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The Northwest After the Deadline

Rocking a new look.
Rocking a new look.

The trade deadline is now in the rear-view mirror, and we've all had a couple of days to think on what each team did to in an effort to improve themselves (either right now or for the future). Before the deadline, I talked a little bit about what each of the teams in the Northwest should be trying to do. After the jump, I'll evaluate what each of the four other teams actually did, and whether or not that seems to fit with an overall plan.

Calgary Flames - When I wrote about the Flames before the deadline, I suggested that they could try one of two things to make the club better. The first was to go out and get a core player who could help now, and also help in the future, a guy like Brandon Dubinsky or Derek Roy, so long as they could do so without giving up a top prospect. Those players didn't move, so it seems like the price there must have been quite high, and the Flames were likely wise not to pay it.

The other option was a pure rental. Those were generally pretty expensive (Nashville gave up a lot - too much, I think - for Paul Gaustad) with the odd bargain (Samuel Pahlsson) mixed in. The Flames didn't find one of the bargains, so they decided to stand pat, and that seems pretty reasonable to me.

Colorado Avalanche - When I wrote about the Avalanche before the deadline, I suggested that they were a team in an ideal buying situation paralyzed by budget concerns. I concluded that the team was more likely to stand pat or sell around the margins than they were to buy, and selling around the margins is exactly what happened.

The Avalanche moved pending free agent Daniel Winnik, and an out-of-favor T.J. Galiardi for Jamie McGinn, Mike Connelly, and Michael Sgarbossa. Connelly and Sgarbossa are both undersized scorers in the minors who are long-shots for the NHL, but McGinn is a pretty good young player now who's on a cheap contract ($680,000) that expires after this season and under team control for another three seasons. Same situation as Galiardi, but the Avalanche believe they're getting the better player (I agree). The loss of Winnik hurts the team's chances in the here and now, but they obviously couldn't work out an extension and wanted to get something for him. The move also saves the Avalanche some money, which seems to be one of the team's big concerns.

Minnesota Wild - When I wrote about the Wild before the dealine, I suggested that they were in full-on selling mode with everyone older than Mikko Koivu on the chopping block. Three of the six players I mentioned in that article did in fact get moved (Nick Schultz, Greg Zanon, Marek Zidlicky) in what amounted to one hockey trade and two trades for futures.

The hockey trade was excellent. Nick Schultz is a good player, but Tom Gilbert is better, and he's going into the low-salary portion of his contract, which should make him easy to move in the future if things don't work out in Minnesota. That said, they'll probably work out. When Chuck Fletcher was interviewed about the trade, he showed a clear knowledge of what he was getting with Gilbert, so I expect him to be pleased with the player. There was also a part of that interview that helped to justify my view of the Wild as rebuilding this year:

At least last summer, we felt we were a bit stuck in terms of not being able to get over the hump for the present and maybe not having enough assets going forward (...) We're very cognizant of the fact that over time here we have to add more NHL talent, too. Part of our push as we get better will be from young players, part of it will be from adding NHL players. In order to do that, you either need cap space or you need young assets to trade, and the good news is we feel we have both.

In Fletcher's other two trades he added to his "young assets" by acquiring Steve Kampfer from the Bruins for Greg Zanon and a 2nd round pick and a conditional 3rd round pick (plus Nick Palmieri and Stephane Veilleux) for Marek Zidlicky. Those two trades add a few (admittedly non-premium) assets, give the Wild some cap space going forward (in the case of Zidlicky), and probably move enough salary out to get them under the mid-point. It also makes them even worse, which could easily help them a top five pick in June.

Going forward, it'll be interesting to see if Minnesota becomes a cap team again over the summer, or if they go with one more year of building up assets. Fletcher spoke of Dany Heatley like he was part of the long-term plan, and if he's sincere (I'm not sure that he is), that probably means he'll be a big spender in July. We should get a pretty good idea at the draft.

Vancouver Canucks - When I wrote about the Canucks before the deadline, I thought that they would be very quiet. I was pretty much dead wrong! In my defense, I wrote that before the Canucks put Keith Ballard on injured reserve with a sore "making too much money". That allowed them to make an excellent trade with the Blue Jackets in acquiring Samuel Pahlsson for two fourth-round picks, which was basically the lowest price that anyone paid for anything of actual value.

But the big story was the Cody Hodgson trade. The Canucks sent Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer to Buffalo for Marc-Andre Gragnani and Zack Kassian. I live in the Lower Mainland, and let me tell you, the reaction to this deal hasn't been very positive. But I like this one for the Canucks.

Kassian and Hodgson are almost exactly a year apart in age, so that makes comparing them at the same age quite a bit easier. And in terms of AHL offense, Kassian has been much better than Hodgson was last year as a rookie pro: 0.87 points per game compared to 0.58 for Hodgson with very similar shot rates (3.13 for Kassian and 3.19 for Hodgson). And while Hodgson has established himself in the NHL this season, he has benefited tremendously from the percentages. He’s shooting 15.5% this season. Only seven players have been better than that in at least 400 shots since the lockout, so I’d be betting against Hodgson sustaining it over the long haul. He also has the best on-ice shooting percentage five-on-five on the Canucks (10.8%), which again, isn’t likely to last. His numbers have also come in a pretty sheltered role. Vigneault is using more in the OZ than DZ, and he isn't with the Sedins, which means no tough defense pairings either. After a season lost to injury and an iffy pro debut last year, it looks to me like Gillis is selling high.

And he got a good player! Kassian doesn't have Hodgson's point totals, but his shot rate is actually higher than Hodgson’s during five-on-five play. Kassian has taken 6.67 shots on goal for every hour of five-on-five ice time compared to 6.57 for Hodgson. If we include missed shots, the gap increases with Kassian taking 9.30 compared to 8.67 for Hodgson. I don’t know that Kassian will become a great power forward, but his size adds a dimension that Hodgson will never provide, and by the numbers, it seems to me that Kassian is at least as good a bet as Hodgson to become a solid middle six NHL player. Add to that the acquisition of Gragnani (a cheap defender who can help out with the PP), and the Canucks have done very well indeed.

Now let's all get together for the playoffs and hope for them to fail.