In the wake of the supposed most exciting day in the hockey season, outside of the playoffs of course, the NHL trade deadline was in a word, dead.
Only 15 moves were made involving 31 players and 11 draft picks. It wasn’t until after the deadline had passed that an exciting and unpredictable trade happened, which leads me into examining the winners and losers of yesterday’s deadline.
NHL Trade Deadline Winners
Today’s biggest winners……..(Drum roll Please)………..were the Vancouver Canucks.
Winner: Vancouver Canucks
The Nucks were lacking one thing last season when they faced off against the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final, and that something was toughness. They helped to solve that problem yesterday by making a trade for power-forward Zack Kassian, arguably one of the toughest young player out there, who also has offensive upside.
Kassian has seven points (3G, 4A) with the Sabres this season in 27 games, but he was playing on the 3rd or 4th line, and he has 26 points in 30 games for the Rochester Americans in the AHL this season. Kassian was under-used in Buffalo averaging only 12 minutes per game.
The price tag for Vancouver wasn’t cheap though. The Canucks parted with Cody Hodgson, who is having a breakout season for the club with 16 goals and 17 assist in his first full season in the NHL. The problem with Hodgson was that he sits as the 3rd centre on Vancouver’s depth chart behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler, who aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. That made Hodgson expendable to the Canucks and is the main reason he’s headed to Buffalo.
The trade also included defencemen Marc-Andre Gragnani to Vancouver and Alex Sulzer going back to the Sabres.
Aside from improving via the gritty power-forward, the Canucks also landed veteran center and former Stanley Cup Winner Sami Pahlsson from Columbus for two 4th round draft picks in the 2012 draft.
Pahlsson is a rental player since he’s a UFA next season, but he is a tremendous shutdown player and was instrumental in the Ducks run in 2006-07 that led to the franchises first Stanley Cup. He also played with the Sedins for Modo in Sweden before being drafted 176th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the 1996 entry-draft.
Two 4th round picks are a small price to pay for a player who can kill penalties, win face-offs and shut down opponents’ top scoring lines.
Winner: Nashville Predators
Today’s runner-up and silver medalist is the Nashville Predators. Combined with their pre-trade deadline acquisition of Hal Gill, the Preds acquired a scoring forward from Montreal in Andrei Kostitsyn and a shut down penalty killing Center in Paul Gaustad from Buffalo, who is excellent in the face-off circle.
Both players are Unrestricted at the end of the season and therefore considered to be rentals, but it appears that Nashville is adding some weapons for a playoff run who, combined with their existing assets, makes the team look extremely strong.
Kostitsyn will join his brother Sergei, which should be a nice fit and will improve Nashville’s 10th best position league scoring despite Andrei’s lackluster performance in Montreal thus after this season.
The Predators’ PK is decent, 13th in the NHL, but should improve mightily with Gill and Gaustad now in the mix. The only issue with Gaustad is it cost Nashville its 1st rounder next season, which is a big price tag for a rental player.
When you look at Nashville, they have a great goaltender in Pekka Rinne, a power-play that ranks 1st in the league and a solid defensive corps with arguably two of the best d-men in the league Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Now they have a couple more pieces that could make them competitive to make a run at the Stanley Cup.
Winner: Boston Bruins
Rounding out the podium, you’d have to include the Boston Bruins who managed to add a veteran presence in Brian Rolston, albeit at a big cost and defenceman Greg Zanon and Mike Mottau, without having to give up any roster players. The only reason they finish third is because they could have claimed Rolston off waivers, but for some strange reason chose to offer the Islanders a package of prospects for him and Mottau.
NHL Trade Deadline Losers
Losers: Calgary Flames
The biggest losers were those teams that did absolutely nothing to improve their team nor did they make any attempt at rebuilding. Therefore the gold medal goes to the Calgary Flames.
The Flames are three points out of a playoff spot, but they didn’t do anything to improve their club, nor did they see any reason to rebuild their squad by trading their pending UFAs for those coveted draft picks that make such a difference in a salary cap NHL. For that reason they earn my gold medal of failure when it came to trade deadline Monday.
Losers: Washington Capitals
The second biggest loser is the Washington Capitals, who have had a very disappointing season, but it’s more understandable since their present squad was expected to be in a playoff spot at this point of the season, if not having the division lead outright. It makes more sense for a team that’s underachieved thus far to want to stand pat and hope the ship rights itself.
Losers: Montreal Canadiens
And third on the list was the Montreal Canadiens, who did trade Andrei Kostitsyn to the Preds but failed to improve the team where they need it the most and rid themselves of some of those pricey non-nonsensical contracts that are tying the franchise down.
All in all it was another over-hyped and weak deadline where few teams really made a difference for their current situations. Time will tell which team actually made the best moves to their respective rosters.
Something tells me we may be seeing a rematch of last year’s cup final based on the holes the Canucks and Bruins filled on deadline day.