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Trade Breakdown, Part I

Christmas for the hockey fan is coming soon. As the deadline approaches, several teams have started to jump the gun. This is the first time I remember deals being completed several weeks before the deadline. Some of the big names have already been moved while I imagine others are waiting for the market to settle down. With Ottawa and Toronto both getting a head start on selling their assets, I don't imagine there will be a lot of big trades on deadline day but that won't stop the TSN crew from re-hashing the same trades for about six hours. To save you some time here's the breakdown on the trades so far.

February 9 - Toronto trades Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim for Jake Gardiner and Joffrey Lupul

People think Lupul's a salary dump, and he is for Anaheim, since at $4-plus million a year he's just too expensive as a third-line winger. That being said, he's going to be a huge lightning rod for Leafs fans. But Lupul can still score. Like Keith Ballard, this entire season has been a transition year for Lupul, who's practically missed an entire year due to various injuries and a serious infection. Don't write him off yet. Cody Hodgson (the Canucks parallels will stop, I promise) was written off by many after the entire controversy over his bulging disc last year but when he scored his first NHL goal people were all too ready to jump back on the wagon. In Beauchemin, the Ducks get an experienced defenseman back on a blueline that is completely devoid of any sort of depth and who played his best hockey under Randy Carlyle. Gardiner's an interesting piece. I remember when he was drafted - your prototypical strong-skating defenseman that would be valued in today's NHL. Gardiner's averaging a point per game in his third year at Wisconsin, but that's hardly a barometer for any kind of success. His own coach, Mike Eaves (father of Patrick), admits that he's got work to do before he makes the NHL. Hard to tell if his collegiate success would translate to the big leagues - Patrick Wiercioch, a second-round pick from University of Denver by Ottawa, was a similar big-bodied, able skater averaging a point per game, but has only scored 6 points in 48 games for Binghamton.

February 9 - Florida trades Alexander Salak and Michael Frolik to Chicago for Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman, and David Pacan

I love this trade for Chicago... puke. Michael Frolik is the most talented player in this deal, just edging out Salak. I don't imagine we'll ever see Skille live up to his seventh-overall potential (Kopitar, Marc Staal, and Stastny were still all available) but he's got the potential to be a second-line winger, although he might be much better suited for a third line role. For a team that's lacking depth, Frolik's a good pick-up for Chicago, able to relieve some pressure off Toews, Kane, Sharp, and the oft-injured Hossa. The scales would really tip in Chicago's favour is if Salak pans out. He played one season in the AHL last year before returning to Sweden on a loan to Farjestad BK, where he's been the best goalie in arguably the second-best league in the world. But let's take that with a grain of salt - this is the same Swedish Elite League that hailed Jonas Gustavsson as "The Monster" and was the league's best goalie. (What does that tell you about the NHL?)

<img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/53/Mike_fisher_predators.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">

February 10 - Ottawa trades Mike Fisher to Nashville for 2011 1st round and 2012 conditional picks

Of all the trades that have been made, this has been my favourite. Did anyone notice how fired up Fisher looked last night in a Predators jersey? Did anyone notice how packed the rink was? Shades of Mike Fisher circa 2006-08, folks. Not only did the Preds get a very good player in Fisher, who will most certainly excel under Barry Trotz, with the possibility of Carrie Underwood appearing in more games it immediately sparks more interest. There's not much competition - the Memphis Grizzlies bleed money and the Tennessee Titans just recently fired long-tenured coach Jeff Fisher and cut ties with supposed franchise QB Vince Young. I asked ESPN's Pierre LeBrun over Twitter about Underwood's presence and he said that it "definitely" will raise the profile of the Predators. Fisher's fired up - he's in a city that his wife loves and on a team that wins games with a style of play that's very similar to his. (When this whole Fisher/Underwood in Nashville thing works, and honestly, this union might as well come from a Disney movie, at the rate hockey pros are reeling in high-profile entertainment stars, when do you think that Gary Bettman will start enforcing a "celebrity" clause, in which the player has to play for his girlfriend's hometown team? That means Mike Comrie heads to Hollywood - or Dallas? I believe Hilary Duff is from Texas and Comrie's a player I can see Marc Crawford using - and would prevent future dumb trades like Calgary sending Dion Phaneuf and Elisha Cuthbert, both Albertans, to Toronto for some pucks and a waterboy in Matt Stajan.)

