While I’ve obviously followed the sport for much longer, there’s nothing like the intensity and attention to detail that comes with actually covering trade deadlines. Between Pro Hockey Talk and Rotoworld, I’ve witnessed these often-empty spectacles since the 2010 edition in that way, and I must say that this past week represents easily the most exciting, shocking, mind-numbing and game-changing deadline I’ve ever covered.
Honestly, it might be better than the previous ones combined.
The volume isn’t that different, really; there were 20 trades featuring 38 players, which really isn't that much different than the previous three deadlines, which clocked in around 16-17 trades and 30-35 players. The difference is that there were several deals that would have been the highlight of previous deadlines, yet they almost went under the radar a bit because of all the pivotal moves (and non-moves) that happened since Ryan Miller was traded from the Buffalo Sabres to the St. Louis Blues on Friday.
The sheer quantity of quality leads me to the conclusion that it might be best to split up this trade deadline recap between conferences, but fret not. I’m going with the Eastern Conference first, as the vast majority of Wednesday Whoppers (patent pending) happened then.
If you just absolutely must read about Marian Gaborik going to Los Angeles - yes, you should add him, with really no exceptions unless your league has some sort of injury tax - I also rolled out an always-fun and never-polarizing winners and losers column for PHT.
CAPTAIN, FOR CAPTAIN
So, Martin St. Louis got his wish via a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the New York Rangers, netting the Bolts Ryan Callahan, a first-round pick and a second-rounder in the process. We’ve been down this road before, but just to reiterate: I think it’s silly that people are burying St. Louis because the Canadian snub might be more of a “last straw” than the only reason he asked out of Tampa Bay. Let’s not forget that he was a good (relatively unappreciated) soldier with the Lightning for 14 mostly crummy seasons before asking for a move. That seems pretty reasonable to me.
Anyway, the biggest winner here is Alain Vigneault, who now probably has the finesse-heavy group he was crowing about earlier this season. You could almost sense Vigneault’s excitement in how St. Louis was used in a quick turnaround from the trade on Wednesday morning/afternoon to his first Rangers game last night; MSL crossed the 20-minute TOI barrier even though the Blueshirts only received one power play against Toronto. He was unable to score, but I don’t expect St. Louis to miss much of a beat in his change of scenery; he’s been productive despite any number of circuses in Tampa Bay, after all.
Again, many have ignored the significant drop in usage for Callahan from John Tortorella’s days to Vigneault’s reign. That's not to say he isn't useful, especially in hits leagues: he has 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points, 16 PIM, 109 SOG, 132 hits and 47 blocked shots in 45 games this season. I'm not sure how things will work out for him in Tampa Bay, but he should be owned in more than 44 percent of Yahoo leagues.
If the picks and Callahan weren't enough to heal wounds for Lightning fans, consider this: Steve Stamkos is expected to return to action on Thursday.
As weird as it is to see St. Louis in another uniform, hockey fans received plenty of warning that it would happen. Few expected Thomas Vanek to play for the Montreal Canadiens this season, yet Marc Bergevin swooped in and made it happen for cheap.
While Vanek might see a marginal downgrade in linemates from the peak of his trio on Long Island - the likes of Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty aren’t exactly chopped liver - he’s been a reliable performer despite playing for some putrid (and electric) Sabres teams. He has the motivation of a contract year and should get a plus/minus boost by default. My guess is Michel Therrien won’t have enough time to sap the joie de vivre out of Vanek in this short time, either.
In other words, it’s like a super-sized version of the Habs grabbing Michael Ryder in a successful trade for Erik Cole last season.
Also of serious note is the acquisition of Devan Dubnyk, who slightly edges Jaroslav Halak from the “back from fantasy death” category. One can only speculate what this means for Carey Price’s health - is this just a reasonable insurance move or an “uh oh Carey’s really hurt” move? - but DD might just deliver a little mini-contract year run after all. Granted, I feel FAR less confident in saying so now after he blew it in Nashville, but at least watch-list the big goof.
