A very active deadline yielded a lot of excitement throughout the league as teams jockey for position in the playoff standings or prepare to take a run at the WHL’s Cyber Cup. While there were many teams who could be on either list (Demons – winners), these are our picks for this year’s winners & losers of the trade deadline.
Gorillas – Since taking over the Gorillas, GM, Jason Gudim has done nothing but positive things to improve this club. A club that once had a lot of talent in Boise, the team experienced a “meltdown” upon being relocated to Calgary. Gudim took over a club in need of some attention, moved them to the small hockey town of Grand Forks, ND and the trade deadline was no different. The Gorillas made moves to get younger and stronger by acquiring Jordan Staal, Sam Gagner, Kris Letang and Patrick O’Sullivan.
This young club already boasts good talent from the likes of Phil Kessel, Chris Stewart and James Neal, while being anchored by Roberto Luongo. The club has great offense, but is in need of help on the point, which they failed to address at the deadline. With some nice picks coming up in the draft I’m sure they’ll take a good look at some defensive prospects and improve in that area as well.
Saints – The Saints are all in this season and have drastically improved their club for the short-term with the additions of Martin Brodeur, Wade Redden, Marcus Naslund, Keith Tkachuk, Sergei Zubov and others. While they gave up some talented young players in Paul Stastny and Bryan Little as well as Dany Heatley, the club definitely improved their chances to win the Cup with the players they acquired, most of which are a season or two away from retirement. With very little in the system, and not much coming in way of draft picks over the next two season, the time is now for the Saints to win it all.
Bulls – The Bulls didn’t need to add much, if anything, to be considered a favorite going into this year’s playoffs. A deal made a week out from the deadline with the Corinthians really improved the club’s chances of doing just that, a year after being upset by the Rink Rats. The Bulls not wanting to leave anything to chance went out and acquired Vinny Lecavalier, Olli Jokinen, Brian Gionta and Simon Gagne – yikes. An upset from the 8th seed this year??? Not likely!
Cats – They didn’t make any major moves, but they made cheap moves and identified areas in which they could improve by adding Rostislav Klesla, Jaromir Jagr, Jason Smith, and Aaron Ward. The team also got younger by adding some a few 4th round picks and a 2nd round pick, not to mention an early season deal which allowed them to acquire Mike Fisher.
FIRISH – The Fighting Irish were very active during the deadline trying to make the right moves and were able to acquire a top-four defenseman in Dan Hamhuis, a young, mid-level prospect in Teddy Purcell, and a plethora of draft picks by moving Rene Bourque, Dan Ellis, Vaclav Prospal, Rostislav Klesla and others. Some nice deals to continue to get younger while still staying competitive.
Corinths – You could argue the Quebec City Corinthians to be on the other list by moving some of the best players in the WHL, but the team showed some balls by making some big-time moves and still looks to be one of the WHL’s best. The Corinths addressed an issue of having a roster full of “old guys” by adding Paul Stastny, Bryan Little, Patrice Bergeron and John Tavares, in addition to adding some notable vets in Danny Briere, Vyacheslav Kozlov. They acquired some extra draft picks and allowed themselves to move down a bit by making a deal with the Sparrows. Smart, strategic decisions for an aging club to get a bit younger, and continue to stay competitive.
Dropkicks – It’s not often that a team battling for a Conference title trades away three of its best players but that’s exactly what the Dropkicks did when they moved Mats Sundin, Patrick Marleau and Jarome Iginla for Alexander Semin, Josh Bailey, Tom Wandell & a 1st round draft pick. The team then moved Zdeno Chara, James Neal, Ethan Moreau and that 1st round pick for Drew Doughty, Wojtek Wolski, Todd Marchant and Chuck Kobasew. So they got younger, got some awesome talent in Doughty and Semin, but fans have to be a little pissed as they were a favorite (and kind of still are) and dealt away some of the best players in the league.
Rink Rats – A team that was just a few games out of 5th place in their conference before the deadline, the Rink Rats committed to being sellers as a reaction to trades made by some of the league’s elite that set them way beyond what Minnesota felt they could compete with. The Rink Rats focused on selling off veterans such as Roman Hamrlik, Mike Sillinger and Andy McDonald who were all involved in deadline deals. In addition to the veterans, the Rink Rats moved some youth in Patrick O’Sullivan and Vladimir Sobotka, not to mention the deals the Rats made not too long ago which involved Kyle Turris, Brian Elliott and Yannick Weber to bring in vets like Brad Richards, McDonald and Hamrlik.
While they added (or reacquired) some decent prospects in Nikolai Kulemin, Kevin Shattenkirk and others, the fact the Rink Rats couldn’t make up their mind and are selling while in a playoff chase, makes them “losers” this season.
Orcas – The Orcas didn’t surprise anyone at trade deadline as they have one of the best groups of young talent in the league. The Orcas are generally pretty quiet and make strategic moves to help them stay young and build for the future, but with the Orcas in the hunt for a playoff spot (which could be as high as the 5th seed) for the first time since being a bottom-dweller I was hoping to see the team make a move to add some extra punch. Much like the Rink Rats and others, the Orcas may have thought there was no point in buying this season with the talent level on some of the top teams just getting stronger. Either way, you have to respect their decision and know that this is the club of the future.
Stampede – The Stampede added some nice assets before the deadline in Kyle Turris, Brian Elliott and Yannick Weber but failed to make noise close to the deadline. While it’s difficult to make moves when there’s no interest or the talent level is thin, one has to believe the Stampede could’ve attracted interest for Andrew Brunette, JS Giguere and Adam Foote. The Stampede may be planning on using Giggy as a mentor for Elliott the next couple of years which is a smart idea, but Foote and Brunette would’ve been nice contributors to a playoff team.
Cougars – So quite … The Cougars have a nice club with some good depth already. Gaborik, Kariya and Toews can be some of the league’s best goal scorers any day and defenseman Kaberle and Johnsson both have strong value to add to the Cougars. But, with the deals made by the Saints, Bulls, Demons and others near and on the deadline, you have to wonder where the Cougars were. They’re so close to having the talent to win it all and just maybe a player or two away from being that team. Kudos for the Cougars to stay on course and not make any ridiculous deals, but it would’ve been nice to see them add a Heatley, Hamrlik or a Olli Jokinen.
Lunatics / Hoodrats – The Lunatics did a good job with the moves they made, acquiring some extra draft picks and youth but you have to wonder if they’re kicking themselves to not being able to trade Darcy Tucker, Nick Boynton, Hal Gill, Derian Hatcher and Chris Osgood at the deadline. That’s a lot of names to say the least but they have some value. The club may end up looking to make those moves in the offseason to add extra draft picks.
The Hoodrats have stayed pretty quiet all season long and while they probably don’t have much to attract a playoff team, Olaf Kolzig and Shane O’Brien (who is on a farm club rerate) surely would’ve attracted someone if their names were mentioned in a trade block.