Heading into the 2013 NHL Draft, there was good reason to believe that teams would be doing some extensive wheeling and dealing, particularly given the reduction in the salary cap as mandated by the new CBA. But in what turned out to be a huge surprise where the NHL betting odds were concerned, there were only a trio of trades that generated buzz at the Prudential Center on Sunday afternoon.
Early on, the Devils traded the ninth overall pick to the Vancouver Canucks for talented young netminder Cory Schneider, who is expected to be the heir apparent to 41-year-old superstar Martin Brodeur. It was a shrewd maneuver by GM Lou Lamoriello, who realized that while all Canucks goalie trade speculation focused on Roberto Luongo, the real value opportunity was to pull off a deal for Schneider. As has long been understood, the best bet on NHL success is made between the pipes, where a top-tier (or red-hot) goaltender can make all the difference come playoff time.
For the Canucks, it means that they’re effectively stuck with Luongo, but that’s not exactly a bad thing. While his play has slipped noticeably in each of the past two seasons following the Canucks’ collapse against the Boston Bruins in the 2011 Cup Finals, the elimination of the distraction caused by having to compete with Schneider for playing time should help immensely. And perhaps just as importantly, the addition of OHL playoff MVP Bo Horvat (obtained with the pick acquired for Schneider) should help ease some of the burden on the Canucks’ defense. Unfortunately for Luongo, it’s unlikely that Horvat will be able to make much of an impact for the next season or two, so he’ll need to get his goal support from other sources.
The other deals – both involving the Blackhawks – were all about cap relief for the Cup champions. The ‘Hawks acquired picks 51, 117 and a 2014 4th rounder from the Toronto Maple Leafs for Bolland and picks 74 and 134 from the Winnipeg Jets for Frolik. Ironically, the two players combined for the dramatic Cup-winning goal late in Game 6 just over a week ago, demonstrating that there’s little room for sentimentality when a hard salary cap is at play.
Free agency is rapidly approaching, and it’s reasonable to expect that a number of players on the cusp of hitting the open market – like the Rangers’ Ryane Clowe – might first be dealt to a team hoping to gain a short but exclusive negotiating window. You’ll be able to follow all of the action here at Inside Hockey.