RENT THE CUP?

 

“It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.”  How many times have we heard that in the past week?  General Managers with little sleep and most likely the biggest cell phone bill you’ve ever seen have been trying feverishly to get the final piece to the puzzle, the missing link, a way to improve their hockey club.  Some were buyers, some were sellers.  All have one ultimate goal – be one of the 16 teams who will be awarded a shot at a championship.  For a handful of teams, the chance to be among the league’s elite is but a dream reserved for next season or even beyond.  For another handful of teams, it’s a story of do it now or die tomorrow.  And for those already at the top, a little fine tuning never hurts.

For myself, I am still reeling over one move in particular (and will be for some time), and for those of you out there who know me best, you know exactly what I mean – more to come of course.

The moves are made, the players are ready to go, and the games are scheduled.  Who made the most noise?  Who will make the most noise?  Everybody wants to win, and how it will unfold over the next month or so will remain to be seen.

Here then, are the moves made leading up to and on Trade Deadline Day, Tuesday, February 27, 2007 – a day forever remembered as a day filled with both intrigue and in a few cases, downright stupidity.  To borrow words of wisdom from our good buddy Donald Trump – “who will succeed, who will fail” – and I ask you, who, ultimately, will be the Stanley Cup Champions?  The stretch run is on.  Let’s go!

THE TRADES

January 3-2007 – Ottawa acquired C Mike Comrie from Phoenix for C Alexei Kaigorodov – John Muckler gets an asset Wayne Gretzky and company would most likely have dealt anyway, and gets rid of a headache in the process.  Kaigorodov refused to report to Binghamton when sent down and instead went back to his mother country Russia.  Comrie has already an impact on an already lethal offensive Senators team which is finally playing to their potential after a sub standard start.  There is still the playoff monkey on their back though, something they will get another shot at getting rid of in April.

January 8-2007 – Carolina acquired D Dennis Seidenberg from Phoenix for F Kevyn Adams – At the time, I wasn’t really sure what this trade accomplished other than perhaps a salary dump to allow the Hurricanes to do some fine tuning – more to come.

January 16-2007 - St. Louis acquired F Yan Stastny from Boston for a 2007 5th round draft pick – a future prospect for a future prospect.  It won’t be known who wins this trade until we see what the Bruins do with the pick. 

January 29-2007 – Calgary re-acquired C Craig Conroy from Los Angeles for C Jamie Lundmark – a win win for both teams.  L.A. were the most obvious sellers at the deadline as owners of the worst record in the Western Conference, and a need to shed some high priced talent that never worked out.  Calgary is a contender again, but for some reason still one of the lowest scoring teams in the NHL.  In an attempt to get some of the spark back on the top Jarome Iginla line, getting Conroy back in the fold was the obvious answer and his impact was immediate.  The Flames are definitely a team to watch down the stretch as they fight with Vancouver for top spot in the Northwest Division.

February 1-2007 – Washington acquired D Milan Jurcina from Boston for a 2008 2nd round draft pick – the Bruins also appear to be sellers, and are stocking up on draft picks.

Atlanta acquired D Andy Delmore and RW Andre Deveaux from Tampa Bay for RW Kyle Wanvig and RW Stephen Baby – Both teams shuffled prospects for reasons only their respective G.M.s can explain – however, both should be in the playoffs when April gets here – As we’ll find out, the Thrashers would later add a few assets which will help their cause, while Tampa Bay is right up against the salary cap, but will want to re-evaluate their team once the deadline arrives.  As February 27th got closer, however, we would see the Lightning go through a hot stretch and take over the Southeast Division lead, no thanks to this trade.  I’ve always wondered what happened to Delmore – he had the one fantastic playoff run for Philadelphia, and ever since has been banished to the minors.  Well I guess the farm teams need players too.

February 3-2007 – Boston acquired RW Brandon Bochenski from Chicago for RW Kris Versteeg – Bochenski joins his 3rd team in less than a year – you’ll recall he was traded to Chicago from Ottawa at the deadline last year for Tyler Arnason.  I guess we can call it a bust for both teams, as evidently he didn't work out for Chicago or Ottawa.  When the Bruins made this deal, they were still very much in the playoff race, but have fallen off the pace considerably since.

