As we close out the month of February we start moving closer to the most exciting part of hockey all season, the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That being said we also now see a better picture of which teams will be competing for Lord Stanley come April and which teams are already looking towards the summer months to rebuild their respective franchises. With only hours left to go before all trades are finalized let’s look at the biggest winners, losers and biggest question marks coming from the 2017 trade deadline.
Winner: Dallas Stars
2 years ago if you were to tell me that the Dallas Stars were looking to get younger I would have laughed at you. Jamie Benn coming into his own, a promising young goaltender in Kari Lehtonen, acquiring Tyler Sequin and Patrick Sharp from the Bruins and Blackhawks respectively. The Stanley Cup looked like it was soon coming to Dallas, but those dreams have been put on hold for the time being. With Dallas in second to last place in their division only above a floundering Colorado and 6 points behind the nearest playoff spot something had to be done. The Stars send away three established players in Jordie Benn, Johnny Oduya and Patrick Eaves for a second round and a fourth round pick in this year’s draft with a another fourth round pick in this years draft. They also acquired promising young forward Mark McNeil who had 6 goals and 22 assists this year in 56 games in the AHL and established Defenseman Greg Pateryn who has 1 goal and 5 assists in 24 games this year, in case the Stars do make a playoff run. The Stars were looking to get younger and by getting 2 younger players and 3 picks for aging vets I think they did just that.
Losers: Los Angeles Kings
Now yes, the Kings did lose Jonathan Quick during the beginning of the season and they have been struggling without him but it doesn’t excuse the poor trading they did in order to maintain their wildcard spot. The Kings currently hold the final wildcard spot in the west and probably should have moved some younger pieces in order to get more scoring or defensive boost to help Quick returning. Oh yeah, Quick is back now so your defense has already seen a massive improvement without even doing anything. Seemingly ignoring their playoff position LA traded away Michael Latta, Tom Gilbert Peter Budaj, Erik Cenrak a seventh round pick and a pick to be named later. What did they get in return? An AHL level defenseman in Cameron Shilling, a fifth round pick and Ben Bishop. LA also traded to receive Jarome Iginla from the Avalanche but he is a far cry from his best days as a defenseman. Ben Bishop is a top-tier goalie for sure but when you already have Quick the move makes no sense. The Tampa Bay Lightning robbed LA blind and now LA has to figure out who play in net behind a weakened team. Regardless of who they choose the latter will probably want more minutes and look somewhere else for them putting a top tier goalie on this year’s free agency market.
Winner: Arizona Coyotes
Say what you will about playing hockey in Arizona and how the Coyotes can make more money going somewhere else, but the Coyotes did something this season that every losing team should be looking to do this time of year….trade. Arizona sent away top players like Michael Stone, Martin Hanzal and Ryan White and gained back top prospects in Jeremy Morin, Grayson Downing and Teemu Pulkkinnen. They also gained a 1st and 3rd round picks in this years draft, while only losing a fourth. Arizona gained a 2nd and 5th in next years draft and veteran Joe Whithey for young players in Brendan Radford and Stefan Fournier as well. Unless Minnesota wins the Stanley Cup this year with Martin Hanzal and makes their first round pick seemingly worthless I can only see Arizona benefitting from this deal and their GM coming out looking pretty good in the process. Maybe he should go help out the Sixers maybe he can get Ben Simmonds to actually see the court.
Now again I will eat my words and swallow my pride if they win the Stanley Cup, but that is the only way I think you could justify giving up two picks and two prospects for two vets and a fourth. Yes, the Wild are in first place in their division and yes they definitely in a win now mode with none of their star players getting any younger and if this move was done 3 years ago I would probably applaud it. However, they did not trade for a truly elite player in his prime like a Rick Nash, Jakub Voracek, Evander Kane or one of the Sedin brothers. Martin Hanzal is good just good, has 16 goals and 10 assists in 51 games this season and holds a plus minus of -15 making him a apart of one of the worst lines on a terrible team. He also has never scored over 20 goals in a season over his entire NHL career. Meaning the Wild just sent away three promising future players for a consistent 2nd or 3rd line player who will probably either leave after this season or force one of the other scorers to leave due to his high salary, namely Zach Parise who has an option this year. Like I said unless the Wild win it all this year Arizona wins this trade and it sends the Wild back to square one.
