Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle stands on the bench during NHL hockey action in Toronto on March 3, 2014. Playing three games in four nights is a test for any team. It gets even tougher when the opponents are the top three teams in the Atlantic Division. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Author: The Hockey News
Maple Leafs expect three big tests as they go west on road trip
TORONTO - Playing three games in four nights is a test for any team. It gets even tougher when the opponents are the top three teams in the Atlantic Division.
The Toronto Maple Leafs left Sunday for California, where they'll face the Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings.
"We're going to see some real good hockey teams," coach Randy Carlyle said Saturday night. "We've got to understand there's a certain style of game we've got to play on the road. We have to skate. We're a skating hockey club."
This trip, which continues on to Washington and then Detroit after three games on the West Coast, could show exactly what kind of team Toronto is.
By the time they left on a jet plane, the Leafs found themselves one point back of the Montreal Canadiens for second place in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand with 17 left to go before the end of the regular season. Of course they're also one bad swoon and a run by a team like the Red Wings away from falling out of a playoff spot altogether.
Beating the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night after squandering two third-period leads gave the Leafs two straight overtime victories that made them confident and grateful for four vital points.
"It was something that was said a bit in the room before to get a win at home because it's going to be a difficult trip," winger Joffrey Lupul said. "That's not to say we can't win these games and compete, but it's a lot easier heading out on a big trip like this after a win."
Lupul called the trip a "good measuring stick" because the Leafs will have to deal with three of the NHL's top-five defences. That could test the secondary offence that came through so well against the Flyers when the top line of James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel were held off the score sheet.
"That's when we're at our best, when the top two lines are contributing equally," second-line centre Nazem Kadri said. "Especially heading down the stretch here against these playoff-contending teams and heading into the playoffs, that's something that's going to win you games - secondary scoring."
Secondary scoring is all well and good, but when it comes to offence the Leafs will more than likely go as far as Kessel takes them. He has two goals and three assists in five games since the end of the Olympic break despite making enough of an impact with the U.S. team in Sochi to attract even more attention from opponents.
"Teams are going to continue to key on Phil," Lupul said. "He's one of the top scorers in the league. That's something he's just going to have to deal with and for us that means it should open up a little more room for us and we've got to take some of the pressure off them."
The pressure on the Leafs this week is the knowledge that they're facing a Ducks team that's leading the NHL in points going into Sunday's games and a Kings squad that was riding a six-game winning streak into Sunday's game in Edmonton.
After visiting Anaheim's Honda Center on Monday, the Leafs go right to San Jose's SAP Center for Tuesday's game. They then travel back to Southern California to face Los Angeles at Staples Center on Thursday.
"Those are always hard buildings to play in," defenceman Jake Gardiner said. "They're the top of the conference, top of the league, so it's going to be tough."
Forgetting for a minute about the degree of difficulty, the timing itself is a challenge. Lupul knows he and his teammates won't have as much rest as they would like over the next few days.
Winger Troy Bodie, who could continue to see an increased role if David Clarkson misses more time, considers rest part of the big picture this week.
"We need some points out there," Bodie said. "There's not many left to be had, and we've got to just make sure we're on our A-game and take care of ourselves."
The Blackhawks are No. 1 in our power rankings for the second week in a row, and went out and added a familiar face for some depth on defense.
It’s safe to say the last time the Chicago Blackhawks acquired Johnny Oduya at the trade deadline, things worked out pretty well. But this time around, the Blackhawks will not have the luxury of time they had when they traded for Oduya in 2012.
The Blackhawks did not win the Stanley Cup that year, but Oduya stuck around to help the Blackhawks to Cups in 2013 and 2015, logging valuable minutes in 2015. But at the age of 35 and at the end of his contract, Oduya is not seen as a long-term fix for the Blackhawks.