February 5-2007 – NY Rangers acquired LW Sean Avery and F John Seymour from Los Angeles for RW Jason Ward, F Marc-Andre Cliche and F Jan Marek – the Rangers made this deal for one reason and one reason only – they wanted somebody in the fold who will send a message to the other team.  While they in all probability aren’t making the playoffs, they at least want the other team to know this – you want to run Jagr?  Avery will run the goalie or one of your star players.  This was the plan, but as I’ll explain later, it hasn’t exactly worked out as planned.

February 9-2007 – NY Rangers acquired LW Pascal Dupuis from Minnesota for RW Adam Hall – the Wild add some grit and the Rangers ended up with an asset which they would end up dealing away at the deadline.  More to come.

Carolina re-aquired C Josef Vasicek from Nashville for C Eric Belanger – Vasicek returns to the defending champs for one of their key off season acquisitions.  Belanger would be dealt again before he ever donned a Predators jersey 

February 12-2007 – Atlanta acquired C Eric Belanger from Nashville for D Vitali Vishnevski – Belanger is traded to the Western Conference and returned to the Southeast Division in less than 72 hours, and Vishnevski bolsters the Predators’ blue line 

Calgary acquired D Brad Stuart and C Wayne Primeau from Boston for D Andrew Ference and RW Chuck Kobasew – While the Conroy trade was about size up the middle, this deal is about size, period.  Stuart adds size to the blue line, and Primeau adds a grinder for the 3rd or 4th line.  Kobasew, who has barely played this season because of an injury, will help the Bruins in years to come, but the Flames want to win now.  So let me get this straight – the Bruins like Marco Sturm, but 2/3 of what they got from the Joe Thornton trade didn’t work?  Then again, this is from a team that once traded Ray Bourque.

Dallas acquired LW Ladislav Nagy from Phoenix for LW Mattias Tjarnqvist and a 2007 1st round draft pick – the desert dogs were the biggest sellers, and managed to shed a lot of salary leading up to the deadline.  With Comrie already gone, Nagy was expected to be shipped out of town - he will only help the Stars’ cause, but it was clear the Coyotes have given up on this season.

February 15-2007 – Nashville acquired C Peter Forsberg from Philadelphia for RW Scottie Upshall, D Ryan Parent, and a 2007 1st and 3rd round draft pick – I thought this would end up being the biggest deal of the year, but boy was I ever wrong – for all intents and purposes we’ll call it the biggest deal not to happen at the deadline.  If the Predators weren’t already a Stanley Cup Contender, this deal put them over the top.  It was evident early the Flyers aren’t going anywhere, and with Upshall, they at least get some offense to help in the future.  Is it just me, or has Philly been a better team statistically since Forsberg left?  If it’s true what they say about playing for pride, the Flyers have a ton of it.

February 16-2007 – New Jersey tried to deal LW Alexander Korolyuk back to San Jose for a 2007 3rd round draft pick, but the NHL voided the deal when Korolyuk refused to leave Russia.  The Devils still own his rights if and when he does decide to grace us with his presence.

February 18-2007 – NY Islanders acquired D Marc-Andre Bergeron from Edmonton for D Denis Grebeshkov – when this deal went down the thinking was Kevin Lowe was clearing a million dollars of salary cap space in an attempt to tweak his lineup.  As we would later find out, Lowe was far from dismantling his team.

February 23-2007 – Carolina acquired F Anson Carter from Columbus for a 2008 5th round draft pick – It wouldn’t be a trade deadline without seeing Carter on the move – at least this time it was before the deadline – the Hurricanes needed to fill in a void left by the departure of Mark Recchi and Doug Weight, and the Blue Jackets are, to put it bluntly, awful.

Dallas acquired F Shane Endicott from Anaheim for future considerations – I love trades like this – a general manager wants to take a player from another general manager, but can’t decide what they want to send in return.  The Stars are gelling at just the right time, and I don’t see what dynamic, if any, Endicott adds.  My guess is the Ducks will have the upper hand in this one depending on how far the Stars go in the playoffs, or maybe Brian Burke was just trying to trim some fat from his roster in anticipation of something better.

