Deadline Day Delights
The past 48 hours has presented perhaps the most interesting and exciting lead up to the trade deadline for sometime.
In previous seasons there has been one or two ‘big names’ available, but a host of star names seemed to be in the mix this year. Whilst Ryan Miller went early (by trade deadline standards), there were still plenty of teams with holes to fill, and plenty of players being discussed.
Here, I round up some of my favourite storylines from the past two days…
Roberto Luongo Goes ‘Home’
Perhaps the biggest circus in hockey reached its conclusion yesterday, as Roberto Luongo’s time in Vancouver came to an end.
The on again, off again relationship between Luongo and the Canuck’s hit an new low at the weekend, when Eddie Lack was given the nod in the Heritage Classic, but the 34-year olds return to the franchise where he made his name came as a bolt out of the blue.
It was no secret Florida was always Luongo’s preferred destination, but when a move failed to materialise last season it seemed ‘Lou’ was destined to remain a Canuck for the foreseeable future – with the man himself conceding his contract ‘sucked’ at a post deadline press conference.
Twelve months, and one Corey Schneider trade, later and Vancouver found a dance partner.
The Panthers sent Shawn Matthias and Jacob Markstrom to BC, dramatically changing the dynamic between the pipes for both clubs.
Markstrom was once considered one of the leagues brightest goaltending prospects, but struggled to establish himself in Florida before the organisation went cold on the Swede. He now joins newly installed #1 Lack in Vancouver, leaving John Tortorella’s side with a whole new set of goaltending question marks moving forward.
From the relative clarity of Lou and Schneider to the unknown of Lack and Markstrom in mere months…
For the Panthers it set up one of hockey’s more bizarre tandems for a little over 24 hours, as Luongo was set to join 2011 Cup Final nemesis Tim Thomas (tyre pumping jokes and all) in the crease.
Thomas was subsequently moved to Dallas for Dan Ellis, leaving the two time Olympic gold medallist as the clear go-to-guy for the Panthers. Whilst it ensures the franchise has elite goaltending for at least a couple of years, moving Markstrom opens up all kinds of questions about the Panthers long term future in net.
O Captain! My Captain!
Martin St Louis for Ryan Callahan is the first Captain for Captain trade in the ‘modern era’ of the NHL.
Callahan’s drawn out contract negotiations with the Rangers had seen him linked with a host of teams, including St Louis, but the revelation that Tampa Bay’s veteran Captain had asked for a trade, and stipulated New York was his only ‘acceptable’ destination, sparked rumours that Callahan would find himself Florida bound.
At the time, many dismissed it as idle talk ahead of the deadline; St Louis was sore at missing the initial cut for Team Canada, but would ‘get over it’ (like he did in 2009…) and we’d all laugh about this in the summer.
Come D day, and Steve Yzerman pulled in a pretty impressive pay load from what was his one and only trade partner.
Whilst Callahan is expected to be little more than a play-off rental for the Bolts, a 1st round pick in the deep 2015 draft and a conditional pick at this summers draft is a solid return for a player set on leaving Tampa.
The great sub story of this entire move will be how the whole saga impinges on St Louis’ legacy.
Snow Melts Isles Fans Hearts
Isles GM Garth Snow made a bold move to make his club better when he acquired Thomas Vanek in late October.
Snow sacrificed popular winger Matt Moulson, a conditional first-round pick (which now looks likely to be in the 2015 draft) and a second-round pick in next years draft. The Islanders got the better player in the deal, and Vanek went on to score 17 goals and 44 points in 47 games for the club. But injuries and an inability to close out tight games saw the Islanders sink to the foot of the standings – ending any hopes of signing Vanek to an extension in the process.
Heading for the trade deadline, Vanek was arguably the most talented goal scorer available. Other moves were made, Gaborik to LA, Callahan for St Louis, Moulson to Minnesota; but the Austrian remained an Islander.
3pm EST passed, nothing – then it broke, Vanek to Montreal. Lars Eller was rumoured to be coming the other way, and hopes of some serious return to help the franchise get back on track were reinvigorated.
What the Islanders eventually got was prospect Sebastian Collberg and a conditional 2nd round pick…
To say Islanders fans were underwhelmed by this return is an understatement.
The market on Vanek became increasingly thin, especially after LA landed Gaborik and ended their hunt for a goal scorer; but hopes were high of at least replacing the lost 1st round pick.
Collberg, currently plying his trade in Sweden, is considered to be a strong prospect – but the Islanders are loaded with good prospects, and the disappointment among the fan base is palpable.
Given how rapidly the interest in Vanek seemed to disappear, this could have been worse for the Islanders – no deal could have happened and the superstar could have left for nothing in July. So grabbing a hot prospect like Collberg is, in some ways, a small victory.
But the reality is a fan base already tested by years in the basement feels like this was a massive misstep by Snow.
Hemsky Finally Escapes Edmonton
Ales Hemsky had been listed as ‘trade bait’ at every deadline for around 5 years, but remained an Oiler throughout.
Question marks over his ability to stay healthy, high asking prices and ‘better options’ kept him in Alberta. Ottawa finally rescued the Czech winger, acquiring him for the bargain price of a 5th round pick this year, and a 3rd next year.
For the cash strapped Sens, adding someone capable of scoring 20+ was a tidy piece of business.
Ryan Kesler Remains a Canuck
I’m not sure any player garnered the interest Kesler did. Multiple teams were rumoured to be considering a move for the Team USA forward, but nothing came of it.
Kesler apparently ruled out a move to New York, whilst Pittsburgh and Anaheim were thought to be hot for him. Despite blowing up their goaltending, Vancouver didn’t budge.
Perhaps the fact Mike Gillis post deadline interview took place on a golf course in Phoenix sums up the chances of Kesler actually moving today better than any words can.
For now he stays in BC, but everyone now fully expects him to be a hot commodity come this summers draft.
Melancholy in Minny?
Minnesota were linked to almost every half decent player available heading towards the deadline. Miller, Halark, Vanek, Gaborik and so on.
With Josh Harding still out due to illness and Nicklas Backstrom struggling, goaltending was an issue, They missed out on Miller, they were apparently cool on Halak – they got Bryzgalov…
Content with break out star Darcy Kuemper and everyone’s favourite cosmonaut, attention turned to adding a goal scorer. While Thomas Vanek is widely expected to either sign with the Wild, or at the very least seriously consider it, Minnesota acquired Matt Moulson at the deadline.
So, Matt Moulson will be replaced by Thomas Vanek in about 4 months time…again…