After a thrilling Olympic tournament (not just the hockey), a packed schedule forces us all right back into the swing of things in the NHL. A few players are already back in action tonight as Mike Babcock’s Detroit Red Wings take on Paul Stastny and the Avalanche in Denver.
The NHL trade freeze also lifts, for around 72 hours. In light of this abbreviated window, a few GMs got their deadline day shopping done early, with Lou Lamoriello picking up Ilya Kovalchuk from the Thrashers along with Anssi Salmela and a 2nd-round pick for a package consisting of Niclas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, Elbows Cormier, and 1st and 2nd rounders. Similarly, Brian Burke got a head start in re-building the Leafs, shipping Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake to Anaheim for JS Giguere, and sending Matt Stajan (now re-signed long-term), Niklas Hagman, Ian White and Jamal Mayers to Calgary for Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and touted prospect Keith Aulie. The Sutters continued their makeover by shipping Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust to the Rangers in exchange for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik. Of somewhat less immediate significance, the Thrashers dealt the disappointing Kari Lehtonen to the Stars, where he will likely be seen as the goalie of the future in exchange for young offensive blueliner, Ivan Vishnevsky. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes have began their anticipated dismantling, shipping Matt Cullen to Ottawa and Nic Wallin to the Sharks. The Panthers also put one leg into the seller’s pool by dealing Dominic Moore to the Habs for a 2011 2nd rounder.
So what’s left to be moved? In true Campbell and Wales style, we will be breaking up the action by conference, with Bill “Campbell” Duke handling the Western events and Ryan “Wales” Wagman with his eyes on the East.
The Campbell/Western Conference
-Edmonton trades D Denis Grebeshkov to Nashville for a 2010 2nd round pick: You have to think that this is just the beginning of the Oilers’ housecleaning. Had Sheldon Souray not hurt himself in a fight (again!) against Calgary’s Jarome Iginla on Jan. 30 he likely would have been the first Oiler defensemen dealt.
Alas, Souray proved again he is made out of porcelain and scotch tape, making it difficult to deal him. So Grebeshk0v, set to become an RFA after the season, was shipped to the Preds. Grebeshkov is an offensive defenseman, sort of, with a penchant for playmaking, sort of. His numbers are less than overwhelming: 6 goals and 13 assist in 47 games played. He is -16 and has but one lone PP goal. According to GVT, Grebeshkov has a decent rating of 3.2, but what has to be concerning is his defensive GVT rating of 0.6, which is terribly low for a blueliner.
That modest number is likely due to Grebeshkov’s penchant for giveaways in his own zone.
So why would Nashville make a trade for an “offensive” defenseman with a low point total and a Phaneufian track record when it comes to play in his own zone? That’s tough to say, especially since the Preds already boasted Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Dan Hamhuis and…oh wait, I guess that’s why they traded for him. Anytime Cody Franson, Francis Bouillon and Kevin Klein are regulars in your roster, Grebeshkov is a welcome addition. To put it in perspective, Bouillon has a GVT of 1.1 and Klein has a very meager rating of o.1.
As for the Oilers, they might as well stockpile draft picks since this season very quickly turned into an unmitigated disaster and Grebeshkov is an upcoming RFA. The Oilers have a lot of young talent in the pipeline, and still could very well be a Cup contender in the not so distant future.
-Calgary trades G Curtis McElhinney to Anaheim for G Vesa Toskala: In his never-ending quest to find a suitable backup to overworked starter Miika Kiprusoff, Darryl Sutter has once again looked to an ex-Shark tender to round out his roster. It’s a curious move, considering that Toskala has had a rather abysmal season (3.66 GAA, .874 SV %, -15.4 GVT). But Toskala is a UFA at the end of the year, so this move allows the Flames some flexibilty when it comes to the summer’s free agent market.
As for the Ducks, they get a 26-year-old goalie who never really got a chance to excel in Cowtown. C-Mac was played so sparingly that it was impossible for him to get into a groove. Still, his 3.22 GAA and .885 SV % aren’t great indicators that he deserved more playing time. McElhinney is also a UFA at season’s end.