February 24-2007 – Anaheim acquired G Gerald Coleman and a 2007 1st round draft pick from Tampa Bay for D Shane O’Brien and a 2007 3rd round draft pick – with the enforcer role diminishing more and more, especially once the playoffs start, the Ducks stock the farm with a future goaltending prospect and rid themselves of a heavyweight which won’t see much playing time behind the “twin towers” of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer.  Brian Burke has always had the knack for turning a draft pick into gold.  It will be interesting to see what he ends up with here, keeping in mind the Ducks are already a very deep team.

Atlanta acquired D Alexei Zhitnik from Philadelphia for D Braydon Coburn – Given their record this year, it shouldn’t surprise anybody to see the Flyers in a rebuilding phase.  The irony behind this trade is the NY Islanders got rid of Zhitnik to get better defensively, and now Atlanta swings the deal so they can get better defensively.  I’ve always believed Alexei’s best days were left behind in Buffalo, but who am I?

February 25-2007 – As we got ever closer to the deadline, the moves started coming fast and furious, and the names involved became bigger and bigger.

Atlanta acquired F Keith Tkachuk from St. Louis for F Glen Metropolit, a 1st and 3rd round draft pick in 2007 and a 2nd rounder in 2008 – As expected, St. Louis moved Tkachuk, but did Don Waddell give up too much?  Even if you swap Tkachuk for Metropolit straight up, it’s not really a fair deal, as Metropolit is much younger.  But to add not one, not two, but three draft picks?  It hasn’t exactly been a secret Metropolit could go back to Washington when he becomes a free agent, but if even one of the three draft picks becomes a household name, then J.D. made out like a bandit on this one.

San Jose acquired D Craig Rivet and a 2008 5th round draft pick from Montreal for D Josh Gorges and a 2007 1st round draft pick – Rivet had worn out his welcome in Montreal, but is Gorges an improvement?  If I’d be Bob Gainey I’d be more concerned over the Habs’ goaltending situation.  What’s that you say?  Michael Leighton off waivers from Philadelphia?  Better plan the parade now.

February 26-2007 – The last 24 hours before the big day – desperation is setting in, and G.M.s want to get their deals done before 3:00 PM on Feb 27th.  A total of 7 deals were made, including a 3-way between Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia – the calm before the proverbial storm.

NY Islanders acquired versatile F Richard Zednik from Washington for a 2007 2nd round draft pick – the mini garage sale in Washington continued, and little did we know the Islanders were far from finished.  More to come.

Ottawa acquired D Lawrence Nicholat from Washington for D Andy Hedlund and a 2007 6th round draft pick – Nicholat will help the farm team in Binghamton, unless Ottawa can’t come to terms with Chris Phillips in the off season.  But do you really think John Muckler will make the same mistake with Phillips as he made with Zdeno Chara?  As for Hedlund, he was never going to fit into the Senators long term plans.  Why a 6th round draft pick was part of the deal is beyond me.

Vancouver re-acquired D Brent Sopel from Los Angeles for a 2008 2nd and 4th round pick – talk about your future considerations – the Canucks get back a player they know to be solid defensively – for the most part – but I’m not sure if he was worth giving up 2 future players from the farm.

Vancouver then acquired C Bryan Smolinski from Chicago for a 2007 conditional draft pick – could be as high as a 1st rounder if the Canucks go deep into the post season.  If they at least make it out of the first round it will probably be a 2nd or 3rd rounder – at Chicago’s discretion.  Dave Nonis is obviously prepared to win now, and Smoke can add a little more depth.

And then the 3-way I referred to: Chicago acquired F Kyle Calder from Philadelphia for D Lasse Kukkonen and a 2007 3rd round draft pick – Chicago then sends Calder to Detroit for F Jason Williams – Detroit felt Calder’s impact almost immediately, Philadelphia as mentioned are out of it but gain prospects, and Chicago, also out of it for the most part, get a pretty decent forward in exchange for a pretty decent forward and save money at the same time.

There was talk all throughout Monday the 26th about Gary Roberts being dealt to Pittsburgh if he agreed to waive his no trade clause, and as we’ll find out, he did.

