Monday, February 29, 2016

Weekend report: Trade deadline preview

Faceoff: Deadline day arrives

Welcome to the only Monday morning anyone will be happy to see all year.

At least, I hope it's Monday morning. Things move fast on trade deadline day, and if you're only reading this in the early afternoon then half of what you're about to see will be obsolete. If it's Monday evening, forget it. (But feel free to read on, then tell me how wrong I was about everything.)

After an unusually quiet run up to deadline week, we finally saw some action over the weekend. Stan Bowman got his shopping done early, landing Jets captain Andrew Ladd in a major deal on Thursday and then stocking his roster with reinforcements by adding Dale Weise, Tomas Fleischmann and Christian Ehrhoff.

The Ladd deal was pricey, coming at the cost of a first-round pick and a top prospect, but the Hawks are clearly in win-now mode and it's a testament to Bowman's cap management skills that he had room to add as much as he did without being forced to pay someone to take Bryan Bickell's deal off his hands. (Of course, if he did find a taker for Bickell's deal today, he could add even more, which has to be a scary thought for the teams below.)

Other deals soon followed. The Panthers were a mild surprise as the next team to load up, making three deals on Saturday to bring in Jiri Hudler, Terry Purcell and Jakub Kindl. The Penguins rolled the dice on Justin Schultz, who'd never lived up to expectations in Edmonton but could give Pittsburgh's powerplay a nice boost. The Blues added some goaltending depth by sending a pick and a prospect to the Oilers for Anders Nilsson, and the Sharks did the same by landing James Reimer.

The Blackhawks have already done some major lifting, highlighted by the Ladd deal. —Photo Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

That set the stage for Sunday's big deal, which saw the Hurricanes send captain Eric Staal to the Rangers for two second-round picks and prospect Aleksi Saarela. It's yet another big midseason move for the Rangers, who've made a habit of making these sorts of deals over the years. This one came relatively cheap—they didn't give up a first-round pick, and Saarela is a good prospect but far from a sure thing—and the Hurricanes retained half of Staal's salary to make the dollars work.

So are any names left on the market? Not as many as you'd like if you're a TV producer putting together a full day's worth of coverage, but deadline day is always busy. Several teams still haven't made moves, or at least not the kind of moves they'd like to, and there are always a few unexpected names that shake loose in the final hours. One way or another, today should be busy.

To mark the occasion, we'll dispense with the usual power rankings this week. Why bother, really, given that both the league's best and worst teams figure to look a lot different by the end of the day. Instead, let's borrow the format to take a look at the remaining buyers and sellers under the most pressure as the clock ticks down.

The buyers

The five contenders with the most work to do today.

Now that Bowman and the Hawks have set the goalposts, the league's other top contenders have some work to do to catch up—or to explain to frustrated fan bases why they chose not to.

5. Washington Capitals

On the one hand, they're already an excellent team—one that would go into the playoffs as the Eastern Conference's prohibitive favourite even if they didn't add anyone at all. On the other, the entire season has been played under a cloud of "Yeah, but..." as fans wait to see whether this is all just a setup for yet another chapter of playoff heartbreak. This is quite possibly the best team in franchise history, and that makes the question of how big a move to make a tricky one.

So what do you do if you're Brian MacLellan? Adding Mike Weber last week was a depth move, but he doesn't qualify as a major piece and the loss of John Carlsson to the IR and last night's Brooks Laich trade creates enough cap room to add something. The Caps were heavily rumoured to be in on Ladd, which suggests that one of the other top wingers could be a fallback.

The team is good enough that MacLellan could probably get away with standing pat, using the old "Don't want to disrupt the room" standby. You'd figure that Caps fans, antsy as they are, would accept that today. But check with them in June—or earlier—and they may have a different view.

4. Los Angeles Kings

They've added Rob Scuderi, but you'd figure they're not done yet. No GM has had more deadline success than Dean Lombardi, who has twice pulled off major trades that helped pave the way to Stanley Cup wins. Last year's Andrej Sekera deal didn't work out so well, and Lombardi doesn't have a first rounder or much cap space to work with. They already picked up Kris Versteeg, but the Kings may feel pressure to do something more, especially if we see reinforcements headed to our next team...

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports

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