The 2014 NHL trade deadline has come and gone and all that's left is to pick apart the 20 trades made with 38 players changing addresses.
Some teams got significantly better, some teams divested themselves of talent and some teams had quiet afternoons, keeping the status quo. But you can't really pick winners or losers, yet.
Last year, the Pittsburgh Penguins were declared the winners of the deadline when they brought in both Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow. While both played well for their new clubs, the Penguins were overmatched and dominated in a sweep by the Boston Bruins, the team Iginila spurned to join the Penguins, in the Eastern Conference finals with the team falling well short of their goal of winning the Stanley Cup.
The Ottawa Senators alleviated a logjam in net at the 2013 deadline when they sent Ben Bishop to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Cory Conacher. Conacher, at the time, was second in rookie scoring and the Sens hoped that he could bring some jump to its second line, while identifying Bishop as the odd man out in a crowded crease that also included Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner.
Flash forward one year and Bishop is starring in net for the Lightning, third in the league in wins with a sterling 2.09 GAA and a .931 save percentage. The lanky goaltender is certainly at the forefront of the Vezina conversation with his team firmly ensconced in a playoff position. Conacher, on the other hand, struggled mightily in his first full season with the Senators, finding himself unable to replicate his rookie season success and enduring a 30-game goalless drought. Waived by the team, Conacher was claimed on Wednesday by the Buffalo Sabres, reuniting him with Tim Murray and taking him back to the city where he went to school at Canisius.
Obviously, with draft picks and prospects in play, the full ramifications of trades won't be felt for years down the road, but we can assess the immediate impact of today's movement.
With big names like Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo moved prior to Wednesday's deadline, Thomas Vanek was the highest profile player to switch jerseys when the New York Islanders shipped the Austrian sniper to the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs' pursuit of Vanek was somewhat of a clandestine one, having not been heavily attached to Vanek in the days leading up to the deadline like the Los Angeles Kings or Pittsburgh Penguins were.
Vanek's potential payoff for the Canadiens is obvious. At 6'2, Vanek becomes one of the team's bigger fowards and his soft hands should instantly help a team looking for more scoring punch. Eclipsing the 20-goal mark in every one of his nine NHL seasons (including this one), the 30-year-old pending free agent makes the Canadiens' power play a much scarier proposition. Sacrificing only a (conditional) second-round pick in 2014 and Swedish forward prospect Sebastian Collberg to acquire Vanek (and a conditional fifth-round pick) has to be viewed as nothing short of a coup for the Habs and general manager Marc Bergevin. Whether or not Vanek, who reportedly turned down a substantial extension offer from the Islanders in February, is retained long term will be a bridge to cross down the line.
And what of the team that dealt Vanek in the Islanders? Looking at things strictly from an asset standpoint, general manager Garth Snow took a bath on Vanek and his bold acquisition of the player in October didn't turn out nearly the way Snow intended.
Vanek, acquired from the Buffalo Sabres, cost the Islanders three-time 30-goal-scorer Matt Moulson, their 2014 first-round pick and a second-rounder in 2015. Though Moulson is an impending free agent himself, the cost to bring in Vanek was immense and with the Islanders' slim playoff hopes effectively torpedoed by the season-ending injury to John Tavares at the Olympics, Snow did not come close to recouping the assets he expended. While Collberg might one day be an effective NHL scorer, it's hard not to view the Islanders' Thomas Vanek experiment as a failure. With both Vanek and Andrew MacDonald, who was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, turning down lucrative extensions and eventually leaving town, questions will certainly be asked of Snow and his long term future in the GM's office.
If the Islanders failed at asset management this week, Murray and the Sabres excelled. In the past six days, the Sabres turned Moulson, Miller, Steve Ott, Brayden McNabb, Cody McCormick, two second-rounders, a third-round pick and the newly acquired Jaroslav Halak into Chris Stewart, Michal Neuvirth, Rostislav Klesla, prospects William Carrier, Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers, Torrey Mitchell and three picks (a first and a pair of seconds). In the next two drafts, the Sabres have a staggering 10 picks in the first two rounds. This is coupled with a tremendous amount of cap flexibility going forward. While the Sabres might suffer in the short term and details have yet to emerge on Pat LaFontaine's surprise resignation on Saturday, Murray has seemingly positioned his team to properly retool in an attempt to re-emerge as an Eastern Conference contender.
