COACHING CHANGES TRANSACTIONS POWER POLL DEPTH CHARTS CURRENT ODDS
Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Judging the value of trades at the deadline is kind of like guessing who will win a presidential election in February. But, that hardly stops pundits from guessing away when it comes to both sports and politics.
Evaluating the NHL trade deadline is especially difficult, as it happens very late in the season and also involves a dizzying amount of teams and players.
Tuesday's deadline featured 25 trades for the third consecutive season, tying the mark originally set in 2006. When the dust cleared, 45 players changed addresses and 23 draft picks were swapped.
Deals made at the trade deadline are judged instantly and often harshly, as critics try to determine which teams helped their playoff pushes and which let their fans down. However, when it comes to assessing trades, what seems like a great idea or a bad one at the deadline often has the opposite effect.
Teams have at the most 20 games to try and find a way to make their deals work, as clubs attempt to get the most out of their new acquisitions.
Below is a list of those that helped or hurt their causes, and a few examples of teams that missed out on a chance to improve.
Dallas Stars - The Stars are in first place in the Pacific Division, and with Tuesday's trade for centerman Brad Richards, it's obvious that they want to remain there. It took a lot to pry Richards away from Tampa Bay, but the Stars didn't simply get a rental player for the rest of the season. After this season, Richards will still have three years remaining on a five-year, $39 million deal he signed with Tampa after the 2005-06 campaign. The Stars also received goaltender Johan Holmqvist in the deal, and sent netminder Mike Smith to the Lightning as well as center Jeff Halpern, forward Jussi Jokinen and a 2009 fourth-round draft choice. The Stars are second in the Western Conference with an average of 2.97 goals per game, and the addition of Richards down the middle should give the Stars even more offensive production. The 27-year-old has 18 goals and 33 assists this season, and is a proven playoff performer who was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner for the 2004 Stanley Cup champion Lightning.
San Jose Sharks - Also making noise at the deadline in the Pacific Division was San Jose, which may have improved its team the most with the addition of a single player. The Sharks sent young forward Steve Bernier and a 2008 first- round pick to Buffalo in exchange for All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell and a seventh-round selection in the upcoming draft. Campbell, an All-Star in each of the past two seasons, has notched five goals and 38 assists in 63 games this season, and is a puck-moving defenseman who is expected to greatly improve a struggling San Jose power-play unit. The Sharks are 20th in the NHL with a 16.8-percent success rate on the man advantage. San Jose needed to do something big or else run the risk of bowing out early in the postseason for a third straight year. The Sharks were Cup contenders in each of the past two campaigns, but were knocked out in the second round both times. One bad sign for the Sharks is that Campbell said he doesn't want to talk to San Jose about re-signing with the team until after the season. If the Sharks falter in the playoffs once again and fail to re-sign Campbell, my evaluation of this trade may change. But for now, San Jose has helped its cause in a big way.
Colorado Avalanche - The signing of Peter Forsberg on Monday was huge news for the Avalanche, as the centerman returned to Denver, the place where he won a Hart Trophy and a pair of Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001. Colorado continued the nostalgia theme at the deadline when they brought back defenseman Adam Foote, who was a teammate of Forsberg on both Avalanche championship teams. Colorado sent a pair of conditional draft picks, including a first-rounder in either 2008 or 2009, to Columbus for Foote, who denied the Blue Jackets' attempts to re-sign him. Forsberg's ability to stay healthy is still a question mark, but Colorado knows what it's getting in Foote, a shutdown defenseman who brings a physical presence to the blue line. The Avs also acquired defenseman Ruslan Salei from the Florida Panthers for defenseman Karlis Skrastins and a third-round pick in 2008. Salei is not a puck-carrying defenseman per se, but is certainly more mobile than the defensive-minded Skrastins. Forsberg's ability to contribute on offense is the big if, but Foote and Salei were solid moves designed to shore up Colorado's depth on defense.
Pittsburgh Penguins - The Penguins landed the biggest offensive weapon on Tuesday, as they grabbed right wing Marian Hossa from the Atlanta Thrashers. Pittsburgh, which also received left wing Pascal Dupuis from Atlanta, gave up NHL forwards Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen, prospect Angelo Esposito and a first-round pick in the 2008 draft. There is no doubt that the Penguins surrendered a lot in this deal, but Hossa has been an offensive force in recent years, scoring 80 or more points in each of the last four seasons. However, he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this campaign, and could be gone from Pittsburgh in a few months time. The Penguins knew what kind of risks they were taking in this deal, but in the end they saw how wide open the Eastern Conference is and decided to take a shot. With Evgeni Malkin in tow and Sidney Crosby nearing his return from injury, Pittsburgh's deal for Hossa now makes the Pens the team to beat in the East. Still, if they suffer an early exit from the playoffs, this trade could eventually be hard to swallow.