THE DEADLINE

February 27-2007 – It wasn’t the busiest trade deadline in recent memory, but it will be regarded as one of the most memorable – 24 deals in total involving 43 players and 25 draft picks.  As for the waiver wire, another 5 players were claimed before they could be sent down to the minors.  We’ll talk about those first.

Montreal claimed G Michael Leighton off waivers from Philadelphia – he’s no Cristobal Huet.

Philadelphia claimed LW Denis Hamel off waivers from Atlanta – they had just claimed him off waivers from Ottawa on February 10.

Atlanta claimed F Jason Krog off waivers from NY Rangers – he was an impact player for Anaheim in their 2003 run to the finals, perhaps the Thrashers are expecting the same this year.

Columbus claimed G Brian Boucher off waivers from Chicago – right after they traded away Ty Conklin – more to come.

Phoenix claimed C Niko Kapanen off waivers from Atlanta – expendable after the moves the Thrashers made.

And then came the deadline deals – Warning – some of these may cause you to enter a shock induced coma:

Veteran F Gary Roberts waived his no trade clause which allowed Florida to deal him to Pittsburgh for D Noah Welch – the Penguins get the veteran leadership they were looking for.

Philadelphia acquired G Martin Biron from Buffalo for a 2007 2nd round draft pick – the Sabres have been trying to move him since 2005, and finally found a home for him, and only because:

Buffalo acquired G Ty Conklin from Columbus for a 2007 5th round draft pick – so the Sabres got a cheaper backup goalie and gained a higher draft pick – and they weren’t done here as we’ll find out.

Pittsburgh acquired F Georges Laraque from Phoenix for F Daniel Carcillo and a 2008 3rd round draft pick – the Penguins get some protection for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal – and Sean Avery of the NY Rangers has already felt his wrath.

San Jose acquired F Bill Guerin from St. Louis for F Ville Nieminen, F Jay Barriball and a 2007 1st round draft pick – the bar was raised by the Keith Tkachuk trade, and John Davidson let it be known he wasn’t selling for cheap - if the Sharks weren’t a scary team already – they are now.

Minnesota acquired F Dominic Moore from Pittsburgh for a 2007 3rd round draft pick – It doesn’t get any grittier than Laraque, and the Wild can only benefit from a little more sandpaper in their lineup.

Boston acquired D Aaron Ward from NY Rangers for D Paul Mara – a fairly even deal – barring a miracle, neither team is expected to make the playoffs at this point, so I’m not entirely sure what exactly this accomplishes.

Ottawa acquired F Oleg Saprykin from Phoenix for a 2008 2nd round draft pick – John Muckler should have asked Wayne Gretzky if he’d also like a box of pucks and some composite sticks – he gets two depth forwards in Comrie and Saprykin and gives up a mere draft pick and a prospect who may never play another NHL game.  I can’t wait to see what the Coyotes do in the off season.

Anaheim acquired F Brad May from Colorado for G Michael Wall – Brian Burke looks to create a “May Day” of his own as he gets his “big brother” forward back.  Don’t forget he traded for him on deadline day when he was G.M. in Vancouver too.  The Avalanche clearly need goaltending help, but Wall is an unknown who we may see down the stretch just to see if he’s any good.

Detroit acquired F Todd Bertuzzi from Florida for F Shawn Matthias, a 2007 conditional draft pick and a 2008 conditional 2nd round pick – Other than to antagonize Colorado, I’m not entirely sure why the Red Wings needed or even wanted him.  While short term they lose nothing if he doesn’t play, long term they’re giving up a forward who was supposed to be part of their life after Steve Yzerman.

Atlanta acquired F Pascal Dupuis and a 3rd round pick from NY Rangers for F Alex Bourret – so not only do the Rangers no longer have Adam Hall, now they no longer have Pascal Dupuis and lose a draft pick – not sure really what they were thinking with this one.  Dupuis, on the other hand, already looks like a nice addition to the Thrashers.

Toronto acquired C Yanic Perreault and a 2008 5th round pick from Phoenix for D Brendan Bell and a 2008 2nd round pick – Perreault now enters his 3rd stint as a Maple Leaf, but at too great a cost – I don’t care how good he is at face offs, they could have signed him as a free agent in the off season without having to give up a defensive prospect – I don’t know what it is about former Ottawa 67s – the Leafs never seem to keep them for very long.

