With trade deadline nearly upon us, it’s probably useful to revisit last season’s moves. First, let’s consider the team standings from late February of last season. I’ve taken the liberty of dividing the teams in each conference into three categories, based on accumulated points totals: Stanley Cup contenders, playoff contenders, also-rans. Any team more than five points ahead of eighth is considered a Cup contender, while any team more than five points below eighth is considered an also-ran.
1. Detroit – 62GP – 89 PTS
2. Dallas – 63GP – 79 PTS
3. Minnesota – 59GP – 72 PTS
4. Anaheim – 63GP – 73 PTS
5. San Jose – 59GP – 70 PTS
6. Nashville – 61GP – 69 PTS
7. Phoenix – 64GP – 66 PTS
8. Calgary – 59GP – 66 PTS
9. Vancouver – 59GP – 66 PTS
10. Colorado – 64GP – 65 PTS
11. Columbus – 61GP – 63 PTS
12. St. Louis – 58GP – 63 PTS
13. Chicago – 58GP – 60 PTS
14. Edmonton – 60GP – 59 PTS
15. Los Angeles – 62GP – 53 PTS
1. Ottawa – 59GP – 73 PTS
2. New Jersey – 60 GP – 73 PTS
3. Montreal – 60 GP – 73 PTS
4. Pittsburgh – 59 GP – 71 PTS
5. NY Rangers – 61GP – 67 PTS
6. Philadelphia – 59GP – 65 PTS
7. Boston – 58GP – 64 PTS
8. Carolina – 62GP – 64 PTS
9. Buffalo – 59GP – 64 PTS
10. Atlanta – 61GP – 62 PTS
11. NY Islanders – 59GP – 62 PTS
12. Washington – 60GP – 62 PTS
13. Florida – 61GP – 60 PTS
14. Tampa Bay – 59 GP – 56 PTS
15. Toronto – 57GP – 54 PTS
Based on these standings, it would seem that there were only five teams that were locks, or near-locks to sell, while eight teams would certainly be buying. The other seventeen teams could go either way, but based on the fact that more than half the teams in the league make the playoffs, and that nearly all teams on the bubble seem to buy rather than sell (playoff revenue being all-important to most clubs on the verge of break-even), the notion that the number of sellers would far outweigh the number of buyers seems like a usable working hypothesis. Let’s consider first what the Cup Contenders (again, based solely on points in the standings) did.
Last Season: Detroit, Dallas, Ottawa, New Jersey, Montreal, Anaheim, Minnesota, Pittsburgh
This Season: San Jose, Detroit, Boston, Washington, New Jersey, Calgary, Chicago
– Traded a 2nd and 4th round pick to LA for Brad Stuart
– Traded Jussi Jokinen, Jeff Halpern, Mike Smith and a 4th round pick to TB for Brad Richards and Johan Holmqvist
– Traded a 6th round pick to CHI for Martin Lapointe
– Traded Patrick Eaves and Joe Corvo to CAR for Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore
– Traded Cam Janssen to STL for Bryce Salvador
– Traded Cristobal Huet to WSH for a 2nd round pick
– Traded a 3rd round pick to NYI for Marc-Andre Bergeron
– Traded Brandon Bochenski to NSH for future considerations
– Traded Brandon Segal and a conditional draft pick to TB for Jay Leach
– Traded a 7th round pick to LA for Jean-Sebastien Aubin
– Traded a 6th round pick to NYI for Chris Simon
– Traded Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and a 1st round pick to ATL for Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis
– Traded a 2nd and 5th round pick to TOR for Hal Gill
Analysis: Surprisingly enough, most of these top teams did not make big acquisitions. Minnesota, Anaheim and New Jersey made low-cost acquisitions, and even Detroit didn’t make a big splash to acquire Brad Stuart. Of the teams that did make big moves, Pittsburgh and Dallas both had lengthy runs, but paid dearly for the players they acquired, while Ottawa made big moves but were knocked out in the first round.
In the case of Pittsburgh and Dallas, it could certainly be argued that they received value on their trades, although both teams have suffered for it this season. Pittsburgh was unable to hang on to Hossa, and could certainly use some of the young players they dealt, while Dallas was forced to ride Marty Turco at the start of the year for lack of another option; something that put them into a deep hole they’ve only recently emerged from.
While in most cases, a team like Ottawa would have been well-advised to buy, Bryan Murray should have recognized how many of his team’s points came from an early season run, and how badly they faltered down the stretch. Trying to re-energize the team with mercenaries did not pay off.
Montreal decided to stand pat for the most part, but Bob Gainey refused to allow Cristobal Huet to depart for nothing and sent him to Washington for a draft pick. As much as I’m a fan of keeping an eye on the big picture and maximizing assets, this move was a major surprise and turned out to be a mistake. Montreal looked like a contender early on, but Carey Price faltered in net and Montreal had no option to fall back on. Had Gainey retained Huet, the 2008 playoffs might have turned out a little differently.
This season, with the top-three teams well clear of everybody else, I think that teams need to think long and hard before buying. Any of New Jersey, Calgary or Chicago could go on cup runs, but I’d suggest that they would do well not to mortgage the future on a marquis addition, choosing instead to add role players to improve their depth and shore up areas of weakness. Washington won’t need to play one of the big three until the Conference Finals; I’d argue that they might do well to buy this season. I’d be surprised to see big additions to Detroit or San Jose given how close to the cap they sit, but Boston might surprise and could do themselves a service by picking up a big name.
