Monday, February 29, 2016

Trade deadline winners and losers

After months of speculation, weeks of rumours, and hours of… well, not all that much, really, the NHL trade deadline has passed.

By law, that means everyone must now immediately declare winners and losers.

Usually, we slap those labels on the teams themselves. But with so few of them actually wading into the action, we may need to dive a little deeper. So here are a dozen other winners and losers in the immediate aftermath of what turned out to be a remarkably quite deadline.

Winner: The Blackhawks’ GM tree

We sometimes hear about coaching trees in various sports – the group of coaches who can trace their career paths back to a common start with a specific team or staff. The coaches take a back seat on deadline day, but the GMs are front and centre, and it was hard to ignore how many of them had connections to one team.

Chicago’s Stan Bowman was deadline week’s biggest player, landing one of the biggest names available when he pried Andrew Ladd out of Winnipeg. The GM on the other side of that deal: Winnipeg’s Kevin Cheveldayoff, who’d been Bowman’s assistant for the Blackhawks’ first Cup win. Bowman then turned to another former assistant, this time Marc Bergevin in Montreal, to pick up Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann.

Meanwhile, the only GM giving Bowman a run for his money on the buyer’s market was Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers. Tallon, of course, built much of the Hawks’ Cup-winning core before making way for Bowman in 2009, and he spent the past few days trying to put together another contender in Florida.

We don’t know exactly what’s in the Blackhawks’ orientation handbook for new front office employees, but it’s safe to assume that “play it safe” doesn’t show up anywhere.

Loser: Jonathan Drouin… and maybe Steve Yzerman too?

Drouin’s the easy call here. He walked away from the Lightning organization in the hopes of forcing a trade, and he didn’t get one. Now he’ll have to wait for the off-season, and unless he comes back, it will cost him a year of free agent eligibility. He can’t be happy right now.

Yzerman and the Lightning may also end up looking back on the day as a missed opportunity. This is a team with a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup – maybe their last shot of the Steven Stamkos era. They didn’t ask Drouin to walk away, but once he did, it gave them a trade chip that you’d think could bring in some serious reinforcements. Instead, nothing.

Was that a mistake? We can’t say without knowing what was on the table. Maybe the Lightning win it all anyway. And maybe they get a much better haul in June than was available in February. But Yzerman, who managed to take a tough situation with Martin St. Louis and turn it into a great deal, couldn’t make it happen here. He may regret it.

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