Buffalo acquired F Dainius Zubrus and D Timo Helbling from Washington for F Jiri Novotny and a 2007 1st round pick – an already potent offense gets even better, and the Sabres add a little defensive depth for another expected long playoff run – provided they can stay healthy.

Colorado acquired F Scott Parker from San Jose for a 2008 6th round draft pick – the Sharks needed to make some roster and salary cap room for Guerin.

Dallas acquired D Mattias Norstrom, F Konstantin Pushkarev and a 2007 3rd and 4th round draft pick from Los Angeles for D Jaroslav Modry, D Johann Fransson, a 2nd and 3rd round 2007 draft pick and a 2008 1st round draft pick – If the Kings weren’t already considered sellers, this deal confirmed it as they traded their captain and prospects for a defenseman they let get away and prospects.

NY Islanders acquired F Ryan Smyth from Edmonton for C Ryan O’Marra, Robert Nilsson and a 2007 1st round draft pick – The most unexpected trade of the year sent shockwaves through the entire league.  The expectation in Edmonton was Smyth was going to sign a long term deal before becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.  When talks broke down at the 11th hour, Kevin Lowe did what not too many G.M.s would have the guts to do – he traded him so he can at the very least guarantee he won’t lose him and not get anything in return.  O’Marra and Nilsson are good prospects, and the Oilers can certainly benefit from a 1st round draft pick, but with less than 20 games left they were still mathematically alive in the playoff race!  While it’s possible Smyth could still re-sign in Edmonton as a free agent in July, the move has soured fans and media alike, and the team has played their last two games as you might expect – listless, lost, as though somebody ripped the heart out of their chests and held it in front of their faces – as for the Islanders – this could turn out to be what they need to get themselves into the post season.  For me, I’ve been asking the same question since the deal went down, and I will continue to ask it until somebody can give me the true facts as to why this deal was made – Why? 

Can you imagine trying to explain this to young fans between the ages of 6-12?

After the Ryan Smyth deal happened, I’m not sure how many people outside of the cities involved noticed, but there were still a few smaller deals to talk about:

St. Louis got F Brad Boyes from Boston for D Dennis Wideman – the Blues replenished their suddenly depleted forward positions while the Bruins add to their blueline.

Buffalo added more defensive depth as they acquired D Mikko Lehtonen from Nashville for a draft pick.  Calgary did the same, getting D David Hale from New Jersey for a draft pick.  Same thing for Pittsburgh, D Joel Kwiatkoski moved over from Florida.

Los Angeles stocked up on another draft pick as they sent F Jason Ward to Tampa Bay, and then used a draft pick to acquire D Jamie Heward from Washington.

Pittsburgh addressed their goaltending depth as they got G Nolan Schaefer from San Jose, again for a draft pick.  I actually like this move, as it’s no secret the Penguins are mediocre in net.  I wonder if they’ll call him up when they play against Schaefer’s brother Peter and the Ottawa Senators?

Chicago and Tampa Bay swapped forwards, as Nikita Alexeev changed his zip code to the Windy City, and Karl Stewart went the other way.  Anaheim and Tampa Bay made a West-East swap of defensemen, with Doug O’Brien headed West and Joe Rullier headed East.

Finally, New Jersey sent prospect RW Aaron Voros to Minnesota in exchange for a 7th round draft pick in 2008.

While I can see St. Louis, Buffalo and Calgary benefitting somewhat from these little tweaks, the rest are really nothing to write home about unless you’re the actual players.

So there you have it – for better or for worse, the 2007 NHL Trading Deadline came and went.  Now it’s time to sit back and see who will end up on top.

