Paul Stastny; a dissenting opinion on the Lightning’s trade of Martin St-Louis; the two surreal sides of the David Legwand deal; a look ahead to next week’s GM meetings; and notes on outdoor games, the Avs, Flames and salary cap.Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s weekly Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include why Colorado kept pending UFA
FIRST PERIOD: Paul Stastny stays with Avs for the present and probably the future
It was deadline day. It was also Ash Wednesday and an off day for the Colorado Avalanche. So Paul Stastny, a pending unrestricted free agent and a Catholic, went to mass and came back to the team hotel in downtown Detroit. He ordered some food and a movie, “American Hustle,” and kept his phone nearby.
“It went by really slow,” Stastny said.
Finally, at 3 p.m. ET, the deadline passed. Had Stastny been traded, he wouldn’t have been shocked because he had prepared for, as he called it, “the worst.” But he wasn’t traded, and it was best for everyone involved.
The Avs were among the teams that did well by doing little to nothing on Wednesday.
[NHL Trade Deadline: Winners & Losers]
Entering Thursday night, the Avs were third in the Central Division – but only one point behind the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks (with a game in hand) and only three points behind the St. Louis Blues (with one more game played).
They sure weren’t going to sell after missing the playoffs three years in a row and finishing second-to-last in the league last season. But they weren’t going to buy big, either, because they aren’t fooled into thinking this is their shot at the Stanley Cup. They want to win now, but their focus, as it should be, is on the long term.
“I’m excited obviously,” Stastny said. “I think we have something special here. We have a good group of guys that feel they can do something impactful – not just now but down the road.”
Patrick Roy, the coach and vice-president of hockey operations, said “it would have been tempting” to turn Stastny into assets. The Avs are trying to build their organization. Their affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, is second-to-last in the American Hockey League.
[Also: Isles GM Garth Snow & the Thomas Vanek disaster]
But even though they didn’t sign Stastny to an extension, they held onto him for two reasons: One, Stastny made it clear Colorado was his first choice. “I have faith that Paul will stay with us,” Roy said. Two, the Avs don’t want to mess up the good thing they have going, especially if they want the fans to come back. “I think we showed them we care about this season,” Roy said.
Roy said the Avs looked into hockey trades, but nothing made sense. He said they generally weren’t interested in rentals because they wanted to hold onto the assets they already had. They did rent goalie Reto Berra from the Calgary Flames for a second-round draft pick, because veteran backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere has a balky back and is in the last year of his contract. They wanted extra insurance behind starter Semyon Varmalov. But that was it, and they hope to keep Berra beyond this season.
“I think we want to go one step at a time,” Roy said. “I think we want to be patient and very smart in our decisions.”
Frankly, this season has been a surprise. No one expected the Avs to make the leap they have, probably not even the Avs themselves. Many have expected them to regress, and it just hasn’t happened, at least not yet.
[Watch: Top 3 trade surprises]
Are they good enough to go deep in the playoffs right now? Maybe not. But you never know. They just beat the Blackhawks in Chicago on Tuesday night, 4-2, and are 3-1-0 against them this season. Varlamov is capable of carrying the Avs the way he has played. And now that Roy and executive vice-president of hockey ops Joe Sakic are in charge, there is a more up-tempo style on the ice, a more upbeat feel in the dressing room and a more optimistic view of the future.
“It’s exciting to be not blowing things up at the trade deadline like they have in past years,” said center Matt Duchene, an Av since 2009, when he was drafted third overall. “This is Point A, I guess, and we want to get to Point B, which is the Cup.
“We’re really working along that line to get there. I think we’re looking around at each other right now and we’re starting to realize there may be something special here. We’re not a fly-by-night team. We’re not a team that’s a flash in the pan. We’re going to make some noise here, whether it’s this year, next year or the year after. We’re really working towards that.”
Sounds like Stastny’s prayers were answered.
“Obviously I want to stay,” Stastny said. “We have a good group of guys here. The grass isn’t always greener. It’s about winning. It’s about a winning culture, playing a fun style. To me, this is like playing on a new team.”