The writing was on the wall for St. Louis and the Lightning. Having been left off Canada's initial Olympic roster, despite eventually playing for the gold medal-winning team, St. Louis's relationship with general manager Steve Yzerman seemed to sour and a quick divorce both appeared to be on the horizon and was likely the best choice for both parties. St. Louis cited familial reasons for his trade request (he lives in nearby Connecticut), but dealing the franchise's captain and talisman can't sit well with Lightning fans. Still, Yzerman did well in his acquisition of Callahan. Perhaps not as offensively talented as reigning Art Ross-winner St. Louis and unlikely to immediately replicate St. Louis's chemistry with the returning Steven Stamkos, Callahan quickly fills the Lightning's leadership void and gives the team cap flexibility going forward and the ability to re-sign Callahan if both parties so choose. On top of that, Yzerman was able to procure a first-rounder in 2015 and a second in this summer's draft that could turn into a first if the Rangers can advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
Though Callahan's contract negotiations and lack of movement between the two sides were well publicized in the days and weeks heading up to the deadline, the trade still came as a bitter pill for the player. If Callahan's agent, Stephen Bartlett, is to be believed, the Rangers and Callahan could have bridged that gap "with about one conversation," but the U.S. Olympian finds himself in an advantageous situation. The Lightning are looking likely to be a playoff team and Callahan knows that if he performs well during the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs, he'll be in good position to name his price this offseason in a relatively weak free agent crop.
Coincidentally, the last time the Rangers traded their captain was in 2003 when the Blueshirts sent the negotiation rights to impending free agent Mark Messier to the San Jose Sharks. In return, they received a fourth-round pick in 2004. With that pick, the Rangers selected Ryan Callahan.
Other teams impressed on Wednesday.
The Ottawa Senators turned a third and fifth-round picks into Ales Hemsky from the Edmonton Oilers, who will also retain half of Hemsky's salary. The talent of Hemsky has never been in question, but his durability has almost always been an issue. If the Senators, who also managed to re-sign Chris Phillips for two more years, can harness some of Hemsky's offensive potency, the team will have added a quality top-six forward (and a likely winger for Jason Spezza) in their push for a playoff spot. For Hemsky, the rest of this season can act as an audition for the Senators, who have the room to sign him long term at season's end.
The Los Angeles Kings addressed their scoring deficiencies in acquiring Marian Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Gaborik represents a high risk, high reward proposition as the team sacrificed Matt Frattin and there is certainly some concern about how the mercurial Gaborik will fare under Darryl Sutter. But with the Blue Jackets absorbing half of Gaborik's salary, this could be a masterstroke by Dean Lombardi if the Slovakian comes up firing.
Halak has always played his best hockey when never firmly established as a go-to number one goaltender and forced to compete for playing time like he did in Montreal with Carey Price and in St. Louis with Brian Elliott. The Washington Capitals are hoping that history will repeat itself after acquiring the Slovakian from the Sabres. Currently on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, general manager George McPhee and Adam Oates hope that a healthy rivalry between Halak and incumbent Braden Holtby will be the tonic to lift the Capitals into the post-season.
Some other clubs raised eyebrows, but not necessarily in a good way.
Ryan Kesler remained a Vancouver Canuck. A day after trading Roberto Luongo, general manager Mike Gillis did not pull the trigger on his (reportedly) wantaway winger to complete a drastic facelift on his team that is currently on the periphery of the playoff picture. Still, it's not the end of the world for the Canucks as, if they choose to trade Kesler at some point in the offseason, he will still command a significant return since he is signed for two more seasons at a very attractive $5 million cap hit. That said, more than just Kesler's future is likely to come under the microscope come this offseason even if the team pulls out a playoff spot. The Canucks' core isn't getting any younger and it's perhaps time to confront the reality that the team's window to contend is close to being sealed shut.
Kesler's staying in Vancouver rippled throughout the rest of the league. Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray clearly thought that his club was in position to land the player and was left "confused" by his inability to do so. The Ducks' day, then, seemed incomplete and it's hard to argue that the team is better than it was on Tuesday after it dealt Dustin Penner to the Washington Capitals and goaltender Viktor Fasth to the Oilers, compromising some of the team's depth.
Other than dealing Reto Berra to the Colorado Avalanche and Lee Stempniak to the Penguins, the Calgary Flames stayed surprisingly quiet. Most notably, Mike Cammalleri stayed put in Calgary. An unrestricted free agent at season's end, it's highly unlikely that Cammalleri will remain with the Flames beyond this April, so it comes as a bit of a shock that Brian Burke didn't parlay Cammalleri into picks or prospects.