Monday, 12 February 2007

Trading For Something To Get Anything

Have you ever gotten the feeling that your team is trying to lose? I'm not saying that a team doesn't play hard. What I am saying is that it sometimes feels like a team makes a trade within their own division or conference that makes zero sense. In the latter regard, I offer the latest NHL trade to take place between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Dallas Stars. The Phoenix Coyotes have been at odds with Ladislav Nagy for some time due to his upcoming free agency. They offered him a contract for a reported $4 million per season, and Nagy rejected it. In knowing that the Coyotes would get nothing if he left via free agency, the Coyotes put him on the trading block.

Normally, GMs view trades as a strategic move to get a talented player away from their own team and division in order to help their own cause. However, a GM must also try to get as much back in return for the player he is trading away, even if that player must stay in the division in order to get back equal talent and/or resources.

Phoenix traded Ladislav Nagy to the Dallas Stars for Mathias Tjarnqvist and a 2007 first-round draft pick. Nagy was the best player on a weak Phoenix team last season. This season, he has looked uninspired and his play has suffered. He has 41 points in 55 games this season, which isn't bad, but he had 56 points in 51 games last season. It's not like Phoenix doesn't have any good players this year. But why trade him to Dallas where there is a considerably larger amount of talent, and where Dave Tippett teaches the defensive game as well as anyone in the game today? If anyone can push Nagy to be the player he potentially can be, I think Tippett can. Nagy has a gifted offensive skill set, and I suspect he will start rounding into becoming a solid two-way player much like Lehtinen.

On the flip side, Phoenix picked up Mathias Tjarnqvist, a role player with limited offensive capabilities, and a first-rounder. The first-rounder has value. This gives Phoenix two first-round picks in the draft this year, and that's good for building a solid franchise. Tjarnqvist has four points in 18 games for Dallas this year and has 12 points in 69 career NHL games. The 27-year-old is earning the league's minimum salary of $450,000, which allows Phoenix some salary cap flexibility for next season. Nagy was earning $3 million this season, so the cap room may allow Phoenix to enter the Chris Drury sweepstakes this off-season as the Coyotes will probably not tender an offer to free-agent-to-be Jeremy Roenick either.

So who got the better of this deal? Clearly, Dallas got the better deal. However, if Phoenix is still rebuilding, they may have solidified themselves with the first-round pick. They now may only be 3-4 years away from contending. I hope the Phoenix fans have that much patience.
Calgary got the jump on a number of teams by pulling off a late deal on Saturday, sending Andrew Ference and Chuck Kobasew to Boston in exchange for Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau. Stuart had been rumoured to be headed back to the west coast, with Anaheim as a possible destination. Well, he is heading west, and will join a talented group of defensemen in Cowtown. Stuart and Primeau had been part of the Joe Thornton trade last year, meaning that only Marco Sturm remains in Boston from the Thornton deal.

This deals comes as a bit of a surprise. Stuart has always had potential to be a big-time blueliner. He has never really performed in the NHL as well as he did in his junior days, so he has been an enigma throughout his career in San Jose and Boston. With his impending free agency at the end of the season, it seems odd for Darryl Sutter to pull a trade of this magnitude for a guy who may leave in five months. If they can sign him before that to a longer deal, this trade makes sense.

I like the trade in that Stuart doesn't have to be the number one guy in Calgary. There is no pressure for him to take his game to another level, although I'm sure that Jim Playfair and Sutter will push him to be better in both zones. With guys like Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf, Roman Hamrlik, and Rhett Warrener, Stuart doesn't have to have to score at a point-a-game pace. As long as he plays well defensively and contributes offensively, I see this as a good fit for Calgary, especially if Stuart can quarterback the powerplay. Primeau is a good checking forward who can play alongside Stephane Yelle to give the Flames a solid checking unit. He hustles, he doesn't give up, and he shadows well.

The Bruins get back Andrew Ference and Chuck Kobasew. Ference is a great chemistry guy who goes out and does his job well with little fanfare. He doesn't back away from the corners in the defensive end and can handle himself in front of the net. He is viewed as a defensive defenseman, but can chip in offensively when given the opportunity. Kobasew has been an up-and-down NHL player to date. He has streaks of brilliance, but goes invisible at times as well. Kobasew does have decent speed, and should be able to keep up with guys like Kessel, Bergeron, and Boyes. He had appeared in 40 games with Calgary, notching four goals and 13 assists. Ference and Kobasew are still relatively young, ages 27 and 24, respectively.

"Part of what we have to do is preserve the assets of players that are unrestricted," Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said. "Chuck is 24 and Andrew is 27. They add some youth and energy, which we want to add to this team. I would like to think it says that we're getting two high-character players and we have an influx of youth and energy. I don't want to send a message that we're throwing in the towel. These are players that are on a division-leading team with experience. They're good players."

In terms of who got the best of this trade, I'd have to opt with Calgary at the moment, considering that Kobasew is out with an injury.

That's all for today! Keep your heads up, and your sticks on the ice!

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