NHL Trade Deadline
by Trevor Whenham - 3/3/2010
The NHL trade deadline came and went on Wednesday afternoon. The NHL is typically the most active league at the deadline, and this year was no exception - about 35 deals took place in the 24 hours before the deadline. Unlike past years, though, the deals were mostly just the shuffling around of spare parts instead of anything that is likely to make a major impact.
That could be because of the economic climate, because the deadline came before every team had played a game after the Olympic break, or because a couple of big-name players were traded before the Olympics. Whatever the reason, this won't go down in history as the day that a Cup was won or lost by anyone.
It was also a day where a lot of things that were expected to happen didn't. Edmonton and Toronto were supposed to be in fire sale mode but they only dealt some smaller pieces for the most part, Florida told their season ticket holders to be braced for major changes and then did nothing, Philadelphia and Chcago were in the market for goaltending but didn't make a deal, and some of the big names that were rumored to be on the move - Ray Whitney, Dan Hamhuis, Tomas Kaberle, and even Scott Niedermayer - stayed put. Despite the lack of fireworks there were still a few interesting moves, including:
Calgary trades G Curtis McElhinney to Anaheim for G Vesa Toskala - The Flames have long had a problem in net - they are solid when Kiprusoff plays, but haven't had a backup who can fill the gaps when he doesn't. The team just didn't perform in front of the young McElhinney. Toskala began the season as the starter in Toronto, but was shipped out of town in January, and hasn't played since. He's a veteran with the potential to be brilliant, so he is an upgrade over McElhinney no matter what. He's also a free agent at the end of the season, so the risk is low. This move combined with the two big ones that the Flames made before the break signals that they see themselves as a contender. Unfortunately, GM Darryl Sutter ended the day by making two odd moves - the worst of which was dramatically overpaying Edmonton for the old and ineffective Steve Staios.
Anaheim receives G Joey McDonald from Anaheim for a seventh round draft pick in 2011 - Jonas Hiller is obviously the No. 1 goalie in Anaheim, and will play almost every game remaining. Between McElhinney and McDonald, though, they will be able to find a backup if they need one. Both pieces were very cheap, so more is more in this case.
Buffalo acquires F Raffi Torres from Columbus for D Nathan Paetsch and a second round pick - I really like this deal for the Sabres. Torres has real talent - he was the fifth overall pick in the draft in 2000, and he had 27 goals for Edmonton in 2005. He didn't really work out in Columbus, but he still has 19 goals this year. In the right setting with the right pieces around him he could shine, and Buffalo has a system that gives him a good chances of doing that. The price was right - Paetsch is just a depth defenseman, and the pick won't be missed if Torres can contribute 25 goals a year for a few years. There is one catch, though - Torres is a free agent after the season, so I only really like the deal if he is re-signed by the Sabres.
Colorado trades F Wojtek Wolski to Phoenix for F Peter Mueller and F Kevin Porter - This is a deceptively savvy move for the Avs. They give up a solid player in Wolski - a consistent 20-goal guy. He's a free agent after the season, though, and is likely due for a raise from his current $2.8 million price. Instead of committing to that, the Avs dealt him for two guys with arguably more upside at a better price. Mueller scored 22 goals as a rookie for the Coyotes three years ago, but has been a disaster since. He's a guy who clearly needs a change f scenery, and the young, exciting team in Colorado could be a great fit for him. If he doesn't mesh down the stretch then he can be cut loose because he's an RFA as well. If he does work out, though, the Avs can likely sign him longer term at a reasonable price - better than Wolski. On top of that they get Porter, a guy who has struggled to stick in the pros so far, but a guy who had big numbers at Michigan and who has produced nicely in the AHL - 40 points in 52 games this year. He's only 23, and could mature into a very usable part in a year or two in new surroundings.
Pittsburgh acquires F Alexei Ponikarovsky from Toronto for F Luca Caputi and D Martin Skoula - This is the closest thing to a blockbuster at the deadline, which really tells you all you need to know about this year's deadline. Pittsburgh was looking for some offensive depth - like they have each of the last two years heading into the playoffs - and Ponikarovsky was the best fit. He's good friends with fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin, and the star had pushed management hard for this deal. They could have some chemistry, and finding consistent linemates for Malkin hasn't always been easy, so this is a potentially solid move. Ponikarovsky has had three 20-goal seasons for an offensively inept Toronto team, and he has 19 already this year, so he could really shine matched up with a sniper like Malkin. If it works out then he's a free agent who could be re-signed at a reasonable price, and if it doesn't work out then the Pens aren't out anything significant.
Caputi is a promising prospect for Toronto - a team clearly building for the future. The 21 year old had 51 goals two years ago in his last year of junior and has 47 points in 54 games in the AHL this year, so he could make up for Ponikarovsky in Toronto in a year or two. More significantly, the Leafs had no intention of re-signing the Russian, so they at least get something tangible for the asset. Skoula was just thrown in the deal for cap purposes - Toronto flipped him to New Jersey for a fifth rounder a day after acquiring him.
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