Teams to watch down the post-NHL trade deadline stretch
The NHL's trade deadline is always one of the most frenetic times of the season. Before this year's deadline ended at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 38 players, 23 draft picks and $93 million had changed hands in 20 deals. Ryan Kesler (Canucks), Martin Brodeur (Devils) and Mike Cammalleri (Flames) stayed with their respective clubs, but 10 goalies changed addresses during the deadline push that began last week, when the Sabres shipped veteran Ryan Miller to St. Louis. Here's a look at how the trading flurry has shaped 10 significant teams for the stretch drive:
Tampa Bay Lightning
You get the feeling that GM Steve Yzerman didn't want to trade Martin St. Louis. The Bolts are within striking range of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, and just as sniper Steven Stamkos was getting healthy, Yzerman had to trade his captain and top scorer, who also happens to be the league's reigning Art Ross Trophy winner. For Yzerman, keeping his own man off the Canadian Olympic team was an honest call, even though St. Louis later played in Sochi anyway. But you can't have discontent in your dressing room, and St. Louis wanted out. In getting Ryan Callahan from the Rangers, Tampa Bay picked up another leader with grit and gumption. Callahan thinks nothing of throwing himself in front of shots and taking punishment in high traffic areas. He'll help the Lightning improve defensively, but the absence of St. Louis will place a greater burden on Stamkos to recover his old scoring touch by the time mid-April rolls around.
New York Rangers
During his Broadway debut on Wednesday night, it was interesting to watch Martin St. Louis discussing strategy with his old Lightning teammate Brad Richards on New York's bench. It remains to be seen if they'll be linemates for the balance of the season, but the Rangers added some offensive skill and savvy when they acquired the quick -- and quick-thinking -- St. Louis. The trade with Tampa Bay also prevented the distraction of an ongoing contract squabble with captain Ryan Callahan. Yes, St. Louis is 38, but he stays in great shape and is producing at a point per game pace this season. New York, which let go of sniper Marian Gaborik last season in an attempt to become more balanced, now hopes to be more explosive with St. Louis in the lineup. When Mats Zuccarello (fractured hand) comes back, perhaps by the end of the week, the Blueshirts will have two good scoring lines with ample speed and striking power. Fortunate to be in the weaker, more wide open Eastern Conference, the Rangers will contend for a berth in the Stanley Cup finals.
St. Louis Blues
Could this finally be their year? The Blues took the plunge and acquired goalie Ryan Miller, a sure sign that they feel some real urgency to win the franchise's first Cup this season. This is a team without a 50-point scorer or a significant playoff pedigree, but -- no disrespect to Jaroslav Halak -- none of St. Louis' perceived weaknesses were as great as the fact that it did not seem to have the kind of goaltender who could steal games. With Cup contenders Anaheim, Chicago and Los Angeles in the Western Conference, Miller gives the Blues the goalie they badly needed. If there is another major flaw on this team, which has scored 63 more goals than it has allowed, it isn't readily apparent.
So Roberto Luongo was expected to stay ... and he left. Ryan Kesler was expected to go ... and he stayed. The Canucks simply wanted too much in exchange for Kesler -- specifically a 20-to-25-year-old center, a prospect and a first rounder. Now they must play the cards they have, and GM Mike Gillis is running out of time to win the Cup with this generation of players. Coach John Tortorella was brought in to steel these springtime underachievers for the playoffs, but now they may not even get in at all, and his "highlight" of the season could turn out to be chasing Flames coach Bob Hartley in the wake of a January line brawl between the two teams. Vancouver fans need not worry about the reasons for Daniel Sedin's declining play now that he's on IR with a leg injury and possibly done for the season. Where once there was buzz about this team's chase for its first championship, now there is apathy and a resignation to its marginality. A housecleaning may be just around the corner.
Los Angeles Kings
Only two seasons ago, L.A. proved how dangerous it can be at playoff time when it finished eighth in the West and then stormed to the Stanley Cup. But even during the best of times, there have been questions about the Kings' ability to score. The addition of sniper Marian Gaborik makes them more formidable. GM Dean Lombardi persuaded the Blue Jackets to pick up half of the three-time 40-goal scorer's salary, which could make this deal the swipe of the week. Unlike Gaborik's last two homes -- Columbus and New York -- L.A. has some studs who can keep the heat off him. Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter will see to it that Gaborik doesn't shoulder too much of the offensive burden. And the Kings' power play, which is languishing at 14.2 percent (27th in the league), shouldn't stay that low for long. The question is how much creativity a team with such a regimented system will allow a player like Gaborik, who has a considerable ability to improvise. There isn't much time to figure it out, but the potential upside is huge.
The acquisition of Thomas Vanek for next to nothing was a score for GM Marc Bergevin. Vanek was one of the few snipers available at the deadline. Sure, he'll probably be a rental and, yes, he has no track record of playoff success, but look at what kind of talent was around him in Buffalo and on Long Island. The Canadiens are a smallish team that doesn't generate a lot of shots and or have a consistent offensive identity. Many of Montreal's goals seem to come from the outside with forwards like Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher trying to be creative while skilled defensemen P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov join the play. Vanek gives the Habs someone who will go to the net. He's a skilled guy who can pick up ugly goals, if needed. Montreal now has the flexibility to move struggling Brian Gionta down in its rotation of forwards. The additions of Vanek and the Olympic gold medal around goalie Carey Price's neck should give this team some confidence that it is better positioned to stand up to playoff challenges.
Minnesota ranks among the league's brightest surprises, a case of delayed fortune two seasons after it added Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The Wild's deadline pickups of Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick for Torrey Mitchell and two second round picks add some depth to a squad that has gained a second wind after a midseason slump, and which seems poised for another playoff appearance. Moulson is a slippery player without a lot of speed, but he can give Minnesota some of what it thought it would get from Dany Heatley. And the Wild added offense without parting ways with prized prospects such as Mathew Dumba, Kurtis Gabriel or Gustav Olofsson. Ranked 25th in the league in scoring, they now have a nice puzzle piece for the future. There also seemed to be a million goaltending scenarios in play for Minnesota, including a trade for future Hall-of-Famer Martin Brodeur. Instead the club picked up veteran Ilya Bryzgalov from the Oilers in exchange for a fourth-rounder. With Nick Backstrom (lower body) and Josh Harding (MS) apparently shut down for the season, Bryzgalov's acquisition gives this team some insurance should untested phenom Darcy Kuemper wake up and realize that he isn't supposed to be so good so soon in the NHL.
Detroit Red Wings
The acquisition of veteran forward David Legwand from the Predators was hardly a blockbuster, but given the injuries to Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Darren Helm, the presence of even one healthy body in the forward corps is an asset. Legwand could be a rental, but he is -- for now -- a good fit, a local native who played junior hockey with Detroit Compuware. The fact that he's still a plus player after 956 games in Nashville speaks to his knack for two-way play, something that the Red Wings insist upon. The league's longest active consecutive-season playoff streak (22) may be in jeopardy, but Legwand gives Detroit a Band-aid that it desperately needs. He won't win the Wings the Cup, but he could extend their string of postseason appearances.