My take on some of the more notable moves and moments of the 2013 NHL trade deadline.
It was an unusual trade deadline this year, as the first seven hours went by with only four small-potatoes moves, until the final half-hour before the 3PM ET deadline, when the floodgates opened.
The day’s biggest deals saw the NY Rangers ship Marian Gaborik and two prospects to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore, and the Buffalo Sabres moving Jason Pominville and a fourth rounder in 2014 to the Minnesota Wild for prospects Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett, plus a first rounder in 2013 and a second in 2014.
It was an incredible move by the Blue Jackets, making the biggest acquisition in franchise history since the ill-fated Jeff Carter trade two years ago. If Gaborik relaxes under the less harsh spotlight in Columbus and regains his scoring touch, the Jackets could be assured of a playoff berth this season. As for the Rangers, they add more depth at center (Brassard), speed (Moore) on their defense and grit (Dorsett) on their checking lines, and will hope these additions bolster their playoff chances.
As for the Pominville move, the Wild are already jockeying with Vancouver for first in the Northwest Division, but the Canucks landing Derek Roy on Tuesday obviously forced Wild GM Chuck Fletcher’s hand. Pominville is a proven leader with playoff experience and should be a good fit in Minnesota. The return to the Sabres is a clear indication a rebuild is commencing in Buffalo, which will ramp up speculation stars Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek could be next out the door this summer.
Among the rare genuine hockey trades of the day was the Ottawa Senators shipping goaltender Ben Bishop to the Tampa Bay Lightning for rookie winger Cory Conacher and a fourth round pick.
I realize a number of Lightning fans aren’t happy with this move. Conacher was among the NHL’s rookie scoring leaders (though the bulk of his 24 points came before March) and quickly became a fan favorite in Tampa Bay. The Bolts also have a promising goalie in Anders Lindback, plus young Russian Andrei Vasilevski could be waiting in the wings, leaving some Lightning fans wondering why GM Steve Yzerman dealt for another goalie.
Still, I like this trade for the Bolts. Bishop played very well in relief of the injured Craig Anderson this season, but wasn’t going to get his shot at being an NHL starter in Ottawa. He’ll now get that chance in Tampa Bay, where he and Lindback can challenge each other. If Bishop plays as well in Tampa Bay as he did in Ottawa and Lindback rises to the challenge, the Lightning are going to be much tougher to score against.
Conacher, meanwhile, should fit in well with a young, building Senators team, and should have a bright future in Ottawa.
Color me unsurprised Miikka Kiprusoff opted not to agree to a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs, or to another NHL team for that matter. In case you missed it, Kiprusoff decided to remain with the Flames for the remainder of this season, after which he’s expected to retire.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos first mentioned this possibility over a week ago, citing a conversation with former Flames head coach Mike Keenan, who claimed when Kiprusoff negotiated his current contract, he had no intention of playing the final season.
It’s been suggested this was done as a mutual understanding between Kiprusoff and then-GM Darryl Sutter, which could constitute a violation of the CBA prohibiting any agreements between player and management which could circumvent the provisions of the CBA.
If so, the NHL hasn’t issued a word on the matter, nor has anyone filed a complaint with the league. Why? Probably because suggesting this is what happened is one thing, but proving it is another.
As Kiprusoff was 31 when he signed his current contract, the remaining $5.83 million cap hit and $1.5 million of actual salary comes off the books if he indeed retires following this season.
I was pleased the Toronto Maple Leafs weren’t able to land a veteran goalie by the deadline, because it’ll give their current tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens the opportunity to prove themselves by carrying the Leafs into their first playoff berth in eight years.
As I’ve frequently said in recent days, I understand why GM Dave Nonis wanted to bring in a goalie with playoff experience, but Reimer and Scrivens are one reason why the Leafs are in the thick of the NHL playoff chase in the Eastern Conference.
In my opinion, the duo have earned the right to carry the goaltending duties the rest of the way, plus it’ll provide the duo (especially Reimer) with their first opportunity to gain some valuable playoff experience.
If the Leafs were a Stanley Cup contender, adding a veteran like Kiprusoff or Luongo now would make sense, but as The Sporting News’ Jesse Spector recently said, they’re not Cup contenders, they’re a playoff contender, so give Reimer the chance to get invaluable playoff experience now.
Hands up, everyone who was shocked the Vancouver Canucks didn’t trade Roberto Luongo at the deadline.
