The trade deadline and the day before the trade deadline ended up being much busier and way more full of big names than it has been in years. This year, finally, was not a let down as far as entertainment goes.
Martin St-Louis, Roberto Luongo, Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson were just some of the front-line players moved before 3:00 p.m. on March 5. Some teams made significant upgrades, others not to much. So what does it mean heading down the stretch towards the playoffs?
Here are our five winners and five losers of the 2014 NHL trade deadline.
Montreal – The Habs picked up serviceable depth defenseman Mike Weaver on Tuesday and added Devan Dubnyk as a last resort emergency option in net, but they waited right until the last second to make their biggest and most impressive splash in the trade market. Acquiring Thomas Vanek for Sebastien Collberg and a conditional second-rounder gives the Canadiens the big scoring winger they so desperately needed without having to meet the Islanders’ original asking price of at least a first-rounder. Isles GM Garth Snow was stuck between a rock and a hard place, having to move Vanek for something before he lost him for nothing in July. It would be a bonus for the Habs to re-sign Vanek, and you can bet they’ll try and get that done, but even if this is just a rental, it’s worth it for Montreal. The East is wide open for the taking this playoff season and the Canadiens added the exact type of player they needed to improve their chances.
Los Angeles – OK, so Gaborik isn’t the same elite goal scorer he was a few years ago, but he’s the type of guy who, in the right place, could explode again over a short period. That’s all the Kings need. Gaborik will be a free agent this summer, so if he can find room to be a little more productive over the next three months or so, Los Angeles will have won in a big way. No matter how you look at it, the chance needed to be taken by the Kings, who have the 27th-ranked offense and could use a little more punch. They did something similar in 2012, when they added Jeff Carter from Columbus to help a sagging offense and a team right in the playoff line. Los Angeles won the Cup that year. Seems like a good playbook to go by.
NY Rangers – Glen Sather is never a popular pick to win anything these days, but he went from either having to pay Ryan Callahan north of $6 million against the cap or lose him for nothing, to having last year’s NHL scoring leader in his lineup. It came at the expense of a 2015 first round pick – which is supposed to be a deep and talented draft – and a 2014 second-rounder, but that’s the cost of a significant offensive upgrade and the security of having that player for at least an extra season. With St-Louis in the fold, the Rangers shouldn’t miss the playoffs in the next two years, so the first shouldn’t be anything more than a late-round pick. What did you expect to give up for a world-class player like St-Louis?
Ottawa – Finally Ales Hemsky was traded. The 30-year-old who has seemingly been on the trade block through the entire salary cap era (OK, not quite that long) was at long last shipped out of Edmonton for draft picks. Hemsky is a UFA at season’s end, but none of the picks Ottawa have up has great odds of coming back to bite them later. Ottawa sits four points out of the playoffs right now, but rolled the dice that this move can help get them back in the conversation and didn’t mortgage anything down the line. Hemsky still has a lot to give to a better team than he was on in Edmonton. The Senators also re-signed Chris Phillips, rather than trade him low percentage futures. The Senators went for the cheap upgrade rather than the white flag – that’s a win.
Washington – The Red Wings paid a pretty penny for checker David Legwand, the Blue Jackets traded out Marian Gaborik and the Maple Leafs did nothing, so the addition of Dustin Penner yesterday and Jaroslav Halak today are positive developments for the Caps, who are just one point out of the wild card. Penner receives a lot of flak for his slow feet and sometimes head-scratching on-ice decisions, but he’s proven capable of stepping up in key situations in the playoffs. Halak gives the Caps their best goaltending talent in years and he’s come up big in the playoffs before – Washington of course remembers that. The Caps are better now than they were two days ago and since none of the teams around them in the playoff chase did anything of significance, GM George McPhee’s dealing can only be viewed as a positive.
Winnipeg – Once again the Jets are sitting just outside of the playoffs looking in and needing a boost to get them there. And once again, the Jets were silent as the deadline came and went. The news of Mark Scheifele’s injury surely changed what GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was willing to do, but there isn’t a team in the NHL more in need of at least a little fresh air than the Jets. They still look like the Thrashers, a team around which a losing environment was cultivated.
Islanders – The Isles traded Matt Moulson and a first round pick either this year or next to Buffalo earlier this season because the team was supposed to be in the playoff hunt once again and Vanek was to give them a little extra boost. That’s not how it played out. When the dust settled, the Isles had neither Moulson, Vanek, nor their first-rounder from either this year or next. They now have Sebastien Collberg and a second-rounder instead. Awful asset management. It’s fair to say the Vanek situation didn’t play out the way Snow expected and that misread will set the Isles back a little. At some point, they need to stop being the franchise that hauls futures and start becoming the frnachise that makes smart personnel choices and keeps the effective NHLers they do get.
Phoenix – The Coyotes wanted to acquire some scoring to their 16th-best offense to give themselves a boost towards a playoff bid. They ended up with…Martin Erat? The Czech was a massive disappointment in Washington after the infamous Filip Forsberg trade from a year ago, scoring just one goal in 53 games this season. On top of that, the Coyotes traded the disappointing David Rundblad in a package for a second-rounder. Rundblad is who the Coyotes got for Kyle Turris. Sure, Turris wanted out, but the asset they got in return for him never added anything to the franchise and now he’s out the door.
Vancouver – The Canucks and, especially, GM Mike Gillis are easily the biggest losers of the trade deadline. The shocking trade of Roberto Luongo on Tuesday shook the fan base and made everyone question what Gillis’ plan was, or even if he was still in charge. On top of that, Ryan Kesler, who wants out of town, was not traded, so that negative storyline will hang over this team for the rest of the season. And the last thing the Canucks need is another one of those distracting them. This team is heading down a very confusing path and whether or not they make the playoffs is secondary at this point – what the heck is next for the Canucks in the summer?
Philadelphia – The Rangers made a splash, the Capitals made a splash and the Flyers, well, they moved laterally. Replacing Andrej Meszaros with Andrew MacDonald is a minor adjustment that still leaves them with a player on an expiring contract. Since the two teams closely chasing them in their division made upgrades with an eye toward the playoffs, this par looks more like a bogey.