PHOENIX (AP) — Not many teams made big deals at the NHL trade deadline, leaving some fans feeling let down when their contending teams headed into the playoff push with no new toys.
Other fans realize it’s often best for good teams to stick with what made them good.
The general feeling of anti-climax around the annual deadline reflected the tight nature of the NHL playoff race and the forbearance of executives unwilling to pay the market’s high prices for a midseason gamble on team chemistry.
Los Angeles general manager Dean Lombardi is unafraid to make a risky midseason deal to improve his powerhouse club, and his trades have worked out splendidly — Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik come to mind — more often than they’ve hurt him.
But Lombardi and other top executives didn’t want to do something just to keep up with the Bowmans.
“I think that’s dangerous,” Lombardi said. “You’ve got to look at your team, and (the question) has always been, ‘How good are we?’ Yes, you look at your (potential playoff) matchups, but I think if you get yourself into that, you may be throwing around first-rounders before you know it.”
Only a handful of teams are heading into the six-week sprint to the postseason with little hope of getting into the postseason. The non-contending teams giving up major assets largely got good value for them, but comparatively few clubs were willing to surrender the season for future hopes.
“It’s competitive,” Philadelphia general manager Ron Hextall said. “There’s not a lot of teams that you would say are out of it. It’s a different market.”
After a couple of days to digest all the moves, a few viewpoints have emerged around the hockey world:
The Chicago Blackhawks have been praised for their pre-deadline acquisitions of Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd and role players Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann. The high price for Ladd could sting at some point, but it seems inconsequential when your team is chasing a fourth banner in seven years.
The Florida Panthers grabbed some secondary scoring in Jiri Hudler and Teddy Purcell. Perhaps even more clearly, GM Dale Tallon told his players and their fans that this franchise is serious about doing even more than winning a playoff series for the first time since 1996.
Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray loves to deal at the deadline, and he scooped up forwards Jamie McGinn and Brandon Pirri for a pair of draft picks. Although they aren’t big names, the wings immediately became two of the top five goal-scorers suiting up the Ducks, who had struggled mightily for offense until their recent win streak.
On the back end of another dismal season, the Toronto Maple Leafs got to work on next year with a flurry of trades. Although they didn’t get rid of every expiring contract, GM Lou Lamoriello has 14 picks and plenty of salary cap room heading into the summer.
While they still have a theoretical shot to end their six-year playoff drought, the Carolina Hurricanes picked up a bunch of draft picks and fleshed out their farm system with a few moves to shed veterans, including captain Eric Staal.
The Calgary Flames got Dallas to pay perhaps the highest price for a deadline asset, dealing defenseman Kris Russell to the contending Stars for a high pick and two young players. GM Brad Treliving also grabbed two picks for Hudler and shuffled some other assets to put the Flames in position to capitalize on this year’s disappointment.
The Minnesota Wild didn’t do much, even with a playoff spot in sight for a talented roster. Boston decided not to trade Loui Eriksson before he hits free agency. St. Louis and Nashville kept their assets and pushed on toward the playoffs. And the Lightning’s only post-deadline addition might be Jonathan Drouin, if the enfant terrible decides to rejoin Tampa Bay after his failed bid to get out of town.
The Kraft Hockeyville campaign supporting grassroots hockey is kicking off its second year in the U.S. Communities can enter the running for $150,000 in arena upgrades by sharing stories about their hockey love at www.KraftHockeyville.com . Last year’s winner was Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown, Pennsylvania — better known as the setting for “Slap Shot,” the classic 1977 hockey comedy.
The Arizona Coyotes. Coach Dave Tippett’s unlikely balancing act in the desert appears to be teetering with six consecutive losses, including a 6-0 shellacking from Pittsburgh on deadline day. Once comfortably in second place in the Pacific despite a young, rebuilding roster, the ‘Yotes have dropped to 11th place in the Western Conference.
The Capitals, Rangers and Islanders. The Metropolitan Division race has been remarkable lately, with all three contenders recording at least seven wins in a 10-game stretch heading into Tuesday. While the Rangers gambled on Staal at the deadline to help their push, the Caps and Isles largely stuck with what got them to this point.
LEADERS (Through Tuesday’s games)
Points, Patrick Kane (Chicago), 85; Goals, Alex Ovechkin (Washington) 40; Wins, Braden Holtby (Washington) 40; Penalty minutes, Derek Dorsett (Vancouver), 141.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Washington visits Anaheim on Monday in one possible Stanley Cup Final preview. The Capitals still lead the league, while their former coach, Bruce Boudreau, has the Ducks streaking to the NHL’s best record since Christmas.