Last Season: San Jose, Nashville, NY Rangers, Phoenix, Calgary, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Colorado, Boston, Carolina, Buffalo, Columbus, St. Louis, Atlanta, NY Islanders, Washington, Florida
This Season: Philadelphia, Montreal, NY Rangers, Vancouver, Florida, Buffalo, Carolina, Columbus, Minnesota, Dallas, Edmonton, Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Los Angeles, St. Louis
– Traded Rob Davison to NYI for a 7th round pick
– Traded Steve Bernier and a 1st round pick to BUF for Brian Campbell and a 7th round pick
– Traded future considerations to CAR for Justin Forrest
– Traded a 6th round pick to CBJ for Jody Shelley
– Traded a 7th round pick to TB for Jan Hlavac
– Traded future considerations to ANA for Brandon Bochenski
– Traded Marcel Hossa, Al Montoya and a conditional draft pick to PHX for David LeNeveu, Fredrik Sjostrom and Josh Gratton
– Traded a 4th round pick to STL for Christian Backman
– Traded David LeNeveu, Fredrik Sjostrom and Josh Gratton to NYR for Marcel Hossa, Al Montoya and a conditional draft pick
– Traded a 3rd round pick to PHI for Jim Vandermeer
– Traded Matt Cooke to WSH for Matt Pettinger
– Traded Alexandre Pickard and a conditional pick to TB for Vaclav Prospal
– Traded Jim Vandermeer to CGY for a 3rd round pick
– Traded a 3rd round pick to LA for Jaroslav Modry
– Traded a 1st round pick to CBJ for Adam Foote
– Traded Karlis Skrastins to FLA for Ruslan Salei
– Traded Andrew Ladd to CHI for Tuomo Ruutu
– Traded Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore to OTT for Patrick Eaves and Joe Corvo
– Traded Justin Forrest to SJ for future considerations
– Traded Adam Foote to COL for a 1st round pick
– Traded Sergei Fedorov to WSH for Tedd Ruth
– Traded Curtis Glencross to EDM for Dick Tarnstrom
– Traded Jody Shelley to SJ for a 6th round pick
– Traded Bryce Salvador to NJ for Cam Janssen
– Traded Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis to Pittsburgh for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and a 1st round draft pick
– Traded Chris Simon to MIN for a 6th round draft pick
– Traded Marc-Andre Bergeron to ANA for a 3rd round pick
– Traded a 7th round pick to SJ for Rob Davison
– Traded Matt Pettinger to VAN for Matt Cooke
– Traded Tedd Ruth to CBJ for Sergei Fedorov
– Traded a 2nd round pick to MTL for Cristobal Huet
– Traded Ruslan Salei to COL for Karlis Skrastins
– Traded a 5th round pick to TOR for Wade Belak
Analysis: Of the seventeen teams in this range, 4 were out-and-out buyers, 5 were out-and-out sellers, and 8 teams either stood pat or made moves of minimal impact. Of the four buyers, one was knocked out in the first round (Washington), two in the second (San Jose, Colorado) and the last in the Conference Finals (Philadelphia).
Of the eight teams that did little, four (PHO, VAN, CAR, STL) missed the playoffs, three (NSH, CGY, BOS)were knocked out in the first round, and one (NYR) made the second round. None of the sellers made the playoffs. On the other hand, it’s dangerous to read too much into this, as the selling teams were near the bottom of this range, and the buying teams near the top for the most part; in other words the success of these teams has more to do with their original strength than their moves at the trade deadline.
It is worth noting that most of these teams did a combination of buying and selling – presumably filling holes from positions of strength. It’s likely that most of the teams in this range this year will do the same. In my article yesterday, I suggested that the Oilers acquire a third line centre and move away some veterans on long-term contracts. Based on last season, it seems probable that the Oilers will do something along these lines. Likely, the teams at the top end of this group will become buyers, while the teams at the bottom end drop off and become sellers.
Last Season: Chicago, Edmonton, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Los Angeles
This Season: Phoenix, Colorado, Toronto, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, NY Islanders
– Traded Martin Lapointe to OTT for a 6th round draft pick
– Traded Andrew Ladd to CAR for Tuomo Ruutu
– Traded Dick Tarnstorm to CBJ for Curtis Glencross
– Traded Jan Hlavac to NSH for a 7th round draft pick
– Traded Jay Leach to ANA for Brandon Segal and a conditional draft pick
– Traded Brad Richards and Johan Holmqvist to DAL for Mike Smith, Jussi Jokinen, Jeff Halpern and a 1st round draft pick
– Traded Vaclav Prospal to PHI for Alexandre Picard and a conditional draft pick
– Traded Hal Gill to PIT for a 2nd and 5th round draft pick
– Traded Wade Belak to FLA for a 5th round draft pick
– Traded Brad Stuart to DET for a 2nd and 4th round draft pick
– Traded Jean-Sebastien Aubin to ANA for a 7th round draft pick
– Traded Jaroslav Modry to PHI for a 3rd round draft pick
Analysis: This is probably the most interesting bit to last season’s trade deadline. Chicago and Edmonton, two young teams coming off rebuilding seasons, made few moves, with Chicago sending out one pending UFA for a draft pick and making a player for player swap, while Edmonton sent off one pending UFA for another pending UFA. Even Toronto and LA only sent away role players, making the Lightning the only seller having a full-out fire-sale.
That likely suggests that the sellers this season won’t be parting with nearly as many marquis pieces as fans (and people like Eklund) would like – they may settle for sending off lower-profile free agents and taking lower draft picks in return.
It seems likely to me that trade deadline this year will be disappointing for the majority of fans out there; last season very few elite players moved, and most of those to a handful of top teams. The stronger teams in the middle range tend to turn into buyers, while the weaker teams drop further out of the playoffs and turn into sellers.
I’ve always been a little dubious as to the value of deadline acquisitions, but last season the teams that picked up pieces at the deadline seemed to do quite well for themselves, and there’s no denying that some of the names on this list were big factors down the stretch and in the playoffs.