This time around, Oduya is an insurance policy and not a workhorse. You can never have enough NHL defenseman for a long playoff run, which is exactly what the Blackhawks are expecting again this spring. And with a second straight week atop THN.com’s weekly Power Rankings, they’re rounding into form at the right time. )Last week’s rankings in parentheses.):
CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Chicago Blackhawks (1) 2. Minnesota Wild (7) 3. Washington Capitals (3) 4. Nashville Predators (23) 5. Montreal Canadiens (15) 6. Boston Bruins (6) 7. Calgary Flames (19) 8. Columbus Blue Jackets (12) 9. Pittsburgh Penguins (4) 10. San Jose Sharks (10)
The Blackhawks quietly signed Michal Rozsival and Jordin Tootoo to one-year extensions, likely to expose them in the expansion draft…These are not your father’s Wild. With 209, Minnesota is second in the NHL in goals scored…Kevin Shattenkirk logged 17:18 in ice time and had four shots on goal in his first game with the Capitals, a 4-1 win over the Rangers Tuesday night…Anyone who thinks it will be “just another game” when P.K. Subban returns to Montreal for the first time Thursday night is kidding himself…After losing five of six starts, Carey Price has gone 3-1-0 with a 1.45 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in his past four…The Bruins have gone 7-0-1 and have outscored their opponents 33-17 under interim coach Bruce Cassidy…Since playing perhaps their worst game of the season in a 5-0 loss to Arizona, the Flames have gone 6-0-1 with three of those wins coming in overtime…Lip readers did not like what they saw from John Tortorella after the Blue Jackets lost 1-0 in overtime in Montreal on a power-play goal…The Penguins’ 3-2 loss to Dallas Tuesday night marked the first time in 66 games the Penguins had lost a game when leading after two periods…The Sharks’ 3-1 win over Toronto Tuesday night was the 300th of coach Peter DeBoer’s NHL career.
THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Edmonton Oilers (16) 12. New York Rangers (3) 13. New York Islanders (8) 14. Florida Panthers (2) 15. Anaheim Ducks (17) 16. Ottawa Senators (13) 17. Toronto Maple Leafs (10) 18. Philadelphia Flyers (20) 19. Tampa Bay Lightning (11) 20. Los Angeles Kings (18)
Take a wild guess at which player has the most game-winning goals for the Oilers this season. If you guessed Mark Letestu, who has six, go to the head of the class and collect your gold star…It did not make much sense for the Rangers to pay a king’s ransom for Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline when there’s a good chance they’re going to get him for nothing this summer as an unrestricted free agent…Here’s a red flag. The Islanders gave up seven goals twice in an 11-day span…Jaromir Jagr, after the Panthers registered a rather uninspiring 3-2 shootout win over Carolina Tuesday night to snap a three-game losing streak: “If we play like this, we’re not going to win in Philly (Thursday night). I can guarantee you that. We have to be a lot better than this.”…Patrick Eaves had five shots and drew two penalties in just over 16 minutes of ice time in his first game with the Ducks, a 4-1 loss to Los Angeles Sunday afternoon…The Senators gave up a really good prospect for Alex Burrows, then signed him to a two-year contract extension. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a head-scratcher…Rookie Auston Matthews leads the league with 12 first goals of the game…The Flyers’ 4-0 win over Colorado Tuesday night marked the first time this season they’ve won a game by more than three goals…The Lightning have won three of four, but it’s pretty clear with their moves that they know their season is over…The Kings had posted eight overtime victories against no losses (shootouts not included), then went out and lost two straight in OT to Minnesota and Calgary.
VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. St. Louis Blues (14) 22. Dallas Stars (24) 23. New Jersey Devils (26) 24. Detroit Red Wings (27) 25. Arizona Coyotes (25) 26. Buffalo Sabres (22) 27. Winnipeg Jets (21) 28. Vancouver Canucks (28) 29. Colorado Avalanche (29) 30. Carolina Hurricanes (30)
After winning six in a row, the Blues have not scored more than two goals in their past four games, all losses…A good reason why Jason Spezza, who has just nine goals for the Stars this season, will undoubtedly finish this season with his lowest goal total since becoming a full-time NHLer: His shooting percentage is just 8.4 percent…The Devils are 13-12-6 at home and 12-13-6 on the road. How’s that for mediocrity?...Ken Holland, trade deadline seller. Man, that sounds weird, doesn’t it?...Alexander Burmistrov was released from hospital Tuesday night after being carried off on a stretcher in Arizona’s 4-1 loss to Boston Tuesday night…The Sabres are leaky. They gave up five goals in three of four straight losses…After missing five games with a lower-body injury that required surgery, Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom returned for Winnipeg’s 5-4 overtime loss to Minnesota Tuesday night…The Canucks will get San Jose’s first-round pick if the Sharks win the Stanley Cup, which would make it the 31st overall choice, as part of the Jannik Hansen trade…The Avs have won just five games in the past two months…Jeff Skinner was scratched with what was called an upper-body injury for Carolina’s 3-2 shootout loss to Florida Tuesday night and has already been ruled out of the game against Tampa Bay Wednesday.
The Sharks are still trying for that elusive Stanley Cup title, while the Canucks are building for the future in this win-win trade
Winning the Stanley Cup one year after losing the final series is very difficult. The Pittsburgh Penguins did it back in 2009 and now San Jose is in that position. With the acquisition of right winger Jannik Hansen, the Sharks have added one more weapon to an already potent lineup.
San Jose grabbed Hansen from Vancouver in exchange for prospect left winger Nikolay Goldobin and an interesting conditional pick: a fourth-rounder in 2017 that becomes a first-round selection, should the Sharks win the Cup. So we know who Vancouver will be cheering for this summer.
"Jannik is a versatile, gritty player who plays with speed and is talented on both sides of the puck," said Sharks GM Doug Wilson. "We think he is a perfect fit for the style of our team.”
Indeed, speed will likely be imperative in the playoffs, as it was last year when the Penguins skated circles around the competition (including the Sharks). San Jose already brought in another burner before this campaign began in Mikkel Boedker and although he hasn’t been a real difference-maker so far, every bit of depth counts in the post-season. Add in ascending rookie Kevin Labanc and you’ve got a decent amount of new blood on a squad led by the impressive veteran core of Brent Burns (a Hart trophy candidate), Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture.
With Thornton and suddenly-spry Sharks lifer Patrick Marleau in the twilights of their careers, San Jose is really making one last stand here before the mantle gets completely passed to Pavelski, Burns and Couture. And they could pull it off.
For Vancouver, GM Jim Benning continues to have a good deadline with this deal. The Canucks have already amassed a very nice pool of prospects and Goldobin could slide into the NHL lineup right now. He’s a skilled, creative playmaker whose weak spots are defense, but he has been working on rounding out his game in the AHL and the Sharks were pleased with his progress. Add him to a Canucks future centered around Bo Horvat, Troy Stecher, Brock Boeser, Olli Juolevi and Thatcher Demko among others and all of a sudden, Vancouver’s looking pretty good in a few years. Now, they have five picks in the first four rounds this summer and potentially two first-rounders, should the Sharks triumph.
San Jose and Vancouver definitely caught each other at the right time on this deal.
Back before basement-dwelling teams spent trade deadline day dealing away futures, picks, and rentals to the contenders, some teams managed to get together to make hockey trades.
Today is trade deadline day, which means you can expect to hear certain words repeated over and over. "Buyers." "Sellers." "Rentals." Those are the key terms on a day filled with bad teams flipping players to good teams in return for future assets.
But back in the old days, there used to be a different term that showed up occasionally on days like today: "Hockey trades."
To be honest, back then we pretty much just called them "trades," and they went something like this: Two teams exchanged players in a deal where both sides were trying to get better. Nobody was throwing in the towel and rebuilding, and nobody was sacrificing future assets for a short-term boost. Just two teams, both trying to improve their rosters right now, and using a trade to do it.
I know. Crazy stuff.
But it did happen. And we even sort of got one Tuesday night -- the Brandon Davidson/David Desharnais deal, while not anyone's idea of a blockbuster, was at least kind of hockey-ish. So today, while we wait for the rental market to heat up, let's look back at five true hockey trades from deadline history where there were no clear buyers and no sellers, just two teams trying to get the best end of a deal.
