The NHL’s Free Agency period is a time where mistakes happen. Teams get overzealous, hoping that a big catch will turn their team’s fortunes. Over the years, the poster child for bad free agent signings has been the New York Rangers, who have shelled out big-money, long-term deals to players like Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Wade Redden, and Brad Richards. In the end, Gomez was traded, Drury retired before the contract finished, and the other two were bought out. Continue reading
Calgary Flames General Manager, Jay Feaster
Most General Managers agree that the NHL Trade Deadline is the time when their peers are most prone to making mistakes. Over the years, many GM’s have been guilty of “selling the farm”, trading promising young players and draft picks for “rentals” – veterans who will only be around for the remainder of the year. One of the reasons they’re so eager is because playoff appearances are huge money makers, since players aren’t *paid during the post-season, and ticket prices see a sizeable increase.
*Although some players have bonuses in their contracts related to playoff performance, most do not. When the season ends, so do the paycheques. (With the exception of escrow adjustments, which are paid after the season.)
The deadline normally takes place on February 28th, but due to the compressed schedule, this year’s deadline was pushed back to April 3rd. Hockey analysts speculated that because of the shortened season, fewer teams would be out of the playoff race, and thus, fewer teams would be looking to sell, i.e trade roster players for picks and prospects. This year’s deadline was supposed to be a seller’s market.
Well, at least they were half right. The playoff race was especially tight as of April 3rd – in the West, 3 points separated 8th from 13th, while in the East, the gap between 6th and 10th was also 3 points. And because so few teams were entirely out of the playoff running, many GM’s decided to keep their rosters intact, rather than selling off veteran UFAs. But despite the shortage of sellers, some of the returns for quality players were laughable. Countless fringe NHL prospects were traded in the week leading up to the deadline, most notably in the Jarome Iginla deal, where the Flames got nothing tangible for their future hall of famer, and nine-year captain. Considering Pittsburgh’s 1st round pick will be in the 25-30 range, the odds that the Flames end up with a top-line forward or top-2 defenceman from that pick are slim.
Here’s a brief summary of the major winners and losers from the trade deadline. Following the summary is an appendix of the major acquisitions made by all the teams.
New York R – If the early returns are anything to go on, the additions Glen Sather made at the deadline were pure genius. While former superstar Gaborik had only 19 points in 35 games on the year, and was clashing with Rangers’ coach John Tortorella, new additions Ryane Clowe and Derick Brassard collectively gathered 7 points in their Rangers’ debut. Furthermore, they added another piece to their defence corps with the smooth skating John Moore, and added toughness with Derek Dorsett (week-to-week with a broken collarbone). The cherry on top is that Gaborik’s $7.5M contract is off the books for next year, giving them ample room to re-sign Clowe and make other additions too.
St. Louis – Talk about addressing a need. With a gaping hole on defence, the Blues went out and acquired 2002, 3rd overall pick Jay Bouwmeester. Jay Bo is exactly what this team needs – a steady, two-way defenceman who can play big minutes in every situation. St. Louis already has their franchise defenceman in Alex Pietrangelo, so Bouwmeester can ride shotgun as that #2 guy, which he’s more suited to. And for those who claim that his $6.68M contract makes him a bad addition, there’s the case of Brian Campbell – who was much maligned in Chicago because of his $7M contract, and then resurrected himself in Florida with a 53-point season – the most of any non-Karlssonian in 2012. Unlike Campbell, Bouwmeester doesn’t need to be flashy; he is simply a solid veteran who will pair with Pietrangelo or Shattenkirk and help take this team to the next level. Plus, with $25M in cap room for next year, Bouwmeester’s salary won’t break the bank. The Blues also added Jordan Leopold from Buffalo, and although they overpaid with a 2nd round pick, he provides further depth.
Nashville – Acquired the only “blue-chip” prospect of the week in Filip Forsberg, giving up long-time Preds forward Martin Erat in order to do so. (As well as a decent prospect in Michael Latta). Although Erat was one of the best offensive players in Nashville over the last 7 years, Forsberg is a potential 1st line forward – something Nashville hasn’t had since Paul Kariya left in 2007. What makes the move all the more impressive is that Erat had quietly asked Nashville GM David Poile for a trade; if the league knew that Erat wanted out, it would have decreased his trade value. Instead, Poile acted quickly, and got a fantastic return before the situation became a distraction.
