Some observations on the final trade deadline under the current CBA.
For the third straight season, there wasn’t a significant number of trades, and none involving big name stars.
A quick look at the standings in both conference on deadline day explains why.
In the Eastern Conference, only eight points separated the eighth overall Winnipeg Jets from the 13th overall NY Islanders, with the Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres sandwiched between.
Over in the Western Conference, nine points divided the sixth overall Chicago Blackhawks from the 13th overall Anaheim Ducks, with the San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild jumbled in between. And of those teams, only the Wild went into “sell” mode by deadline day.
Once again, there were too many “buyers” and not enough “sellers”. Most of those sitting outside the playoff picture aren’t willing to give up on making the cut by season’s end. And of those that have, the asking prices they set for expendable players were simply too expensive for potential buyers.
No notable star players were moved. Brian Rolston was once something of a “name”, but his star has been in steady decline for the past four years. His trade to the Boston Bruins, where he spent several seasons early in the last decade, are his last chance at winning another Stanley Cup (he won his first, and only, as a rookie with the New Jersey Devils back in 1995) before he calls it a career.
Three-time 20-plus goalscorer Andrei Kostitsyn, defensemen Nick Schultz, Tom Gilbert, Greg Zanon and Johnny Oduya, checking line centers Paul Gaustad and Samuel Pahlsson, and promising rookie center Cody Hodgson were the notables changing teams by the deadline.
No goaltenders were moved at this year’s deadline, though given the lack of depth in available netminders, that’s hardly a surprise. The only deal of note involving a goaltender occurred the day before the deadline, when the Ottawa Senators acquired promising minor league goalie Ben Bishop from the St. Louis Blues for a draft pick.
Though there were the usual “deadline dumping” trades involving players shipped out by teams who either couldn’t or wouldn’t retain or re-sign them (Kostitsyn, Gaustad, Oduya, Pahlsson), there were also some actual “hockey trades”, involving the swap of players as teams attempted to address specific needs in their respective lineups.
The first of the day was the Oilers shipping Tom Gilbert to the Wild for Nick Schultz. Both have two years remaining on their respective contracts (Gilbert at $4 million per, Schultz at $3.5 million per), and both should address the respective needs of their new clubs.
Gilbert is an experienced puck-moving blueliner, which the Wild have lacked this season since trading away Brent Burns last summer and with Marek Zidlicky failing to play well under coach Mike Yeo prior to being dealt away to New Jersey.
The Oilers have been lacking experienced “stay-at-home” defenders, and Schultz should certainly help address that problem.
It’s a move which could work out for both clubs.
The final significant trade of the day saw the Vancouver Canucks ship promising rookie center Cody Hodgson, along with veteran defenseman Alexander Sulzer, to the Buffalo Sabres for young power forward-in-training Zach Kassian and up-and-coming blueliner Marc-Andre Gragnani.
By adding Kassian and Gragnani, the Canucks in one move added more size and muscle up front while bolstering their depth on defense.
Giving up Hodgson seems a bit much, but he was never going to get a chance to move up beyond third line duty behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler. The addition of Samuel Pahlsson also provided the Canucks with an experienced playoff performer and checking line center to replace Hodgson in the short term as they push for another shot at a Cup championship.
As for the Sabres, they replace Paul Gaustad, whom they shipped to Nashville earlier in the day, with a promising Hodgson, one of the league’s top rookies, who has the potential to at least become a very good second line center. He should see considerably more playing time in Buffalo than he did in Vancouver, and could thrive as a result.
Like the swap between the Oilers and Wild, this deal between the Canucks and Sabres could work out for both clubs.
The San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche were also involved in a “hockey trade”, as the Sharks gave up forward Jamie McGinn, along with two prospects, to the Avs for physical forward Daniel Winnik and winger T.J. Galiardi.
McGinn plays a decent defensive game and can contribute offensively, He might blossom in Colorado, while Winnik and Galiardi provide additional toughness and depth respectively up front for the Sharks.
Ultimately, though, we saw no big names on the move, and certainly no blockbuster deals.
The NY Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers didn’t blow up their rosters for Columbus’ Rick Nash. The Washington Capitals didn’t trade Alexander Semin, nor did the Anaheim Ducks part with Teemu Selanne or Bobby Ryan. The LA Kings didn’t part with team captain Dustin Brown after all.
That, of course, has been par for the course under this CBA and the salary cap, when teams aren’t willing to saddle themselves with salaries they might be unable to dump if the players acquired fail to pan out.
So, which clubs were the “winners” of the 2012 trade deadline?
The Canucks, by adding grit up front and depth on defense with Pahlsson, Kassian and Gragnani.
The Predators, by bringing in scoring depth (Kostitsyn) and checking line depth (Gaustad).
The Bruins, by adding shot-blocking specialist Greg Zanon from the Wild, and Rolston, though he’s past his “best-before” date, but could provide “fatherly” leadership.
The Blackhawks, by bringing in an experienced defenseman in Oduya to provide some much-needed depth to their blueline.
The Sabres, by landing Hodgson, who could work out for them in the long-term.
As for the losers:
It would be tempting to say the Maple Leafs for not adding a veteran goalie, but GM Brian Burke was wise not to blow up his depth for a quick fix, despite the demanding fan base and media urging him to do so.
The Capitals failed to bring in anyone to help turn around their season, but honestly, no such player existed, so one can’t fault GM George McPhee for not landing this mythical creature.
Detroit Red Wing GM Ken Holland hoped to add a physical forward and lost out on the Gaustad bidding, but quite frankly, he didn’t have a first round pick to give up for him, and there really wasn’t much else out there worthwhile he could bring in to significantly help his team.
The Blackhawks failed to add a second line center, but it wasn’t worth parting with any of their promising rookies for a short-term fix.
The Kings didn’t add another scoring forward, but since they brought in Jeff Carter several days before the deadline, had no need to chase another scorer.
The Blue Jackets didn’t get the big return they wanted for Rick Nash, but it’s for the best, as they’re bound to get a better deal this summer, when teams on his preferred trade destination list will be more willing to pay their asking price.
Perhaps the biggest losers are folks like myself, who make a living covering the trade deadline, spending most of the hours leading up to the deadline with very little to report or analyze, filling time with inane discussions and tweets.
And of course, the hockey fans who spent the entire day glued to the TV, or their computers, laptops, tablets and cellphones, many of whom used up valuable vacation or sick days to skip work and stay home, watching what amounted to a whole lotta nothing.