1989 – Mike Gartner and Larry Murphy for Dino Ciccarelli and Bob Rouse
Let's start back in 1989 with a classic hockey deal. No picks, no prospects, just a forward and a defenseman on each side of the trade.
Oh, and 75% of the deal ended up in the Hall of Fame. That's not bad for a day's work.
The deal saw Capitals GM David Poile trade away Gartner, at the time the franchise's all-time leading scorer, and Murphy, who'd been a Norris finalist less than two years ago. In exchange, the North Stars gave up their top goal-scorer in Ciccarelli and a hard-nosed blueliner in Rouse.
As it turned out, none of the players stuck around in their new homes all that long. Gartner was traded again at the 1990 deadline, and by the time Ciccarelli was dealt to Detroit in 1992, all four players had moved on. Still, at the time this was an impressive blockbuster, and in hindsight it's probably the most star-studded four-player deal in league history.
1991 – Ron Francis, Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings for John Cullen, Zarley Zalapski and Jeff Parker
This may be not just the biggest pure hockey trade in deadline history, but the biggest trade of any kind, period. It was a monster blockbuster, one that left fans in Hartford perplexed and fans around the league worrying that a good Penguins team had just added the final piece.
As it turns out, both of those reactions were on the nose. The deal was a major win for the Penguins; the 28-year-old Francis was a perfect fit behind Mario Lemieux, giving Pittsburgh one of the best one-two punches down the middle in a generation. Today, the deal is often described as a heist, one that may even have contributed to the Whalers' eventual move to Carolina.
But at the time, it wasn't all that hard to see what Hartford was doing. They got a little younger and added a player in Zalapski who became their best offensive blueliner. More importantly, while it's been all but forgotten now, the 26-year-old Cullen was in the middle of an absolute monster year, and had 94 points through just 65 games when the deal went down. He finished the season ranked fifth in the Art Ross race with 110 points; that wasn't just more than Francis would manage that year, it was more than the Whalers' star had ever had during any season in his career.
Still, there's no doubt that in hindsight, the Penguins won the deal. Cullen never hit those heights again, while the move rejuvenated Francis. And the grizzled (and occasionally outright dirty) Samuelsson was the perfect fit for a skilled Pittsburgh team looking to make a long run through the postseason grinder.
1991 – Geoff Courtnall, Sergio Momesso, Cliff Ronning and Robert Dirk for Garth Butcher and Dan Quinn
Our second entry from 1991 was the biggest of the actual deadline day (the Francis deal came the day before). The Blues and Canucks hooked up on a six-player trade, and it's another one that looks lopsided in hindsight.
At the time, the Blues looked like a team that was ready to make a run at the Stanley Cup. They battled division rival Chicago all the way to the wire for the Presidents' Trophy, ultimately ending the season sitting second overall with 105 points. Like so many contenders before and after, they wanted more toughness on defense, and Butcher certainly fit that description. Adding him to a blueline that already featured Scott Stevens left the Blues with two guys who could eat big minutes and still beat you in the alley. Quinn was a nice add as well, 25 years old and just two years removed from a 94-point season.
But in hindsight, the Canucks made off with a haul, adding four veterans in the deal (as well as the deal's only draft pick, a fifth-round choice). The best of those turned out to be Ronning, who had 85 points two years later. Along with Momesso and Courtnall, he was a key piece of the Canucks' team that made a run to within one win of a Stanley Cup in 1994.
The Leafs threw in a fourth-round pick and the rights to a prospect who never made the NHL, but this was essentially a one-for-one deal. And it even featured two players who were virtual clones of each other: Old but speedy right-wingers who ended up in the Hall of Fame based on their offense.
So why make the swap at all? For the Rangers, the move came as part of a massive deadline day shakeup by GM Neil Smith that saw them make five trades involving nine players. The day was all about reshaping a team that was challenging for the Presidents' Trophy, but had its eye firmly on the bigger prize of ending a 54-year Cup drought. Anderson didn't have Gartner's numbers, but he had five Cup rings, and Smith was betting that he could make it six in New York.
