NHL Hot Stove Summary: It’s Only Just Begun…

Here at the Waiver Wire, we brought in our hockey guru, Steve Sabato, to supply us and our viewers with his incredible knowledge of what the hell happened over the last couple of days that led up to and followed the NHL Draft. There are few hot stove seasons like the NHL’s, and for that, its great that we have a die-hard fan like Steve to supply us with his knowledge.

This past weekend was abuzz with hustle, bustle, and bluster from NHL suits, both the suits that were paid to make deals, and those who were paid on television to discuss them. If you love front office wheeling and dealing as much as I do (or even half as much,) this is always a fun weekend. NHL executives are always ready to roll the dice on some pretty bold moves, and this year was no different. As custom dictates, there were some head-scratchers and some deals that looked solid for both organIzations. (That will be my only jab, Canada. Promise.) I won’t give my opinion on the draft picks, because estimating the trajectory of an 18 year-old’s career in a professional sports league is patently insane (but I am rooting for you—Slater Koekkoek and Zemgus Girgensons—because those are some NAMES, man!) However, I will go through how I thought each team fared in the trade market, and I will delay that no further:

In (relatively) chronological order:

Philadelphia trades Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus for 2nd and 4th round picks in 2012, 4th round pick in 2013

Scott Howson and Paul Holmgren (general managers of Columbus and Philadelphia respectively,) pulled the trigger on the first draft day shakeup—and it wasn’t the Rick Nash deal everyone was waiting for. These guys are practically business partners, considering they pulled off the Jeff Carter deal right before the draft last year, as well. Howson shipped Holmgren 3 draft picks for his backup goaltender. Bobrovsky is a 23 year-old, with some room to grow, who has gone 42-23-10, with a .909 save percentage and a 2.73 goals-against-average in Philadelphia.

Obviously, it’s the amount to which he’s expected to grow which made this deal possible. Holmgren, I imagine, didn’t expect Bobrovsky to be much more than a platoon, or serviceable backup in this league, whereas Howson saw him as a guy who could potentially anchor the backstop in Columbus for years to come (if he didn’t, he’s got some real issues with value assessment.) My problem with this deal, for Columbus, is the fact that I didn’t think goaltending was their main problem. Steve Mason and Curtis Sanford played behind some miserable defensive pairings this year. I just don’t see Mason and Bobrovsky elevating their play to that of an unquestioned #1 NHL goalie, and I don’t see Bobrovsky being worth that price tag (Sanford doesn’t figure to be in the long term plan of the Jackets.). If I were Howson, I’d have gone after whatever defensive help I could find on the market (and it was evident that teams were willing to move some talent on the back end, as you will see below.) If nobody wanted to move, I wouldn’t have gone off the deep end with a trigger-happy deal like this one.

Best Case Scenario for Columbus: Bobrovsky is the franchise goaltender they thought Mason was.

Best Case Scenario for Philadelphia: Anthony Stolarz, the goalie they picked with Columbus’s 2nd round selection, ends up being ready when Ilya Bryzgalov is on his way out, or he develops quickly enough to give Bryzgalov a break on the days he needs them, a couple years from now, while Fredrik Larsson, the defenseman they selected with Columbus’s 4th rounder, ends up turning into a speedy NHL defenseman—the one the Flyers need (more immediately) desperately.

Anaheim Trades Lubomir Visnovsky to New York Islanders for 2013 2nd round Pick

On one hand, it’s awesome when you can get a solid NHL defenseman, especially when you really, really, need solid NHL defensemen, for a 2nd round pick. However, it appears, the Islanders might have tossed away a 2nd round pick for a defenseman they’ll never see play for them. Come on, Garth! Anaheim avoids a $5.6 million cap hit by making this deal, as well. If Lubo plays, he’s a steal for the Islanders, and could give them the help they desperately need on the blue line. If he plays in Russia, this was a waste of a 2nd round pick, and Garth Snow should be embarrassed.

Best Case Scenario for NYI: Lubomir plays in the NHL, and helps hold down the fort on D for them.

Best Case Scenario for Anaheim: Lubomir plays in Russia, and great things happen with that 2013 2nd rounder.

Washington Trades Prospect Cody Eakin and 2012 2nd round Pick to Dallas for Mike Ribeiro

Mike Ribeiro has been one of the few productive players on the offensive end for the Dallas Stars over the last couple years. He is an excellent addition for the Capitals, who needed another playmaking center to compliment Nicklas Backstrom. This was evident over the time Backstrom missed this year, and the times where their offense looked lethargic. Dallas clears $5 million from their cap by moving him off the roster, which will allow them the flexibility in the upcoming free agency period to make a splash or two. The 21 year-old Eakin saw limited action with the Capitals last season, but the Stars see him as the type of player whose style they’d like to center their team around going forward. For a team moving in a new direction, adding a player who embodies the philosophy you’re looking to implement is never a bad move. Now all it has to do is work out. With the 54th pick, acquired from Washington, Dallas selected another center, Mike Winther.