SECOND PERIOD: Second and third thoughts on the Martin St-Louis trade
This is what I thought about the Martin St-Louis situation entering Wednesday: If I’d been Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, I wouldn’t have traded my captain unless I received a huge return.
This is what I thought after Yzerman sent St-Louis to the New York Rangers: Well, he got a huge return. St-Louis had asked out and limited the market to one team thanks to his no-trade clause. Considering the circumstances – and that St-Louis is 38 years old – Yzerman did well to snag rental Ryan Callahan, a first-round pick and a second-round pick that could become a first if the Rangers win two rounds in the playoffs. He made the best of a bad situation.
Now? I’ve heard a dissenting opinion that isn’t far from my original thinking: Yzerman shouldn’t have done it – not even for Callahan, a first-round pick, a second-rounder that could become a first. At least he shouldn’t have done it now.
[NHL Trade Tracker: Deal-by-deal details & analysis]
St-Louis has wanted to go to New York for years. He has a home in Connecticut. Yet he has still been the heart and soul of the Lightning. Yzerman was Team Canada’s executive director for the Olympics, and when he initially left St-Louis off the roster for Sochi, that was the last straw. St-Louis pushed for a trade and didn’t back down even after he joined Team Canada as an injury replacement and won a gold medal. But what happened while he was upset? He played well – as well as ever – even though linemate Steven Stamkos was injured. A little guy who was undrafted, he feeds off disrespect.
The Bolts have missed the playoffs the past two years after going to the conference final in their first year under Yzerman. Suddenly they have a chance to go back to the conference final or even come out of the wide-open East. Goaltender Ben Bishop has been outstanding. Players have developed under new coach Jon Cooper – from defenseman Victor Hedman and center Valtteri Filppula to rookies Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson – and the team has improved structurally. Stamkos is about to return from his fractured tibia. If he can return to form by the playoffs, he could have clicked with St-Louis as usual. The team would’ve had a chance to go deep and excite the fan base.
This is not a PR disaster. It might even be a PR win. St-Louis is taking the heat for asking out, the season isn’t lost even without St-Louis, and Yzerman gained some big assets for the future. But Stamkos and St-Louis are great on the ice and tight off the ice, Yzerman doesn’t intend to sign Callahan to an extension, and you have to seize opportunities to win in this league, especially in markets like Tampa. St-Louis was going to play hard if he stayed, if only to spite Yzerman. Could it have waited until the summer? Would the chance to win now have been worth the risk of a smaller return?
THIRD PERIOD: Legwand leaves his adopted home for his hometown
The aftermath of trades are often surreal. St-Louis a Ranger? Callahan a Bolt? But for David Legwand, going from the Nashville Predators to the Detroit Red Wings was surreal on a couple of levels.
Legwand was the first draft pick in Predators history. He went second overall in 1998, right after Vincent Lecavalier went to Tampa Bay, and spent his entire career in Nashville. He was there as the Preds grew as an expansion team, as they established themselves as a perennial playoff team. He is their all-time leading scorer with 566 points in 956 games.
“Obviously being somewhere for 15 years,” Legwand said, “it’s tough.”
Now he has joined the Red Wings, one of the Predators’ former division rivals, against whom they used to measure themselves constantly.
[More: Ryan Kesler's turn to play trade demand waiting game in Vancouver]
But the Predators weren’t going to re-sign Legwand, and it didn’t take long for him to waive his no-trade clause for the Wings. He was born in Detroit. He grew up in the suburbs. He rooted for the Red Wings and owned a Steve Yzerman sweater. He played junior hockey in the area for the Plymouth Whalers. And he returned every offseason and skated with some of the Wings at Joe Louis Arena every August, sitting in the home dressing room.
Now he has a stall in that room, right under a framed black-and-white picture of Yzerman.
“It’s good to be back,” Legwand said.
The truth is, Legwand was not the Wings’ first choice on Wednesday. He is 33 and declining. But the Wings have four centers dealing with injuries – Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss – and are trying to extend their playoff streak to 23 seasons.
