So the NHL Trade Deadline this year wasn’t exactly scintillating television.
In fact, at one point you had roughly 20-odd TSN “experts” (term used loosely since they employ Craig Button) debating the composition of Team Canada for the 2014 Winter Games.
Not exactly a pressing topic, well, anywhere these days.
Yet with 16 NHL trades completed on Monday, and another 21 between Valentine’s Day and Sunday, it’s fair to say this has been a fairly active NHL deadline season.
So who are the early winners and losers?
Winner: Jeff Penner, Mikko Lehtonen, Anton Khudobin, Drew MacIntyre, Brett Festerling, Tom Sestito, Michael Chaput, Greg Moore, MacGregor Sharp, and Kevin Montgomery’s moms.
Why: Toiling in obscurity for the most part, these guys got a bit of limelight on a very slow deadline day. No doubt their moms are thrilled to see their names on television.
Loser: Curtis McElhinney (Ottawa)
Why: Because all that warm weather clothing he owned from Anaheim and was about to use again in Tampa Bay is useless now that the Senators have claimed him off waivers.
Speaking of which…
Loser: Daniel Alfredsson
Why: Would you want to play out the year with this collection of stiffs? It’s fair to say the Senators’ long-time captain has played his last home playoff game in Ottawa.
Winner: Washington Capitals
Why: Washington looks a lot deeper than they did a few weeks ago. The Caps have improved their second-line, although to what extent remains to be seen. Acquiring Jason Arnott should allow Alex Ovechkin to move from his point position on the powerplay, making “The Great 8” more dangerous on the half-boards and down low. Dennis Wideman’s puck-moving skills also means Washington can take their time with Mike Green’s recovery without losing a beat on the back-end. Marco Sturm is still finding his sea-legs returning from injury, but historically he’s been one of the league’s better two-way players.
Loser: Poolies who own Sidney Crosby in one-year hockey pools
Why: There’s no reason to rush Sid the Kid back into the Penguin lineup. Ray Shero has done an excellent job parlaying the salary cap space afforded by long-term injuries to Gino Malkin and Crosby into greater offensive depth. While the Penguins currently struggle to score, a playoff spot is not really in jeopardy.
Winner: Poolies who own Sidney Crosby in playoff pools
Why: Crosby will be well-rested and, whether it’s James Neal or Alex Kovalev, he’ll return playing with the most talented winger he’s had since Marian Hossa left town. With Dan Blysma getting strong defensive results out of this roster, adding some offensive support to Crosby’s wing should make this team a serious post-season threat in the East.
Loser: Montreal Canadiens
Why: They made the Conference Finals last year on the back of a historic run by goalie Jaroslav Halak. Adding Brent Sopel and Paul Mara provides some much needed depth to the defense, but up-front they remain too small to win a seven-game series against either Boston or Philadelphia. Dustin Penner would have looked great on this roster.
Winner: Florida Panthers
Why: Niclas Bergfors might not have the best attitude, but he does have top-six, or even top-line, talent. Getting him for Radek Dvorak – one of the great all wheels/no hands players of the last decade – was a bit of a steal. The useful Tim Kennedy has upside (Sabres fans still miss him in Buffalo) and they’ve added some draft picks in the Bryan McCabe and Wideman deals. Not a bad start to the rebuild in Florida.
Loser: Nashville Predators
Why: Mike Fisher isn’t good enough to push the Predators past the first-round. In fact, by not picking up another impact forward, Nashville’s playoff future could be in jeopardy.
Loser: San Jose Sharks
Why: Okay, so maybe this one isn’t fair. The Sharks are playing their best hockey of the year. But it’s hard to believe this is a playoff juggernaut when their biggest additions have been Ian White and Kyle Wellwood – two well-travelled players with well-known issues.
Winner: Anaheim Ducks
Why: Francois Beauchemin is the perfect tonic for this team on defense, and one of the toughest teams in the NHL has added Brad Winchester and Jarkko Ruutu, who aren’t exactly easy to play against. They could really give a top-seed nightmares if they make the playoffs.
Loser: Atlanta Thrashers
Why: Neither Ben Maxwell nor Blake Wheeler has the offensive upside of Niclas Bergfors. And Zach Bogosian still hates his coach. Still looking for proof Rick Dudley knows what he’s doing.
Winner: Buffalo Sabres
Why: Brad Boyes could go without scoring the rest of the year, but it’s not the point – the “have-not” Sabres have become “haves” under new owner Terry Pegula. That’s a big win for Buffalo fans.
Loser: Dallas Stars
Why: They gave up a premium for Alex Goligoski a week ago and failed to get anything for pending UFA Brad Richards. Only superhuman play from Richards and Kari Lehtonen had this team in the playoff running, and neither have had a February to remember. It wouldn’t surprise if they’re on the outside looking in this Spring.
Winner: New York Rangers
Why: They added some defensive depth in Bryan McCabe but, more importantly, didn’t give up any assets to acquire Brad Richards from Dallas. This team is good enough to make the playoffs this year. Next year, if Richards is in the lineup, they could be Eastern Conference favourites.
Vancouver Canucks: Chris Higgins and Max Lapierre provide some nice depth on the team’s bottom-six, but will this team get enough secondary scoring to go deep in the post-season? There will be a lot of pressure on Mason Raymond and Mikael Samuelsson to deliver in crunch time this Spring.
Los Angeles Kings: They had the young depth to make a move for a big-time player. Instead they used that depth to acquire Dustin Penner, a classic has-all-the-tools-but-the-toolbox-goes-missing type of player. This isn’t the home run Los Angeles was hoping for, and a first-round exit in the playoffs (if they make it) wouldn’t surprise.
Edmonton Oilers: At some point the franchise will have to turn assets into players who can help now, or even now-ish. The smallest team in the league just got smaller, and there’s no top-six size on the horizon. Colton Teubert is a physical, Theo Peckham-type, on a team that already employs the actual Theo Peckham. The draft picks may be nice, except the draft is reportedly Lara Flynn Boyle-thin this year.
Calgary Flames: Call it a hunch, but says here this playoff run causes more damage than good for the franchise in the long-term. How again is anything Jay Feaster doing different from what Darryl Sutter had planned?
Chicago Blackhawks: Chris Campoli can move the puck and gives them some added defensive depth, but they’re still waiting for Michael Frolik to arrive from Florida (0 points in 8 games). The home run move would have been to create a package for Tomas Vokun, especially when you consider a) Dale Tallon’s familiarity with the Blackhawks system and b) Stan Bowman’s accumulation of prospects and draft picks over the past eight months. Instead, you have to think they’ll roll-the-dice with Corey Crawford in goal down the stretch. Good luck with that.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Let’s be clear – Rusty Klesla isn’t a bust, but his skating isn’t exactly NHL-calibre. That being said, Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto aren’t exactly world-beaters either. This was a shuffling-the-deck-chairs move by GM Scott Howson, who’s probably losing his job if the Jackets don’t make the playoffs.