NHL Handicapping: Teams Worse Off after Trade Deadline
by Trevor Whenham - 3/3/2015
This was not the most exciting or impactful NHL trade deadline we have ever seen. Far from it. It especially paled in comparison next to the crazy mess that was the NBA deadline a couple of weeks ago. It doesn't have to be thrilling in order to be useful for bettors, though. Each year there are a few teams that are clearly worse after the deadline than they were heading into it. By being aware of which teams those are you can set yourself up for some nice value now and in the coming weeks. Here are three of those teams:
Buffalo Sabres: This one is so obvious it's almost painful. You can't get worked up about that, though. All you can do is admire the artistry of what they are doing. There is a huge incentive to finish last this year. The last-place team only has a 20 percent chance of landing the top pick in the draft, but they can drop no lower than the second spot. Connor McDavid is the obvious pick, and he's all but guaranteed to be a superstar who can boost a franchise. Jack Eichel is one heck of a consolation prize, though - a guy who would be a top pick many years. He's also an American, so there is plenty of marketing potential. The Sabres are already leading the race to the bottom, and they were well-positioned to take it all the way. They didn't want to risk it, though, so they made moves that left the Philadelphia 76ers in awe when it comes to tanking. They made the biggest deal of the last month when they acquired Evander Kane from Winnipeg. He has huge offensive upside, but he also isn't healthy and won't be all year. Perfect for building for the future. At the deadline they dumped Chris Stewart and his offensive potential. Most strikingly, though, their biggest issue was that their goaltending was just too good for a team to be as bad as they wanted to be. They earlier traded Jhonas Enroth. They still had a good keep in Michael Neuvirth, though, so at the deadline they traded him to the Islanders for Chad Johnson - the backup there who has been just awful this year. Now they head into the rest of the season with Johnson and Anders Lindback. It seems almost impossible to succeed with that duo between the pipes. We've seen tanking before, but this is profound brilliance that we are lucky enough to witness. They have a clear plan; winning now would only hurt that plan, so they made all but sure that they can't win.
Arizona Coyotes: Like Buffalo, the Coyotes are in the midst of a massive rebuilding process. They aren't as likely to add a megastar this year in the draft, but they are in a better spot than Buffalo because they have more prospects on board right now. Arizona had a very good day. The cost was high - they traded away pretty much all of the established veteran talent they had. But they added a lot of talent down the road to what they already had - and they now have four first-round picks in the next two years. In the short term they are not nearly as good after trading away Keith Yandle, Antoine Vermette, and the injured Zbynek Michalek. They added two first-round picks, and Anthony Duclair, a young prospect who has top line potential, and who was fantastic at this year's world junior championship playing for Canada alongside Max Domi, who Arizona drafted last spring. They maximized return, but they are going to be horrible to watch the rest of this season - even worse than they have already been this year.
Anaheim Ducks: We can't just dwell on the no-hopers here. Anaheim is a major contender - only Nashville has more points than they do right now. I'd be fine for a team not making aggressive changes given their position. What I don't like, though, is that they went out and seemed to get worse. They traded away defenseman Ben Lovejoy to Pittsburgh for Simon Despres. At best it's a wash, but Lovejoy had played very well-matched with Cam Fowler, so the move seems risky. They also added Jiri Sekac, Tomas Fleischmann, and James Wisniewski. I have no real issues with any of those players, and you could argue that any of them could be an upgrade. What I really don't like, though, is that a team that has had as much success as they have had turned over almost 20 percent of their non-goalies on the roster at the deadline. It seems panicked, and they should have no reason to panic. Deals at this time can easily fail to turn out as well as they could because of chemistry issues and the like. If this much change doesn't turn out well then management will rightly be in for a whole lot of criticism. I'm not optimistic.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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