-Phoenix trades F Peter Mueller and F Kevin Porter to Colorado for F Wojtek Wolski: Seldom does one see two playoff-bound teams make a deal such as this at the deadline. Mueller, a former WHL stand-out and first round pick of the ‘Yotes, was suffering through a down season in the desert. With only 16 points, it’s been a very disappointing campaign for the former Everett Silvertip, who registered 22 goals and 54 points his rookie season before regressing slightly to 13 goals and 26 points last year. According to GVT, Mueller has been performing slightly below replacement level this season, as has Porter in his limited opportunities. Both men have a GVT of -0.1.
Still, at 21 years of age it is somewhat surprising that the Phoenix brass have given up on Mueller.
Not that they’re trading him away for nothing. Wolski is a 23-year-old forward who is gifted offensively and having the best year of his young career: 17 goals, 30 asisists, +15 in 62 games. He should immediately improve a Phoenix powerplay that is currently operating at 14.9%, second-last in the entire NHL. Wolski’s GVT of 6.9 suggests he is a bona fide top-6 forward on any NHL team.
-Phoenix trades D Sean Zimmerman and a conditional 6th round pick to Vancouver for D Mathieu Schneider: Looks like the Coyotes are going fot it this year, doesn’t it? The strategy makes sense, given that the franchise needs to do everything in its power to win back its fans and keep itself from being shipped to Kansas City or Las Vegas. Schneider, who has been playing with the Canucks’ AHL afilliate in Manitoba since December, registered 5 points in 17 games. If he brings a better attitude to the desert than he did to Vancouver, Schneider may provide some valuable veteran leadership for a Phoenix theam that has precious little playoff experience on the roster.
-Edmonton trades D Lubomir Visnovsky to Anaheim for D Ryan Whitney and a 2010 6th round pick: Everyone knew the Oilers would be moving a high-priced defenseman before the deadline, but I bet hockey fans in Edmonton hoped it would be Sheldonn Souray. However, it makes perfect sense for this team to deal away Visnovsky, primarily because he is a 33-year-old defenseman with a $5.6 million price tag that runs through the 2012/2013 season. He has 32 points in 57 games this season and is a rather impressive -4 on what has been a terrible Oiler team. Visnovsky has tallied a GVT rating of 8.9 this season, good for top spot on the Edmonton blueline.
Whitney, on the other hand, just turned 27 in February and has arguably more offensive upside that Visnovsky. In 62 games this season Whitney has 28 points, but notched a career-high 59 in his sophomore season of 2006/2007 with Pittsburgh. He comes with a $4 million salary that runs through the 2012/2013 season. Whitney’s GVT so far this season is 4.0.
So why would the Oilers trade for a more expensive player who has slightly better numbers but undoubtedly less upside over the course of his contract?
Well, Visnovsky has slightly more points on the PP than does Whitney (17 to 13) and is considered a better breakout defenseman with more passing skill. And Whitney was perhaps overrated when he came to Anaheim, which has likey tampered the Anaheim front office’s enthusiasm for him. One interesting note – Whitney has notched 71 hits this season to Visnovsky’s 32.
-Calgary trades F Dustin Boyd to Nashville for a 4th round pick (TBD): The Calgary dressing room just got a little less curly. Dustin Boyd and his infamous mini-fro have been shipped to Nashville for a draft pick. This is little more than a move by the Preds to acqurie some depth while Calgary ships off a forward for whom they have little use. Since acquiring Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik before the Olympic break, the Flames have really reduced Boyd’s ice time. In fact, Boyd has played less than 11 minutes in each of his last 5 games. With 19 points in 60 games, Boyd doesn’t exaclty light up the scoresheet, but he is an energy player who should be an effective third or fourth liner with the Preds. He has a GVT of 3.4 so far this season.