San Jose – Managed to collect as many as four 2nd round picks (two are conditional), as well as 3rd and 4th rounders for players with expiring contracts. Also added a nice depth forward in Torres for a reasonable price (3rd rd pick). GM Doug Wilson is going a good job of rebuilding on the fly, and although he didn’t get any prized prospects or first round picks, don’t underestimate the promise of a 2nd rounder. From 2001-2010, the following players were drafted in the 2nd round: Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Backes, Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, Mike Ribeiro, Paul Stastny, Dave Bolland, Milan Lucic, Mike Cammalleri, Ryan O’Reilly, Derek Stepan, P.K Subban, Alex Goligoski, Matt Carle, Justin Faulk, Justin Schultz, Slava Voynov, Wayne Simmonds, Loui Eriksson, and James Neal. Nice group of skaters.
Columbus – New GM Jarmo Kekalainen means business. He said he would add at the deadline, and he made the biggest splash of the day, adding struggling superstar Marian Gaborik. Although Gaborik wasn’t producing in New York, a change of scenery could do wonders for him. And based on his days on the formerly defence-first Minnesota Wild, he can produce anywhere when he is happy & healthy. Although Kekalainen gave New York a nice return, Brassard wasn’t living up to his potential in Columbus, and Moore was somewhat redundant with other young, smooth d-men in the fold, like Tim Erixon, and last year’s 2nd overall pick, Ryan Murray. With Columbus surging of late, I think this was a risk worth taking, as it sends a message to the players and the rest of the league that management in Columbus is serious about winning. They also retained all three 1st round picks in the upcoming draft, so it’s not like Kekalainen sold the farm.
Minnesota – The acquisition of Jason Pominville cements the Wild as a major player in the Western Conference in the years to come. Already boasting the likes of Parise, Suter, and Koivu, the Wild now have another talented, multi-faceted player with great character and leadership qualities. They gave up a lot of young assets to get him, but their system remains chalked full of talented prospects, since they didn’t give up any of their best in the deal. (i.e Granlund, Coyle, Zucker.) While the trade was a good one for Minnesota, the one curious aspect is that the Wild have a much greater need on defence than at forward. My only guess is that the outlandish returns for defenders like Murray, Regehr, and Leopold made them look for a better value proposition.
Dallas – GM Joe Nieuwendyk is learning from his mistakes. After the misguided decision to hold onto Brad Richards in 2011 – whom he eventually lost for nothing – Nieuwendyk divested of all of his major UFAs, including Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy, and captain Brenden Morrow. In return, he collected two high draft picks and 2 solid prospects – far more than Calgary got for Bouwmeester and Iginla. Dallas’ window of opportunity is years away – in the tightly contested Western Conference, the Stars aren’t likely to make a long playoff run. Furthermore, the holes left by those veterans allowed Nieuwendyk to give his best young players a chance, and thus far they have performed brilliantly, helping the Stars win five in a row.
Ottawa & Tampa Bay – In the short-term, both teams got what they needed. Tampa Bay had an obvious need for goaltending, and 6’7 Ben Bishop certainly fits the bill. Plus Ottawa’s crease was full, with incumbent starter Craig Anderson and heir apparent Robin Lehner. Similarly, Ottawa had a need for a creative, top-6 winger, and Conacher was expendable for Tampa, with Stamkos, St. Louis, and Purcell leading an already impressive attack, and a number of promising young forwards on the way, including Killorn, Panik, Palat, Johnson, and Connolly. It’s always tough to evaluate a goalie-for-player trade, but some recent examples include:
Luongo (Fla) for Bertuzzi (Van) – goalie won handily
Vermette (Ott) for Leclaire (Cbj) – player won handily
Halak (Mtl) for Eller (Stl) – jury’s still out
My best guess is that both players will be good with their new teams, though Bishop will have the tougher time repeating his success, as Tampa is looking more and more like the goalie carousel in Philadelphia.
Buffalo – The Sabres entered rebuild mode this week, trading Jordan Leopold, Robyn Regehr, and team captain Jason Pominville for a collection of picks and prospects. The returns on Leopold and Regehr were excellent, getting three picks in the 2nd round for players with expiring contracts who hadn’t performed to their previously established levels of ability. But the big move was Pominville – a long-time Sabre who still had another year remaining on his contract. In return, they received a decent goaltending prospect (Matt Hackett), a decent forward prospect (Johan Larsson), a 1st round pick in 2013, and a 2nd round pick in 2014. Ultimately, the success of that trade will depend on the draft picks, as neither Hackett nor Larsson is likely to make as big an impact as Pominville. But in trading their captain, the Sabres also made a place for younger players like Tyler Ennis, Cody Hodgson, and Tyler Myers – players upon whom the Sabres’ future success depends heavily.
