The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, and some of the biggest stories revolved around the moves that didn’t happen. Rick Nash remains a Blue Jacket after no club was willing to meet the demands of Columbus GM Scott Howson. The Kings were apparently satisfied with their pre deadline pick up of Jeff Carter and despite much speculation, Dustin Brown remains the team’s captain. And despite being a bubble team in the West, Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk held on to a number of desirable pieces many expected to be on the move.
However, things were not “All Quiet On The Western Front” as several Western Conference teams made upgrades on Monday. In all 19 NHL teams were involved in 15 deadline day deals with most of the seemingly more impactful acquisitions taking place in the old Campbell Conference.
Nashville may have been the biggest winner as they capped off a busy two weeks by adding size and skill when they added Sabres forward Paul Gaustad and Canadiens speedster Andrei Kostitsyn. Meanwhile, the Vancouver Canucks made one of the more intriguing moves of the day. After picking up Sami Pahlsson to fill a checking line role that all Cup contenders need earlier in the day, the Canucks moved former first round pick and highly skilled center Cody Hodgson to Buffalo in exchange for another former first round pick with a drastically different skill set in Zack Kassian. Kassian has split time this season between Buffalo and Rochester but should bring a physical presence to a Canucks line up that was out muscled by the Bruins last year in the Stanley Cup Finals. Both players have tremendous upside, but this will likely be the deal most scrutinized three or four years down the line as each enters the prime of their career.
Back East, many contenders have opted to “dance with the ones that brung ‘em” as we head towards the final stretch of the regular season. Whether it was because they were satisfied with the rosters they have assembled or because they couldn’t find suitable trade options, the Penguins, Flyers, Panthers, and Devils all stood their ground at the deadline and will look to make their respective runs with the rosters they have intact. The lack of moves by these four teams isn’t terribly surprising for a variety of reasons (the Penguins for instance are awaiting the return of a captain who if healthy will have a far greater impact then any player they or anyone else could have picked up). What left some scratching their heads was the lack of movement from what to this point has been a wildly underachieving Washington Capitals franchise. The Caps currently sit in 9th place in the Eastern Conference and while the recent return of Mike Green to the line up should provide the Caps with a much needed shot in the arm, it is hard to believe General Manager George McPhee can be completely confident in the team as presently constructed based on their performance in their first 60 plus games.
The top two clubs in the East were slightly more active yesterday, but by no means were the Rangers and Bruins involved in any blockbusters. The Rangers, who have employed some of the league’s toughest enforcers over the past several seasons, picked up Blackhawks pugilist John Scott late in the afternoon. It was an interesting pick up, but not the kind of move that will put a team over the top. Then again, the way the Rangers have played this season, they may not need much to get to the top. The Bruins, who have been fighting the injury/concussion bug as of late made a pair of depth moves essentially swapping 3 minor league players for NHL roster guys. In what could be his final NHL season, Brian Rolston will look to collect some minutes on the Bruins power play during his second stint with the organization. Mike Mottau was the second Islander acquired in that deal and will look to add depth to the Boston defense along with former Wild blue liner Greg Zanon.
By 3pm yesterday afternoon, teams had swapped a total of 32 players and 11 draft picks. Now for the fun part as we sit back and see which moves, or lack there of, will prove to be Stanley Cup worthy this spring.