The Wings didn’t make this deal until they received bad news on Datsyuk and Helm on Wednesday. Legwand said the process didn’t start until 1:30 p.m. ET. He didn’t waive his no-trade clause until 2:30 p.m. ET, and the deal wasn’t done until 2:59 p.m. ET – one minute before the deadline. The Wings gave up Patrick Eaves, a spare part on an expiring contract who wanted out; Calle Jarnkrok, a prospect they once valued highly but who has been buried in the minors and talking about going back to Sweden; and a third-round pick that becomes a second-rounder if Detroit makes the playoffs.
[Related: Turbulent saga finally ends for Roberto Luongo and Canucks]
The hope is that Legwand still has something left – he does have 40 points this season, tied for the Preds’ lead – and will have something to prove to earn another contract and will play especially hard in his hometown. The Wings don’t plan to offer Legwand another deal but might be open to the idea if he plays well and would stay at the right price.
“I’ll play as long as I can,” Legwand said at the Joe. “I love playing. I love being at the rink.”
Maybe this rink especially.
OVERTIME: What’s on the agenda for the NHL GMs’ meeting?
The NHL’s general managers will hold their annual meeting Monday through Wednesday in Boca Raton, Fla. Among the items expected to be discussed:
— Overtime: For years, the Wings’ Ken Holland has pushed for a way to de-emphasize the shootout. At the GMs’ meeting in November, he said there was more support than ever before to do something – more 4-on-4, maybe 3-on-3 – though the GMs had not settled on exactly what yet.
Though 937 games this season, 14.2 percent of games ended in shootouts, the third-highest percentage since the shootout was introduced in 2005-06.
Holland has proposed 10 minutes of overtime, with five minutes of 4-on-4, followed by five minutes of 3-on-3, followed by a shootout. But some GMs think 3-on-3 is too radical, some see problems with ice conditions, and some have other ideas, including more 4-on-4 time and switching ends so teams have long line changes.
— Goalie fights: In November, there was a push to address goalie fights. The Philadelphia Flyers’ Ray Emery had just sparked the issue by pummeling the Washington Capitals’ Braden Holtby. At the time, the GMs intended to discuss possible solutions in March, maybe an automatic suspension if a goalie leaves his end of the ice to start a fight with another goalie.
But goalie fights haven’t been a problem since. Now that the issue has died down, will the GMs do anything?
SHOOTOUT: Notes from around the NHL
— Critics said six stadium games were too many. Well, the NHL drew 376,837 fans to those six games – 263,126 more than the home teams could have drawn had those games been played at Joe Louis Arena, Staples Center, Prudential Center, Nassau Coliseum, United Center and Rogers Arena.
— The Avs are 31-1-3 when they score first. They are 13-10-1 when they outshoot their opponent and 26-6-3 when they get outshot. Huh? Does this mean they have a penchant for scoring first, sitting back and relying too much on Varmalov? Are they outshooting teams only when playing from behind?
— The Corsi crowd might not like this, but Duchene said the Avs are a puck-possession team that cares about shot quality, not shot volume. They want good shots in the offensive zone and want to keep opponents to the outside in the defensive zone. “We’re a team that keeps the pedal down from start to finish,” he said. “We never sit back. When we do, we lose. … We’re not a team that funnels pucks to the net necessarily. We don’t just shoot for no reason. We shoot when we have a good chance, and if not, we hold onto the puck. … The shots can be deceiving depending on what kind of team you are.”
— Why didn’t the Calgary Flames move pending unrestricted free agent Mike Cammalleri before the deadline? Even though there were other wingers for rent – including Thomas Vanek, Matt Moulson and Marian Gaborik – couldn’t interim GM Brian Burke have gotten something from someone?
— Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi in a media conference call: “We found out, to our chagrin and surprise the other day, we had been told the cap was going to be $71 [million] and now with the Canadian dollar having tanked, that the cap could be as low as $68 [million]. That's a huge swing.”