Today, From the Press Box:
It's all about the trade deadline. We look at all the big deals, as well as some intriguing smaller ones.
This year, some teams didn't wait until the last day to make major moves.
Ryan Miller headlines the first major trade of this season
For much of this season, it was clear that the Buffalo Sabres were going to move their signature player, goalie Ryan Miller. He was playing out the final year of a big ticket deal for the last place Sabres and was not interested in renegotiating another deal to be the backstop, while the rest of the roster was, and indeed is, expected to be overhauled and get much younger. The speculation was always that he would be pedaled to a contending team that was looking for an upgrade in net.
St. Louis finally stepped forward and also pried Buffalo captain Steve Ott from the Sabres. Ott will be expected to play his hard-checking style, which makes him ideally suited to the third-line checking role that will be so important come playoff time.
In exchange, the Sabres received Chris Stewart, a prototypical power forward who is hopeful of becoming a centerpiece among the top-six forwards that the Sabres will build around. They also received goalie Jaroslav Halak, who was subsequently traded to Washington at the deadline. In the end, the Sabres continued to stockpile draft picks, currently holding no fewer than 10 first or second-rounders in the next two draft years.
The Roberto Luongo saga
For much of the last two years, Luongo has been the subject of hundreds of trade rumors, largely due to the size and remain term of his contract. Last year the Canucks opted to run with Corey Schneider as their number one in net and it was expected that Luongo would be dealt last summer (at the latest). Of course, the Canucks shocked the hockey world by moving Schneider to the New Jersey Devils.
So, while we thought Luongo was once more entrenched in Vancouver, he was upset one final time when backup Eddie Lack was given the plum assignment of starting in the Heritage Classic game against Ottawa. Luongo voiced his displeasure at this snub and the Canucks took that as the last straw and finally moved him out. In doing so, they sent their top goalie to his preferred destination in Florida, where he has family ties. Luongo will clearly become the face of the franchise in Sunrise, but just as importantly, his contract actually helps the frugal and talent-thin Panthers to get closer to the salary cap floor.
Heading the other way, the Canucks receive young goalie Jacob Markstrom, who will battle Lack for playing time, and rangy forward Shawn Matthias, a big, experienced skater who will add depth to the Canucks forward complement.
This could signal a rebuilding process with Vancouver. In the near term, it certainly takes one of the biggest off-ice storylines out of the headlines. Roberto Luongo is surely as happy as he has been in years.
Marty St Louis leaves the Lightning
At the start of this season, Martin St Louis was surely looking forward to another prolific year in Tampa, playing alongside "super sniper" Steven Stamkos and he was hopeful of making Team Canada's Olympic roster.
Well, the season has taken some expected turns and despite producing 61 points in 62 games so far this year, St Louis has clearly not been happy in Tampa. First, Marty was snubbed when Team Canada's brain trust left him off the roster. Then, Stamkos was seriously injured, putting more pressure on St. Louis to lead his team. Even though he eventually made Team Canada's lineup, it seems clear that St. Louis was not pleased with how he has been treated. He has also quietly expressed a desire to play with the Rangers, so that gave Glen Sather, the New York GM, enough incentive to come calling. So it was hardly a shocker when the Rangers agreed to ship Ryan Callahan, a first round pick (2015) and a second round pick (2014) to the Lightning. Depending on other factors, the teams may exchange more draft picks to complete this deal.
On the face of it, this trade has to hurt the Lightning in the short term because Callahan is clearly not on a par with St Louis, even though the fleet veteran is now 38 years old. Callahan is more of a grinder, but has great leadership skills, which should make him valuable in the longer term.
Sens looking for offense ... grab Hemsky from the Oilers
Ales Hemsky is the typical player that contending teams look for at this critical juncture of the season. He was deemed expendable in Edmonton because he simply does not give them what they need as the Oilers are looking for quality and dependability with any forwards who should expect to partner with their core of young forwards, many of whom still project a high upside. He has struggled to produce and only had 20 points in 38 games last year and slumped further this season with nine goals and 26 points in 55 games this year.
Clearly the Sens are hopeful that they can reignite the skills that saw him tally as many as 23 goals in the 2008-09 season. All it cost them was a pair of mid-range draft picks. The Sens are still a long shot to make the playoffs after this trade, but Ottawa could be looking at this as an extended tryout for the veteran winger who will be a UFA this off-season.
Thomas Vanek goes to Montreal
In a late-day deal, the Canadiens have added a big sniper from the Islanders. It cost them a prospect and a second round pick. The Habs have to hope that Vanek is motivated by the fact that he is moving to a playoff team and is playing for his next contract. This is a guy who is three years removed from any season where he played to his potential. With all his skills, you are left to wonder about that. The ongoing speculation is that the Anaheim Ducks will be a strong suitor if Vanek goes, as expected to free agency. For their part, Montreal certainly will have some key free agents to consider re-signing in house. If Vanek rediscovers his top form and has a strong playoff the Canadiens will make every effort to retain him. For now, he has a very important audition coming up under a bright spotlight.
There were a number of other deals prior to the deadline and a complete list of them will be found on the RotoWire website and our deadline blog, along with our comments.
If your trade deadline coincided with that of the NHL, we hope you made some big deals that will help you, too.
Good luck over the rest of this season.