That bet ultimately paid off. Anderson's time in New York was underwhelming, as he managed just twelve points combined in the regular season and playoffs before bolting as a free agent. But the Rangers did win their Cup, so Smith's long day of deadline work can't be viewed as anything other than a win.
As for Gartner, he spent two seasons in Toronto, scoring 35 goals in 1995-96 at 36.
2006 – Jose Theodore for David Aebischer
We'll close with the only entry from the cap era on our list. One year into the new CBA, the deadline was a busy one, and one of the most interesting deals was a good old-fashioned one-for-one goalie trade.
It was a rare case of two teams making a mid-season trade of guys who were at least ostensibly their starters. The two players were roughly the same age – Theodore was 29, while Aebischer was 28 – and both had put up similar career numbers. Theodore's peak had been far higher, including a Hart Trophy in 2002, while Aebischer was having the better season. Theodore was also more expensive and was recovering from a heel injury.
In hindsight, the deal ended up being fairly even. While Theodore never regained his Hart Trophy form, he spent two full years in Colorado compared to Aebischer's one in Montreal. Theodore later resurrected his career with a good 2007-08 campaign and went on to play through 2013, while Aebischer never overtook Cristobel Huet for starter duties in Montreal and was out of the NHL for good by 2007.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008; you may know him from Twitter as @downgoesbrown. His e-book, The 100 Greatest Players in NHL History, is available now. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
A team saying goodbye to a free agent-to-be at the deadline doesn't have to say goodbye forever. Here are past examples of traded players heading back to where they came from in their subsequent free agency.
Thomas Vanek is in an interesting situation heading into Wednesday’s deadline. The veteran winger was bought out ahead of 2016-17 by the Minnesota Wild, and the Red Wings took a flyer on him ahead of the campaign, inking him to a one-year, $2.6-million contract. He has taken that deal, turned in a stellar 15-goal, 38-point performance in 47 games and made himself one of the most intriguing potential additions at the trade deadline.
The thing is, though, that Vanek has seemingly found his stride again in Detroit and that could be reason enough for him to want to stick around. Unfortunately, without any form of trade protection, it seems as though he could be good as gone by the time we reach Wednesday’s deadline.
However, if Vanek really sees himself as a Red Wing in the future, there’s nothing stopping the 33-year-old from deciding he wants to call Detroit home and talking contract with the Red Wings come the off-season as he’ll become a free agent once again on July 1. If we make two assumptions — the first that Vanek is traded, the second that the money works out and he comes back to Detroit for 2017-18 — it would make Vanek one of the rare players to be dealt away at the deadline only to come right back to his former team. He wouldn’t be the first player to do so, though, nor would any other unrestricted free agent-to-be who ends up back with his former team.
Here are five players who’ve been the very definition of a rental, sent off to one team only to come right back to where they were before the deadline to start the following campaign:
Keith Tkachuk — Traded to Thrashers, signs with Blues
Acquiring Tkachuk at the 2007 trade deadline, in exchange for Glen Metropolit, 2007 first- and third-round picks and a second-rounder in 2008, is arguably the biggest trade the franchise made while still in Atlanta.
It paid dividends for the Thrashers as they headed into the post-season for the first time in history. Over the course of his 18 regular season games in Atlanta, Tkachuk scored seven goals and 15 points. The playoff run wouldn’t be nearly as successful, however. Tkachuk kept scoring, collecting a goal and three points, but the Thrashers were swept by the New York Rangers.
When the off-season rolled around, Tkachuk was right back in St. Louis, however. He signed a two-year, $8-million deal with the Blues, and remained with the organization through to the 2009-10 campaign. That Tkachuk didn’t stick around in Atlanta did save the Thrashers a 2008 first-round pick, though, as one would have been owed to the Blues if Tkachuk re-signed in Atlanta. That was the third-overall selection, used to pick Zach Bogosian.
