Feb 192009
 

The NHL trade deadline is less than 2 weeks away so it is time that we take a look at what trades might or might not happen between now and then. Here are some of the selling teams to watch as we approach the deadline.

New York Islanders

The Islanders are clearly the worst team in the NHL this season and they also have several players that they will likely trade. The two soon to be unrestricted free agent veterans that will likely draw the most attention are center Doug Weight and winger Bill Guerin. Despite the Islanders problems both are having decent seasons and will be able to provide some solid secondary scoring for any team looking to make a playoff run. Mike Comrie is another forward that is available but I am not sure there will be much interest. Andy Hilbert is also a pending UFA and could be a useful and cheap addition for some teams who don’t want to spend too much at the deadline.

Atlanta Thrashers

The Thrashers are likely the unanimous choice as the league’s second worst team and they have already made a couple moves, first by moving Jason Williams to Columbus a while back and more recently by sending Mathieu Schneider to the Canadiens. The next obvious candidate to be traded is pending UFA Niclas Havelid who could be a nice pickup for a team looking to add some depth on defense. There has been some talk that either Kari Lehtonen or Johan Hedberg could be traded but more likely a Lehtonen trade will occur in the off season.

Toronto Maple Leafs
One of the more interesting teams to watch will be the Maple Leafs because everyone is wondering what new GM Brian Burke will do. Many are expecting Burke to make a number of significant moves to turn over his lineup, but the reality is Burke is under no pressure (except fan and media pressure which he doesn’t care about) to do very much at all. The reason is, most of the Leaf roster is signed for next season. The only unrestricted free agents on the team are Nik Antropov , Dominic Moore and Brad May and all indications are that Burke would like to sign Moore to a contract extension if the dollars make sense. That means Antropov is the only player that Burke is almost 100% certain to trade and if he doesn’t get the right offers there is certainly a chance that that is all he will do. But if the right offers come along you can expect Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers, and Mike Van Ryn to all be available. The public word from Burke is that he does not expect Tomas Kaberle to be traded as he is reluctant to give up someone of Kaberle’s skill set who is signed long term at a very reasonable contract. While this makes perfect sense one also has to wonder if he is attempting to push the price of Kaberle up. Before the season began many thought that goalie Vesa Toskala would be one of the Leafs most sought after players at the trade deadline but that seems unlikely due to Toskala’s poor play. Finally, do not be surprised if the Leafs become buyers of contracts at the deadline. By that I mean the Leafs have the cap space to take on contracts that other teams are looking to dump in order to free up cap space to make another trade and in doing so add a draft pick. For example, if the Penguins needed to free some salary cap space to make another trade, Burke may be willing to take on Miroslav Satan and the remainder of his $3.5 million salary if the Penguins also sent the Leafs a third round pick.

Tampa Bay Lightning

There has been a lot of talk about the Lightning considering trading Vincent Lecavalier but I doubt this happens at the trade deadline. This is more of an off season move if it were to happen. But the Lightning have a couple veterans that might interest contending teams that likely won’t cost too much. Mark Recchi and Gary Roberts. Marek Malik may also draw some attention as a depth defenseman.

Colorado Avalanche

Probably the only team that is a sure bet to be sellers in the western conference at the trade deadline are the Colorado Avalanche and they will have several players available for trade. Pending UFA’s that they are likely to trade are Ian Laperriere and Jordan Leopold. The other big name that is rumoured to be up for grabs is Ryan Smyth but with his contract for 3 more years for a total of $16.5 million that might be a tough sell. Only teams with ample salary cap room in the upcoming years will likely consider him.
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Feb 092009
 

The possibility certainly exists that 5 of the 6 post-lockout Stanley Cup finalists won’t make the playoffs this year.  Ottawa has all but been eliminated while Pittsburgh, Carolina, Edmonton and Anaheim all remain on the bubble.  Detroit is the only post-lockout conference winner to be securely in a playoff spot.  Is that a result of parity or mass mediocrity?