<img src="http://phillysportscentral.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/kris-versteeg2-e1297880213906.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">

February 14 - Toronto trades Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia for 2011 1st and 3rd round picks

You probably can't get a better deal than that for a player miscast as a top-line forward. The shifty Versteeg is a great depth player and would excel on a team where he doesn't have to be solely responsible for setting up Phaneuf's cannons or trying to find Phil Kessel. All Versteeg needs is a swift kick in the butt, and not from Ron Wilson, who's mixed signals should probably be translated into some sort of manual. (Did he really mean what he said when he thought Jeff Finger was good against Joe Thornton? One of life's greater mysteries). And Peter Laviolette's smart, giving Versteeg his much-wanted #10, and as athletes know it's a little more special when you get to wear your number, and by starting him on a line with Mike Richards and Andreas Nodl, two of the most competitive players on the Flyers' roster. Laviolette's hoping the work ethic rubs off on Versteeg and I think it's going to work.

February 18 - Ottawa trades Brian Elliott to Colorado for Craig Anderson

Someone explain this trade to me because I don't get it. Let's compare the two:

Elliott: 13-19-8, .894 SV%, 3.19 GAA, 3 SO, RFA '11, age 25

Anderson: 13-15-3, .897 SV%, 3.28 GAA, 0 SO, UFA '11, age 29

How the heck do the re-building Sens improve on this deal? There's absolutely no return at all in this deal. Anderson, who I lauded as a great value signing by the Avs two years ago and then cautioned against fantasy owners overrating the guy this year, walks as a UFA on July 1. The two goalies are obviously struggling, but would you trust a 25-year old or a 29-year old to get better next year? It's a no-brainer, it's Elliott. He has more long-term value and he's a RFA, meaning that the Sens could very well get another year from him. But Anderson? He's not even better than Elliott this year. The only redeemable facet of this trade for Ottawa is if Anderson re-signs with them, but again, wouldn't you rather have Elliott, who has more upside, to tend the pipes? Honestly, Bryan Murray couldn't have gotten a third or fourth-round pick for Elliott? C'mon, man!

<img src=" Rich_Peverley_Thrashers3.gif?max_width=3

February 18 - Boston trades Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler to Atlanta for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik

I have no idea why Nashville gave up on Rich Peverley, one of the more underrated centremen in the league. It's too bad he plays a position that can be so diluted, but he wins well over 50% of his face-offs regularly (55.5% this year) and has the ability to put up 40 points easily. He's a great pick-up for Boston, who asides from Patrice Bergeron, doesn't have a centreman capable of winning more than half the face-offs he takes. Valabik's a huge defenseman, but he's probably more well-known in Vancouver as being the guy who made the mistake of challenging Rick Rypien, thinking he had an easy win. Playing alongside fellow countrymen Zdeno Chara should allow him to learn a thing or two about playing in this league, but when you have cement feet you can only go so far. Also, I'm glad Blake Wheeler ended up in Atlanta. Here's a guy who outright said "no" to Gretzky and Phoenix, completely pissing Gretzky off, a major hockey no-no, then signs with an Original Six franchise thinking that it might be better for his profile. Well, as they say, karma's a b...

February 18 - Toronto trades Tomas Kaberle to Boston for Joe Colborne, 2011 1st round and a conditional pick

Can we declare Boston as the winners of the trade deadline already? They essentially got Peverley, Kaberle, and Chris Kelly for Joe Colborne, who still may or may not turn into a bust (odds are he doesn't). While I still think Philadelphia is the more talented and deeper team, the Bruins aren't going down without a fight. The Bruins still don't have a legitimate scoring threat after losing Kessel (yes, Kessel's a scoring threat - let's not underrate him just because he's a Leaf) and it's quite likely they'll finish the season with just a single 30-goal scorer (team leader Lucic is 6 away and Horton has 14, which means we really should give up on the dream that Horton would ever become a first-line power forward) while Philadelphia will have two snipers (Briere-28, Carter-26) and Mike Richards. But Kaberle does bolster an anemic powerplay (18.1%, 14th) while the Flyers lag behind at 17th. And also I think Peter Chiarelli has the entire southern Ontario region at gunpoint.

