A Tale of Two Trades

Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor

Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When the NHL's trade deadline ended on the afternoon of February 26, hockey pundits everywhere argued about which team helped its cause the most.

The two most heralded trades at the deadline involved a pair of Pacific Division rivals in Dallas and San Jose, as the Stars acquired centerman Brad Richards from Tampa Bay and the Sharks brought in defenseman Brian Campbell from Buffalo.

At the time of the moves, the Stars were first in the Pacific, and the acquisition of Richards was meant to keep things that way. However, since that time the two teams have been on different trajectories, with the Sharks soaring towards a division title while Dallas fights for positioning in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race.

The Sharks have lost just once with Campbell in the lineup as San Jose has gone 12-0-1 with the All-Star defenseman in tow. In fact, the club won two in a row before Campbell's arrival, and hasn't been dealt a regulation loss since February 20, going 14-0-1 in that span.

As of Tuesday, San Jose is first in the Pacific Division and second in both the West and NHL with 99 points.

The Stars, meanwhile, are third in the division, 10 points in back of the Sharks, and fifth in the Western Conference standings. Dallas has gone just 2-7-0 in nine games with Richards in the lineup.

Brian Campbell
The Sharks have gone 12-0-1 since adding Brian Campbell to the lineup.
The Sharks have also been able to hold off Anaheim, as the defending Stanley Cup champions are currently second in the Pacific. The Ducks didn't do much at the deadline, but added huge pieces when both Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne decided not to retire and instead re-joined Anaheim in the middle of the season. Still, restoring two key components from its championship team hasn't been enough to get Anaheim past Campbell and the Sharks.

It would be silly to heap all the credit for San Jose's surge at Campbell's feet, just as it wouldn't be wise to blame Richards for the Stars' slide. So then, what exactly is behind the rise of the Sharks and the fall of the Stars?

After all, Richards has nine points in his nine games with Dallas, but that production is misleading considering he notched five points, all assists, in his first game with the Stars on February 28. Since then, he has posted just two goals and two assists over eight games.

Campbell, on the other hand, has recorded 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists) in his 13 games with the Sharks, and is a plus-eight over that span as well. He has been a consistent point-producer for San Jose, notching points in nine of his games with the Sharks.

In fact, Campbell's combined point total with the Sabres and Sharks has him second on San Jose in scoring with 55 points (7 g, 48).

One problem for the Stars may be that they gave up too much from the NHL roster to land Richards, and are now playing with a depleted squad. After all, forwards Jeff Halpern and Jussi Jokinen, two of the players dealt for Richards, have posted 12 and nine points, respectively, since joining the Lightning.

However, the Stars weren't simply acquiring a rental player in Richards, so the asking price for the 27-year-old was higher than usual. Richards still has three seasons remaining on the five-year, $39 million deal he signed with Tampa after the 2005-06 campaign.

Campbell's play has obviously helped the Sharks, but San Jose's woeful power play, which was a primary impetus for the trade, hasn't improved nearly as much as expected.

The 28-year-old defenseman has done his part with one goal and six assists on the power play, but the team is just 11-of-51 (21.6-percent) with the man advantage since the trade, and 4-for-30 (13.3-percent) in their last eight games. San Jose was at 16.8 percent for the season at the time of the trade.

At the same time, only looking at power-play numbers to judge the worth of Campbell would not be doing justice to his overall game. Campbell is not just a power-play specialist or an offensive defenseman, but, despite his 5-11, 191-pound frame, is also a physical presence. He isn't one to drop the gloves or accumulate a great deal of penalty minutes, but is adept at delivering a well-timed check.

The main reason for the success of San Jose's trade over the deal made for Richards could simply be a matter of chemistry. It takes more time to fit a new centerman into a lineup because of the seemingly endless number of line combinations.

On the other hand, adding a top-end defenseman such as Campbell to a lineup should have pay dividends immediately. Especially when you can pencil in said newcomer for 20-plus minutes of quality ice time a night.

Considering the way they've played with Campbell on the ice this year, the Sharks are likely going to make a big push to re-sign the defenseman after this season. San Jose wanted to get the deal done upon acquiring Campbell, but he didn't want to negotiate during the homestretch.

As always, deals at the trade deadline are judged by how deep a team goes into the postseason. The Sharks have all the momentum presently and would like to get past the second round of the playoffs for the first time since reaching the conference finals in 2004.

Meanwhile, the Stars are still hoping that the Richards' experiment only needs a little more time to come to fruition.

The true winners of deadline day will be determined this spring, but until then, the Sharks can rest easily. After all, they turned their season around with the addition of a single player, and that's what the trade deadline is all about.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Dan Di Sciullo at ddisciullo@sportsnetwork.com.
Dan Di Sciullo