Best Case Scenario for Washington: Mike Ribeiro solidifies their 2nd line, and adds some juice to an offensive attack that disappeared at times last season.

Best Case Scenario for Dallas: Eakin and Winther are the cornerstones of their future, manning the middle of lines that play strong offensively and defensively—this seems to be the direction the Stars are looking to move in.

Carolina Trades Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin, and #8 Overall Selection to Pittsburgh for Jordan Staal

First of all, it’s 100% cool that Thunder Bay, Ontario natives Eric and Jordan Staal have been united in “Carolina.” With that being said, I think Ray Shero, Pittsburgh’s general manager, did an admirable job of handling this situation. Jordan Staal’s contract was going to run out after this coming season, and he had just turned down a 10-year, $60 million extension. That says loud and clear, to Shero, that he was pretty content to test the open market at the end of this season. Shero then turns around, gets Carolina on the phone, and brings in a pretty sweet haul for the 23 year-old, former 2nd overall pick of the Penguins. If there is one knock on Jordan Staal here, it’s that he hasn’t amassed over 50 points in a season yet, and played 62 and 42 games respectively over the last two seasons.

However, he’s only 23 years-old, was buried on Pittsburgh’s 3rd line, and looks to be finding more rhythm, as he was on pace for 66 and 59 points in injury-shortened 2011 and 2010 seasons, respectively. If Carolina can lock him up long term, and he stays healthy, this will be a White Whale acquisition for general manager Jim Rutherford and the Hurricanes. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh acquired Brandon Sutter, who they now expect to anchor their 3rd line, alongside defenseman prospects Brian Dumoulin, and Derrick Pouliot. Pittsburgh also added Finnish defenseman Olli Maata, with the 22nd selection in the draft. Thus, they were able to add a player, in Sutter, who could step in and immediately play the role they expected Staal to play, and three of the top defense prospects they could get their hands on.

Best Case Scenario for Pittsburgh: They’ve stabilized the blue line for an amount of time the Atlantic division shouldn’t be excited to estimate, without sacrificing a great deal on their third line.

Best Case Scenario for Carolina: Jordan Staal anchors the 2nd line behind his big brother, and Carolina can roll two of the best puck-moving lines in the league for years.

Toronto trades Jonas Gustavsson to Winnipeg for a conditional 7th round pick in 2013

There was some pretty strong hype surrounding Gustavsson, nicknamed “The Monster,” upon his initial entry into the league, mostly because he signed before the trend of enormous goaltenders took hold—he’s 6’3, 191 lbs. That is to say nothing of a guy like Anders Lindback, the goaltender recently traded to Tampa Bay, from Nashville, who is 6’6, 212 lbs.  Winnipeg had to pay a considerably small price to get a guy who may still have some upside to tap into. Playing in Toronto over the last couple seasons hasn’t provided a great environment to develop in and a change of scenery could do Gustavsson well. Low risk, high reward move for Winnipeg. Ondrej Pavelec, the incumbent netminder in Winnipeg plays a large part in this deal as well, as he might not play for the Jets, possibly opting, like Lubomir Visnovsky, to play in the KHL. Thus, Gustavsson could very well end up starting for Winnipeg, and they only had to part with a seventh rounder to get him. Not a bad move, if for nothing other than insurance, and an even better move if he plays to his potential.

Best Case Scenario for Winnipeg: Gustavsson truly was hampered in Toronto and turns into a mainstay in the net for the Jets.

Best Case Scenario for Toronto: Roberto Luongo. If they don’t get him, and the scenario above comes true for Winnipeg, Brian Burke may literally be burned at the stake by irate Leafs fans. Hell, if they do get him and the scenario above occurs for Winnipeg, Brian Burke may still be burned at the stake by irate Leafs fans.

Flyers trade James van Riemsdyk to Toronto for Luke Schenn

Another pair of brothers were united this draft weekend, as Luke Schenn joined brother Brayden in Philadelphia. The good news for Flyers fans is that Luke Schenn is the young, strong defenseman this team has wanted for some time now. I’m not sure what prompted Brian Burke to make this move, besides hearing that he’s been interested in adding size to their forward corps. JVR hasn’t even begun to scratch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his potential, which is the good news for Toronto, and the bad news for Philly. What may end up being the bad news for Toronto is that he may never reach it. He was hampered most of this season by a lingering concussion, and we really don’t know what the trajectory of his career is going to look like going forward. Luke Schenn has been pretty solid in his time in the league so far, more so than van Riemsdyk. Both could become franchise players in their own right, but Luke definitely looks like the safer bet at this point. Good move by Paul Holmgren to get the defenseman his fans (and his goalie) have been begging for. A little riskier, but this is possibly a good move by Brian Burke to add a strong forward to his team’s offensive unit.

