Feb 062011
 

[Every weekend, Canucks Hockey Blog goes out of town as Tom Wakefield (@tomwakefield88) posts his thoughts on what's happening around the NHL.]

Martin Brodeur and Jarome Iginla

If Canada was really serious about hockey – if Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the hockey fan he says he is – then NHL Trade Deadline Day would be a national holiday.

Other than the opening night of the season, no other day on the hockey calendar offers hockey fans as much hope.

What about July 1st, the first day of free agency? Only if your team is a buyer.

Draft day? Only if your team has a first-round pick.

The beauty of NHL Trade Deadline Day is that it serves fans of all teams. Every move can be painted as a step toward a better tomorrow.

The only question is if that better tomorrow is this year, next year, or a few years from now.

Between today and what will be the busiest day in Canadian sports broadcasting (February 28th), thousands upon thousands of words will be said, tweeted and written about who will be dealt, and for what, on Trade Deadline Day.

Except for this column.

Here is a list of players with “tradeability” (aka trade value, brought to you by the same naming folks who brought you “drinkability,” “dunkability,” and “Sham-wow”), who won’t move at the deadline.

Martin Brodeur

Brodeur is 38-years old on a team that’s not only facing a long rebuilding process, but suddenly is losing ownership investors. What is there left for him to do in the Garden State? He’s got one year left on his contract at a cap-hit of $5.2 million. Colorado and Tampa Bay are two teams in particular who are looking to make a playoff push and have the cap space this year and next. Nonetheless, there is every indication that Brodeur is happy playing out the string in New Jersey.

What’s that saying: better to flame out than fade away? Patrick Roy wouldn’t fade away like it seems Martin Brodeur will.

Jarome Iginla

Without a membership to the Great Water Buffalo Society of General Managers, there’s no way of knowing for sure. However, it seems the goal of trading in the NHL is to move an asset when it is as close to its peak value as possible, hopefully before it stops returning on your investment entirely.

Jarome Iginla has done everything and more for the Flames. He won’t be more valuable two-years from now (power forwards rarely age well). The Los Angeles Kings are desperate for an impact forward. They have some interesting young talent, including Braydon Schenn and 57 goalie prospects (ok, a slight exaggeration). It seems logical to make a deal.

Nevertheless, Jay Feaster has told everyone who’ll listen that his veteran stars (Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff in particular) are safe, because his blueprint is to find a few core players and build a winning franchise around that core.

How this is a different approach from 29 other teams in the league is a head-scratcher. Perhaps someone should check that Feaster is talking about the same core group that has failed Calgary every year since a Stanley Cup run six years ago.

Tomas Kaberle

Pausing a moment while Leaf fans finish screaming in frustration… Looking back at the history books, practically every Stanley Cup winner has had a quality puck-moving defenceman anchoring its powerplay. The market for Kaberle should be big, with any of Tampa Bay, Colorado, St. Louis, Dallas, Nashville, Phoenix, Carolina and the New York Rangers having cap space and playoff aspirations.

The problem is the Maple Leafs can’t afford to be a lottery pick again, and no other defenceman on the roster (including “Neon” Dion Phaneuf) has shown any aptitude with the puck. Seriously, it’s like watching the film 2001 before the obelisk showed the prehistoric apes how to use tools, some nights.

Adding to the situation is that Kaberle (depending on which source you trust) has never used his no-trade clause previously wielded his no-trade clause like Thor wields his hammer.

The last remaining member of the infamous Muskoka 5, there’s no reason for Kaberle to agree to be traded somewhere for a few extra months of hockey (inconveniencing him and his family).

Watch for him to simply wait out the year, go play in the World Championships, and choose his destination (probably featuring lots of sunshine) on July 1st.

Hey, it’s kinda the same choice former captain Mats Sundin made, isn’t it?

