NHL trade deadline full of moves
February 27, 2018 3:04 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
The two biggest trades came from the Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks on Monday, as the Rangers sent Ryan McDonagh to the Bolts and Evander Kane heads to the West Coast from Buffalo. Vegas also grabbed Tomas Tatar from the Red Wings.
Along with the L.A. Kings, no other team was busier at the trade deadline than the Pittsburgh Penguins. But it was a deal made more than two months ago that might allow the Pens to compete for a third straight Stanley Cup crown.
The philosophical approach by head coach Mike Sullivan is to play defense first, until they score a goal. No wonder the Penguins seem to score more goals in the third period than any other team.
So Sullivan and GM Jim Rutherford arranged to obtain D Jamie Oleksiak from Dallas, who has stabilized the third defensive pair in support of top solid pairs that feature Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz and Olli Maatta. If you can’t beat these blue-liners early, good luck out-scoring Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel late.
Before obtaining Oleksiak, the Penguins were a sub-.500 (17-15-3) club. Since Dec. 21, they are 11 games above .500, briefly taking over the Metropolitan Division lead over the weekend until Florida snapped the Pens’ six-game winning streak.
In other words, figuring Washington does its annual El Fold-o in the playoffs, the Penguins might be the Futures play to come out of the Eastern Conference over the Big 3 from the Atlantic Division. Besides, Tampa Bay, Boston and Toronto – all speed teams like Vegas – may only be the points leaders because the rest of the division is so weak; they get easy points while playing fewer tough contests.
The other move of note by Pittsburgh was placed on hold by NHL officials at press time. The Penguins acquired D Derick Brassard from Ottawa, with the Senators taking half of the salary cap hit. Problem: The Pens were still over the cap, so Vegas was brought in, acquiring forward Ryan Reaves and a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft (from Vancouver) in exchange for some of the Golden Knights’ cap space.
We are also awaiting word on Ottawa dealing its other top veterans –forward Bobby Ryan or defenseman Erik Karlsson – prior to the deadline. Should this occur, the crippling of the franchise may further alienate Senators fans, leaving a door open to relocate to a city like Houston (the probable relocation of Arizona once Seattle joins the league) or Quebec City.
The long-awaited transfer of N.Y. Rangers forward Rick Nash was finally completed Sunday, sent to Boston for forwards Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey and defenseman Ryan Lindgren, along with a 2018 first-round draft pick and a 7th round selection in 2019. Is Nash currently worth such a hefty sum? A former Rocket Richard Trophy winner, Nash, 33, only had 18 goals and 10 assists with the fast-sinking Rangers this season. However, his size and speed appear to be a plum choice to improve Boston’s second line, anchored around center David Krejci.
Phaneuf is enough
Ten years ago, the swap of Dion Phaneuf for Marian Gaborik, two of the NHL’s rising standouts, would’ve made hockey headlines across North America. In 2018, it’s simply the most noteworthy in a slow string of deals completed before Monday’s NHL trade deadline.
A defenseman, Phaneuf went to “my” Los Angeles Kings (along with Nate Thompson), while Gaborik (packaged with Nick Shore) headed to the Ottawa Senators.
Although the Kings are in dire need of additional scoring since second-line center Jeff Carter went down for the season, Gaborik tallied 324 goals (including 42 twice in a season) over his first nine NHL campaigns, but since then, except for 27 goals in his first season in L.A., the winger has struggled to reach double figures due to injuries and was deemed expendable.
Fortunately, Phaneuf, who scored 3 times in 53 games with Ottawa, already has 3 for L.A. in five starts, so who knows if he can fill two roles. L.A. has improved its playoff chances.
Meanwhile, LA Kings sent Darcy Kuemper, a pending unrestricted free agent, to Arizona for new back-up goalie Scott Edgewood, plus speedy winger Tobias Rieder to replace Gaborik.
Expectation of an 8-year, $106-million contract for Edmonton’s Connor McDavid could end the recent rise of the Toronto Maple Leafs before they finally end their Stanley Cup drought.
The Leafs’ Auston Matthews becomes eligible for his own eight-year deal in July, with several more skaters seeking huge raises should Toronto make a deep Cup run this spring.
With an array of young talent, the salary cap implications for 2018-19 could be too much to keep the team together, which makes what happened in Chicago this past decade even more remarkable.