A lot has been written about the trades that occurred on trade deadline day. There are many interesting stories behind them and many different interesting lines of speculation for what might be their result on the teams involved. In some cases the big story is not the trade that is made, but the trade that does not get made. This is definitely the case for the Florida Panthers. The Panthers best player is defenceman Jay Bouwmeester. He is going to be an unrestricted free agent last summer. I wrote earlier this season that the decision of whether to trade or not to trade Bouwmeester was the biggest hockey decision left this season.
The Florida Panthers have not made the playoffs since the year 2000. Currently, the Panthers have 74 points, which puts them in a three-way tie for sixth to eighth places in the East Conference with the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. They are only one point up on ninth and tenth place Buffalo and Carolina. A playoff berth is by no means a given, but it is a serious possibility.
With the trade deadline passed we can take a look at the trades of the past year and start to make some assessments. One that is very clear is that the worst trade made was one made last summer. The Tampa Bay Lightning sent Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich to the San Jose Sharks for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, a 2009 first round draft pick and a 2010 fourth round pick. This trade happened only months after Boyle had signed a six year $40 million contract to stay with the Lightning. The new owners, Oren Koules and Len Barrie were doing their job as bad fantasy hockey GMs (except they had control of an NHL team). Several years earlier, Barrie and Dan Boyle had been teammates with the Florida Panthers. There was something Barrie saw then (or at least thought he saw) that proved Boyle was not a player worth keeping. The Lightning owners pressured Boyle into waiving his no trade clause and then made this deal. At this time, Jay Feaster was still the official Tampa Bay GM, but he was not involved in the deal. Tampa Bay’s new ownership was willing to do some crazy, unconventional things and this was an example.
As I have done for a few years (see last year’s summary here) I am posting a quick summary of the trade deadline. I pick the biggest winner and loser both long and short term.
It was an interesting deadline with lots of small deals. Few big name stars moved and as a result few teams gave up significant chunks of their future for a player. It was also interesting for who was not dealt (Jay Bouwmeester).
Since the beginning of January 2009, the best player in the NHL has likely been Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers. He leads the NHL with 23 goals in that time frame. He has not been noticed because he plays in the hockey purgatory of Atlanta. The Thrashers are the second worst team in the standings (only the New York Islanders are behind them) and are well out of the playoffs.
Kovalchuk has climbed to seventh in the NHL scoring race after a slow start. He has 71 points going into tonight’s games.
Kovalchuk is a star player and a top goal scorer. If he is ever given a talented team to play with and a good passing centreman for a linemate, he could do some amazing things.
Since the beginning of January, the New Jersey Devils have had a 20-7 record which makes them the best team in the league during that period. The Devils have done very well offensively in that period. Four of the twenty highest scorers so far in 2009 are Devils. Zach Parise has 33 points in a tie for third so far this year and he is followed by Jamie Langenbrunner with 30 points (7th place), Travis Zajac 28 points (14th) and Patrik Elias 27 points (19th).
With that offence, Scott Clemmensen did very well in goal. He was rewarded with a trip to the minors when Martin Brodeur returned. In Brodeur, the Devils have probably the best goaltender in hockey. He is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner (a four time winner of that award). In three games since returning, Brodeur has two shutouts a 0.67 GAA and a .971 saves percentage. That brings his season numbers to a 1.81 GAA and a .928 saves percentage. Had he played all season (as opposed to only 13 games) those would be Vezina Trophy calibre numbers.
Barring a major surprise in the remainder of the season, Keith Aucoin of the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals affiliate) will win the AHL scoring title. Aucoin currently has 82 points for a nine point lead over teammate Alexandre Giroux and a nearly twenty point lead over anyone else.
Keith Aucoin is an AHL superstar. It is interesting to see where AHL superstars come from and why they are not NHL players. Aucoin is currently 30 years old and likely playing the best hockey of his career. He went undrafted by the NHL after a high school hockey career in Massachusetts and chose to attend the Norwich University. This is a division III school in the NCAA. While there, Aucoin was a star. He graduated as the school’s all time leader in goals, assists and points.
There was a bit of a stir created when Eric Lindros resigned as NHLPA ombudsman. Given the past corruption in the NHLPA history, a man to watch the head of the player’s association is a very positive step. Watching that man leave the position unappreciated and without having given much of a chance by the players in the league was a bad thing. Worse was Paul Kelly, the head of the NHLPA, openly campaigning for days when there was no ombudsman. Since the ombudsman’s job is to watch Kelly, there is no way Kelly should be calling for his removal.
The NHLPA is acting to try to fix those problems. Buzz Hargrove has accepted the position as interim ombudsman. This shows that the NHLPA is serious about having a qualified ombudsman.
There has been an interesting series of posts in the Cycle Like The Sedins blog about an all-decade hockey team. Although I question the timing - why would one chose the decade of 1999-2008 as a meaningful time frame. It seems like a rather random start and end point.
During this decade there were nine NHL seasons (as the 2004/05 one was lost due to lockout). Thus when numbers are compared to other ten year periods, this one should be about 10% behind. As one who enjoys the process of trying to put our modern day events into perspective and figure out how they will be seen by people in the future, this is the kind of question that interests me.
In a salary capped NHL there are few periods where teams will trade with one another. One is at the trade deadline, which is coming on Wednesday. As a result of the trade deadline approaching we are starting to see some deals.
Last week was the first deal with the Ottawa Senators acquiring Mike Comrie and Chris Campoli from the New York Islanders for Dean McAmmond and San Jose’s first round draft pick in 2009 (which the Sens had previously acquired from Tampa Bay in the Andrej Meszaros deal - Tampa had acquired it in the Dan Boyle trade). Both Comrie and McAmmond are free agents to be this summer, so they don’t fit into long-term plans. Comrie is the better of the two, but this distinction is probably lost when both Ottawa and the Islanders should miss the playoffs. The portion of the deal that will last beyond this season is Chris Campoli for a first round draft pick. The pick is in the later part of the first round (depending upon San Jose’s playoff success). That is a big price to pay for a player like Chris Campoli. I am sure that similar defencemen will be traded before the deadline for less.
One of my complaints about the NHL system is that waiver rules often keep NHL capable players out of the league. The most obvious example is re-entry waivers, where certain players must clear waivers to get called up to the NHL. Any team claiming the player assumes his contract at half price. Thus it is usually unlikely to get a player through re-entry waivers. As a result, teams have kept NHL talents in the minors for the whole season instead of risking it.
Another issue is waivers for players who play in Europe. If a player plays on a European team, he must clear waivers if he is to play in the NHL as well in the same season. The New York Islanders failed to get Wade Dubielewicz onto their roster as a result of this rule. If there are other KHL players willing to jump back to the NHL this season, they have been prevented by waivers. Why would a team sign them when they are not likely to play for that team - but rather an opponent?
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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