ALONG THE BOARDS

As expected, the finger pointing over the Ryan Smyth trade has turned into a triangle.  While Smyth himself has taken the graceful route as always and referred questions to Kevin Lowe and Don Meehan, both are blaming each other over why a long term deal couldn’t be reached.  Lowe has gone on the record to say Smyth wasn’t, in his opinion, deserving of franchise player dollars as the feeling was he wasn’t considered to be a franchise player (ouch!), while Meehan has said the negotiations broke down once it was realized the Oilers wouldn’t budge on what we speculate to be as low as $100-300,000 apart.  In pulling the trigger, has Lowe already burned the bridges between what could have been a potential off season free agent re-signing?  We’ll have to wait to find out.  I know Smyth said on his way out of Edmonton he’s leaving his heart behind, but I do know this – Garth Snow isn’t afraid of long term deals.  Fans, I know this hurts like hell right now, but maybe it’s time to look to the future and to all the bright young talent this team has (even though we’ve seen this movie before), because we’ve most likely witnessed the end of an era - again.  For me, it means the Ottawa Senators could potentially see me in their arena at least twice more a year if Ryan remains on Long Island.  Since Edmonton doesn’t meet Ottawa next year due to the current rotation, they probably wouldn’t have seen me at all otherwise.  I really do need to get out to more games. 

I very much enjoyed hearing Jeremy Roenick’s comments after it was revealed he would be one of the few Phoenix Coyotes who wasn’t getting traded at the deadline – “I've got 19 games left and I'm enjoying myself because chances are it will be the end,” he said, following Phoenix's 3-0 win over Edmonton.  “I'll keep a little glimmer of hope and see how the year ends. But I'm tired and my body is beat up and it gets harder and harder every game. I'm enjoying my team and being in Arizona but I'm probably, not definitely, but I am thinking of calling it a career.”  If he does retire, keep an eye out for him in a broadcast booth somewhere – I think he’d be great at it.

With the Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers both in danger of missing the playoffs, the thinking leading up to the deadline was both teams would have done more to try and improve their fortunes.  If both teams miss, it will mark the first time both defending Conference champions failed to make the playoffs the following season.  Of course, with just under 20 games to go, it’s far from over, but talk about going from champs to chumps.  How do you like parity now?

I’ve heard a lot of talk the last little while about how Canada is losing their identity in hockey over the last decade or so – while it’s true a Canadian team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup in over a decade, and while they blew their shot at an Olympic Gold Medal in Italy, Canada is very much alive in Hockey.  As you’ll recall, the Juniors team won yet another Gold Medal at the World Championships in January.  If you look at the NHL scoring leaders – the entire top 5 point getters and 7 out of the top 10 players listed are Canadian, and the captain of 8 of the last 10 teams to win the Stanley Cup? – you guessed it – Canadian.  It’s still very much our game, and like Canada, open to anybody who wants to play – which makes it as diverse a sport as there is.  So, America, you can pass the Stanley Cup around all you want, just remember it was most likely a bunch of Canadians that won it for you.  What’s my point exactly?  I don’t know – just needed to get that off my chest – so enough with the Canada bashing already.

By the way – congratulations to Sidney Crosby on becoming the youngest player ever to score 200 points in the NHL – if ever there was any wonder why he’s referred to as “The Next One”, even Wayne Gretzky didn’t hit 200 points until he was on the verge of his 20th birthday – Crosby also did it at 19, but has Gretzky beaten by at least six months (Gretzky’s birthday is in January, Crosby’s is not until August).

And finally, to address the rhetorical question in a recent television ad “Do Canadians Really know anything about beer?” – The answer is a resounding Yes - We know how to drink it – especially when we watch our hockey – even if we can’t identify with the players anymore.  But don’t worry, by the time the second game of the double header starts on any given Saturday, we won’t be able to tell Ryan Smyth from Georges Laraque anyway, let alone what team they play for these days.  I keep telling myself, Thank God the Islanders don’t wear those awful lumberjack jerseys anymore.  I can see the headline: “Captain Canada becomes Captain Highliner”.  And I really don’t care to hear another “fish sticks” chant as long as I live.  They may make a great hockey meal, but…oh never mind!  As for the beer, just remember this everybody, enjoy responsibly.  Most importantly, enjoy the stretch run, no matter how exciting or depressing it may be depending on where you pledge your allegiances.  The playoffs are coming.

I almost feel better now – stay tuned here for a full playoff preview once we know who will be participating.  Until then, as I always say this time of year - whatever you do – don’t blink as you’re bound to miss something!

 

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