<img src="http://nucksiceman.com/wp-content/upLoads/2010/10/Cory-Schneider-fantasy_g_schneider_3001.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">And just so we can end this post on the Canucks, can I just say how absolutely terrible we've been looking out there? The lack of NHL-calibre ability on the blueline is one thing, but this team just doesn't have any jump. It looks like Kesler's hurting a little and I haven't seen a Sedin-esque Sedin cycle in a long time. And that's not mentioning that Christian Ehrhoff is making dumb plays and coughing up pucks like Bryan McCabe. We didn't deserve to win against St. Louis or Nashville last night and Cory Schneider stole a game in Minnesota. You can't win games like that in the playoffs. Sooner or later you'll find out that goaltending can only take you so far before your players have to start putting the puck in the net on a more regular basis. And, really, it's a legitimate question, but if the Canucks meet the Wild in the first round, how long of a leash do you give Luongo before you put in Schneider? If the Canucks split the two home games (possible) and the Wild win their first at home (possible), do you go back to Luongo or play the odds with Schneider? Hmmm...


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Boston vs Philly is going to be a barn burning conference finals, barring a ridiculous meltdown in the previous couple rounds. Boston definitely won in the short term, but it will be interesting to see how they maneuver the cap moving forwards. Can Philly beat Boston without a top tier goalie? Can Boston beat Philly's deep defense without more legitimate scoring threats?

Hopefully the Nuckers pick up their s*%t because we are looking like a beer league team. Although the mental strain of seeing a d-man going down every game has got to weigh on the players. Guys up front are going to be feeling a lot more pressure to play defense than they used to. Outside of the PP I wouldn't be expecting any running and gunning until we get back at least a legitimate top 4. As of right now our starting 6 is 30/30 in the NHL.

Could be a cold one for the Heritage Classic, looks like a balmy -27 is in the forecast. I guess its better than a +20 Chinook.

-cheers

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1. Lupul hasn't been successful since the post-lockout season. There's a reason he did not crack Anaheim's top-6 this season and honestly, TO just acquired a more injury-prone version of Stempniak. All that and his upside is worse than Versteeg's.

2. Gardiner's a question mark, of course. All prospects who aren't a "can't miss" are. Negatively, i've heard he's got no vision in the offensive zone, but he's got a nice pass out of the zone. So TO should keep their expectations tempered. There's a reason why Fowler skipped well over him in the depth chart. He's likely not a future star, by any stretch.

3. Positively, Beauchemin gets out of TO, where the expectations were far too high for him. Hard to believe that he was utilized on the power play for large stretches, but there he was. He played his best hockey in Anaheim alright... When he was beside Scott Niedermayer. But beside Dion Phaneuf? Not quite as great. In Anaheim he remains overpaid, but Anaheim can still use him for a significant playoff push.

4. I said this trade would backfire for the Hawks and so far Frolik still remains a non-factor while Chicago is still losing. Frolik just isn't that good a player and i have doubts that Chicago will even retain him this summer. Skille isn't panning out quickly either, but Dale Tallon has a knack for drafting high quality talent. Whether he pans out in sadsack Florida, however, is unreliant on talent, honestly. NOBODY can pan out there.

5. Fisher's motives for moving to Nashville are plain. I expect him to ride off into the sunset. Nashville's a dud again this post-season, no matter who they face. They look to lose Weber in the off-season and there is no future offensive superstar on the radar. Meanwhile, Ottawa is starting from scratch. But what of Jason Spezza? If he's moved, i'd expect it to happen in the summer. His contract is just too massive. But wow... If he went to the Kings before the deadline? Yeesh...