Brian Burke has a history of reacquiring players he knows well.  This is why he went after Brad May in a minor move and this is why I believe that there is a more than good chance that he’ll try to bring in the Sedin twins this summer if Vancouver fails to re-sign them.  But another player to look at is JS Giguere in Anaheim who has all but lost his job, at least in the short term, to Jonas Hiller, and the Ducks might be interested in shedding salary so they can fill in holes elsewhere in their lineup.  The only caveat is Giguere’s no trade clause but if he’ll likely waive it instead of being a backup.

Speaking of Leafs goaltending, Brian Burke and Ron Wilson put out the challenge to Vesa Toskala to improve his practice habits and in turn improve his game which has been mediocre at best this season.  How much has goaltending hurt the Leafs?  Well, they have the worst team save percentage this year at 87.5%.  If they could improve that to a measly 10th worst in the league, or 90.1%, the Leafs would have allowed 149 goals instead of 188 goals.  Combine that with their 155 goals for and they would have the same number of goals for and against as the Montreal Canadiens, who are sitting in 5th spot in the conference 15 points ahead of the Leafs.

Tampa couldn’t do it, Ottawa is failing at it, and Pittsburgh is on the verge of missing the playoffs because of it.  I am talking about spending a boat load of money on two or three mostly offensive oriented forwards.  Tampa spent a lot of money on Lecavalier, Richards and St. Louis and failed to obtain much success.  Ottawa has seen their defense decimated and goaltending faulter because they have spent too much on Spezza, Heatley, Alfredsson (and to a lesser extent Fisher).  In Pittsburgh they have spent some money on defense and goaltending in addition to their big two of Crosby and Malking, but that meant that Crosby and Malkin are pretty much playing on their own.

I have said this before but it deserves mentioning again, I think Dave Tippett of the Dallas Stars is one of the most under rated coaches in the NHL.  This team not that long ago was the worst team in the NHL but post Sean Avery they have an outstanding 18-8-3 record which has propelled them into 5th spot in the western conference.

One of the most under rated defenseman in the NHL has to be Dennis Wideman who is having an outstanding season in Boston.  He ranks 6th in points and tied for 5th in goals by defensemen adn his +31 ranking is second in the league for any player.  If he continues to play like this into next season he’ll deserve some consideration for the Canadian Olympic team.

When I scan down the list of top point producers in the NHL this year I see a lot of familiar names but no on ever mentions the outstanding year that David Krejci is having with 56 points and sitting 12th in league scoring.  He is a big reason for the Bruin’s success and ability to survive injuries to Bergeron and Sturm.

Has Jason Blake played well enough to make him tradeable, or has he played so well the Leafs won’t want to trade him.  He is on pace for 30 goals, 65 points and for a guy who kills penalties as well he is more than earning his $4 million salary cap hit this year.

It is hard to be optimistic about the New York Islanders future when their leading point producers up front are Doug Weight, Bill Guerin, Trent Hunter, Richard Park and Mike Comrie.  That is not a group of players to build a future around.

Aug 172008
 

1 Montreal Canadiens
2 Pittsburgh Penguins
3 Washington Capitals
4 Philadelphia Flyers
5 Ottawa Senators
6 NY Rangers
7 New Jersey Devils
8 Carolina Hurricanes
9 Tampa Bay Lightning
10 Boston Bruins
11 Buffalo Sabres
12 Florida Panthers
13 Atlanta Thrashers
14 Toronto Maple Leafs
15 NY Islanders

Again, I’m going to have to disagree with THN over this. If the Pens had managed to keep Ryan Malone and/or Marian Hossa I’d be inclined to agree that they would finish atop their division, but they won’t. When you potentially have Miroslav Satan as your top scoring winger you’re not going to go anywhere fast. The rest of the team remains largely the same.