ISLAND OF SADNESS
Much of the post-Vanek trade attention revolved around beating up on GM Garth Snow, but the real “loser” of that trade might be Kyle Okposo. It’s unfair to say this has been a totally bad year for Okposo, as he witnessed the birth of his child and emerged as a genuine top-line forward (thus justifying the Isles’ patience in Okposo). It’s been a rough few weeks, however, as he saw one linemate lost to injury in John Tavares’ season-ending knee issue and Vanek traded for picks and thus no replacement.
Basically, Okposo is like Crush after Demolition disbanded; just a wayward soul (although with less face paint and Hawaiian references, I assume). I’m not sure which of Tavares and Vanek are Ax and Smash, as I’ve misplaced my hackneyed hockey-to-wrestling analogy slide rule.
ALES IN WONDERLAND
One of my favorite trades of Wednesday involved Ales Hemsky getting out of personal and fantasy prison as the Ottawa Senators acquired him from the Edmonton Oilers for the surprisingly low price of a third and fifth-round pick.
Hemsky carries serious injury questions and hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire, but his talent is tempting and his situation has vastly improved. I’m not certain, but the feeling is that he’ll be paired up with Jason Spezza at least at first in Ottawa. My knee-jerk reaction would be to grab him because I’ve long believed in his talent, yet I understand if others might be more hesitant.
At the very least, keep a watchful eye on the Czech winger.
CHECKING UP ON OTHER EAST TEAMS
BOSTON - Grabbed Andrej Meszaros, or “meh-Zaros.” (Reaches up for unrequited high-five.)
BUFFALO - I love what they did from a “gathering a ridiculous amount of futures” standpoint, but the on-ice product seems desolate fantasy-wise (which is probably the point). I’d stay away from either netminder now that Michal Neuvirth may fight Jhonas Enroth for starts. The only semi-interesting situation is Chris Stewart potentially riding shotgun with Cody Hodgson, but even that isn’t that exciting as neither will be fighting for a new contract.
CAROLINA - Disappointing that they didn’t unload Cam Ward, yet they somehow got something for Tuomo Ruutu’s broken body. So a B- to you for that alone, Jim Rutherford.
COLUMBUS - Not a very exciting haul for Marian Gaborik, I must say. Considering the cheap talent being thrown around, it’s a bit of a bummer that the scrappy Blue Jackets stayed put (sorry, Nick Schultz).
DETROIT - The Red Wings overpaid for David Legwand, yet they clearly needed to send away assets for someone after word surfaced that Pavel Datsyuk will be “shut down” for three weeks, which could translate to quite a few more if that next check-up doesn’t go well. I wouldn’t add Legwand outright but Detroit’s sudden lack of options makes him worth monitoring.
FLORIDA - Basically gave up what they could for assets and now boast the goalie duo of Roberto Luongo and Dan Ellis. Luongo’s ceiling is probably lower with the Panthers, yet his floor might be higher considering the fact that he went from crazy Canuck land to lazy Florida.
NEW JERSEY - By adding Tuomo Ruutu to a group that includes Ryane Clowe and a bunch of old fogies, the Devils lead the league in decrepitness. So there’s that. Speaking of the aging process, Martin Brodeur remains in Newark, for better or worse.
PHILADELPHIA - A team that usually makes splashes passed on Ryan Kesler and paid a lot for Andrew MacDonald, so a relatively understated deadline for Ken Holmgren. Maybe they finally learned that your team should depend on homegrown talent like Claude Giroux instead of headline-stealing moves? (Nah.)
PITTSBURGH - The Penguins added much-needed depth in Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak. I’m not certain if either will move the needle at all fantasy-wise (unless, obviously, if Stempniak gets an extended look with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz), yet both are decent enough pickups for Ray Shero.
TORONTO - Considering the daffy moves this franchise has pulled since the 2013 offseason, no news is probably good news.
WASHINGTON - Not bad, George McPhee, not bad. Dustin Penner is a big upgrade over Martin Erat and the same can be said about Jaroslav Halak over Michal Neuvirth. Halak battling Braden Holtby could make for a complicated netminding scenario for fantasy owners, however.
Stay tuned for a shorter West recap and a look at some of the debuts from around the league in Friday’s Dose.