Tampa Bay Lightning - It's not often that you see a team that is basically dumping salary find its way onto this list, but this year's big deadline deal should pay dividends down the road for Tampa. The Lightning finally made a decision on their big three offensive players when they packaged Brad Richards in the deal to Dallas. Tampa sunk loads of money into Richards, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis after winning the Stanley Cup in 2004, and had to cut one member of that trio loose. The Lightning are not out of the playoff race yet, but needed to make this trade as Richards had become unhappy in Tampa. The decision to trade Richards also allowed the Lightning to sign puck- moving defenseman Dan Boyle to a six-year extension. In addition to clearing cap space, Tampa also received goaltender Mike Smith, who was considered to be the heir apparent to Marty Turco in Dallas. The Lightning's biggest problem this year has been finding a consistent performer between the pipes. The 25- year-old Smith shined as a backup with the Stars, but has never been an everyday goaltender. The Lightning will certainly give him a chance to become their netminder of the future.
Montreal Canadiens - We all know that Carey Price is the future for Montreal between the pipes, but is now the right time to begin that era? Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey certainly believes so, as he traded the Habs starting goaltender for most of this season, Cristobal Huet, to Washington in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2009 draft. Huet is going to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but that doesn't justify this trade. First of all, the Canadiens are fifth in the Eastern Conference with 77 points, and are one point behind Ottawa for the Northeast Division lead. Second, Price is just 20 years old and has only started 26 games at the NHL level. Also, it seems like Montreal didn't get fair value for Huet, who could have been an integral piece to many teams looking to improve for the stretch run. Then again, Gainey could be setting himself up to look like a genius if Price catches fire in the playoffs.
Ottawa Senators - After looking like a lock for the top seed in the East three months into the season, the Senators are just 7-12-2 since January 12. That's why it's surprising the struggling franchise only made one deal on Tuesday, acquiring veteran winger Martin Lapointe, who has just three goals and four assists in 52 games this season. Ottawa needed to add quality depth at the forward position, and bringing in Lapointe does little to help in that regard. It seems Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray is relying on the Senators to turn things around with the pieces they already have.
Minnesota Wild - Picture this. Your team is in the heat of the playoff race, but just recently got knocked out of first place in the division. Now, instead of adding a piece to help your team down the stretch run, you trade for somebody else's headache. The Wild did just that on Tuesday, when their lone trade was acquiring enforcer Chris Simon from the New York Islanders for a sixth-round pick in 2008. Simon supposedly learned his lesson last year after he swung his stick like a baseball bat and hit Ryan Hollweg of the New York Rangers in the face. He received a 25-game suspension for that incident, but eclipsed that this year when Simon was handed a 30-game exile for using his skate to stomp on the leg of Pittsburgh's Jarkko Ruutu. All told, Simon has been suspended seven times in the NHL for violent behavior. The Wild will say they brought in Simon to add toughness, but this is a move that simply won't help Minnesota on the ice.
Vancouver Canucks - As usual, the Canucks are one of the teams battling it out for first place in the always competitive Northwest Division, but you couldn't tell that by their lack of activity at the deadline. Vancouver made just one trade on Tuesday, as it swapped forwards with Washington by sending Matt Cooke to the Caps in exchange for Matt Pettinger. The Canucks received a player who scored 20 goals two seasons ago and 16 in 2006-07, but Pettinger has struggled mightily this year with just two goals and five assists in 56 games. Vancouver has possibly the league's best goaltender in Roberto Luongo, but the team's lack of offense places too much pressure on the netminder, especially in the playoffs. In last year's postseason, the Canucks made it to the second round, but only managed 21 goals over 12 playoff games. Pettinger is unlikely to make a big difference to the offense if the Canucks make the playoffs.
Calgary Flames - The Flames, who are in first in the Northwest by a small margin, did even less at the deadline, as they failed to make a single trade. Calgary could have used some depth at the forward position, as team captain Jarome Iginla is called on to do too much of the heavy lifting. To its credit, Calgary did hang onto winger Alex Tanguay, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Tanguay's offensive abilities should help the Flames down the stretch, but it would have been even better if Calgary could have kept him while also adding another weapon on offense.
New Jersey Devils - The Devils rarely make a big splash at the trade deadline, and maybe they didn't need to this year considering they headed into Tuesday as the top seed in the East. Still, New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello opted to make just one deal at the deadline and that was to acquire 32-year- old defenseman Bryce Salvador for enforcer Cam Janssen, who hadn't played a game for the Devils' NHL club this season. The Devils do have the luxury of having future Hall-of-Famer Martin Brodeur as their goaltender, but the team should have added a boost to the offense.