Trade Deadline Roundup

3:40 PM EST: “Aubin Crosses Tinseltown”

The Ducks bolstered their depth between the pipes just prior to the deadline, acquiring J-S Aubin from the cross-town rival Kings in exchange for a seventh round draft pick. It’s unlikely that Aubin will have much of an impact for the Ducks, as starter Jean-Sebastien Giguere will get the lion’s share of the work down the stretch and during the postseason.

3:27 PM EST: “Rangers, Coyotes Swap Youngsters”

The Rangers have sent heralded goaltending prospect Alvaro Montoya and winger Marcel Hossa to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for forwards Fredrik Sjostrom and Josh Gratton and goaltender David Leneveu. The move provides the Rangers with a bit more grit, certainly a key factor behind the deal. Hossa is certainly one of the more talented players in the game, at times looking quite similar to his brother Marian, but consistency has eluded him throughout his thus-far disappointing NHL career.

The goaltending portion of the swap is a bit more difficult to evaluate. Leneveu isn’t as highly-touted as Montoya, but his play this season (for the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage) has been at least equal if not better than Montoya’s (for the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack). Coyotes GM Don Maloney has long been rumored to be in pursuit of Montoya, and with Henrik Lundqvist locked into a long-term deal as the Rangers’ starter, the time was right for this deal to happen.

3:18 PM EST: “Bergeron Joins Flock in Anaheim”

The Anaheim Ducks further fortified their already-devastating defense at the deadline, acquiring Marc-Andre Bergeron from the Islanders in exchange for a third round pick. Bergeron’s got a great shot from the point, and though he probably won’t see much power play time ahead of Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, Mathieu Schneider, or even Francois Beauchemin, it’s unequivocally safe to say that Anaheim’s defense corps is the best in the league, and by a very wide margin.

3:10 PM EST: “Stuart Headed for Motown”

Puckmoving defenseman Brad Stuart has been traded to the Detroit Red Wings, with second and fourth round picks going to Los Angeles in return. Both Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski are out of the Wings’ lineup with injuries, and Stuart will be a solid short-term solution on the power play and a strong depth option when Lidstrom and/or Rafalski return. It’s a good move for the Wings, who are very much Cup contenders, and for the Kings, it’s one more positive step in their aggressive rebuilding efforts.

3:04 PM EST: “Simon Says ‘Minnesota'”

As is often the case on deadline day, trades come through the wire after 3pm, and this year is no different. The New York Islanders traded embattled enforcer Chris Simon to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a sixth round pick. For the Wild, the added toughness Simon provides is likely a response to the way they got pushed around by the Ducks last spring. And for the Isles, the trade provided a nice opportunity for them to move past Simon’s litany of on-ice controversies.

2:59 PM EST: “Pens Acquire Hossa, Gill”

The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off perhaps the biggest deal of the day just before the deadline, acquiring Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis from the Thrashers for Angelo Esposito, Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, and a first round pick. And in a separate deal, the Pens acquired defenseman Hal Gill from the Maple Leafs in exchange for second and fifth round picks.

Hossa will provide one of the NHL’s most dynamic offenses with even more firepower, and his presence—along with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Sergei Gonchar—makes the Pens’ power play the most potent in the entire league. Though Hossa’s play for Atlanta this season hasn’t been stellar, it’s a good bet that he’s going to turn it on down the stretch, especially given the fact that he’s due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.

For the Thrashers, the move made great sense, as they acquired three talented young forwards (and a first round pick) for a player they likely weren’t going to be able to re-sign. Last spring, the Thrashers made some questionable moves as “buyers” at the deadline, most notably sending emerging defenseman Braydon Coburn to the Flyers for Alexei Zhitnik. This time around, GM/coach Don Waddell has reverted to the role of “seller,” perhaps undoing some of the damage done last spring.

The fallout from this trade will perhaps be most significant in Montreal, Ottawa, and Boston. All three teams were reportedly in hot pursuit of Hossa, and by waiting until the 11th hour to pull the trigger, Waddell left all three teams out in the cold.

2:50 PM EST: “Backman Heads to Broadway”

Swedish defenseman Christian Backman never really met expectations during his time with the Blues, and now he’s going to get a fresh start on Broadway with the Rangers. Just before the deadline, the Rangers sent a fourth round pick to St. Louis in exchange for the talented puckmoving defenseman, who should step immediately into the Rangers’ lineup to replace Paul Mara (facial surgery). For the Rangers, this was a very good move, as Backman could thrive playing in front of fellow countryman Henrik Lundqvist. If he emerges as the Rangers’ power play quarterback, this will go down as the steal of deadline day.

1:15 PM EST: “Caps Land Sergei Fedorov”

Back in 1998, Sergei Fedorov was a key reason why the Detroit Red Wings emerged victorious in their Stanley Cup Finals series against the Washington Capitals. Today, after numerous rumors suggested a return to Motown was imminent for Fedorov, it was those same Capitals who pulled off a trade to acquire the Russian star. Washington sent defense prospect Theo Ruth to Columbus to complete the transaction.

