The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, and nobody even batted an eyelash. What was once a very exciting day in the hockey world is now as watered down as three-dollar drinks in any local watering hole.
For months, speculation and rumors have run rampant across major hockey markets (all of which are seemingly in Canada) in the hopes of turning plug-and-play roster players into future draft picks and with a high upside.
There are usually two stories to tell when the smoke clears and the talking heads on television are done speculating.
There are teams who are sellers and teams who are buyers.
Sellers are those teams already out of the playoff picture that are focused on heading into the offseason with good flexibility on their salary cap and a good batch of picks and prospects to look forward to once training camp rolls around in September. Teams that fit into this category this season were the Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadians.
For two of those teams, this season wasn't meant to be anything to write home about. They were supposed to stink, and they were supposed to start rebuilding for the future. The Leafs began shipping players out of town about a month ago when they got rid of Captain Dion Phaneuf. Since then, the Leafs have traded a starting goalie and six veteran depth players who will be used as rentals for their new team's quest for the Cup. The Hurricanes traded their captain, Eric Staal, to the New York Rangers. After a dismal start to the year and no contract extension offered to Staal, they had no choice but to be sellers.
The Montreal Canadiens were supposed to win it all this year - so they said. They had the reigning MVP and Hart Trophy winner in net and a lineup that was supposed to be quick and more adept at putting pucks in the net. They started off 10-0-0, and then it call came crashing down. Star goalie Carey Price got injured, and the Habs have gone 20-28-5 ever since. Making the playoffs is now a long shot, and with Price not expected back this year they find themselves in the sellers category by default. There will always be next year for the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.
Lets take a look at what the buyers did approaching the trade deadline and how it affected their futures odds to win the Stanley Cup. As always, odds are courtesy of our good friends at Bovada.
Washington Capitals +450 to win Stanley Cup - (Pre-Deadline Odds +400)
Current Record - 45-12-4 - 94 points.
The Capitals are by far this year's crème of the crop. They sit first overall in the entire league by 11 points with three less games played. They have been as dominating as you can expect with players like Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom leading the offense. While the Caps were busy setting records on the ice with the best record through 61 games, the men behind the scenes were busy adding depth pieces to the puzzle that could finally help their franchise get over the hump and win a championship. They acquired Daniel Winnik from Toronto and Mike Weber from Buffalo. While many may not think this is a great haul for a first-place team, the prices to acquire both men were small and definitely manageable within the cap and the farm system.
Overall, it was a good deadline for the Washington Capitals. They got rid of a bad contract (Brooks Laich to Toronto) and really bolstered their depth. With the team that they have, that was all that was necessary. They are the rightful favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
Chicago Blackhawks +500 to win Stanley Cup - (Pre Deadline Odds +500)
Current Record - 39-20-5 - 83 points.
I would compare the Blackhawks to a cockroach in a way that no matter what you to do them, they just do not die and seemingly come back stronger than ever every season. They have three championships in five seasons. They constantly lose pieces of their championship teams but always manage to replace them and compete. That's astonishing, really, in this salary cap world we live in.
The Blackhawks added Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann over the weekend. I would compare that to a billionaire winning the lottery. The rich just got even richer. The NHL's most accomplished playoff team landed two players who will make them even stronger in the postseason. Ladd will play on the Blackhawks' top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa; not a bad acquisition for a couple of prospects.
Meanwhile, Weise and Fleischmann will be secondary scorers on a team where even the third line contributes with goals. Head coach Joel Quenneville will now have the afforded luxury to roll four lines all game and still expect production.
This is my pick to win the Cup for two reasons. The first being they have been there and done that. They know what it takes and how to come through when it really matters. The second reason: they are better than any team in the East - Washington included. Top to bottom. I would take them in six over Washington given the chance!
Florida Panthers +1600 to win the Stanley Cup - (Pre Deadline Odds +1600)
Current Record - 35-19-8 - 78 points.
For the record, Dallas, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, San Jose, New York all have better odds than Florida to win the cup. You can find any of those teams between +1000 to +1400.
Then you will find Florida -- a team who has been synonymous with empty arenas for the last 5-10 years. This year however, it is different.
They currently boast one of the best (if not the best) young core groups in the game today and have put the Eastern Conference on notice that they are all in this season.
Florida had the biggest deadline day/week of all the teams in the league as they acquired Jiri Hudler from Calgary, Teddy Purcell from Edmonton and Jakub Kindl from Detroit. Each one of those players is expected to make an instant contribution to a lineup that has a solid mix of rookies and veterans. Both Hudler and Purcell are goal scorers that will add depth and a solid dressing room presence. Kindl is a stay-at-home defensemen that can play the tough minutes against good opponents.
General Manager Dale Tallon is on record as saying, "We identified what we wanted to build on, "We needed a presence on the power play, we needed experience, and we wanted a good puck-moving defenseman. We also thought that we needed to give ourselves three really good scoring lines."
I'd go on record and say Mr. Tallon got exactly what he wanted.
Personally however, I wouldn't be willing to back Florida at +1400 for two reasons; the Washington Capitals are on a mission, and the Panthers are young and for many of the young core it will be their first rodeo.
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