Ales Hemsky

Since most of the NHL Trade Deadline Day media originate from Toronto, you can expect future stories about how the Edmonton Oilers, in the midst of a scorched-earth rebuild, are looking for prospects and draft picks for their best players.

Make no mistake, despite the day-to-day improvements of Taylor Hall, Ales Hemsky is Edmonton’s best player. Granted he’s injury prone, but he is also a magician with the puck – Glenn Anderson-like skills with a playmaker’s heart and vision. There is greatness in him, and for the Oilers to be great once again, they need to hold onto all the elite talent they can.

The great Terry Jones seems to agree.

Brad Richards

Another impending UFA. However, the Dallas Stars need a playoff run not only to help sell the team, but to add some much needed money to the team’s bottom line.

As the Jamie Langenbrunner trade demonstrated, this is a team adding, not subtracting, talent from the roster. Richards isn’t going anywhere (yet).

Alex Kovalev

Detroit General Manager Ken Holland has a theory that teams that score more than three goals a game usually coast into playoff spots. Somewhere lurking inside Alex Kovalev is Hall-of-Fame talent. With the right motivation, in the right situation, Kovalev could easily help a team get to that three goals-a-game level.

Sadly though it seems the mystery-wrapped-in-an-enigma that is Alex Kovalev will finish his career without one last, great flourish. His latest knee injury, when added to his reputation, probably scares off any team that might be interested.

The Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings make some trade-sense, as they might be the last two teams that would be able to motivate Kovalev. However, it appears neither team can afford his contract.

Sergei Gonchar

Some will argue that getting Gonchar out of Ottawa would be a coup, since few defencemen in the past decade have seen the offensive side of the game better. As previously discussed, the best teams in the league always have a good puck-moving defenceman at their disposal.

The problem for the Senators is that the best teams in the league don’t want to pay a 36-year old with beer-league defensive skills $11 million over the next two years.

It’s shocking that, despite the Kovalev and Gonchar contracts, Eugene Melnyk is still looking to keep Bryan Murray inside the organization in some capacity after this season is over.

Maxime Talbot

Yet another UFA, Talbot might just be the most recognizable “other guy” amongst Penguin forwards not named Crosby, Malkin or Staal. He’s earned this recognition with his speed, grit and determination – all the characteristics a Cup team needs in abundance. Some team will overpay for his services in the off-season (probably Toronto).

Earning just over $1 million, Talbot would be a classic Trade Deadline Day acquisition for a young team on the rise, or a team on the cusp of something special. The thing is, this Penguins team is one of the latter.

They have no real reason to move Talbot.

Kevin Bieksa

Vancouver’s favourite whipping boy, salary cap issues looked like they would finally force the Canucks to move Bieksa at the start of the year. Instead, injuries have allowed the maligned blueliner to not only stay in the lineup, but reward the team with maybe the best play of his career.

His poor decision-making will forever keep him from being a true top-pairing defender, but every team in the league wants depth on defence for the post-season.

Bieksa, as a second-pairing, second-powerplay defenceman, would be an attractive option to a few teams, including the New York Rangers.

In keeping Bieksa, the Canucks already have what other teams will be looking for on NHL Trade Deadline Day.

Dec 112010
 

[Every weekend, Canucks Hockey Blog goes out of town as Tom Wakefield (@tomwakefield88) posts his thoughts on what's happening around the NHL.]

Bob Gainey, Montreal Canadiens

It’s hard to imagine Bob Gainey laughing.

A Google image search confirms even smiles are hard-fought, often-lost battles in the corners of his mouth.

Yet Bob Gainey has a lot to smile and laugh about.

This Montreal Canadiens team – a team he essentially re-built in the summer of 2009, then handed off to current GM Pierre Gauthier – is a pretty good one.

Making things all-the-more sweet is that Gainey essentially built this team in the face of constant criticism. Critics said his team was too small; that it wasn’t French enough; that Jacques Martin couldn’t coach offense; and that Carey Price could never find permanent success. Gainey said thank you very much, weathered the media storm and built a quick, counter-attack team full of character.