I have a hard time believing the Sens will finish ahead of the Rangers and Devils. Despite the fact that Wade Redden‘s game is in decline, losing him will hurt because they didn’t replace him. The Sens are still looking for ways to fill out the rest of their roster, but like so many other teams in the East, goaltending is their primary concern. If Martin Gerber doesn’t hold up, they’re slightly above average at best by virtue of their incredible top line.

The Bruins are going to make some noise this year, especially with a completely healed Patrice Bergeron. Michael Ryder will head into camp as the favourite to land the first line right winger slot, and considering the success Claude Julien had with Ryder, along with an elite playmaking centre in Marc Savard, he could be a very nice surprise. Once again, however, they head into training camp with a 1A-1B tandem of fan favourite Tim Thomas and the disgruntled Manny Fernandez.

The East is much more clear cut than the West because so many teams have holes. The Habs, arguably the best team in the East, also has a shaky goaltending situation considering how Carey Price fell apart last year. These goaltending problems also plague at least 3 of the playoff teams listed. It’ll be interesting to see how this season plays out – a lot of teams have areas to improve, and considering the mass exodus of players from the East heading West, this year could be rather different.

Aug 142008
 

As many as 5 different sources are saying that Bryan McCabe has waived his NMC to go to Florida. Long Island was rumoured to be the favoured destination, as McCabe’s wife is from the area, but it seems like sunny Florida sounded like a good spot too. It’s funny how Florida is always able to land or attract top players, but can never seem to quite put it together to ice a Cup-contending team. The Panthers reportedly got into talks with the Leafs after it was clear that Jay Bouwmeester would not be back next year. This does not mean that Bouwmeester would be headed to Toronto, but more likely a package with Mike Van Ryn as the centrepiece, on a crowded Panthers blueline. However, there are also sources that although acknowledge the Panthers’ interest, maintain that McCabe will not be moved prior to September 1. The Panthers have a little over $7m in cap space with Greg Campbell to re-sign. A lot of moves being discussed right now depends on where Mats Sundin will sign. Once that domino falls, the fates of Glen Murray and Mark Parrish will also be decided.

EDIT: It sounds like it’s a done deal – after McCabe collects his $2m signing bonus from Toronto on September 1st, of course. No mention of which Panthers will be headed north of the border.

Aug 122008
 

The Islanders just earlier today named Scott Gordon as their new head coach for the upcoming season. The AHL coach of the year will not return to Providence to defend his coaching title, moving up the ranks for his first big league job. I’m sure Garth Snow is hoping that Gordon will grow with this young Islanders squad, and there’s no doubt this team will be going through some growing pains, although Doug Weight was signed to make the transition easier for the kids. The 45-year old Gordon beat out Paul Maurice and Bob Hartley for the job. Reading Snow’s comments, it seems like there won’t be any “philosophical differences” between the two, unlike the strenuous relationship he had with former coach Ted Nolan. Asked about what type of system fans should expect to see come October, Gordon has emphasized a defense-first system, although I wonder how he’ll accomplish such a thing without a marquee defenseman. Brendan Witt and Andy Sutton are serviceable shut-down guys, but they’re not considered top-pairing calibre players. However, they do have Trent Hunter, whom I believe is one of the most underrated two-way players in the game today. I also wonder if this means that Mark Streit will be asked to be more defensively responsible than he has in the past, which may lead to lower offensive production.

The Hockey Hall of Fame has caught fire in recent years for turning a blind eye towards female hockey players and their contributions. The US HHOF named their four inductees today, headlined by Cammi Granato, making her the first woman to be ever inducted into the Hall. Granato, arguably the most famous female American hockey player led the Americans to an upset over a heavily favoured Canadian squad at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, capturing their first and only gold medal in Olympic competition. She currently works for NBC’s hockey coverage and a partner of BelaHockey, a hockey manufacturing company that caters exclusively to female hockey players. She will be inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame on October 10 at the University of Denver along with Brett Hull and former Ranger teammates Brian Leetch and Mike Richter. Take a page out of their book, I say.