Shots on Goal: Trade Thoughts
by Peter Maingot, RotoWire Writer
In this week's edition we will examine each team's player movement in addition to providing some analysis on current goaltending issues.
The addition's of both Maxim Lapierre and Jarko Ruutu has bolstered the experience, grit and talent on the Ducks' bottom two lines while the addition of former Duck Francois Beauchemin has added size to the defensive corps. Despite these additions the Ducks' playoff drive has been derailed by the injury to All-Star goalie Jonas Hiller (vertigo). The Ducks have been brutal since Hiller's injury and there's no definitive word on when Hiller will return to the lineup. Backup Curtis McElhinney was exposed. Over his last five starts he's allowed 23 goals and the best save percentage that he's posted has been .840. Sugar Ray Emery has been playing himself into shape on their AHL affiliate in Syracuse and was just called up to Anaheim. Emery backed up McElhinney in Wednesday's 3-2 loss to Los Angeles but could start Friday against Minnesota. Emery is worth picking up immediately, as a speculative play, if you need goaltending help. Ditto for Dan Ellis, whom the Ducks just acquired on Thursday for McElhinney. Ellis will likely get the first crack at the goalie gig in Anaheim, ahead of Emery.
The trading of underrated center Rich Peverly to Boston (along with behemoth minor leaguer D-man Boris Valabik) brought two pieces back to the Thrashers: a top-nine forward - Blake Wheeler - with size and skill along with a veteran top-six defenseman - Mark Stuart. Wheeler registered a point in his first game for Atlanta while Stuart dropped the gloves. Welcome to Atlanta, gentlemen. Meanwhile Ondrej Pavelec is 3-9-4 since Jan. 6. Moreover, Pavelec's 3.25 GAA on the road is something to be wary of. The addition of Stuart upgraded their top six on D and they were then able to package Brent Sopel along with winger Nigel Dawes to Montreal for prospect center Ben Maxwell and a fourth-round pick.
Once again GM Peter Chiarelli has made some shrewd moves. The acquisition of 14-year veteran Tomas Kaberle provides them with their most glaring need - an experienced offensive defenseman who's not a liability in his own zone. Kaberle is an upgrade over rookie Steve Kampfer, who can still make a contribution on the second power-play unit alongside Dennis Seidenberg. As for grit on the blueline, the team may be adding Shane "the Sheriff" Hnidy to their defensive corps. Hnidy was just signed to a tryout but requires several weeks to return to full health from his rotator cuff injury. Hnidy could be an excellent depth guy to have around come playoff time and would add to their tough-as-nails group of defensemen like Adam McQuaid (6-4/200, 11 fights) and Andrew Ference (just ask Dallas' Adam Burish), not to mention the dual threat Zdeno Chara. Those are the kinds of players that you really hate to play against in the playoffs. Chiarelli also made a key acquisition upfront by adding center Rich Peverly, an underrated forward who can also play on the wing. Peverly bolsters their depth at centre after the B's lost Marc Savard (concussion) for the season. His arrival lessons the pressure on rookie Tyler Seguin and provides the team with another top-six talent.
The Sabres new owner, Mr. Pegula, doesn't seem inclined to have the team make any moves, unless they can reel off a couple of wins between now and the trade deadline. Meanwhile captain Craig Rivet has been waived and could be picked up by another team, as veteran defensemen are very much in demand these days.
The Flames have benefited from adding defenseman Anton Babchuk to their blue line. Babchuk has six goals and 21 points, with 10 on the power play, in 45 games as a Flame. He's also a plus-8. Other than waiving Ales Kotalik and Niklas Hagman the team has made few roster moves during the season. One great pickup was signing Brendan Morrison just before the season started. Calgary had lost Daymond Langkow and Matt Stajan to injury and was short on proven NHL centers. Morrison had attended training camp with Vancouver on a tryout basis but was let go just before the season. The Flames signed him the next day and he's delivered nine goals and 39 points in 62 games while playing on virtually every line at one time or another. These days he's manning the first line Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay.
Thus far the Canes have been sellers, as they unloaded Ian White (an impending UFA who didn't mesh with their system) to the Sharks for a second-round pick. They need to add a veteran defenseman in order to stay in playoff contention, for they are simply giving up too many scoring chances on a nightly basis.
The Blackhawks have yet to receive any scoring from Michal Frolik (0 pts in 6 games, 21 shots) but his trade from Florida was a major fleecing nonetheless. Corey Crawford went 2-1 since last week's column, posting a 2.98 GAA and .906 SV %. His GAA for the season is a stellar 2.17. Marty Turco last played Feb. 11 and last won a game Feb. 1.