-Edmonton trades D Steve Staios to Calgary for Aaron Johnson and a 2010 third round pick: Can you say Adrian Aucoin part deux? The Flames pick up a 36-year-old defenseman with 0 goals and 7 assist who, for some reason, is still regarded as a guy with some playmaking ability. Staios is a character player who may or may not provide leadership in the Calgary room (were the Flames really lacking in that department?) but his GVT of -1.0 would indicate his best days of on-ice performance are long gone. And it’s not like Staios is cheap – he is due $2.7 million in salary next season.
The Oilers reasons for making this deal are obvious (save money, get younger) but the Flames’ motivations are beyond me.
As an aside, TSN is reporting that this is the first ever deal made between the Oilers and Flames. So there’s that.
The Wales/Eastern Conference
– Florida trades D Jordan Leopold to Pittsburgh for a 2010 2nd round pick: aka Florida trades the rights to Jay Bouwmeester for 61 games of marginally above average 4th defensemen play and the Penguins 2nd round pick in this summer’s draft (should be between 50-55 overall). According to Puck Prospectus’ GVT stat, Leopold has been a little bit above replacement level on both the offensive and defensive components of his game this year with the bub-par Panthers, but his relative plus/minus (+/- while focused on who he’s been playing with and against) has been poor at -6.2, the lowest-ranked d-man in Miami. As per a few more proprietary metrics from Gabriel Desjardins’ Behindthenet.ca, we can see that Leopold has been lined up against slightly better-than-average players, while playing with teammates similarly below the line of demarcation. Florida has called up big Luke Beaverton to make an early impression in his place, but I expect former 1st rounder Keaton Ellerby to get an extended look down the stretch.
For Pittsburgh, Leopold will likely get second-pair minutes, while potentially paving the way for the Pens to deal Kris Letang, a restricted free agent this summer, or Mark Eaton, an upcoming UFA. Leopold gives Pittsburgh an upgrade on Martin Skoula and provides more offensive punch than Jay McKee, both of whom may be relegated to the press box barring another trade. Assuming that the Pens move another D-man, I will reserve judgment on this deal, but I think the Panthers got a good return on a relatively marginal player, and some hope that the Bouwmeester era will come to some lasting good.
Atlanta trades AHL D Nathan Oystrick and a conditional 2011 draft pick to Anaheim for RW Evgeny Artyukhin: While I won;’t be making a habit out of commenting on trades between AHL depth guys, this does strike me as a little odd. While Oystrick has spent his entire season with Atlanta’s AHL affiliate in Chicago(41GP-7G-16A-23Pts-+6-74PIM), he was Atlanta’s #5 defenseman last year, but found himself out of a job this year with Atlanta’s additions of Pavel Kubina and Mark Popovic. Given a shot with Anaheim, Oystrick may be able to fill a similar role, as Puck Prospectus’ Vukota system had him pegged for 2.7 GVT (above zero is a contribution) this year in limited duty. So what do the Thrashers plan to do with Artyukhin? He’s off his usual pace of 3 PIM per game this year and provides something (willingness to use his size) that the Thrashers seemingly are already getting in spades with the likes of Eric Boulton, Chris Thorburn and Christoph Schubert getting regular ice time. Artyukhin has been scarcely above replacement level with the Ducks so far, even playing 4th line minutes against other 4th liners. I wonder what the conditional pick rides on.
NY Islanders trade D Andy Sutton to Ottawa for 2010 2nd round pick previously belonging to San Jose: We already have an overwhelming trend with these late trades. Top four defensemen in exchange for 2nd rounders. It is de rigueur for all so-called contenders. Sutton was a classic late bloomer, a huge man who took his time learning how to use his big body. Never drafted, Sutton was signed by the Sharks as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan Tech after a senior season that saw him raise his scoring high from 9 to 40 points. Four years later, he was a regular NHL blueliner, although one prone to miss 15-55 games a year due to some injury or other. He has been healthy so far this year and somewhat useful for the Isle, playing 2.7 goals above threshold (3rd among Islander d-men) with more than 60% of his value coming from his defensive play. He’ll be the 6th defenseman for Ottawa, and post-trade rumours say that this may be a pre-cursor to the Sens dealing Anton Volchenkov by 3pm Wednesday. Both Sutton and Volchenkov will be UFAs this summer.