6. Anderson is a UFA. Elliott is an RFA. So Ottawa essentially dumps cap space for the summer while Colorado gets a backup locked up for next season without even trying. Done. I expect both teams to perhaps push hard for Vokoun, Bryzgalov and possibly even Howard, who Detroit has yet to lock up. (Because Howard will be the goat if they lose early in the playoffs.)

7. Wheeler for Peverley was 100% cap-related. Wheeler is not great for the B's, but Peverley has been just horrid for the Thrashers. But the move was needed to make room for Kaberle.

8. Colborne started out hot for Providence this season, but has since cooled off and his consistency and work ethic have been called into question. At best, he's a 2nd-line talent version of Joe Thornton, another big man who doesn't play big. TO could do worse. (Bozak, Stajan)

9. Kaberle won't fit in great in the B's ultra-tight defensive game plan, but he will at least look decent on their power play. Or at least he should. The B's might find out the hard way that Kaberle doesn't exactly bring a wealth of NHL winning experience with him, so while they are at least attempting to match Philly's moves, they are still well behind. The Savard injury doesn't help their cause at all. (If Savard was healthy, would Chia have brought in Kabs? Probably not. So does this move qualify as a bit of a panic? You bet.)

10. The Canucks looking 'terrible' against Nashville has everything to do with how our defense looks at the moment. And rather than blaming the Sedins and Kesler for how sluggish they looked that night, i'm blaming the poor ice conditions in Nashville instead. No passes were being completed because the puck was dancing around like a mexican jumping bean and players were flopping all over the ice even moreso than Mason Raymond does regularly. It made for one boring, sloppy game and i'm certain the Canucks are glad that they don't have to do it again soon.

Meanwhile, it looks like Ballard and Hamhuis are ahead of schedule. So relax and rejoice. For this is the year.

Oh, and don't worry about facing the Wild in the first round. Not gonna happen. Koivu just went down with a broken hand. 4-6 weeks.

-TOMapleLaughs

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Boston vs Philly is going to be a barn burning conference finals, barring a ridiculous meltdown in the previous couple rounds. Boston definitely won in the short term, but it will be interesting to see how they maneuver the cap moving forwards. Can Philly beat Boston without a top tier goalie? Can Boston beat Philly's deep defense without more legitimate scoring threats?

-cheers

Boston-Philadelphia and Vancouver-Detroit would give the league one it's highest ratings ever. Count it. Philadelphia will hold when Boucher or Bobrovsky gets hot - they made the finals with Boucher and Leighton, which I think is a slightly weaker tandem. I don't think Boston's offense can beat the Flyers' defense - only Milan Lucic has the ability to go one-on-one against Pronger.

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1. Lupul hasn't been successful since the post-lockout season. There's a reason he did not crack Anaheim's top-6 this season and honestly, TO just acquired a more injury-prone version of Stempniak. All that and his upside is worse than Versteeg's.

I have to disagree. If you excuse that horrendous Oilers season, Lupul was a 50-point player before his return to Anaheim where he suffered a back injury and an infection and lost 25 lbs. I think he's a much better player than Stempniak, who thrived in Phoenix in part because Tippett is a better coach and has a better system. Hard to say if Lupul or Versteeg has the higher upside five years down the road, but it certainly looks like Versteeg has the upper hand, if only because he's healthier.

2. Gardiner's a question mark, of course. All prospects who aren't a "can't miss" are. Negatively, i've heard he's got no vision in the offensive zone, but he's got a nice pass out of the zone. So TO should keep their expectations tempered. There's a reason why Fowler skipped well over him in the depth chart. He's likely not a future star, by any stretch.

Prospects are hit or miss. Even the "can't miss" ones, miss. Like Alex Daigle and Pavel Brendl. I was watching the Minnesota-Wisconsin game last night and Gardiner certainly needs some work. I can see why people describe him as fluid, because for a tall guy he's got a very smooth stride, but his reaction time just isn't there. The one goal he scored, off a long rebound with a completely out of position goalie, took him about two seconds to coral the puck and shoot it. That's just way too long. He certainly needs to react faster and read the play better. Fowler was an interesting case because he blew everyone away at camp. That's not mentioning that the Ducks blueline was so thin to start. Had Fowler been a Leaf I don't think he would've cracked the lineup as easily - going into the season the Leafs' defense was supposed to be one of their strong points. Hard to say if Gardiner's going to be a star, odds are he won't, but it always seems like any prospect in Toronto is doomed to fail. Same goes for Kadri, who will never live up to the hype.

