Making sense of the deadline trade moves and market...so far
Will the so-far active Bruins learn the Capitals' hard lesson of a year ago?
The Blues and Avs tweaked their plans hoping their new kids mature faster
Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk faces a dilemma with impending UFA Brad Richards
So much for saving moves and fueling Trade Deadline fever by waiting until Monday. Instead, this year has already seen teams get out in front of the deadline and make significant trades. February has been busy indeed, with prominent players moving. Thanks for all of your mail and suggestions the past couple of weeks, but here is what has transpired thus far and what we might expect moving forward.
Steady ... That's the way Steve Yzerman in Tampa has operated since taking over the Lightning last summer, and the style that David Poile has employed in Nashville throughout the franchise's history. Both made moves in that understated yet effective mode. Yzerman bolstered his blueline by acquiring Eric Brewer from the St. Louis Blues. Poile strengthened his team down the middle by nabbing Mike Fisher from the Ottawa Senators. Neither GM sacrificed a roster player while bringing in guys who fit their respective teams, thus adding depth and experience.
Loading up ... The Boston Bruins are reconstructing their roster to challenge for the Eastern Conference title and beyond. GM Peter Chiarelli has made three separate deals this month, bringing in forwards Chris Kelly from Ottawa and Rich Peverley from Atlanta and finally landing defenseman Tomas Kaberle from Toront0. All three have specific attributes -- Kelly grit, Peverley speed and shiftiness, and Kaberle point presence on the power play -- that Chiarelli hopes adds to the mix of an already strong team. Gone are forward Blake Wheeler and defenseman Mark Stuart who went to Atlanta in the Peverley deal. That's a lot of moving parts for a Boston team that's looking to win it all. Making these moves well in advance of the deadline gives the Bruins a little more time to get everyone acclimated and assimilated.
Nicely done ... Pittsburgh Penguins' GM Ray Shero sent Alex Goligoski to Dallas for winger James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen. The Stars seemingly gave up a lot for Goligoski, who is a fine skating, puck-moving defenseman. But the Pens added the scoring winger they've coveted along with a blueliner who gives them depth at the position. Niskanen had fallen out of favor in Dallas over the last couple of seasons, so he will welcome the move, as he looks to reestablish his game at the NHL level.
For both teams, this deal has long-term value. In the short-term, it would seem the Penguins got the better of it, although they did assume up to $3 million more in contracts, which certainly played a role in the deal for the Stars, who are in a free fall in the Western Conference, and that puts GM Joe Nieuwendyk in a quandary. Is he buying, selling, reshuffling? This move either indicates he's clearing room in order to try to re-sign pending UFA Brad Richards or that he has to look toward the future, whether the Stars are a playoff team or not.
Wow factor ... When teams deal young players before they ever reach their prime, everyone takes note. There were many arched eyebrows in the hockey world when the St. Louis Blues shipped defenseman Erik Johnson -- the first overall pick in the 2006 draft -- along with Jay McClement to the Colorado Avalanche for Chris Stewart (a 28-goal scorer last season) and rookie blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk. The Avs surprisingly made the playoffs a year ago with a collection of young, unheralded players, but have predictably struggled this season. The Blues similarly were the surprise team two years ago when their core of youngsters overachieved. They missed the postseason last year and might fall below the line again. Johnson's development has slowed and Stewart has struggled this season due to injury.
Typically, though, when young players of this caliber move, there are more dynamics at work than the proffered "you have to give good players to get quality in return". While that's true, it usually has something to do with intangibles. Call it attitude, work ethic, coachability, whatever you want, but when players this young exchange addresses, maturity is the catchall phrase. It also points to a variance in the building process of both young teams. Both Doug Armstrong in St. Louis and Greg Sherman in Denver just tweaked their business plans hoping that the players acquired grow up a little through the process and help their team grow as well.
More to come ... Sure. The Penguins still want another veteran up front and the name of the Senators' Alex Kovalev won't go away...
The Washington Capitals have been quiet after retooling last season down the stretch only to lose in the first round of the playoffs. (Be wary, Boston Bruins -- sometimes too many moves hurt rather than help.) GM George McPhee still would like a second-line center, but he won't give up core young players...
The New York Rangers would like to add a forward and a defenseman, but so would most teams with postseason aspirations. If Brad Richards is in fact in play -- and that's up to him because he has a no-movement clause -- the Rangers would clearly have interest. The Avs and Sens, who switched goalies in a deal involving Brian Elliott going to Denver and Craig Anderson to Ottawa, are certainly in play with veterans Chris Phillips and Milan Hejduk on the block. The Edmonton Oilers also have players to part with, and Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky keep surfacing...
In all, an interesting February, with more moves to come, as contenders bolster their rosters, outsiders restock and the mass in the middle struggles to find the balance between what makes sense now and helps them to move forward.