Monday, 27 February 2017

Pieces Off The Board

The annual circus on the two major sports networks in Canada will happen on Wednesday. The NHL Trade Deadline used to be the day where most NHL GMs woke up, looked at their rosters, and decided to tinker and tweak until the deadline arrived. It appears, however, that early birds are starting to get the worms even earlier in the week in recent years as the key names who could be moved seem to avoid the deadline insanity by being traded prior to the Trade Deadline day. This year has been no exception as a couple of big names were moved today as we inch towards NHL Trade Deadline day on Wednesday.

With respect to TSN whose graphics I am pilfering for these deals, here are my unabashed thoughts on the big names who have moved deals as of this article's writing.

Dean Lombardi has never been afraid to make a splashy move when it comes to improving his team, and he may have the best American netminding duo since the 2014 Sochi Olympics with Bishop and Quick in the fold. With Quick having missed the majority of the season with an injury, it was Peter Budaj who has kept Los Angeles in the running for a playoff spot. The thanks he got from Lombardi was to be sent to the Lightning as part of this deal. Going forward, Bishop and Quick will share duties, but one of these two men will not be a part of this team once the playoffs are over. The question for Lombardi is who do you keep?

Let's be honest in saying that Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was going to make this move whether the team needed it or not. It didn't matter if the Lightning were going into the playoffs or not as Yzerman has a number of key players and restricted free agents he has to sign and Bishop's salary was just too much. Secondly, the expansion draft likely would have seen Bishop plucked from the Lightning roster anyway, so getting something in return for Bishop was at the top of Yzerman's to-do list.

Peter Budaj is a very serviceable goaltender who has shown he can play big minutes this season, and he'll solidify the goaltending position as the Lightning enter the playoffs. Erik Cernak is a serviceable defenceman, but he's not going to blow the doors off anyone with his play in the coming seasons. The real key here is that the Lightning got something for a guy who they would have almost assuredly lost in the expansion draft while opening up $5.75 million of cap room for next season. That's a heckuva play by Yzerman, and he still has the option to re-sign the affordable Peter Budaj if he so desires.

I'm going to give the nod in this trade to Yzerman simply because he's keeping the young core of this team together by dealing his high-priced goaltender. That takes some chutzpah, but Yzerman's looking longer term than just this year's playoffs.

The Martin Hanzal sweepstakes came to a close with two trades. The major portion of the trade is seen above, but the Wild also flipped Teemu Pulkkinen to the Coyotes for future considerations minutes later, so let's include that as a portion of this deal as well. It will make things a little more even if you're a Coyotes fan.

The Wild have an outstanding team this season. Devan Dubnyk is providing exceptional goaltending, the defencemen are mobile and skilled, and they are getting key contributions up front from the likes of Granlund, Staal, Koivu, and Coyle. I haven't even mentioned Zach Parise or Jason Pominville, so you know they possess a deep and talented roster. By adding Hanzal and White from Arizona, they get stronger down the middle by having an excellent face-off man and another big body in Hanzal join the club while adding some grit and scoring in Ryan White. This team is really looking like they'll be a contender in the Western Conference with these additions, and the fans in Minnesota should be excited with what the Wild did yesterday.

The Coyotes are still adding youth, but they're adding some smart pieces. The picks alone will be worth something if GM John Chayka can unearth some gems with them. Grayson Downing is a big kid who has shown some nice progress in Iowa this season, and he could be a smart bottom-six guy for the Coyotes as his game develops. By adding Pulkkinen in a later deal, the Coyotes get a guy who has shown that he can score at the NHL level if given a shot, but he still needs to work on skating and positioning if he wants to be full-time top-six player. In what might be becoming a broken record for Coyotes fans, the future is bright in Glendale. Unfortunately, this team is still trying to reach that sun on the horizon that always seems to just out of reach.

There's no doubt the Wild will have won this trade if they go deep in the playoffs. However, if they're upset in the opening round, they will have overpaid for Hanzal who may not stay when it was thought he could help them to the promised land. The jury's still out on this trade.

In perhaps the biggest deal of the last couple of days, the Washington Capitals added arguably the biggest piece on everyone's trade list when they dealt for Kevin Shattenkirk. While it should surprise no one that the best team in the NHL was looking to solidify that status a little more, the price they paid seemed less than what was expected considering what they got back in the deal.

Adding Shattenkirk was a heckuva move for the Capitals who can now boast arguably the best defensive corps in the league. Carlson, Alzner, Niskanen, and Shattenkirk are going to be dangerous for the remainder of the season, and Shattenkirk's addition should almost guarantee the Capitals the President's Trophy. On the other hand, the piece that really impressed me was the addition of Pheonix Copley as he's been a solid performer at the AHL level this year. Copley gives the Capitals all sorts of flexibility at the goaltending position now, and his addition to the AHL's Hershey Bears could push the Bears back into a playoff spot as they chase down the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

St. Louis gets a good young player in Zach Sanford who should make the Chicago Wolves even tougher to beat in the AHL. He sees the ice well, and he has excellent vision when it comes to setting up teammates. Brad Malone will also make the Wolves better as his gritty style of play would have been right at home in the games against Iowa this past weekend. Obviously, the draft picks will strengthen the Blues for the future, but that's where the key to this trade lies.

Like Yzerman and the Lightning, GM Doug Armstrong was not going to be able to re-sign Shattenkirk this summer, so this was about opening up a roster spot and some salary for the kids who are moving forward. Players such as Vince Dunn and Brad Hunt are going to push for roster spots next season, and the money that it would have cost to keep Shattenkirk in the fold in St. Louis meant that Armstrong would have to deal other pieces. Personally, they got some decent return for Shattenkirk, but I would have thought other teams may have offered more.

Similarly to the Wild, the results of this trade will depend entirely on what Washington does in the playoffs. Another early exit will have fans howling once again as Shattenkirk will most definitely leave in the summer without having a parade through town and without a first-round pick to use. The jury will remain out on this trade, but just retaining Pheonix Copley in a deal like this won't make fans happy if there's no Stanley Cup.

Teams are already making big moves, so maybe don't book off work on Wednesday, ok?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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