Look for Fedorov, still one of the game’s most complete two-way forwards, to provide the perfect complement to Alexander Ovechkin on the Caps’ top line. Playing with Ovechkin should energize Fedorov, whose numbers have slipped precipitously in recent years. And now, with Huet in goal and Fedorov supporting Ovechkin, the Caps have emerged as the favorites to win the Southeast Division.

1:00 PM EST: “Foote Returns to Denver”

After attempts to sign him to a contract extension failed, the Columbus Blue Jackets traded UFA-to-be Adam Foote to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for a conditional first round pick in either 2008 or 2009. The move shores up the Avs’ defense, and in concert with yesterday’s signing of Peter Forsberg, makes Colorado a very serious threat to win the Stanley Cup.

12:40 PM EST: “‘Hawks Send Ruutu to Raleigh”

The Blackhawks and Hurricanes swapped highly-touted young forwards today, with Tuomo Ruutu heading to Raleigh in exchange for Andrew Ladd. Injuries forced Ruutu off the ice for much of his time in Chicago, and the ‘Canes are clearly hoping that he’ll finally make good on his enormous promise following this change of scenery. Meanwhile, Ladd had started to come on strong in recent weeks, tallying nine points (to go with a plus-10 rating) in his last nine games. Ruutu’s versatility does offer the ‘Canes some value, but it seems as though Chicago got the better of this swap.

12:00 PM EST: “Habs Trade Huet to Caps”

In what will likely go down as one of the most surprising deals of the day, the Montreal Canadiens have traded goaltender Cristobal Huet to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a second round pick. The Habs have been one of the NHL’s best teams this season, and the move signifies that they are now putting their goaltending in the capable (if young) hands of rookie Carey Price. It’s a risky move by GM Bob Gainey, but one that could pay huge dividends, especially if Price lives up to expectations and Gainey’s able to use the freed-up cap space to pull off a deal to acquire a top-tier forward (perhaps the Atlanta Thrashers’ Marian Hossa or the Florida Panthers’ Olli Jokinen).

In Washington, it’s been painfully clear that Olaf Kolzig is on the decline, and by adding Huet, the Caps have significantly increased their chances of winning the atrocious Southeast Division. Huet should provide Kolzig with real competition for the first time in a long time, and that can only be good news for Alexander Ovechkin and the Caps.

11:53 AM EST: “Stars Land Brad Richards”

After much speculation, the Tampa Bay Lightning have agreed to trade one of their “Big Three” forwards, sending center Brad Richards and goaltender Johan Holmqvist to the Dallas Stars for goalie Mike Smith, center Jeff Halpern, and winger Jussi Jokinen.

For the Stars, the deal should significantly increase their chances of competing for the Cup. With Mike Ribeiro emerging as a bona fide top-line threat, Dallas’ offense has been much-improved. And the defense—anchored by All-Star netminder Marty Turco—is amongst the league’s best. Richards’ presence will give the offense a nice boost, and represents an enormous improvement over Halpern.

As for the Lightning, GM Jay Feaster has finally abandoned his failing post-lockout strategy to build around three top-tier forwards (Richards, Vincent Lecavalier, and Martin St. Louis). Now, with a renewed focus on goaltending and defense, the Lightning have a fighting chance to re-emerge as a legitimate playoff contender in 2008-09.

Tax Tidbit: it’s no surprise that Richards was willing to waive his no-trade clause and relocate to Dallas, where (like Florida) there is no state income tax.

11:42 AM EST: “Sharks Acquire Campbell”

Unable to sign UFA-to-be Brian Campbell to a long-term deal, the Buffalo Sabres have traded him to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for forward Steve Bernier and a first-round draft pick. For the Sharks, adding the All-Star defenseman is a huge coup, significantly increasing their odds of going deep into the playoffs and competing for the Stanley Cup. And perhaps just as critical, they’ve got the cap space needed to lock Campbell up into a long-term deal.

For the Sabres, the deal is sadder. For while Bernier is a high-quality young forward, their potentially playoff-bound team was weakened considerably. After losing Chris Drury and Daniel Briere for nothing as UFAs this past summer, it’s understandable that GM Darcy Regier wanted to get what he could for Campbell. But it’s sad to see that the Sabres, once seemingly the model for salary cap efficiency, are now in a rebuilding mode.

11:30 AM EST: “Blues Acquire Salvador”

The New Jersey Devils have bolstered their already-stifling defense for the stretch run, acquiring backliner Bryce Salvador from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for forward Cam Janssen. The hard-hitting Salvador should be a good fit on the Devils’ blue line, making life easier for star goaltender Martin Brodeur. Meanwhile, high-energy forward Janssen will provide the Blues with a nice spark for many seasons to come.