Washington – Got a good player in Erat, but gave up a great prospect in Forsberg. While some people see this in the same light as Kessel-Seguin, I think it could work out okay for Washington. Washington’s window to compete is now, as core players like Ovechkin, Green, Laich, and Backstrom are in their mid-to-late 20’s, and may be in decline by the time Forsberg reaches his prime in 3-5 years. Erat will add scoring depth, which they’ve lacked in recent years, and may help them to make a run in the next couple of years, well before Forsberg would have been ready for a starring role. They also picked up Michael Latta – a decent offensive prospect with good size, who could take on a 3rd line role in the future. All that being said, this is a big risk, and many saw it as a desperation move.
Boston – Jaromir Jagr will help them, but they’ll give up a 1st round pick should they reach the conference finals. (2nd round pick if not). Not poor value, but they were the 2nd best team in the East before Jagr, and will likely remain the 2nd best team in the East with him. (Though recent injuries to Bergeron and Marchand hurt them significantly). They also had a need on defence for a true powerplay quarterback, and Wade Redden, whom they brought over for a 7th round pick, is not the answer.
Los Angeles – Overpaid for Regehr with two 2nd round picks, but filled the need for a solid defender with the injuries to Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene.
Phoenix – Gave up a few pending UFAs (Torres, Lombardi, Sullivan) for a prospect and picks. Not big moves, but good asset management.
Vancouver – Were in on Clowe but lost out to New York. Didn’t deal Roberto Luongo, and maintain that distraction. If they can’t re-sign Derek Roy, then they overpaid for him. (2nd round pick and prospect defenceman Kevin Connaughton). With the Sedins starting a moderate decline, Kesler often hurt, a weak prospect system, and a dearth of scoring talent on the wings, I think Vancouver’s opportunity to contend has already passed them by. I don’t see them catching up to Chicago or Los Angeles, and Anaheim, St. Louis, and Minnesota are also on the rise. They’re definitely still capable of beating anyone, but good luck winning three rounds against those teams.
Pittsburgh – Although they added three forwards, and one slow-footed, physical defenceman, their big need was for a two-way defender. With Martin on the IR, and Letang in and out of the lineup with nagging injuries, they have no fall-back options on the blueline. The moves are looking better of late due to the unexpected injuries to Sidney Crosby and James Neal, but I still think that Chero should have saved the bullets he used on either Iginla or Morrow to go after a defenceman.
Calgary – I have no issue with blowing things up, but they got pathetic returns for Iginla and Bouwmeester. Plus the scortched-earth strategy is risky – although it was employed with great success in Chicago and Pittsburgh in the mid-2000’s, it was an utter failure in Florida and Columbus just prior to that. Rebuilding this team will take time, and with the Flames currently a laughing stock in the league, you can bet that Jay Feaster will not be there to see it through.
DEADLINE DAY APPENDIX – MAJOR ACQUISITIONS ONLY
(–)Clowe, Murray, Handzus, 3rd rd ’13, 7th rd ‘13
(+)Torres, Hannan, two 2nd round picks in 2013; 3rd+4th round picks in 2013; two conditional 2nd round picks in 2014
(-)Pominville, Leopold, Regehr
(+)Hackett, Larsson, 1st round pick in 2013, 2nd round pick in 2013, conditional 5th round pick in 2013, two 2nd round picks in 2014, 2nd round pick in 2015
(-)Morrow, Jagr, Roy, 3rd round pick in 2013
(+)J.Morrow, conditional 1st round pick in 2013, Connaughton, 2nd+5th round picks in 2013, 2 marginal prospects
(-)Iginla, Bouwmeester, Comeau
(+)two 1st round picks in 2013, 4 marginal prospects, 5th round pick in 2013
(-)Torres, Lombardi, Sullivan
(+)3rd+7th round picks in 2013; MacMillan
New York R
(+)Clowe, Brassard, Moore, Dorsett
(-)Gaborik, 2nd+3rd round picks in 2013; conditional 2nd in 2014
(-)1st, 2nd, 5th round picks in 2013; conditional 5th rd pick in 2013; 2 marginal prospects
(+)Pominville, 4th rd ‘14
(-)Hackett, Larsson, 1st round pick in 2013, 2nd round pick in 2014
(-) Conditional 1st round pick in 2013 7th round pick in 2014
(+)Iginla, B.Morrow, Murray, Jokinen, 3rd rd ‘13
(-)J.Morrow, 1st, 2nd, 5th, round picks in 2013; conditional 6th rd pick in 2013; conditional 2nd rd pick in 2014; 2 marginal prospects
(-)2nd round pick in 2014, 2nd round pick in 2015
(+)Gaborik, Comeau, 3rd round pick in 2013, 2 prospects
(-)Brassard, Moore, Dorsett, Mason, 5th+6th round picks in 2013
Bishop to Tampa for Conacher +4th round pick in 2013