Brian Elliott inherits the mess in Colorado while Craig Anderson has already made a positive impact in Ottawa. Of greater concern to Avs fans is the trade that the team made for St. Louis' Erik Johnson, for the price they paid appears exorbitant. Giving up a 23-year-old power forward - Chris Stewart - who's already registered a 28-goal/64-point season might seem a fair price to get back the 1st pick overall of the 2006 NHL Draft in Johnson, a potential franchise defenseman. However, when you add a 22-year-old rookie D-man taken 14th overall in 2007 - Kevin Shattenkirk - who'd already racked up seven goals and 26 points in his first 46 NHL games prior to the trade, it seems too heavy a price to pay. Young power forwards with 35-goal potential do not grow on trees. The Avs must really believe in the futures of fellow right wingers David Jones (30 goals in his last NHL games/26), Brandon Yip (20 goals in his last 85 games/25) and Ryan Stoa (16 goals and 33 points in 48 AHL games/23), because they traded No.1 RW Stewart and their No. 2 RW, Milan Hejduk, is 35 years old.
Steve Mason has turned both his season and his young career around with his fantastic February play. Mason is 6-1 in February with a wicked 1.54 GAA and two shutouts. The Jackets have not made any acquisitions but still need help on the blueline. Moreover with Derrick Brassard out 2-3 weeks they could use another top six forward. The play of Matt Calvert, with three goals and four points in his last four games, has helped offset the loss of Brassard. The young Calvert, who turned 21 in late December, is a player on the rise and worthy of attention in keeper leagues. He put up 99 points and 70 PIMs last year in the Western Hockey league and he's potted six goals and nine points in 19 games since being called up from their AHL affiliate.
The acquisition of Alex Goligoski helps their power play but the loss of James Neal hurts a Stars offense that is already without top scorer Brad Richards. If the Stars lose their next two games Richards could be moved as well, for the Stars are for sale and they're plummeting in the standings and don't look like they'll make the playoffs. Thus, management will likely want to reduce expenses and trade Richards - their most expensive player who's going to be a UFA come July 1st. These are dreary days for Kari Lehtonen owners. Lehtonen has but one win over his past nine starts. Moreover, he's given up at least three goals in seven of those games.
The return of Brad Stuart has brought positive results for Jimmy Howard. Howard is 3-1 with a total of just 10 goals allowed since Stewie's return. The Wings are also getting great play from their two top RW's - 30-somethings Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary. They've combined for 35 goals in 106 games, providing secondary scoring behind top scoring forwards Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Franzen.
Backup Devan Dubnyk has vastly outplayed Nikolai Khabibulin this season and should be getting more starts. He's 8-7-6 on the season with a 2.78 while Khabby is 10-26-2 with a 3.33 GAA. The Oilers seem reluctant to move either top LW Dustin Penner or top RW Ales Hemsky and why should they trade them? The Oilers need some talented vets to surround their young trio of future studs (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi) and they play in front of a packed house every night, so they don't need to sell for financial reasons.
We should be simply passing on Florida, as they may be even worse than Ottawa (who smoked them 5-1 Wednesday). Tomas Vokoun owners must be weeping in their drinks these days, for he's 2-5-1 in February with a 3.00 GAA. Moreover, in only two of those eight starts did Vokoun manage to allow fewer than three goals.
The Kings put a 5-8 January behind them and surged in February. They've gone 6-1-3 in February. Jonathan Quick, who ranks second in the league with a 2.11 GAA, has delivered a 5-1-1 record this month with a 1.98 GAA and one shutout. The Kings have picked up just one player - Marco Sturm - during the season but he's been hurt and just returned to the lineup. The Kings expect big things from him and he's been put on No. 1 center Anze Kopitar's wing to see what he can do.
Carey Price finally won in his home province when the Habs beat the Canucks in Vancouver on Tuesday night. That was an impressive victory to say the least. As far as trades the team has picked up several D-men to make up for the season-ending injuries to Andrei Markov, Jaroslav Spacek and Josh Gorges. James Wisniewski, Paul Mara and Brent Sopel are all tough North-American D-men but Wisniewski is a player who can excel at both ends of the ice. The other two are strictly depth guys who will not dress for every game. The play of rookie P.K. Subban has been strong enough that they could avoid overpaying for another top-four D-man. Subban has really gelled with Hal Gill to form an effective second unit after Wisniewski and Roman Hamrlik. Yannick Weber, another rookie, has also stepped up with the opportunity afforded to him due to all the blue line injuries. Weber has quietly put up 10 points in 32 games while being a plus-4. While Montreal hasn't traded for a forward other than AHLer Nigel Dawes, the play of David Desharnais since his AHL call up to Montreal has been beyond expectations. Desharnais has become an effective third line center and he's potted six goals and 13 points in 22 games.
