The National Hockey League (NHL) trade deadline came and went yesterday and it defied all expectations. The word before this week was that the deadline would be a relatively quiet one, as NHL general managers allegedly put high prices on many available players. It was expected to be a seller’s market, since so many teams are competing for a playoff spot and only a few teams could have really been considered “sellers” at the time. But when the smoke all cleared after an active day, many organizations changed the look of their roster as they took advantage of every possible minute to earn the lowest price possible. It was an extremely busy day at the NHL trade deadline, one with so much action, only a highlight reel of sorts can be provided.
Thomas Vanek was the big news yesterday, as the Montreal Canadiens seemingly appeared out of nowhere to acquire the star winger. Vanek was rumored to have been available for weeks, after it was made public that he refused a contract extension from the New York Islanders. Teams like Los Angeles, Minnesota and Pittsburgh had allegedly made offers to Islanders general manager Garth Snow in the days before the NHL trade deadline, but none that caused Snow to pull the trigger. The three o’clock deadline passed before the deal was announced, meaning Snow waited until the very last minute to find the best offer for Vanek. Unfortunately for him, the news about Vanek’s extension refusal dropped the price greatly, earning only a mid-range prospect and a conditional second round draft pick from Montreal. It was a big drop from the second line winger, Matt Moulson, and the first round draft pick that Snow had paid to acquire Vanek earlier in the season.
The NHL had its first captain-for-captain trade in league history yesterday, after the New York Rangers acquired veteran Marty St. Louis from the Tampa Bay Lightning for gritty forward Ryan Callahan and a first and second round draft pick. Both teams were in a tight spot regarding their traded player. The Lightning mishandled a situation involving St. Louis and the Canadian Olympic team, while the Rangers were unable to find common ground between the upcoming free agent and themselves for a contract extension. Most agree that the swap benefits both teams in unique ways. Acquiring St. Louis allows the Rangers to compete offensively with the other big names in the Eastern Conference, namely the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins. The Lightning get a heart-and-soul player to fill the void of their traded one and receive some draft picks if they are unable to sign him to an extension. Both teams made the best of their respective bad situations.
Perhaps just as big as the names that were traded were the names that weren’t. Vancouver Canuck Ryan Kesler and New Jersey Devil Martin Brodeur were two of the big names that were rumored to have been available in the weeks leading up to the NHL trade deadline. Yet when the time came to make a deal, Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis and New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello decided against moving their valuable players. Last minute changes to their respective situations may have had an effect on those decisions. News out of Vancouver is that Kesler was unhappy with his role within the Canucks organization, but a recent injury to one of Vancouver’s stars, Daniel Sedin, may provide Kesler with a more prominent role. At the very least, Gillis could not trade his second line center when his first line center is out injured. Rumors had Martin Brodeur being dealt to the Minnesota Wild before the deadline, as the Wild needed a goaltender after Niklas Backstrom found himself with a season-ending injury. But the day before the deadline, the Wild acquired Ilya Bryzgalov from the Edmonton Oilers. This, in combination with the stellar play of their rookie Darcy Kuemper, lessened Minnesota’s need. Most agree that it was probably the best move for the New Jersey Devils organization and Martin Brodeur, who just recently played in his 1,250th NHL game, all of them with the same organization.
29 deals involving 58 players and 31 draft picks were made yesterday and the day before, making it one of the most active deadlines in quite a while. 12 goalies were involved in trades in the past week, a stark difference from last year, when young Ben Bishop was the only goaltender moved at the deadline. Though many teams took part in the NHL trade deadline, prices were kept low, allowing for a busy day full of highlight reel trades.
This article is one in a series, provided daily, providing coverage, analysis, and predictions to NHL fans.
Commentary by Jonathan Gardner
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