Luongo himself cited the biggest stumbling block. “My contract sucks”, said Bobby Lu, acknowledging the fact that, sometimes, expensive, long-term contracts aren’t as great as they seem.
Let’s be honest, Luongo would’ve been gone by now if it weren’t for that hefty contract, which has ten years at a cap hit of $5.33 million per season.
Yes, Luongo had a chance to be dealt last summer to the Maple Leafs but rejected it because he thought he had a chance to be traded back to the Florida Panthers, but who could fault him at the time? Of course, he since expressed a willingness to consider other options, but the market isn’t as good in the midst of a shortened season, especially with the salary cap dropping to $64.3 million next season.
That being said, I expect Luongo will be moved this summer, as there will be more interest, and yes, there will be teams with more cap space. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Panthers revisit last summer’s interest, given Luongo’s willingness to return to them.
Weirdest trade for me was the Philadelphia Flyers acquiring Steve Mason from the Columbus Blue Jackets. This move came nearly nine months after the Flyers shipped Sergei Bobrovsky to the Jackets at last year’s entry draft for picks. Maybe they’re hoping Bobrovsky’s magic rubbed off on Mason?
I can’t help but feel Flyers management really, really, really regret their lack of patience with Bobrovsky, who’s the biggest reason the Blue Jackets are in position to nail down a playoff berth.
Some suggest Mason’s arrival could spell the beginning of the end of Ilya Bryzgalov as the Flyers starter, musing he could become an amnesty buyout candidate this summer. That could happen, but if the Flyers front office are thinking of using Mason as Bryzgalov’s replacement, they’ll be perpetuating a nearly three-decade long maddening trend of screw-ups and misfires at their goaltending position.
The “Trade They Will Regret Down The Road” award goes to the Washington Capitals, who traded away top prospect Filip Forsberg to Nashville for veteran playmaker Martin Erat and prospect center Martin Latta.
In the short term, Erat should help the Capitals offense, and perhaps Latta might blossom into a quality NHL center one day, but Forsberg has been favorably compared to a young Corey Perry. If Forsberg goes on in a few years to become a star in Nashville, the Capitals front office (if the same people are still in the front office by then) could regret their shortsightedness.
First real trade of the day was the San Jose Sharks bringing defenseman Scott Hannan back from Nashville for what is likely his last hurrah in the NHL.
Hannan’s a 14-year NHL veteran but it’s taken its toll upon the 34-year-old blueliner. He’s a UFA this summer, so this is likely a rental move by the Sharks. I doubt Hannan gets another NHL contract after this season.
Center Jerred Smithson’s trade from the Florida Panthers to the Edmonton Oilers came when he was driving his expectant wife to hospital to deliver their first child.
Jussi Jokinen’s wife was already giving birth when he got the call at the hospital he was being dealt from the Carolina Hurricanes to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
While Smithson and Jokinen may be happy going to playoff contenders, it’s tough to leave their wives and newborns behind.
As one pundit noted, we tend to forget the human side to these trades, and the effect they have upon players and their families. Now you know why so many top players insist on a no-movement or no-trade clause in their contracts.
While following the deadline on Twitter, I read a number of fans complaining about the respective hosts of TSN’s and Sportsnet’s trade deadline shows occasional grumbling over the lengthy of time it took for the first trades are made.
Their grumbling wasn’t unreasonable. Look at it from their perspective. Most of them are hauled into the studio much earlier than they’re used to, in order to host a seven-to-eight hour trade deadline show starting at 8 or 9 AM ET, with the knowledge the opening hours almost always pass without a single trade taking place, forcing them to fill the dead space with endless chatter about the same trade candidates and the clubs who will either move or pursue those players.
It’s not their idea to host a show that long. Blame their bosses and their pursuit of ratings, for the trade deadline shows are among their biggest ratings grabbers of the year in hockey-mad Canada. Give their druthers, most of the hosts would be doing what fans who skip off work and school on deadline day usually do: sleep in, then sit around in their bathrobes, pyjamas or sweatpants watching the deadline show. Unless you’re TSN’s Jay Onrait; in which case, it’s part of that day’s on-air schtick to fill time.
My favorite segment of the deadline shows was Sportsnet’s Strategy Room, where former general mangers Pat Quinn, Neil Smith, Brian Lawton and Mike Keenan and former players Denis Potvin, Theo Fleury, Wendel Clark and Marty McSorley reminisced about old trades, deals they attempted to make, and games they played in and how the trade deadline affected them as players.
It was great to hear all those entertaining stories, as well as a good way to kill time during the dead hours when no trades took place.