3. Positively, Beauchemin gets out of TO, where the expectations were far too high for him. Hard to believe that he was utilized on the power play for large stretches, but there he was. He played his best hockey in Anaheim alright... When he was beside Scott Niedermayer. But beside Dion Phaneuf? Not quite as great. In Anaheim he remains overpaid, but Anaheim can still use him for a significant playoff push.

Nobody looks good besides Phaneuf. You either look terrible because he's piling on the points (which he hasn't done since Calgary) or because you're trying to cover his butt on 2-on-1s. Niedermayer was certainly a big reason why he was so good, but Beauchemin was one of the few really consistent Ducks.

4. I said this trade would backfire for the Hawks and so far Frolik still remains a non-factor while Chicago is still losing. Frolik just isn't that good a player and i have doubts that Chicago will even retain him this summer. Skille isn't panning out quickly either, but Dale Tallon has a knack for drafting high quality talent. Whether he pans out in sadsack Florida, however, is unreliant on talent, honestly. NOBODY can pan out there.

Chicago is losing because even with Frolik they still don't have the kind of depth they had last year and their goaltending isn't very good. I do believe Frolik will stay in Chicago because there's no use acquiring him if you're not thinking long term. If the Hawks are looking for a playoff push I would've looked at some other more experienced depth players and UFAs, like a Dvorak or even Stillman (cap restrictions aside). Three games isn't a big sample size so I'm willing to give Frolik the benefit of the doubt so far, and Quenneville's been away from the team. Tallon has drafted extremely well in Florida, but that organization's been known to draft some good players. No one pans out in Florida because the fans don't care - as a hockey player you reach a certain point and you question why you're even considering playing hard at all, like Horton and Bouwmeester.

5. Fisher's motives for moving to Nashville are plain. I expect him to ride off into the sunset. Nashville's a dud again this post-season, no matter who they face. They look to lose Weber in the off-season and there is no future offensive superstar on the radar. Meanwhile, Ottawa is starting from scratch. But what of Jason Spezza? If he's moved, i'd expect it to happen in the summer. His contract is just too massive. But wow... If he went to the Kings before the deadline? Yeesh...

I'm hopeful Weber stays in Nashville, and while contract talks have stalled I'd be surprised if he takes the Kovalchuk route. I think this is the best Preds team we've seen in quite some time. The much criticized Lombardi and Fisher make a good 2a and 2b centre while I think they have something special in Colin Wilson and Cal O'Reilly. Defense is unquestionably deep because of the way they draft. The only thing that's eluded them is playoff success and if they get home-ice advantage they will win. This is the year. Spezza's an interesting case because he's by far the most talented player on the Sens. I'd give him a new coach and gameplan before I give up on him. Him and Karlsson are the two players I'd be most reluctant to deal based on skill and Alfredsson for sentimental reasons.

6. Anderson is a UFA. Elliott is an RFA. So Ottawa essentially dumps cap space for the summer while Colorado gets a backup locked up for next season without even trying. Done. I expect both teams to perhaps push hard for Vokoun, Bryzgalov and possibly even Howard, who Detroit has yet to lock up. (Because Howard will be the goat if they lose early in the playoffs.)

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I agree with that last point. If the ice conditions were bad enough to completely throw off the Canucks, then why weren't the Preds affected as well?

The simple fact is that the Preds are the hardest working team in the league, playing for arguably the best coach since the lockout. No coach has gotten as much out of such slim rosters as Trotz has in Nashville. They are one team in the West that does not take off days. If you want to beat the Preds, especially in Nashville, you need to out work them. Plain and Simple. That being said, the lack of defensemen on the Canucks undoubtedly has an adverse effect on the forwards. Do you think the Sedins or Kesler are going to commit 100% to an offensive play knowing that Oberg and Sauve are currently on the ice? (Although Sauve has looked like a champ out there.)

-cheers

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