NHL Betting: The Week's Biggest Stories
by Trevor Whenham - 03/09/2009
The NHL trade deadline has passed, and it was a strange one. The trade action was very slow to get started, and though there were eventually almost as many deals as in recent years there weren't nearly as many big names with new addresses. Early-round draft picks were also more valued now than some years, as they didn't move much at all. Several teams got better now or into the future, but four did better than the rest.
Trade Deadline Winners
Calgary Flames - The big winners. They are securely leading their division, but they have been hit with key injuries that have significantly affected their scoring depth - Daymond Langkow, Rene Bourque, and Todd Bertuzzi. They also lacked defensive depth. They were able to address both, and give up nothing particularly meaningful in immediate terms in exchange. The big jewel was Olli Jokinen from Phoenix. The Flames have coveted the European forward for years, and the team has never really had a true offensive center to pair with Jarome Iginla. Jokinen paired with Iginla and Mike Cammaleri, who is having a very good offensive year, and the chemistry was immediate - Jokinen had two goals in his first period. To shore up the defense, they re-acquired Jordan Leopold. Leopold started his career in Calgary, so he will be comfortable in his new surroundings. He's a puck-moving defenseman who can be trusted in his own zone. When he was previously in town he had excellent chemistry with Roby Regehr, and that should be rekindled. These two moves make the team much better, and came at the cost of just one regular contributor - the speedy but inconsistent Matthew Lombardi.
Despite the improvements, Calgary still has a glaring need that they are helpless to fix. Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff is very good, and it's a good thing - he has every single win for the team. The team seems to take a day off when Kipper is given a break. That won't be a factor in the playoffs unless the Finn gets injured. If that happens then the team's goose is cooked.
Boston Bruins - The Bruins are the class of the East, so they didn't need to do anything major. What they did do, though, just makes them deeper and more competitive. Forward Mark Recchi is in his twilight, but he has been around forever, and he adds a seasoned and respected veteran voice to a relatively young dressing room. Steve Montador isn't a big name, but he's a determined, capable defenseman who doesn't make a lot of mistakes and can be trusted in pressure situations. Both players are good additions.
New York Rangers - The Rangers desperately need to stop the freefall - they started out strong, but now just cling to a playoff spot by one point. The big story of the trade deadline for them was what they were unable to do - shed a big contract that weighs them down like an anchor - like the contracts of Scott Gomez or Chris Drury. They still made some nice moves, though. Nik Antropov is a huge, gritty forward, and that's something the Rangers are desperately lacking. They also picked up Derek Morris. The defenseman wasn't nearly as good in Phoenix as he was in Colorado or Calgary, but he adds power play depth and defensive intensity to the Rangers.
Pittsburgh Penguins - The Pens made their biggest impact before the trade when they traded Ray Whitney for Chris Kunitz. They made a significant deal on deadline day, though, when they picked up winger Bill Guerin. He's 38 and has seen better days, but he's a natural playmaker who may be able to play well with Sidney Crosby. Even if he ends up somewhere else, he's a tough, dependable veteran who will be a positive influence for a young team that has a tough fight ahead of them just to make the playoffs.
Several contenders were notable by their inaction. For the most part, the lack of moves made sense.
Detroit Red Wings - Detroit doesn't have much cap space, but they also don't have many flaws. The only potential need was a goaltender, and it was hard to find a guy who was affordable and was sure to be better than the two guys they have now. He certainly wasn't going to come without a big cost, and this team has been as successful as they are in large part because they stick to the plan and don't splurge on flashy talent unless it fits into their needs. Detroit was the favorite to win it all before the trade deadline, and they still are.
Vancouver Canucks - Vancouver is trying to chase down Calgary. They didn't change anything at the deadline, but they were playing so well at the time that they didn't need to, or want to risk the current chemistry. They really made their big splash before Christmas when they acquired Mats Sundin. You could argue that Vancouver could have been well served making a trade or two because they have more looming unrestricted free agents than they could possibly re-sign, and they could have at least got something in exchange. That's risky, though, especially when a team is a reasonable contender.
New Jersey Devils - A deadline deal can give a legitimate contender a boost. The Devils got their boost a week before the deadline when Martin Brodeur returned to action after a long injury absence. They are happy offensively and solid defensively. The only move they might have made is moving goalie Scott Clemmensen before they lose him as a free agent, but he's a very nice security blanket in case Brodeur suffers another setback. That security is more valuable than whatever they could have gotten for him.