The NHL trade deadline is no different than those in Major League Baseball or the NBA: the rich get richer and the bad teams throw in the towel and accrue assets for the future. Can I tell you with certainty who will win the Stanley Cup after Monday's NHL trade deadline passed? I can't, but I can tell you which teams to bet against the rest of the season.
But let's start with the winners from the deadline, and by winners I mean just for this season, which have to be the Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche.
The Caps are +315 favorites to win the Stanley Cup at 5Dimes. They sent Brooks Laich, the team's longest-tenured player, to Toronto for forward Daniel Winnik. Laich used to be a good player but is breaking down and had just one goal and six assists this season, playing mostly on the fourth line. Winnik ranked second among NHL forwards in shorthanded time on ice per game last season (3:16) and set career highs in assists (25) and points (34). This year, he had four goals and 10 assists for the sorry Leafs. He's an upgrade even though Laich was hugely respected in the Caps' locker room.
The Blackhawks, who are +625 second-favorites for a fourth title this decade and beat the visiting Capitals in a potential Finals preview on Sunday, probably are the most improved team. GM Stan Bowman was able to keep the team's top young players yet still able to bring back forward Andrew Ladd, a key member of the 2010 Cup team, as well as forwards Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise. They also swapped defensemen with the Kings: Rob Scuderi for Christian Ehrhoff. Ladd, acquired from Carolina, had 17 goals and 18 assists this season. He was a very popular player on that 2009-10 Hawks team but was part of the salary-cap purge after winning the Cup. Ladd will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and will cost too much to be re-signed. He had an assist Sunday in his Chicago debut. Weise had 14 goals and 12 assists in Montreal and Fleischmann 10 goals and 10 assists with the Habs. Both those guys will be free agents after the year as well.
The Rangers, +1600 to win the Cup, got perhaps the biggest "name" in Eric Staal from the Hurricanes. Carolina's former captain had spent his entire 12-year career with the club. The four-time All-Star has 10 goals and 23 assists. He joins brother Marc on the Blueshirts. Staal will be a free agent after the season. Noticing a pattern here?
The Panthers added some scoring punch in acquiring wingers Jiri Hudler from the Calgary Flames and Teddy Purcell from the Edmonton Oilers as well as defenseman Jakub Kindl from Detroit. Florida is +1500 for the Cup.
Anaheim landed forward Brandon Pirri from Florida and winger Jamie McGinn from Buffalo. Pirri has only played in 101 games since the start of the 2014-15 season but he has scored 33 goals in those games. He's out with an ankle injury right now. The Ducks are +1400 for the Cup. Colorado (+5000) landed winger Mikkel Boedker from the Coyotes. After Ladd, he was arguably the top rental forward on the market. He had 13 goals and 26 assists with 18 of those points on the power play. The Avs are simply battling to get into the playoffs.
Which teams are worse after the deadline? No question it's Arizona, Toronto, Calgary and Carolina. Those four all loaded up on young players and draft picks in their moves and that may well work out in the long term, but they are clearly in full tank mode the rest of this season. Bet against those clubs accordingly.
This Week's Games To Watch
Pittsburgh at Washington, Tuesday: Any time Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin take the ice together, it's must-see TV. This will be on the NBC Sports Network. Ovechkin is the first player to 40 goals and battling Chicago's Patrick Kane for the Hart Trophy. The Capitals could get to 100 points this week as they run away with the Presidents' Trophy. They are an NHL-best 24-5-2 at home and catch the Penguins on the second of a back-to-back with Pittsburgh hosting Arizona on Monday. Washington looks to avoid its first two-game losing streak since the start of February following Sunday's 3-2 loss in Chicago. The Caps and Pens have split two meetings thus far. There's no early line here because it's not clear if Pens No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will play both ends of the back-to-back.
Chicago at Detroit, Wednesday: One bad thing about realignment a couple of years ago was that it hurt this rivalry, one of the best in the NHL. With the Red Wings in the East, they face the Blackhawks now just twice a year. Chicago's Kane had his sixth game-winning goal of the season during Sunday's 3-2 win over Washington. That ties a career high. Jonathan Toews snapped his eight-game goal drought in the win. Newly acquired Weise and Fleischmann are expected to play alongside Teuvo Teravainen (the key young player Bowman was able to keep) on Chicago's third line. Weise wasn't able to debut Sunday because of some immigration problems. I'm a bit surprised the Red Wings were largely quiet ahead of the deadline. This game is nationally televised on the NBC Sports Network and the teams play again Sunday in Chicago.
Anaheim at Los Angeles, Saturday: The Ducks enter the week on an NHL-high eight-game winning streak and are two points behind the crosstown Kings in the Pacific Division. The Kings also made a move at the deadline, getting winger Kris Versteeg from Carolina. L.A. needed some forward depth because it has lost Marian Gaborik to injury. Gaborik will reportedly miss 10-12 weeks with a knee injury. Versteeg had 33 points (11 goals) with the Hurricanes and has plenty of postseason experience as well from his time in Chicago. The Kings moved Gaborik to long-term injured reserve to absorb Versteeg's salary. The Ducks lead the season series with the Kings 2-1 and beat visiting L.A. 4-2 on Sunday to snap the Kings' four-game winning streak. Corey Perry had his ninth career hat trick for the Ducks. The Kings haven't finished first in their division since the 1990-91 season, believe it or not. The Ducks trailed the Kings by 15 points on Jan. 2.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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