February 25, 2009
(Ed Note: Writer Paul Cahalane is known as "The Great One" in the Puck Daddy comments, and he offered up this guest column on deadline deals that seemed appropriate with next week's Hockey Rumors Christmas on March 4. Anyone interested in contributing an article or column to the blog can pitch yo stuff here. Now, here's Paul Cahalane...)
By Paul Cahalane
Oh, it's so exciting. Oh, it's so thrilling. Coming soon to a Canadian broadcast outlet near you: The 2009 NHL trading deadline. The electricity is in the air. Bob MacKenzie's face is plastered everywhere. TSN starts their live ticker to show who went where for whom. At the end of the day, as the ice shavings settle, some fans are singing, some are crying, some are checking pulses and others are wondering what just happened to their favorite club.
Almost every year there are magnificent deals made at or near the deadline. Star for prospect. Superstud for picks and prospects. Mucker for seventh-round pick. Each team is vying for the Cup and only a few are prepared enough to do it without the help of that one missing link.
Here's the problem: It rarely works.
Over the course of the past 25 years, general managers have been declared winners and losers because of the deals they sling on the final day or two. A look back at the history of the deadline deals in hindsight provides a much different theory. It turns out most GMs who have been anointed kings actually are jesters.
Don't be mistaken. There have been some deals that have made a decent impact. There have been a few players that have swapped sweaters at the last possible minute that have gone on to win the final game of the season. Those players, however, are greatly outnumbered by those who have ended the season as losers in a new city.
The most recent deadline deal that ended with a Cup parade was on March 9, 2006. Carolina sent a second round pick along with Niklas Nordgren and Krys Kolanos to Pittsburgh for Mark Recchi. Recchi had 7-9-16 for the 25 postseason games, along with two goals in the final, as Carolina won the Cup. Recchi signed back with Pittsburgh in the offseason.
The other recent deadline time trade that truly helped a team win the Cup was the one that sent Rob Blake to Colorado in late February, 2001. The final day wasn't until March 13th that season, but the Kings knew they weren't going to be able to resign Blake, so off he went when the right deal came alone. In return for Blake and Steve Reinprecht, the Kings received Adam Deadmarsh, Aaron Miller and a first-round pick. Colorado wins the Cup and Blake plays there for another four seasons.
A few other deals have lead teams to Cups, but not many. The Pittsburgh Penguins grand larceny of the Hartford Whalers on March 4, 1991 netted them Ron Francis, Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings for the paltry sum of John Cullen, Zarley Zalapski and Jeff Parker. The 1993-94 Cup Rangers added four important players at the last minute, acquiring Glenn Anderson, Craig MacTavish, Brian Noonan and Stephane Matteau in three separate deals.
It's easy and fun to remember those deals and how they impacted the eventual winners of the Stanley Cup. More fun can be had reviewing the teams that pulled off the blockbuster deals and ended up losers.
When you think of terribly expensive rentals, you think of a day pass with a Ferrari, a weekend condo in Miami, three minutes with a girl from Scores and Marian Hossa to the Penguins.
The Penguins landed the big fish on February 28, 2008, along with Pasqual Dupuis from the ailing Atlanta Thrashers. For their big tuna, Atlanta received a first round pick, top prospect Angelo Esposito, and young NHLers Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen. Hossa earns 26 points in 20 games as the Penguins fall in the final to the Detroit Red Wings. In a move akin to a Joe Louis punch in the face, unrestricted free agent (UFA) Hossa signs with Detroit over the summer.
It's easy to search "Islanders trades" and find more bad deals than one could laugh at, but for deadline deals, their 2006-07 move was mind boggling. Trying to secure a place in the playoffs, they send a first round pick, former first round pick Robert Nilsson and former first round pick Ryan O'Marra to Edmonton for Ryan Smyth. The Islanders barely edge Toronto for the eighth seed in the East and get ousted by Buffalo in five games. UFA Smyth signs with Colorado.
Atlanta, the best team in the worst division in 2006-07, needed a boost in order to hold onto a playoff spot. They had 72 points, which was good enough for sixth place. They also had four other clubs within two points stalking too closely. Atlanta got what they needed in their trade with St. Louis just prior to the deadline on Feb. 25, 2007.
Keith Tkachuk headed south to the Thrashers while the Blues receive Glen Metropolit, a first, a second and a third round pick. The good news was that Tkachuk's play propelled the Thrashers to their first-ever division title as they won 12 of the 18 remaining regular season games. The opposite happened in the playoffs, as they were outscored 17-6 and sent golfing in four games. UFA Tkachuk packed the stuff from his apartment and went back to St. Louis.
Over the years, many other headline deals and back room handshakes have given some teams a little juice, with others getting the direct shaft. For every move that is looked back upon as a good one, there is the March of ‘03 deal which had San Jose trade Owen Nolan to Toronto for Alyn McCauley, Brad Boyes and a first-round pick in 2003. It looked decent until Nolan tanked in the playoffs and the Leafs lost in the second round.
Keep a close eye on the deadline deals. Keep hoping your team makes the move that puts them over the top. At the end of it all, hope that you closer to the Rob Blake deal than the Keith Tkachuk disaster.