Today, this is a team that believes in each other, its system, and its coaching staff. They honour the great teams of Montreal’s past through their sacrifice, resilience and tempo of play. Mike Cammalleri’s Cup contender assertion is simply another indication that there’s a confidence amongst Habs players that hasn’t existed in some time.

Whether Cammy’s right or not remains to be seen. The team could use another game-breaker, and the loss of Andrei Markov is a significant one.

But there are some championship qualities to be found here if one looks closely enough.

And those are qualities Bob Gainey brought to the team before he stepped away.

THOUGHTS ON THE FLY

  • You would think the return of Mario Lemieux to the ice, even if it’s for an alumni game, would be exciting. But does anyone else remember how boring the Oilers-Habs alumni game was in the original Heritage Classic? After the initial player introductions and the magic of playing outdoors subsided, all we were left with was rusty retirees scrimmaging duly. Anyways, the Penguins and Capitals alumni are squaring off the day before the 2011 NHL Winter Classic. With Paul Coffey, Bill Guerin, Ron Francis and Bryan Trottier all playing, put your money on the Pittsburgh home team.
  • Puck Daddy reports 23 busloads of “Nordiques Nation” fans are making the trip from Quebec to New York to see the Islanders host the Atlanta Thrashers.
  • It will be interesting to see how losing Mark Stuart for 4-6 weeks will impact the Boston Bruins. He’s an underrated blueliner.
  • Yet another reason why the Leafs are struggling. Tomas Kaberle’s next goal will be his first of the year. If he’s not contributing offense, he’s not contributing anything.
  • The Buffalo Sabres are alive and well after a slow start to the year. One reason: Thomas Vanek’s found his A-game.
  • Speaking of the Sabres, Shaone Morrisonn is out for awhile with concussion symptoms. This is another opportunity for Chris Butler to show he belongs.
  • Word in Chicago is that injured players Marian Hossa, Fernando Pisani and Patrick Kane could all be back sooner than expected. To possibly fill the void until they return, the Blackhawks have signed former Canuck Ryan Johnson to a tryout contract.
  • Speaking of the ‘Hawks, why did they sign Marty Turco again? Corey Crawford is two wins away from tying the team record for most consecutive wins by a goaltender.
  • Slowly but surely, David Booth is coming around for the Florida Panthers. The thing is, for a team dedicated to rebuilding, is it smart to make a player with a history of concussions a franchise centerpiece?
  • No surprises here: the oft-injured Kari Lehtonen is having back trouble in Dallas. Good thing for them Andrew Raycroft has played pretty well this year.
  • Matt Duchene has created a Twitter account to generate interest in the team. Not to be cynical, but there’s a 50% chance that’s code for “meeting girls on road trips.”
  • Quietly, Jeff Woywitka has been a solid, defensive presence for the Dallas Stars.
  • If ever there was a time for Edmonton’s Sam Gagner to take the next step forward and demonstrate he can be an elite player in the NHL, it’s now, with Shawn Horcoff out for an extended period.
  • Excuse me, Part 1: What type of goal was that again, Craig Laughlin?
  • Excuse me, Part 2: Remember, you can’t actually buy waffles at the Air Canada Centre. You have to smuggle them in. Please let this become a tradition.
  • In honour of CBC’s 3D coverage this weekend, Down Goes Brown provides a technology guide for hockey fans.
  • Why the Ottawa Senators are a mess, reason #346: Tough to move under-performing, over-priced veterans in today’s salary cap era. Even if the team can find a buyer for Alexei Kovalev, Sergei Gonchar isn’t going anywhere soon.
  • The loss of Andy McDonald (concussion) probably kills the St. Louis Blues chances of making the playoffs. Reports suggest the team is looking to salvage the season through a trade, with Travis Zajac, Stephen Weiss and Matt Moulson the potential targets.
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