Toronto trades RW Alexei the Poni to Pittsburgh in exchange for D Martin Skoula and AHL LW Luca Caputi: Ponikarovsky is an impending UFA and his departure from Toronto has been speculated upon for most of this season. In spite of his shortcomings as a player (he looks like he should be better, but inconsistency has prevented him from ever being more than a 2nd line winger), he represents great value as a late 3rd-round pick out of the Ukraine back in 1998. His 61 points last year are his career high (he has averaged just over 0.5 points-per-game over his NHL career) and he may yet approach that number again with 20 games playing alongside Evgeni Malkin (his new presumed Centre) in Pittsburgh. In fact, Ponikarovsky may now be Pittsburgh’s best winger. Ponikarovsky shows a willingness to throw his body around near the opponent’s goal-crease (in front and behind the net) and this should allow Malkin more space to create. Poni was Toronto’s second most productive forward this year according to GVT, at 8.1, with far-and-away the best relative plus minus (14.3). If Malkin sparks, and the Pens can get back to Conference Finals, this deal will have paid off for Pittsburgh.
From the Leafs’ end, this is about Luca Caputi. Skoula was a make-weight, allowing Pittsburgh to afford Poni’s salary over the remainder of the season. TSN’s Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) tweeted that the Leafs will try to flip Skoula off tomorrow. If that doesn’t work (or if Burke doesn’t unload a Finger or an Exelby), there’s always the AHL. Luca Caputi is the third top prospect acquired via trade by Burke this year, joining earlier trades for Philippe Paradis and Keith Aulie. All three feature in The Hockey News’ recent Future Watch issue. In a roundabout way, these three mitigate the gamble taken by Burke when he dealt away this year’s lottery pick (plus a 2nd rounder) and next year’s first rounder in exchange for Phil Kessel in September. Further judgment on the Maple Leafs will have to be reserved until the deadline passes and we will be able to see what Brian Burke has come away with. The price (the aforementioned draft picks and the waste of a season) has already been paid.
Update: Skoula dealt to New Jersey for a 2010 5th round pick: That makes the full deal Ponikarovsky for Caputi and a 5th rounder. How does Caputi compare to a 2nd rounder? Not bad at all. He is scoring in the AHL at roughly the same pace (approx. 0.7 points-per-game) as Ponikarovsky did at the turn of the century. He may be as little bit smaller than Poni, but has a reputation as a guy who sets up shop behind the net, making him look like a player who will be able to do the same things, maybe starting next season.
Montreal trades RW Matt D’Agostini to St. Louis for AHL RW Aaron Palushaj: I’m not sure why St.Louis wanted D’Agostini (the worst Canadien this year according to GVT at -2.3 and ahead of only Paul Mara in relative +/- at -13.9). I can guess that Montreal management did not see him as a valuable member of their push to make this year’s playoffs, and based on the aforementioned metrics, they could expect to receive significantly better production from a number of their minor leaguers. If not Palushaj himself, maybe Ryan White can make himself useful as the 5th RW. Or Georges Laraque might get to finish the year with the big club.
