(Fast fantasy free agent add version: grab Eddie Lack while you still can. More on why later in this column.)
Tuesday, March 4 wasn’t the trade deadline, yet from a pure “quality” and shock value standpoint, it may very well top Wednesday afternoon’s potential frenzy.
Seeing Roberto Luongo reunite with the Florida Panthers - and, at least briefly, share a roster with Tim tire-pumping Thomas - is the obvious headliner, but there were enough moves to make your head spin. I figure it would be useful to list the big movers and shakers from Tuesday in a helpful guide.
Note: this isn’t comprehensive, so look elsewhere for a scintillating take on the Patrick Mullen - Jeff Costello trade that surely shook two or three households. Also, this will focus on players moving more than picks received, for reasons that should be fairly obvious. Also, the Philadelphia Flyers gave up a lot for Andrew MacDonald but ... meh.
Panthers take: Many frame this as the Panthers making a “statement,” yet in many ways, I look at this as a strangely Brian Campbell-like move for GM Dale Tallon. The prohibitive side of Luongo’s contract - that “what if he retires?” question that has only been muddled by the strange new CBA rules that almost seem designed to punish the Canucks and/or Luongo owners exclusively - isn’t such a bad thing for the Panthers. You see, if Luongo’s cap hit persists on the Panthers’ “payroll” even if he no longer plays, that gets them that much closer to the cap floor in whatever seasons that situation applies. That’s $4.53 million either spent on a future Hall of Famer who is very popular in Sunrise or on a “ghost” of sorts who can save money for a penny-pinching franchise.
Beyond those dollar and cents issues -which, again, could be muddled by the CBA quirks - the Panthers really do gain at least some credibility with claims of bigger offseason spending in the 2014 summer floating around. More than anything else, they get the most consistent netminder over a long haul not named Henrik Lundqvist, so the Panthers are most assured of their goaltending since Tomas Vokoun made stats bloggers’ hearts flutter (and before that, since Luongo first did the same).
Long-term, the legacy of this trade might come down to Jacob Markstrom’s development, as the Panthers got a decade older in net (Luongo is 34; Markstrom is 24). Between Thomas and Luongo, Florida has a 73-year-old duo for the moment, which I’d venture is probably the oldest combo in some time.
There are reasons to believe that Florida could send Thomas or other assets for a younger goalie, however, or that they can grab a younger backup in the summer. From a fantasy standpoint, the biggest loser looks like Thomas … but again, I wouldn’t be shocked if they move him today.
Canucks take: If you’re expecting a few paragraphs mocking Mike Gillis, you’re coming to the wrong place (although I will admit that I rolled my eyes at his “it takes a lot of courage to trade Luongo” quote). This week has been odd and unusual for a variety of reasons, but the staggering amount of goalies being moved really stands out as netminders usually stay put as teams tend to be more conservative in that area … I assume because they’re usually big wimps. So I think it’s generally easier to say “Trade this goalie for this price” than to actually do it. No doubt, though: this situation was bungled in some ways, and I wonder if cooler heads could have found a way to keep Cory Schneider in town instead.
That being said, as a proponent of teams saving money on goaltending (one of the most unpredictable positions in all of sports, especially once you get beyond the reliably great guys like Lundqvist and the reliably mediocre types like Ondrej Pavelec), I dig this move more than most.
Between Markstrom and Eddie Lack, the Canucks will only spend $2.35 million combined on their goalies next season. Markstrom becomes an RFA after 2014-15 while Lack is an unrestricted free agent following 2015-16. While the Canucks fan base/media might make any "goalie controversy" exhausting, I actually believe that competition between netminders can breed striking results. The almost league-wide rush to give one goalie a big contract and little concerns about job security even if he sags for years (raises a glass to Miikka Kiprusoff and Cam Ward) boggles my mind.
As a high-end prospect who’s beginning to try people’s developmental patience, Markstrom is intriguing in this situation. He won’t just get the starting job handed to him, yet he also gets a chance to impress Canucks management enough for another contract. The big Swede could be a long-term challenge for fellow big Swede Lack.
I'm not all that moved by Matthias, although maybe he could surprise us and remove some of the bad Florida-to-Vancouver forward taste left behind by David Booth.
TAKE A CRACK AT LACK
Eddie Lack is the short-term winner of this deal and probably Tuesday as a whole. He’s only owned in 30 percent of Yahoo leagues, yet that is likely to change, and you should do your part by giving him a shot.