Winner: Tampa Bay Lightning
If anyone was wondering how you rebuild a team around a young core of players Tampa Bay wrote the manual and teaches a class Wednesday nights on NBC. After the Stamkos panic of last season where the lighting were able to hang on to the young superstar and maintain their title as a young up and coming team in the NHL. Building on offense around elite scorers Stamkos, Johnson, Kucherov and Palat, along with veteran Vernon Filppula. Tampa brought in Stefan Fournier for the future and acquired 3 picks in this years draft to further that construction. In the defensive zone the Lightning are anchored by Defensive scorer Victor Hedman and Elite shot blocker and defender Anton Stralman. The Lightning went out acquire the likely third piece in that puzzle in 19-year-old Erik Cernak who has 3 goals, 14 assists and a plus minus of +27 in 41 games in the OHL. In the goal crease Tampa had a question this year of who would play the proven 30-year-old Ben Bishop or 22-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy. Well after playing 33 games with 12 wins, 2 shutouts, a 2.75 goals allowed average and a save percentage of .912 Vasilevskiy was named the permanent starter. Meaning that Bishop was put on the block and moved to LA for two picks, Cernak, and Budaj who played this year in LA and played well enough for them to be in a playoff spot and now the 30 year old will be a mentor and stable backup to the young goaltender. Tampa managed to address all three sections of its team in two months a feat that most teams to do in two years.
It’s alright Leafs fans I get it a rookie player comes along and you thing that this one player will change the course of your entire franchise. I felt the same way you feel about Auston Matthews about Adam Henrique, I thought this is it with him,Parise and Kovalchuk there is no way we can lose. Then I met Jonathan Quick and reality hit me like a Zdeno Chara Slapshot. The Leafs currently sit challenging for a wildcard spot in the east and look to make their first playoff appearance since Phil Kessel. But the Leafs shouldnt forget they are in rebuild they have no solid Defense and an up and coming offense but it’s not a Penquins sized attack. They have just a lot of could be’s and hope as of right now. That is why I can’t wrap my head around the idea of trading away young skaters like Viktor Loov and Byron Froese for Brian Boyle and Sergey Kalinin. Boyle at 32 is looking for a win now team after missing out with the Rangers in 2014 and comes into Toronto with 13 goals and 9 assists with a plus minus of +5 in 54 games, but is not the Elite defenseman he was in New York 4 years ago. Kalinin was a fourth line player in New Jersey which says a lot about his play and has 2 goals and 2 assists with a plus minus of -13 in 43 games. Not making him someone on the top of my priority list. The Leafs should have just held on to their picks and players this year and hoped to capitalize in free agency using their current success to draw in more young superstars.
Where were you is the question I have for the Oilers. As a team that was fine with an attack led by Connor McDavid, Ryan Nuget Hopkins, and Milan Lucic, as most teams would, and a defense lead by the young wrecking crew of Adam Larsson and Oscar Klefbom. I would have loved them to pursue getting a goaltender in the current trade market. Not saying the Cam Talbot isn’t a servicable net minder, but for a team now looking at a playoff run it would have made sense for them to go after Ben Bishop since he was on the block and they have the picks and players to entice Tampa Bay.
My question for the Flyers isn’t so much a question as it is a command. Find out what kind of team you are. Are you a rebuilder or a contender? Either way there is no excuse to sit out of the trade market. The Flyers have two areas of weakness in their play, one of their top scorers is also their enforcer and they need a stable goalie. In order to fix those issues you need to acquire personel, I’ve been hearing for years about how many prospects the Flyers have, which is great so move some of those for stars so you can compete. Kevin Shattenkirk would have taken the pressure off Gostisbehere and Provorov and allowed them to develop behind him while also forcing Del Zotto down a line which can only help him. Tyler Vanek would have been a good target who can take the scoring weight off of Simmonds’ shoulders so he can return to punishing skaters who keep their heads down. Also Ben Bishop would have been an excellent target as he could add stability between the pipes. The last time the Metro division had a big 6’7 net minder in the division he wore Red and Black and won 3 Stanley Cups and now has a statue in Newark so maybe Bishop would have been good to look at. Whatever the strategy is, just don’t do nothing.
New York Rangers
The boys from Rangerstown shocked me this year with taking a team that, I thought would miss the playoffs, and making them a legitimate contender. What shocks me a little more is that didn’t really do anything to ensure that success continued. It seems like the Rangers are just waiting for all the wheels to come off the bus but we are 50 games in and they look fine so this might be the chance to grab some players and bolster that line up so that if you take some bumps along the way. Players like Nash and Girardi are not getting any younger so if there is anytime to make a cup run I would say the time is now so only making AHL trades is something that concerns me.
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