Boston trades D Derek Morris to Phoenix for a 2011 4th round pick: Didn’t Chiarelli get the memo? Top-four defencemen are worth current 2nd rounders this year. It’s easy to see why Phoenix would want Morris, as he gives them a very solid veteran top-four blueline core of Keith Yandle, Ed Jovanovski, Adrian Aucion and now Morris. So is Boston giving up on this season? Rumours abound that Tim Thomas may be dealt. I can’t understand why Chiarelli accepted so little for Morris. Lesser d-men like Andy Sutton and Jordan Leopold brought back 2010 2nd rounders, so why only a 4th rounder for Morris? And why only a 2011 4th-rounder? Morris has been Boston’s 2nd best defensemen this year, behind only Zdeno Chara. His output this year (0.43 points-per-game) matches exactly his career scoring output. He’s 30 and has played over 850 NHL regular season games, and only 14 postseason games. Morris is no stranger to Phoenix and that mostly explains his lack of playoff experience. Until this year, the Coyotes have been a fairly rancid franchise, on and off the ice. So Morris looks good to add to his personal playoff resume, while Boston gets next to nothing. Strange times.
Florida trades D Dennis Seidenberg and prospect D Matthew Bartkowski to Boston in exchange for AHL RW Criag Weller, RW Bryon Bitz and (surprise!) a 2010 2nd round pick previously belonging to Tampa Bay: Let’s start with Florida’s haul. Weller is just a guy, a 3rd-line AHL grinder at best. He’s already 28 and underwhelmed in the 95 NHL games with Phoenix and Minnesota. Bitz has struggled this year after a promising debut last year. A number of injuries may be to blame, but at 25, he may be to the NHL what Weller is in the AHL. Florida clears more space, now having traded both late off-season signings for futures with both Seidenberg and Moore now gone. Keaton Ellerby will be the beneficiary of the trade, and reports have surfaced that he’s already been called up to the Panthers. The remainder of this season will be about Florida testing its youngsters and jockeying for draft position in June.
The Bruins get Bartkowski, a marginal blueline prospect currently in his second season with Ohio State. He’s a few years away from AHL action. Seidenberg essentially replaces Morris’ role on the team. While Morris has been having the better season thus far, Seidenberg may be the better bet moving forward. He’s two years younger, and indications are that the Bruins would prefer to re-sign hm over Morris. Seidenberg has more playoff experience from last year’s Cinderalla-run by Carolina alone than Morris has in his career. How much did Seidenberg’s play in that series prompt this trade? Considering his availability on the free agent market last summer, probably not much. While this does not excuse the poor return for Morris, this looks like a good pickup by Boston at an eminently reasonable price. They still have a load of high draft picks over the next two years and are not likely to miss any of the pieces sent to Florida.
Carolina trades D Aaron Ward to Anaheim for AHL G Justin Pogge and a conditional 4th round pick: A very small part of the Hurricane bake sale, Ward has been marginalized (and marginal) most of the year with Carolina. Not much on the return, though. Pogge, once seen as the goalie of the future in Toronto (to the extent that they traded away Tuukka Rask) has since proven to be less than “all that” and failed to hold off Vesa Toskala in two NHL franchises. That says something. His new challenge will be for a place in the pecking order behind Cam Ward, fighting Justin Peters and 1st-year pro Mike Murphy. Further proof that it isn’t only the mighty who can fall from grace.
Carolina bake sale continues with RW Scott Walker moving to Washington for a 7th round pick: For a study on the expected value of late picks, check out Richard Pollock’s article from Puck Prospectus. It probably won’t amount to much. Much like Scott Walker will be able to provide the Caps. In limited playing time this year (a December shoulder injury cost him 21 games), he has been below replacement level and his contract will come off the books this summer. Walker may allow for the odd night off for Knuble, Fehr or Bradley, but his biggest contribution to his new team will most likely come off the ice.