Best Case Scenario for Philadelphia: Luke Schenn becomes the cornerstone of their defense for years to come.

Best Case Scenario for Toronto: JVR reaches his full potential—a truly scary thought for defenses throughout the Northeast division.

The Moves That Weren’t Made…Yet

1. Rick Nash

This situation is completely untenable. There’s no way in any circle of frozen over hell that Rick Nash is going to play for Columbus anymore, despite whatever his contract might say. The main problem may be getting a team to take on a contract that could end up being something of an albatross over the years to come, as the money he is owed goes up as he gets older. The Flyers made their moves, and I don’t expect them to be a player anymore. The Rangers have been after Nash hot and heavy since he’s been made available. Ottawa apparently made an offer that Columbus liked, but Nash reportedly had no interest in playing there. Boston has also been rumored to be interested in pursuing the 27 year-old former 40-goal scorer.

At this stage of the talks, it appears that all teams remaining in the Nash sweepstakes were pretty strong on offense last season, with Boston ranking 3rd, Ottawa 4th, and NYR 11th in goals per game. Ottawa makes sense, especially if Daniel Alfredsson hangs up the skates, because Nash could step in and effectively fill Alfie’s offensive role, and it was a significant one—even at 39 years-old. Alfredsson notched 59 points in 75 games, with 27 goals. Boston didn’t have anyone with over 70 points this season, and their top goal-scorer on the right side was Nathan Horton, with 17 (albeit in 46 games.) They could use a right winger to really solidify their top line as well. The Rangers have two solid right wingers already, in Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan, so a move to the Rangers would more than likely require some significant line-juggling from John Tortorella. However, as the lowest-ranked of the three remaining suitors offensively, Rick Nash could provide the Rangers with a useful offensive spark.

2. Bobby Ryan

For some reason, Bobby Ryan has constantly been connected to trade rumors in Anaheim, despite putting up 30 goals per season over the last four years. Bobby’s sick of it, so he wants out. The Flyers seemed to be the favorites in the Bobby Ryan sweepstakes for a number of reasons. Primarily, because every rumor coming out connected the Flyers and Ducks, and also because Bobby Ryan stated that if he was going to be moved, the Flyers were the ideal suitor for him, having grown up just over the Ben Franklin Bridge in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Ryan was not moved, and the Flyers parted ways with their biggest trade chip in James van Riemsdyk. However, you can never count Paul Holmgren out—I still have a feeling that the Flyers are into the idea of making this move. My gut says it’ll be Boston, because they need the most help on the right side of anybody that’s looking. Ottawa has said they’re not interested in him, and New York is already pretty set on the right side. I tend to think necessity wins out on the trade market, but that’s just me being reasonable.

Ryan is also hurting Rick Nash’s trade value. Bobby Ryan is arguably a better option than Nash, because he’s younger, and has produced just as well as Nash recently, and also has potentially more room to grow…oh, and he’s cheaper. Teams are less willing to go all-in on a guy like Nash, when such a viable backup plan is on the market.

What I’m interested to see is how much the value of the other goes up after the first gets dealt. Scott Howson could be attempting to play a game of “chicken” with the Ducks (that sentence was fowl…sorry, I was itching for a pun.) By remaining patient and not trading Nash, he could wait until Bobby Ryan forces his way out of Anaheim, making Anaheim take less than they’d normally be willing, because he’s officially gone very public with his disdain. Nash has played the cards closer to his vest, which could benefit Howson. If Bobby Ryan gets traded, Howson can pressure teams into giving him exactly his asking price since the market on top right wingers will have taken a major hit when Ryan’s gone. I would not be shocked to see Ryan get moved first now, having effectively taken his interest in coming out of this “the good guy” out of the equation. These are interesting times for sure in Anaheim and Columbus, which is saying something for sure, given the recent fortunes of those two teams.

Stay Tuned: The Leafs are in after Roberto Luongo, and everybody knows it, but we don’t know if they’ll pay Vancouver’s price for him….Zach Parise is going to hit the open market, and Pittsburgh just cleared a ton of cap space to position themselves at the front of that race…Free agency is nearing ever closer, and the hot stove looks like it’s going to be running all of its burners in the not too distant future.