback was kind of just me trying to get back maybe a little bit quicker than I should,” Stoner told the O.C. Register recently. “And I wasn’t ready. Things have been good here for a little while so hopefully I’m just trying to string some days together and earn a spot back and kind of prove that I can be healthy and stay healthy.”

Panthers didn’t want to trade Crouse, but Bolland contract was ‘strangling’ them

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Interesting note here from Florida head coach Tom Rowe who, last night, watched former Panther prospect Lawson Crouse play in Florida for the first time since being traded to Arizona.

Crouse was the price the Panthers had to pay to unload Dave Bolland‘s contract on the Coyotes last summer. Rowe wasn’t involved with the Bolland signing, but was involved in dumping the contract — he was Florida’s assistant GM at the time the deal went down.

His take, from the Miami Herald:

Florida traded Crouse to the Coyotes last summer as part of a salary cap dump; Arizona took on the final three years and $16.5-million of Dave Bolland’s contract in exchange for a top prospect — in this case, Crouse.

“We got criticized for giving up on a great young prospect but we had to,” Rowe said. “That contract was strangling us, cap-wise. …

“When we traded him, our scouts were furious. I’m not going to lie. But we had to do something and that was trade Lawson. I’m sure, to this day, he’s still sour about it.”

Crouse, who Florida took 11th overall at the 2015 draft, has five goals and 11 points through 64 games this year, averaging 11:50 TOI per night. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but they do need to be taken in context — Crouse is only 19 years old, and the 10th-youngest player to play in the NHL this season.

Bolland, meanwhile, hasn’t played since December of 2015, due to a variety of back and ankle injuries. His time in Florida was largely forgettable — after scoring the $27.5 million pact, he played just 78 games in a Panthers uniform, scoring 28 points.  It’s widely regarded as the worst deal GM Dale Tallon has made during his time with the organization.

Shortly after taking on his contract, Coyotes GM John Chayka said Bolland wouldn’t be healthy for the “foreseeable future.” The 30-year-old has two years remaining on his deal, at $5.5 million annually.