Ask Adam: Trades, goalies and suspensions

Thomas Vanek
Thomas Vanek

The Olympics have arrived and so has another of THN’s online mailbags. Thanks to all who submitted a question.

Adam,

If the Leafs are buyers at the trade deadline, which type of player should they target without interrupting the chemistry of the team? Or should they go with David Clarkson on the third line with David Bolland and go with the depth they have presently?
Gordon Gallant, Cap-Pele, N.B.

Gordon,

Unless an injury opens up a large hole in the lineup or the Leafs go into a massive tailspin after the Olympic break, I don’t see Toronto doing much of consequence. They’re essentially salary-capped out, so any transaction made by GM Dave Nonis would need to send bodies/talent out of the organization in exchange for whomever he acquires – and for that reason, it’s far more likely they’ll add depth/role players on short-term contracts. And with the way they’ve played leading up to the break, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Adam,

Player safety has been a major issue for years and there are countless ideas how to solve the problem. Would the NHL or NHLPA ever consider an “eye-for-an-eye” punishment system? This means a player would be suspended the same amount of games missed by the player he injured.
Scott Brofman, Los Angeles

Scott,

There is some logical merit to the idea that a player sits out as long as the opponent he injured, but it will never happen. Remember, whatever rule change the NHL implements will still be poked and prodded by teams, coaches and players to push the boundaries as far as they can.

In this instance, maybe a team decides they can live without a one-dimensional fourth line player for a month or more if he goes out and accidentally (depending on your definition of accidentally) injures a star member of the opposition. And what if a superstar player genuinely accidentally injures a third-liner with an errant swing of his stick? Are you prepared to see, say, Sidney Crosby sitting healthy on the sidelines for months until an eye heals? Sure, the punishment would technically be equal, but does that sound like a fair competitive tradeoff to you? It doesn’t to most people and that’s why the present system – which isn’t perfect, either – is unlikely to change.

Hi Adam. Why haven’t the New York Islanders upgraded their goaltending over the last two years? It seems like this team might be a ways away from being a Stanley Cup contender, but in a weaker Eastern Conference where a playoff position is relatively easy to attain, the Islanders have the assets to go out and add a goalie who could get them into the playoffs.

In a bit of a head-scratching move, the Islanders traded Matt Moulson, a very good winger, and high draft picks for Thomas Vanek, a very good winger. Instead, the Islanders could have offered any grouping of the plethora of draft picks/prospects they have for a young and talented goalie (Michal Neuvirth, Frederik Andersen, Jhonas Enroth, Matthew Hackett) or a more proven goalie like James Reimer. Do you see the Islanders making a goaltending change? And if so, is it more likely to happen in the offseason, or will Garth Snow go all in at the deadline?
Nick Stoyan, Toronto

Hi Nick.

I haven’t talked to anyone in the hockey world who believed Snow made the right move in the Moulson/Vanek trade – and if he lands more forwards when he deals Vanek before the March 5 trade deadline, there will be even more heads being scratched and/or knees being slapped. It’s fine to have confidence in Evgeni Nabokov, but he’s at the end of his career and with respect to Kevin Poulin, the Isles don’t have a clear No. 1 to step in for the long haul.

As always when it pertains to the Isles, money is a factor in virtually everything they do. That’s not to say they can’t acquire someone if management sees a fit, but they paid a boatload of money to get Rick DiPietro to go away and have one more year of Alexei Yashin’s buyout on their books. So you can see why Snow and owner Charles Wang might be reticent to keep throwing money at netminders.

For that reason, I expect they’ll either attempt to land a young goalie like Neuvirth, Andersen or perhaps Viktor Fasth in a trade at the deadline, or wait until free agent season when a bigger pool of talent becomes available. They’re now a longshot at best to make the playoffs this year, so it makes little sense to go “all-in” if that means sacrificing more assets for a quick fix in net.

Hi Adam,

I always enjoy reading your work because it’s both entertaining and informative. With the Olympic trade freeze and the NHL trade deadline nearing, there are a lot of trade rumors floating around about the Sabres’ Ryan Miller. He is most often linked to the Blues, but some people think that Miller’s cap number ($6.25 million) rules out St. Louis because they are too close to the cap already.

However, a package of Jaroslav Halak ($3.75 million), Vladimir Sobotka ($1.3 million) and Magnus Paajarvi ($1.2 million) matches Miller’s cap number exactly. If the Blues add a first-round draft pick to that package, do you think that would be a deal that works for both Buffalo and St. Louis? Halak will be a UFA at the end of the season whom the Sabres could attempt to sign or flip for more pieces before the deadline. Sobotka is an underrated two-way forward who can play center or wing, and 22-year-old Paajarvi still has potential as a big winger who skates well.

Obviously, a first-round pick is very valuable to a rebuilding team, too. As for St. Louis – a team in win-now mode –adding a top-notch goaltender like Miller would significantly boost their chances of capturing their first Stanley Cup. Does this proposal make sense, or am I way off base? Thanks.
Dan David, Sterling Heights, Mich.

Hi Dan,

Thanks for the nice words. I don’t think you’re completely off base. You’re right, you’d need those three players to make the transaction cap-compliant, but the sticky part would be the first-rounder. There’s no doubt the Sabres would want it, but considering how flat the goalie market is, an asset such as Sobotka would be the centerpiece of the deal – and that’s if Blues GM Doug Armstrong were willing to part ways with a player highly regarded by the organization. Adding a first-rounder would probably necessitate the inclusion of another player or pick coming back St. Louis’ way.

See why deals are so tricky? This is why this particular trade is within the realm of possibility, but still quite complex.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.