Analyzing NHL deadline trades with Pierre McGuire
The trade deadline has passed and we all have our views on the winners and losers. But it seemed worthwhile to get some deeper thoughts from NBC's and Sports Illustrated's Pierre McGuire, who not only has a handle on the NHL talent that has moved to new addresses, but the prospects who moved as well.
"I think there were a lot of highlights and some good hockey trades, deals where each team bettered themselves talent-wise: Minnesota and Buffalo engaging in a big trade, Rangers and Columbus engaging in a big trade," McGuire said during our phone conversation."These deals affected those four teams tremendously. It effects Buffalo long term in a positive way, it effects Minnesota short term in a positive way, it effects Columbus in terms of how they are viewed in a positive way, it effects the Rangers in terms of providing the depth they lost over the summer."
We went through some of the deals, one by one. First was the Blue Jackets trading winger Derek Dorsett, center Derick Brassard, defenseman John Moore and a sixth-round pick in the 2014 Entry Draft to the Rangers for high-scoring winger Marian Gaborik, and minor league defensemen Blake Parlett and Steven Delisle, the latter of whom was once a Blue Jackets draft pick.
Gaborik, once a consistent 30-plus goal scorer when healthy, has struggled with inconsistency and an uncharacteristic minus rating this year after having shoulder surgery during the offseason, and you have to wonder if the Jackets may not be getting the star-level player he once was. McGuire is less concerned.
"It just hasn't worked for him in New York this year," he said. "The surgery he had was part of the reason for that. I think confidence was part of it."
McGuire didn't say it, but the implication was that demanding Rangers coach John Tortorella may have worn Gaborik down.
"But one of the reasons Columbus could make this deal is they have three first-round picks in the Entry Draft this June. So they can trade Derick Brassard and John Moore, who were both first round picks; they can trade Derek Dorsett because they have Jared Boll. So they have fallback positions on all those players.
"And they are adding a superstar scorer who, even in a mediocre year, should be good for 25-30 goals. And they need goals. They also need market credibility. They have that with John Davidson there and he's hired a very good general manager in Jarmo Kekalainen, who knows the European and amateur players very well and will get up to speed on the pro players very quickly."
As for the Rangers' side of the deal, McGuire broke it down this way: "Dorsett can fill the void left by Brandon Prust signing with Montreal in the off-season, although he's out right now with a broken collar bone. John Moore is a very good skater, a poor man's Ryan McDonagh. Brassard can be a very good third line center for the Rangers and eventually a 'two'. He'll be comfortable in New York and he thinks the world of Rick Nash, who he played with in Columbus. And if you add the trade for Ryane Clowe, I think the Rangers have done a lot of good things this week."
A parcel of prospects
The deal between Buffalo and Minnesota was between a club that is looking ahead to next year and beyond, and one that has designs on a deep playoff run. The Sabres traded their captain and winger Jason Pominville and a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft to the Wild for left wing Johan Larsson, goalie Matt Hackett, a first-round pick in 2013 and second-round pick in 2014.
Pominville is an on-ice leader and legitimate scorer who can also be used in penalty killing situations. And he is not a rental. He has a year left on his deal, which carries a $5.3 million cap hit.
And what the Wild gave the Sabres for paying part of Pominville's salary is some prized prospects, who were both taken off the ice during Minnesota's morning skate on Wednesday. Both now go to AHL Rochester, at least for the moment.
Goalie Hackett has played a handful of NHL games, making a splashy debut in 2011 when Josh Harding was injured and being named first star of the game in his first two outings. But from being tabbed as the Wild's goalie of the future, he's slipped somewhat. His play for AHL Houston this season was not especially consistent (.907 save percentage) and in his one NHL game, he surrendered five goals. Still, he's thought to have enough talent to eventually compete for a job in Buffalo, especially if Ryan Miller is eventually traded, as is widely rumored. McGuire believes that Hackett could one day be the Sabres' top goalie.
A second-round pick in 2010, 20-year-old Larsson is considered a dependable two-way forward with a good upside and was one of the Wild's better prospects. He had 15 goals and 22 assists for Houston this season, and has the sort of leadership abilities that McGuire thinks could one day see him wearing a C on his Sabres sweater.
"Going forward, Hackett and Larsson are tremendous prospects," said McGuire. "I don't think the Wild were in a rush to trade Johan Larsson in particular. They could trade Hackett because they had Darcy Kemper, who is a tremendous talent. But I think they also paid this huge bounty with draft picks, a first and a second, because Buffalo is eating some of Pominville's money. He's not a rental, he's got term, and the Sabres are eating some of the money so they're getting compensation."
It's not as if the Wild emptied their farm system for this deal, either. They still have a very impressive stockpile of young talent, some of whom are with the club now and responsible for its surge after a mediocre start.