The Wild have a glaring hole right now at No. 1 center with Mikko Koivu out 2-3 weeks with a broken finger. The good news is that it should heal without surgery. Niklas Backstrom has certainly done his part to keep the Wild in playoff contention in February. Backstrom is 5-2-1 in February with just a total of 10 goals allowed! That's a 1.24 GAA. Add the .955 SV % and it's been a sweet month to be a Backstrom owner.
With Martin Brodeur injured, veteran backup Johan Hedberg has been on a tear. Hedberg has won seven straight starts with just seven goals allowed, total. Plus he's posted two shutouts in his last three games. The Devils' winning ways are great for Devils fans and owners of Brodeur and Hedberg alike but it's painful for the rest of us hockey fans who don't appreciate watching brutally dull hockey.
The team has been decimated by injuries in nets this season and latest Islander No. 1 goalie is Al Montoya. Montoya has taken the reigns from Nathan Lawson, who's now back to waiting for another injury. The 26-year-old Montoya is 3-1 with a stellar 1.42 GAA and .950 SV % with a shutout to boot. This writer, after seeing these kids survive losing 21 of 22, is actually optimistic about their future (talent wise). Next season should be much improved, with a healthy Mark Streit back to QB the power-play and (hopefully) full seasons from all their young guns: Tavares, Okposo, Grabner, Comeau, Bailey. Add mid-to-late 20's guys like Canucks Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau, along with the Dane Frans Nielsen and there's plenty of talent at forward.
The Blue Shirts must march on without Marian Gaborik (concussion symptoms). A bigger worry for Henrik Lundqvist owners is the injury to Marc Staal (knee). Staal is likely out for Friday vs. the Caps but could possibly return to face the Lightning on Sunday. The loss of Gaborik, the first time he was injured this season, actually worked out reasonably well as the team embraced a "circle the wagons" approach and really played tough defensive hockey. Not having their best defenseman in Staal will make it much harder to play that style this time around. King Henrik owners have to keep their fingers crossed that Staal gets back in the lineup as the depth on defense is even worse than the depth at forward. Even when Staal returns to the lineup, the Rangers will probably need to pick up an extra D-man between now and Feb. 28.
Ever heard of the Dead Cat Bounce? That's when an imploding stock actually sees a brief spike before it further declines. That's kind of what's happening to Ottawa these days, as newcomer Craig Anderson has led them to two victories in two games including an amazing 47-save shutout at Toronto. For Ottawa that's a significant winning streak. Anderson has done a good job of keeping Sens fans busy while the team is further gutted by trades. At least they found someone to take Alexei Kovalev off of their hands, even if it was for a very low draft pick. Anderson is certainly used to seeing a lot of shots, as he faced more shots last year than any goalie in the league last year as an Av and he was facing an average of 31 shots per game this season while playing for Colorado. A couple of positives can be found in the play of both Jason Spezza (11 points in last nine games) and rookie Bobby Butler (five goals/seven points in last five games). They should keep those two together next season and find a suitable second-line center for captain Daniel Alfredsson, who sadly is no longer a first-line talent. Meanwhile Ottawa picked up Marek Svatos off waivers from Nashville, and he'll play top-six minutes immediately on a depleted Ottawa roster.
The Flyers continue to roll with Sergei "Bob" Bobrovsky as No.1 and Brian Boucher as No. 2. There does not appear to be any impetus to trade for another goalie at this point, which is awesome news for Bob's owners. According to capgeek.com, the Flyers have about $286,000 in cap space so they can't afford a Tomas Vokoun unless they send back significant payroll. As far as completed trades go the team did pick up Kris Vertseeg to round out their superb mix of top-nine forwards. No team in the league can roll three scoring lines like Philadelphia can. Moreover the top nine has a lot of grit as well as skill. The forwards group among the top-nine is over 70% North American (7 of 9), the type of players that often thrive in the postseason. Finn Ville Leino is no slouch either, having potted seven goals and 21 points in 19 playoff games last spring. This team is poised for a long playoff run, barring any sudden collapse in goal.
