By Rob Ficiur
There is only one real winner in the NHL trade deadline. Looking back, we know that the New York Islanders were the winners in the 1980 traded deadline when they got Butch Goring. Though the Islanders had had a great team for several years they had never won a championship. With Goring as their second line center they went on to win four Stanley Cups in a row.
Every March I write about the winners and losers of Trade Deadline Day (week). In 2012, I announced that Nashville was the big trade winners. (Hindsight: They lost in the second round that year.) Later in the article I wrote about a trade deadline acquisition that would change the future of a franchise. I said “Columbus Blue Jackets are this 2012 sell all your players team. They traded center Jeff Carter to the LA Kings for a young solid defenseman Jack Johnson and a first round pick. The Jackets acquired a second round pick for forward Anton Vermette…” Finally, a franchise that had struggling forever was building the pieces that would lead to a championship. I thought that mean the Columbus Blue Jackets were on their way up.
The only problem with my bold 2012 analysis is that I got the real winner wrong. Jeff Carter had eight playoff goals as the LA Kings went on to win the Stanley Cup. Two years later, my in depth analysis of traded deadline made no mention of Marian Gaborik (again going from Columbus to LA). Gaborik went on to score 14 goals (and Jeff Carter added ten) to lead the LA Kings to a second Stanley Cup. The best deals are only called the best deals after we see into the future.
Having stated and re-stated that it is too early to determine who won the 2017 NHL traded deadline – here is my analysis of who won the 2017 Trade Deadline:
1. Washington Capitals – The Capitals lead the NHL overall standings by five points; last year they finished 11 points ahead of anyone else. This year the they acquired the single best player in the traded deadline week. Twenty-eight-year-old Kevin Shattenkirk was the captain of the St. Louis Blues before he dealt. Washington wants to win now. In the Alexander Ovechkin era the team has not got past the second round of the playoffs. This is the 12 NHL season for the 31-year-old Russian Superstar. While Ovechkin is still the Great #8, players’ production begins to drop off after 30. Washington paid future draft picks hoping to capitalize on the great team they already had – and push onto a championship (or at least the third round).
2. Montreal Canadiens acquire five players – will it help? While the Canadiens made more trades than any other team, on paper it is hard to see how this will push them deeper into the playoffs. Their new forwards were not acquired for their offensive output; Dwight King (8 goals), Steve Ott (3), Andreas Martinson (3), and Jodie Benn (2). King, Ott and Benn are (or were) solid forth liners who can kill penalties. Why did they acquire an entire fourth line when one second line player might have helped their offense? Montreal also got defenseman Brandon Davidson from Edmonton. The 25-year-old played the blue line for about half of Edmonton’s games this year.
It could be argued that Montreal did well okay at the trade deadline because they did not pay a high price in any of these trades. While they did not deal any quality prospects the real price they are paying is potentially wasting another year of Carey Price all-star goal tending. The 29-year-old former Vezina trophy winner will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. The Habs have this season and one more to use this elite goalie’s skill to take them to a championship. This year’s acquisitions won’t take them far.
1. No trade is sometimes the best trade. In Calgary and Edmonton Trade Deadline Season was met with very little activity. For the first time since 2006 both Alberta teams could make the playoffs. Calgary acquired a bottom pairing defenseman, Michael Stone and project forward Curits Lazar. Edmonton acquired forward David Desharnais from Montreal for seldom used defenseman Brandon Davidson. Desharnais is a small center with great offensive upside, but he has only four goals this year. It is hard to imagine any of these acquisitions making a significant contribution to a playoff run. However, fans of both Alberta teams should be thrilled that neither club mortgaged their future on rental players. When a team is close to making new ground it can be tempting to pay too much (just this once) to hopefully to go the next level.
Some Flames fans were critical that the team did not pay a fourth round pick to re-acquire former captain Jerome Iginla. While fans emotionally might want to see Iggie finish his career in Calgary – on the ice his return would have been a media circus for a team that is playing its best hockey of the seasons.
1. Who won trade deadline season? When the Stanley Cup is handed out in June, there will still be regrets. The team that loses in the final or semifinals can agonize how if they had just done that one trade they didn’t make could have made the difference. Of course the 2017 champions will look back and think they did things just right. They will be the only one assured of having no trade deadline regret because they won it all.