Toronto trades AHL G Joey MacDonald to Anaheim for a 2010 7th round draft pick and LW/RW Lee Stempniak to Phoenix for AHL D Matt Jones, and 4th and 7th round draft picks in 2010. D Martin Skoula, acquired last night is forwarded to New Jersey for a 5th rounder, while a 2010 6th rounder is shipped back to Pittsburgh (handshake agreement kind of thing) in exchange for NCAA D Chris Peluso: The Leafs clear up a few more loose ends with this trio of trades. Stempniak has been a clear failure of the short-lived Cliff Fletcher comeback tour prior to Brian Burke’s hiring. While he showed occasional bursts of tremendous energy, he has more often been just a guy. The return for him is commensurate with his value as a 20-game rental. Joey MacDonald was the Leafs’ 3rd string goalie playing mostly in the AHL. As the Ducks don’t have their own AHL franchise (the only team thus handicapped), he may be able to remain with the Marlies while Curtis McElhinney backs up Jonas Hiller. As presumed, Skoula was acquired simply to be moved on. In an interview with Bob McCown today, Burke admitted that he had a provisional agreement with Penguins GM that if he would be able to peddle Skoula for a draft pick, Burke would send a pick one round lower to Pittsburgh in exchange for Peluso, an unsigned player the Pens have since given up on. The Leafs will scout him over the remainder of the summer and decide if they want to sign him in the next few months. Now the Leafs have plenty of draft picks for this summer’s draft, but nothing in the first two rounds.
In Skoula, the Devils get a guy who can slot in their third pair until Paul Martin returns from his broken arm and try to state his claim for continued action afterwards.
Buffalo sends F Clarke MacArthur to Atlanta for 2010 3rd and 4th round picks: MacArthur has been performing just barely above the minimal replacement level this year with Buffalo (1.1 GVT, team-low -14.7 relative +/-) and he will be a restricted free agent on July 1. I think one of those picks should have been enough, so kudos to Darcy Regier on getting the pair. MacArthur looks like a 4th line winger who doesn’t provide enough offense to be in the top-6, nor is he big enough for 3rd-line duties. Buffalo also had to get rid of him to make room for their big dead-line day acquisition.
Buffalo receives LW Raffi Torres from Columbus in exchange for D Nathan Paetsch and a 2010 2nd round draft choice: There was word floating around that the Jackets were seeking a first round pick for Torres which seemed a bit big. Paetsch (unless I missed a big injury) was an extra blue-liner on Buffalo, appearing in only 11 games so far this season. Torres is a rich man’s MacArthur. Big enough to play on the 3rd line, and provides enough offense to play on the second line. Torres contributed 5.2 GVT with Columbus, put up while often playing with lesser linemates, as shown by his below average “Quality Teammates” metric at Behind the Net. While Torres will be a UFA after the season, at the price paid by Buffalo, I expect them to make a run at re-signing him.
Carolina trades D Joe Corvo to Washington and receives in return D Brain Pothier, LW Oskar Osala and a 2nd round pick in 2011: This may have been the biggest deal of the day for Carolina as they were unable to deal Ray Whitney. Corvo, while he missed some time with injury has made a career as a solid #3 defenseman, able to man the point on the power play (12 PPG since the start of last season) and take care of his own end as well. His two long playoff runs in the last three seasons portend well for Washington’s hopes this spring.
In Pothier, the Caps gave up a body who, like Corvo, has an expiring contract. Pothier plays a solid two-way game, but has an injury-ravaged history and they weren’t counting on him for too much going forward. Osala is young enough, big enough and talented enough to turn into a Torres-type of player down the road. Maybe even next season. And you know how I feel about 2nd-round picks.
There were other trades. The Hurricanes bake sale also point the door for Stephane Yelle (along with a prospect to Colorado for another prospect and a 6th rounder), Andrew Alberts (to Vancouver for a 3rd rounder), Florida picking up some beef in D Mathieu Roy from Columbus for collegian Matt Rust, Tampa dealing veterany-goodness in Jeff Halpern to the playoff-bound Kings in exchange for a 3rd round pick and a 4th-line prospect (Teddy Purcell). The Rangers got blue-line depth in Anders Eriksson from Phoenix in exchange for an ECHL goalie. Finally, Washington solidified its team for a long playoff run by acquiring solid role players in the return of Milan Jurcina from Columbus (they must have missed him) and Eric Belanger (having a solid season with 35 points and a 7.1 GVT) from Minnesota for a 2nd round pick. The Caps are happy to trade a shorter draft for a longer playoff run. Let the stretch begin!