While his record (9-10-4) leaves something to be desired, he has a sparkling .926 save percentage and three shutouts so far this season. At minimum, he could be a very solid third goaltending option for your team. I think the Canucks might just try to pull off what the Sharks did last season by trading away certain assets for futures while still aiming at a playoff run, so Lack will be important to Vancouver. Which means he could get quite a few starts on a team that still is competitive. You won't get many better options this late in the season.
After the jump: the rest of the moves from Tuesday.
OILERS SHUFFLE GOALIES
Oilers take: In the last two days, the Edmonton Oilers gave Ben Scrivens a surprising two-year, $4.6 million extension, traded Ilya Bryzgalov to Minnesota for a fourth-round pick and acquired Viktor Fasth from Anaheim for a fifth and third-rounder. It’s a bold and somewhat bizarre set of moves by GM Craig MacTavish, as they have one thing I like in Scrivens - Fasth (flexibility), yet they’re also spending $5.2 million in 2014-15 on a pairing that has a combined 89 games of NHL experience. Weird.
My guess is that the goalie competition in Edmonton is pretty wide open, assuming they keep Fasth (at this point, I’m willing to entertain many possibilities amid this dizzying array of moves). I wouldn’t really recommend carrying either goalie unless you’re in a really deep league because the Oilers defense will probably hang them out to dry.
Wild take: The situation is just odd, which almost makes it fitting for oddball netminder Ilya Bryzgalov. He could actually make some gains if they’re stingy as usual, yet the situation is muddled with Darcy Kuemper’s hot streak, Josh Harding’s health vs. quality play and Niklas Backstrom just being baffling. I’d lean toward just watch-listing Breezy at this point, but wouldn’t blame you for making a plunge if it doesn’t cost you anything more than a roster spot and you're confident Minnesota will lean on Mr. Universe.
ANAHEIM AND WASHINGTON MAKE TWEAKS
Penner basically bounced between the box scores and Bruce Boudreau’s doghouse, but for a team awaiting a playoff run, this move is a little disappointing. Otherwise, the Ducks made some wise moves by getting something for Fasth and paying surprisingly little for Robidas, who can do a little of everything in fantasy and reality (health permitting). I’d at least watch-list Robidas once he’s ready to go if you’re skittish about adding him outright for health reasons.
Capitals take: Washington parts ways with Martin Erat to Phoenix before that trade with Nashville haunts them too much (Filip Forsberg hasn’t blossomed with the Predators yet but certainly has time to do so). They hope to get a little defensive help in Rostislav Klesla, although Penner is the exciting find.
If you sum up George McPhee’s Tuesday as, essentially, getting Dustin Penner and expelling Martin Erat, then it’s a pretty successful day. In fact, the Capitals are one move away from putting together an exciting misfit second line, as they have regularly misunderstood talents Penner and Mikhail Grabovski under one roof. If they added, say, Ales Hemsky, they’d be interesting and odd in many of the right ways.
If you didn’t add Penner yet, I’m not sure this uncertain-yet-potentially-lucrative situation in Washington will turn the tide. You should at least keep an eye on him, though.
COYOTES AND BLACKHAWKS EMBRACE THEIR IDENTITIES
Coyotes take: The Coyotes grabbed Erat from Washington in a package that included Klesla; they also sent struggling-yet-fascinating prospect David Rundblad and Mathieu Brisebois to Chicago for a second-rounder.
Basically, the Coyotes became more Coyotes-like. By that I mean, boring. Erat’s best days came in what I’d venture is a Dave Tippett-friendly system in Nashville, so he may just feel at home in Glendale. Hopefully you don’t need to look at his almost-hilarious numbers (one goal, less than a SOG per game, 24 points in 53 contests this season) to know that he’s no better than watch-list material, if that.
Blackhawks take: Boy, I can’t help but wonder if they landed their next Nick Leddy-type steal.
It’s quite possible Rundblad will never pan out, and I wouldn’t grab him anytime soon. It’s also possible that the Coyotes system was suffocating to an offensively talented player and that he could blossom into a useful player on an outstanding Chicago blueline. A second-round pick isn’t the cheapest way to give someone a chance at redemption, yet it might be worth the risk for a franchise that just keeps fleecing the league’s less imaginative teams.
To review: Add Lack without a doubt and watch-list the other players who capture your imagination. Beyond Lack, I’d say the most intriguing pickup actually would be Penner, but I tend to be more open-minded about guys who score pretty often, boast amusing beer guts and provide laughs on Twitter.