"Jonas Brodin should be in the rookie of the year conversation," said McGuire. "He's that good a player. He doesn't have the numbers, but he plays in the top tandem with Ryan Suter. There are a lot of similarities between Brodin and Nick Lidstrom. He's not as good, but there's a composure and his decision-making with the puck that are impressive. He's got size -- he'll be bigger than Lidstrom -- and he's got range. And Charlie Coyle has tremendous talent, he can be a first line player, terrific skill. Jason Zucker has awesome speed and is a very good depth scorer and player. Mikael Granlund has had a tough adjustment, but he'll eventually be a very good player. They have a lot of good young players. They've drafted well and they've traded well."
We've noted before that the Wild were ranked Number 1 by Hockey's Future as the NHL organization with the best group of prospects. As Michael Russo points out in Thursday's
Still, all that said, surrendering so many pieces now for one good -- but not great -- player may not have been done unless the Wild believed they are ready to take the next step forward and make a run at the Stanley Cup, either now or in the very near future.
"There's no question about that," McGuire said, "but the problem is the West keeps getting tougher. This year is a bit of a one-off because of the short schedule. I don't think anybody should over-evaluate anything this year just because of how different it is. Some teams had a lot of guys play, some teams didn't. Next year, you'll have a better idea of just how good all these teams really are."
Little big deal
Another deal like the Rangers-Blue Jackets trade that McGuire thinks helps both clubs is the trade between the Lightning and Senators that saw 6'-7" goalie Ben Bishop go from Ottawa to Tampa Bay for rookie Cory Conacher and a fourth-round pick in the 2013 Entry Draft. The Sens had a surplus of NHL-caliber goaltending with Craig Anderson returning from injury and Robin Lehner, their young rising star. Bishop, who has played well for both the Sens and, before that, the Blues, his hometown team, was the odd man out, but he's a very capable netminder.
A number of teams supposedly inquired about Bishop, the Flyers among them --- and Philadelphia eventually settled on Steve Mason from the Blue Jackets -- but the chatter was that Senators GM Bryan Murray wanted Sean Couturier in return and GM Paul Holmgren wouldn't make that deal. So, McGuire said, Murray went to his second-best option, which was Tampa Bay.
"That's a creative thinking by them," McGuire said of the banged-up but pesky Sens, who were looking for help up front with two top forwards, -- Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza -- lost due to injuries. "They're trying to patch and get their team in (to the playoffs)."
Conacher, who was the AHL's MVP last season, "has had a tremendous rookie year," McGuire continued. "He had a lot of success in the AHL. He knows a lot of the players on Ottawa now because he played against them in the American League. He's a Canadian kid who is going to go there and not be overwhelmed. He's going to thrive in that environment. He's going to be a fun player for Ottawa to have and for their fans to watch. And they get a fourth-round pick and they've been very good with their drafting in the last few years. So they're excited."
Tampa Bay has another small winger in Tyler Johnson and, McGuire says, "They probably can't win if they have too many small players." So they decided to deal one of them to get a goalie, which is a major need for that club. It's possible that Johnson was offered to Murray, but he wanted Conacher, who made a big splash early this season, but leveled off as he caught the attention of opposing coaches and checkers.
As for what GM Steve Yzerman received, "Bishop fits great in Tampa," McGuire said. "They go from being a goalie graveyard, a team impoverished in goal, to a real strong one down the road with Andrei Vasilevski and Bishop."
One of Russia's goalies in the last two World Junior Championships, Vasilevski was a first-round draft pick by the Lightning last June and he's considered a top goaltending prospect. He played a handful of games as an 18-year-old for Ufa in the KHL this season and acquitted himself well with a 2.22 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in eight games. He is, by some accounts, in the running for Russia's team at the IIHF men's World Championships this spring.
An added aspect of this deal is that new Lightning coach Jon Cooper has a familiarity and history with Bishop. They faced each other as far back as 2005 in the U.S. junior North American Hockey League when Bishop played goal for the Texas Tornado before his college hockey at Maine. Texas was the rival of the NAHL team that Cooper coached, the Texarkana Bandits. The Bandits moved the following season to St. Louis, where Cooper coached them to successive championships, and Bishop's father (also named Ben) became a part owner of the franchise. Cooper and Bishop also faced each other in the AHL last season and early this season. "That's an important connection," said McGuire, speaking of the familiarity between the goalie and the coach.
One other deal caught McGuire's attention: Nashville trading veteran winger Martin Erat and minor league center Michael Latta to Washington for its top prospect, center Filip Forsberg, who they drafted 11th overall last June.
Erat is a high-skill talent who can play either wing, a creative playmaker whose spectacular moves were not always on display in defensively-oriented Nashville. That may change in Washington, which is finding its offensive mojo again and where, McGuire believes, the organization's expectation is to make the playoffs this season by winning the Southeast Division.
That requirement has made McGuire (and a number of other observers) believe that the Caps may have overpaid to get Erat. The 18-year-old Forsberg is still playing in Sweden and, McGuire theorizes, he can't help the Caps now. But their need is now and so they gave up a lot for Erat.
"Forsberg is a tremendous, tremendous talent," McGuire said. "There will be some people who will wonder about his skating, but he's still a very high end prospect." And that top talent was what Predators' GM David Poile required to part ways with Erat, who is a proven scorer and, like Pominville, has two more years remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $4.5 million.