March 01, 2011
Every team approached the NHL trade deadline, and the days leading up to it, in a different way. Some buy. Some sell. Some pull the trigger late. Some choose to do most of their business weeks before the deadline because they're Brian Burke, and nobody puts Brian Burke in the corner.
Some stand pat, for the most part. The Philadelphia Flyers adding Kris Versteeg(notes) or the Vancouver Canucks adding Max Lapierre or the San Jose Sharks adding Ian White(notes) make teams with the Cup already in reach even better; the Detroit Red Wings holding their cards doesn't make them any better or worse.
But some know that with an aggressive move or two, they can solidify their Cup chances around the deadline. Here are a few teams that may have done just that.
The most glaring need was a puck-moving defenseman. The Bruins traded for Tomas Kaberle(notes), one of the elite members of the current class. In doing so, they cleared cap space and ended up with hard-working Rich Peverley(notes). They traded for Chris Kelly(notes) to help at center.
Was all of this enough?
They are by no means Cup favorites. But, yes, they are decidedly in the hunt, perhaps more so now than they have been since Chiarelli was handed the Black and Gold keychain and clipboard in the summer of 2006. And that's the feeling despite the fact that No. 1 pivot Marc Savard(notes) won't be seen again until perhaps, well, September. Not many NHL teams would be gushing about postseason prospects with their top playmaker and point-getter designated for extended R&R, maybe even retirement, but the re-tooled Bruins are playing with confidence, speed, poise, and success, all of which rightly has them feeling very good about themselves.
He points to the loss of Marc Savard and the inconsistent play of David Krejci(notes), Nathan Horton(notes) and Michael Ryder(notes) as points of concern. The power play is middle of the pack (17.6 percent) but should improve. And then there's the goaltender whose save percentage (.939) is still close to an NHL record for a single season.
If the Philadelphia Flyers are looking for their main competition in the East, they should look no further than a team foaming at the mouth to earn some playoff redemption against the Bullies.
The Capitals did two things with the waiver claim on Marco Sturm(notes) and the deadline day acquisitions of Dennis Wideman(notes) and Jason Arnott(notes): Fill essential lineup needs for relatively low costs and change the dynamics of the roster with an infusion of veteran voices.
In nautical terms, GM George McPhee attempted to add a few reliable sails to a ship that's been adrift far too many times this season.
The Capitals this morning are not a favorite per se for the Cup this spring. Instead, what seems to be fair to say about their newly re-engineered lineup is that, given decent health among the prized core, they are likely a seriously tough out this postseason. In this salary cap era of conspicuous parity, that's really all you can ask for.
Marco Sturm, Dennis Wideman, and Jason Arnott are not All Star performers. They will not infiltrate the Capitals' lineup beginning Tuesday night and litter the scoresheet with goals and assists. In fact, Sturm and Arnott are likely in the twilight of their respective careers. They're rentals. But all three bring something of an imperative to a damaged product in red: street cred. Jason's Arnott's stick, for instance, is singularly responsible for his New Jersey Devils' club lifting Lord Stanley in 2000.
That was a while ago, yes, but Arnott knows where he is in his hockey career, knows what he can bring to a talented Capitals' club, and knows that he wants one more taste of hockey's greatest glory. And he waived his no movement clause to get here.
It doesn't make them a favorite in the East; not when their last good month was November, and not when the Flyers are better overall and the Bruins are better defensively. But these moves should put them back in the conversation for the Cup.
Yes, it's completely overrating the Dustin Penner(notes) trade to say that it elevated the Kings to Cup contender status, right? The price was a bit rich, right? The Kings celebrated by getting their asses handed to them by Detroit, right?
The bottom line is that Penner was exactly what the Kings need: a veteran, goal-scoring winger who could reinvigorate Anze Kopitar(notes) and who has skated the Cup. Let's not make this out to be the Messier trade for the Rangers or anything. But as Dean Lombardi said Monday on LA Kings Insider, he's the right fit for this team:
"Yeah. I think you know him here. That's the other thing that's attractive about him. Whenever you get a guy that has a Stanley Cup ring - and was a big part of that team, in his own way -- that certainly bodes well for somebody that has been through the wars and understands what it takes in the playoffs. But you know, you hit the nail on the head. That's his strength, his size. The one thing we've prided ourselves on here is becoming a team that's hard to play against. That's also why sometimes, when you go to the marketplace, I'm skeptical of certain things. This is a guy that would certainly fit that definition, of being hard to play against. You know, you're also banking on the whole Edmonton experience. You see this in the other sports at times. He comes off a big season, and there's a lot of pressure that comes with that big contract and expectations. I think, here, he can just come in and fit in."
And he's a great fit: For the lineup, for the city and for this team's burgeoning Cup chances.
It's a significant name player added to a room that, frankly, had earned the right to have GM Steve Yzerman bolster their chances. But more than that, according to the St. Pete Times, Brewer's a top-pairing defenseman who can match up against the top lines in the East and reset the Bolts' blue line to coach Guy Boucher's liking:
His presence has a domino effect on the rest of the blue line with Randy Jones(notes) moving back with regular partner Pavel Kubina(notes) and Brett Clark(notes) and Victor Hedman(notes) staying together. In addition, Marc-Andre Bergeron(notes), with his great shot, can focus on one of his primary roles, sparking the power play.
"It's like the forwards. When everyone is in their chair, it relieves some pressure off some guys to do what they do best," Boucher said. "It gives us an opportunity to get some chemistry back on defense."
The Tampa Bay Lightning are one of those teams that isn't, for some reason, listed among the serious Cup contenders the way the Flyers or Canucks or Red Wings are. Yet they've added a significant veteran goalie and a former captain to their defense in the last two months. And, checking the standings, they appear ready to challenge for the Chalice.