10:00 AM EST: “The Calm Before the Storm”

Here we are, just five hours from the trade deadline, and it’s still not completely clear which teams are buyers… and which are sellers. In the West, the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers are the only certain sellers. The Kings are 16 points behind eighth-place Nashville, and will likely look to move UFAs-to-be Rob Blake, Brad Stuart, and Ladislav Nagy in order to further accelerate their rebuilding effort. And the Oilers, decimated by season-ending injuries to three key players—Sheldon Souray, Shawn Horcoff, and Ethan Moreau—will likely look to shuffle the deck a bit, with Joni Pitkanen and prospect Robbie Schremp both rumored to be available.

But beyond those two teams, it’s unclear whether any other Western Conference clubs will emerge as sellers. The 13th-place Chicago Blackhawks are on a positive trajectory, and given that they’re only eight points behind the Predators with two games in hand, GM Dave Tallon is as likely to fortify his roster as he is to conduct a fire sale. And the same is true for the 11th place Blue Jackets and 12th place St. Louis Blues, both icing young rosters that will only get better as they mature. The Blues’ signing of UFA-to-be Barret Jackman (a former Calder Trophy winner) to a four-year contract extension is a clear sign that they’re not looking to take any steps backward. And the Blue Jackets appear more likely to re-sign blueliner Adam Foote to an extension than they are to try to convince him to waive his no-trade clause before today’s deadline.

In the Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning are sellers, but only to a point. Last night, they announced the signing of defenseman Dan Boyle to a lucrative long-term contract extension (six years, $40 million) and then traded forward Vaclav Prospal to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for highly regarded defense prospect Alexandre Picard and a conditional draft pick. And sometime before today’s trade deadline, GM Jay Feaster is expected to deal forward Brad Richards and his onerous $7.8 million annual salary. The maneuvers are a clear indication that Feaster finally sees the error of his post-lockout ways. He constructed the Tampa roster around a trio of expensive forwards (Richards, Vincent Lecavalier, and Martin St. Louis), while largely neglecting the team’s defense and goaltending, and it was a formula destined to fail.

One of the players whose name has appeared in near-constant trade rumors is Atlanta Thrashers forward Marian Hossa. The talented Slovak will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, and can be expected to land a multi-year contract with an annual cap cost exceeding $8 million. Given that, it would certainly seem to make sense for GM Don Waddell to shop Hossa before today’s deadline, as maintaining both Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk on his team’s payroll would amount to salary cap suicide. But with his team only seven points behind the division-leading Carolina Hurricanes—while holding two games in hand—Waddell might find it difficult to justify trading one of his team’s most important players for a combination of prospects and/or draft picks. Last season’s first round ouster was the Thrashers’ first-ever playoff appearance, and keeping Hossa might be necessary in order to keep the team’s young fan base engaged.

The Florida Panthers should be sellers, as their talented young roster hasn’t made good on its promise. But there’s good reason to wonder whether GM/coach Jacques Martin should be the one conducting the fire sale, as he’s the one running this ship of underachievers. Should Martin start dealing away assets, look for center Olli Jokinen to be the prime catch. A hard-nosed two-way center with underrated offensive skills, Jokinen would be a great fit on a playoff contender. The two teams that would benefit the most from his presence are the Minnesota Wild and the Dallas Stars.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have tried to be sellers, but no-trade clauses have stood in the way. Interim GM Cliff Fletcher, brought aboard to kick-start the Leafs’ long-overdue rebuilding effort, reportedly had a deal in place to send defenseman Tomas Kaberle to the Flyers for Jeff Carter, but Kaberle nixed the trade and exercised his no-trade clause. And captain Mats Sundin has also told the Leafs that he has no interest in waiving his no-trade clause to leave Toronto.

Numerous journalists have called out Sundin for refusing a trade, claiming that his responsibilities as the Leafs’ captain include accepting a trade “for the good of the team.” This is a completely ludicrous argument. When the Leafs convinced Sundin to sign with them, that no-trade clause was an important part of the deal, perhaps used as encouragement to accept a below-market-value contract offer. If that no-trade clause was essential to Sundin when he signed with the Leafs—and if then-Leafs GM John Ferguson didn’t have a gun to his head when agreeing to the contract’s terms—then Sundin has every reason to expect the Leafs to honor the contract.

Sundin carries himself with dignity, representing the Leafs as well as any player has over the past three decades. He demonstrates strong leadership, and is consistently amongst the game’s top performers. He consistently plays hurt, and can hardly be blamed for the team’s disappointing postseason results. He has never been surrounded by a Cup-caliber roster, and almost every season has been expected to raise the level of inferior linemates. Had the Leafs ever provided him with a top-tier playmaking winger (like Mark Recchi), it’s a good bet that they would have enjoyed substantially more playoff success.

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