Kukla's Korner

Southeast Tonight: Post-Deadline Edition

Four Southeast Division teams are in action tonight, with two of them facing each other, after a trade deadline day that was significantly less frantic than in recent years but still had plenty of movement as far as this particular division was concerned.

Let’s kick things off today with a pair of clubs who dealt with each other yesterday, getting the awkwardness of swapping dressing rooms for the first time out of the way immediately for a couple of players…

Panthers at Hurricanes
Florida was busy early and often yesterday, making four separate deals, including three with other Southeast teams. General manager Dale Tallon hooked up with his Hurricanes counterpart, Jim Rutherford, for a second deal in five days, sending defenseman Bryan Allen Raleigh-way in exchange for forward Sergei Samsonov after last week’s swap of Cory Stillman for Ryan Carter and a fifth-round pick.

In Allen, the ‘Canes get the defensive help they’d sought as they try to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Carolina, as of this morning, is just two points up on Buffalo for the eighth seed and the Sabres have two games in hand.

Adding Samsonov, at the very least, gives the Panthers a body to help fill out a full lineup for the rest of the season after a thorough cleansing of veterans recently, as well as an expiring contract at the end of the year for a team that now, as Tallon told NHL.com’s Dave Lozo, plans on “being very aggressive in the free-agent [market] this summer”.

On Monday, Tallon also moved veteran winger Radek Dvorak and a fourth-rounder to Atlanta for forwards Niclas Bergfors and Patrick Rissmiller, forward Chris Higgins to Vancouver for defenseman Evan Oberg and a third, and defenseman Dennis Wideman to Washington for a bit of a reach prospect in ECHL forward Jake Hauswirth and another third-round draft choice. All of this, of course, comes after this month’s earlier deals, which rid the Panthers of the likes of Stillman, defenseman Bryan McCabe and forward Michael Frolik for more pick/prospect combinations.

A standout move that the Panthers did not make was one for goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who will remain in the Florida crease for at least the remainder of the season. Tallon received very little interest in the well-paid Vokoun, primarily due to his salary, according to Craig Custance of The Sporting News. Now, Florida will have to decide whether to re-sign Vokoun (an upcoming unrestricted free agent, who will turn 35 a day into the July free agency period this summer) or to let him walk, making way for either the start of Jacob Markstrom era or, perhaps, another short-term alternative to man the nets.

The Panthers trail Carolina by eight points in a playoff race that is very likely already over for them with just 20 games remaining on the regular season schedule.

Islanders at Capitals
The addition of Wideman wasn’t Washington’s lone move on Monday, as GM George McPhee kick-started his team a bit further by bringing in veteran forward Jason Arnott from the New Jersey Devils, with centerman David Steckel and a second-round pick in 2012 headed the other way. Yesterday, and a few times leading up to the deadline, actually, the statement was made here that Arnott would be the perfect fit for a Capitals squad that seemingly could use a well-respected voice from the outside to step inside that room and let these guys know just how good they should be. With Stanley Cup-winning experience, Jason Arnott can be that guy and he can still contribute as well, despite recent individual struggles with the Devils, filling the second-line center role that Washington had identified as a need.

The two deals McPhee pulled off on Monday came on the heels of a waiver claim made for forward Marco Sturm from the Los Angeles Kings over the weekend, bringing Washington the services of three seasoned NHL veterans with 188 games of playoff experience between them.

The Capitals trail the Tampa Bay Lightning by five points for the Southeast Division lead and are four points behind Pittsburgh (with a game in hand) for the fourth home ice position in the Eastern Conference.

As for tonight’s opponent, the Islanders saw February treat them far better than any other month this season, as they managed an 8-5-1 record. Still, the Isles are second-worst in the East and 13 points out of a playoff spot, leading to expectations that might sell off some of marketable veterans at yesterday’s deadline. The only transactions involving New York yesterday, however, was the loss of forward Rob Schremp (on waivers to Atlanta) and the recall of forward Justin DiBenedetto from AHL Bridgeport. As Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank (and others) reported, GM Garth Snow was holding out for a second-round pick for names like Zenon Konopka and Radek Martinek and decided to stand firm when that price was not met.

These two teams met Saturday on Long Island, with the Capitals edging the Isles 3-2. Washington has won all three contests between the two this season, each of them coming via a one-goal decision.

Canadiens at Thrashers
Like Carolina and Florida, Montreal and Atlanta worked together on a pair of recent deals and this game will feature a few of the key components in those trades facing their former organizations tonight.

On Thursday, Atlanta flipped defenseman Brent Sopel and forward Nigel Dawes to Montreal for forward Ben Maxwell and a fourth-round draft choice. Dawes is now with AHL Hamilton but Sopel and Maxwell are expected to be in the lineup for their respective clubs.

Yesterday, the teams made another move, albeit of the minor league variety, with the Thrashers sending goaltender Drew MacIntyre to the Habs for defenseman Brett Festerling.

GM Rick Dudley dealt with other clubs as well, adding Dvorak in the aforementioned deal with Florida and sending winger Freddy Modin to Calgary for a seventh-round pick, and also made the waiver claim on Schremp – a move, Dudley told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that gives his club some much-needed versatility.

“He can play all three forward positions. That’s an asset especially with the ins and outs we’ve had at center.”

Though left for dead by many after a month in February that saw Atlanta win just once in regulation and manage only six points overall, the Thrashers are still only four points out of a playoff spot and the hope is still to make a push in their final 19 games.

***

Finally, the only Southeast club that did not make a move at the trade deadline was the division-leading Lightning but that’s only assuming you ignore what GM Steve Yzerman has managed to do since January in bringing in goaltender Dwayne Roloson and defensemen Marc-Andre Bergeron and Eric Brewer – all without having to ship out a single roster player in return. Further, Tampa Bay no longer has a financial obligation to backup goaltender Dan Ellis after moving him to Anaheim for fellow netminder Curtis McElhinney last week, who was claimed by the Ottawa Senators on waivers yesterday. Essentially, Ellis’ contract, which extends through next season, was made property of the Ducks for nothing more than a thank you and every little bit of savings will count for Yzerman moving forward, what with Steven Stamkos’ forthcoming extension a top priority and several other long-term contracts already on the Lightning books. Mike Smith has been brought back from AHL Norfolk and both he and Roloson go unrestricted this summer. Is there uncertainty in goal looking ahead? Perhaps, yes. But, more importantly, there’s the kind of flexibility that Yzerman will need when trying to look more long-term for this club (this season’s relatively unexpected level of success notwithstanding).

There was word in recent days that the Bolts were considering a deal to move a defenseman and yesterday, talk of the Hurricanes as a potential trade partner for Randy Jones, though that never came to pass, with Carolina ultimately deciding on Allen from Florida. Other whispers from last week had fellow d-man Brett Clark a possible movable asset but that seemed unfounded in the end.

And making no move is no matter for Tampa Bay in the grand scheme of things – not when they didn’t have to do anything (and they didn’t). Not when Ryan Malone’s return in early April might end up as your biggest addition of all. Not when Simon Gagne in the playoffs is basically what you brought him in for last summer in the first place. Not with Roloson, Bergeron and Brewer in the fold.

So, the Lightning will forge forward with nine defensemen (with Mike Lundin and Mattias Ohlund healthy) and the added depth of keeping Jones, Clark (who, if dealt, would have surely been missed) and everyone else on the back end around for the upcoming playoff run.

Sometimes, no move is your best move after all.

JJ
jj@kuklaskorner.com
JJ on Twitter

Filed in: Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

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