Ilya Bryzgalov continues to keep the Yotes afloat with an amazing eight straight victories, including back-to-back shutouts. Bryzer has allowed more than two goals just once in his last eight games after a brutal stretch where he allowed four goals or more in four of five starts. The only trade the team made was unloading Wojtek Wolski and receiving Michal Rozsival in return. Rosie's arrival wasn't exactly earth shattering but it has proven most beneficial with the injury bug that has afflicted Ed Jovanovski this season. While Jovo has already missed 15 games this season and is out for at least two more weeks after orbital bone surgery, Rozsival has averaged more than 21 minutes a game over his last six games and he's even with 11 blocked shots.
Marc-Andre Fleury is finally getting some reinforcements at forward, as the team has acquired James Neal and Alexei Kovalev. Unfortunately the team has lost a few key defensemen: top power-play unit QB Alex Goligoski was traded for Neal and Brooks Orpik (broken finger) is out 4-6 weeks. Paul Martin has missed the past two games but he's expected back for Friday's tilt with Carolina. Even though the Pens got D-man Matt Niskanen back in the Goligoski trade, they will be hurting without Orpik. No Pen D-man brings the physical presence that Orpik does. Deryk Engelland, the closest thing the Pens have to Orpik as far as physicality from the blue line, will see a larger role while fellow D-man Ben Lovejoy could see some time on the second power-play unit.
Antti Niemi has been great of late. He's 13-2-1 since Jan. 14. Meanwhile Antero Niittymaki (lower body injury) remains out of the lineup. The Sharks have made three veteran pickups since the start of the season. They picked up Kyle Wellwood off waivers (thank you St. Louis), Ben Eager via trade and now Ian White through a trade. While Wellwood and Eager help bolster the bottom two lines the addition of White should be a boon to their power play. With the regression in Marc-Edouard Vlasic's play since his rookie season there was a dire need for another effective puck-moving defenseman to help ease Dan Boyle's burden. Justin Braun is a promising defenseman but a little too green for that role just yet. That's why picking up White as rental made sense.
While the trade with Colorado - Erik Johnson for Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk - should be considered a victory for Blues fans, the trade of Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay has meant that the overall Blues D is much greener and this will have an impact on the goalie stats. What's making a bigger impact of course on the goals against these days is the absence of Jaroslav Halak, who will miss his fourth start on Thursday. While Ty Conklin racked up a shutout in his first game after Halak went out of the lineup, the quality of the Blues netminding (comprised of Conklin and Ben Bishop) has diminished significantly since then. The good news is that Halak is with the team as they embark on a Western Canadian road trip and he could play in Alberta this coming weekend.
The Bolts have made a series of effective moves this season as rookie GM Steve Yzerman has shown an uncanny ability to put together a team. First he added Sean Bergenheim and Dominic Moore to bolster the third line and traded for Pavel Kubina, then signed Brett Clark and Randy Jones to further bolster the blueline. Then came the in-season signings and trades. Dwayne Roloson has been the answer at goalie while Marc-Andre Bergeron helps the power-play. Add Eric Brewer, who's playing 19 minutes a night for his new team on their top defensive pairing, and you have a well equipped team for the postseason.
James Reimer is making me look bad. I was a major doubting Thomas when he started off strong but he's just continued to play excellent hockey. Reimer is 9-4-2 with an amazing 2.12 GAA and .934 SV%. The Leafs appear to have found both their goalie of the future and the present. Leafs Nation actually has some valid reasons for optimism. Go figure.
Roberto Luongo and Vangroovy are looking like a championship caliber team. The injury riddled defense is back to icing four legitimate top-six D-men in Keith Ballard, Dan Hamhuis, Christian Ehrhoff and Sami Salo. Alexander Edler (back) should be back in time for the playoffs while Kevin Bieksa (fractured foot) could be back in two weeks. The Canucks may not be players on the trade front, as they just called up blue chip prospect Cody Hodgson and they're otherwise loaded at most positions. Perhaps a veteran checking line forward will be procured by the trade deadline but we do not expect much else.
After allowing nine goals in his past 2.5 games (he was pulled in one), Michal Neuvirth registered a shutout vs. Pittsburgh on Monday. As such Neuvy gets the next start on Friday when the Caps host the Rangers. Semyon Varlamov has only two wins in nine appearances since Jan. 8 though a lack of offensive support in several of his starts hasn't helped either. The team continues to have a glaring need for a second line center and their only pickup this season has been stay-at-home defenseman Scott Hannan.