Matt Moulson — Traded to Wild, signs with Sabres
Moulson was in the midst of a second-consecutive down season after three-straight 30-goal years when he was shipped off to Minnesota at the 2014 deadline to add some scoring punch to the playoff-bound Wild. In order to land the winger, as well as Cody McCormick, Minnesota paid a steep price, sending Torrey Mitchell, a 2014 second-round pick and a 2016 second-round pick to Buffalo.
He managed to provide the offense the Wild were looking for, though. Through 20 games with Minnesota to end 2013-14, Moulson scored six goals and 13 points and then pitched in another goal and three points in 10 playoff games as the Wild made it to the second round.
Moulson’s stay was short-lived, however. Traded to Minnesota on March 5, 2014, he was back in Buffalo by July 1, inking a five-year, $25-million with the Sabres. Oddly enough, Moulson was joined back in Buffalo by McCormick, who also headed back to the Sabres as soon as free agency opened. He signed a three-year, $4.5 million deal to return.
Antoine Vermette — Traded to Blackhawks, signs with Coyotes
Chicago made a splash at the deadline in 2015 by going out and acquiring Vermette. The move was made to bolster the depth down the middle, and the hope was he could be a difference maker both offensively and defensively for the Blackhawks. For much of his time in Chicago, that wasn’t quite the case, and his biggest use through the 20 regular season games he played was as a faceoff man.
He picked the right time to come alive, though. In Game 3 of the Western final, Vermette scored the game winner, and then he became a hero with the winners in Games 1 and 5 of the Stanley Cup final. His send off was hoisting the Stanley Cup. Little more than two weeks later he inked a two-year, $7.5-million deal to return to Arizona.
The return to the Coyotes didn’t quite work out for Vermette. After potting 17 goals and 38 points in 2015-16, Arizona bought him out and he has since landed with the Anaheim Ducks. Arizona does still have Nick Merkley from the trade with the Blackhawks, however. He was acquired using the first-round selection, 30th overall, given to the Coyotes in exchange for Vermette. Merkley’s considered one of the better prospects in Arizona’s system.
Zbynek Michalek — Traded to Blues, signs with Coyotes
Michalek was the kind of player that teams were looking for specifically to fill a role as a depth defenseman for the post-season run, and one of his biggest attributes was his ability and willingness to block shots. Turns out he also had a bit of offense in his stick when he ended up in St. Louis, though. After the Blues acquired Michalek — at the cost of prospect Maxim Letunov — he wound up potting two goals and four points in 15 games.
Michalek fell out of favor come the post-season, however. The Blues wound up ousted from the post-season in six games at the hands of the Minnesota Wild, and Michalek didn’t find the score sheet once and watched his ice time dwindle from nearly 19 minutes in Game 1 to a combined 25:34 in the final two outings of the series.
The disappointing end to Michalek’s season isn’t near as troubling as his current turn in Arizona has gone. He signed back with the Coyotes on a two-year, $6.4-million contract on July 1 and watched his ice time drop by more than four minutes per game from 2014-15 to 2015-16. Worse yet, he hasn’t seen a single second of NHL ice time this season.
Roman Polak — Traded to Sharks, signs with Maple Leafs
Toronto was chock full off players on expiring deals for the sole purpose of stockpiling draft picks. It was a clever move and Polak was part of that plan. He had 25 games of playoff experience, had played on the Blues teams who were competitive in the Western Conference and possessed the physicality some teams love come the post-season.
He interested the Sharks enough that they coughed up two second-round picks, along with Raffi Torres, for a package of Polak and Nick Spaling. Polak was an every-gamer for the Sharks, and while no one would confuse his 15:45 average ice time in the post-season with him being a top contributor, the fact of the matter is he was relied upon for bottom-pairing minutes on the Western Conference champion and a team that came within two wins of the Stanley Cup.
Polak ended up back in Toronto, signing a one-year, $2.25-million contract. He wouldn’t exactly be called trade bait this time around, however. Set to become a UFA, he’s skating two fewer minutes per game than he did in 2015-16. His trade last season was useful, though. The 2017 second-round pick was shipped to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Brian Boyle, Toronto’s biggest acquisition thus far at the current deadline.