Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Deadline Done: Beware Of The Penguins...

So the witching hour has come and gone. The rumors are finished. The wheeling and dealing is over. Some teams won, some teams lost, but here is a wrap of what went on during one of the most exciting NHL Trading Deadline Days' in recent memory.

New York Post and Larry Brooks

I woke up this morning to see that Larry Brooks had another New York Post exclusive. God, I love to hate this guy! He keeps it interesting, however. I don't know how often he is right, but at the end of the day it's about making money for these newspapers so he'll always have a scoop. That's why I'll read Brooksie before any of the other hockey writers. He gets me and many others to read his column. The other beat writers in the NY Metro Area never outscoop Larry Brooks. Maybe Biggie Smalls said it before me but I'll reiterate, "He gives out more scoops than Baskin & Robbins."

Brooks reported exclusively this morning that Jaromir Jagr was on the block. Although Jagr ended up staying with the Rangers, none of the other beat writers had that story, which is not to take anything away from them. But Brooks somehow is able to get it done. Many teams reportedly called about the Rangers' superstar, but were unable to offer enough to ply Jagr away from New York. I'm glad the NYR did not deal him. But it sure does make for great drama.

Beware of the Pittsburgh Penguins:
The Pens acquired left wing Gary Roberts from the Florida Panthers for unheralded defenseman Noah Welch and also picked up Georges Laraque from the Phoenix Coyotes for a 2008 third-round pick and minor prospect Dan Carcillo. The young Pens needed another vet or two for a long playoff run and they accomplished that. Roberts is a gritty, nasty, playoff-tested forward who can score goals. He along with Marc Recchi will provide the grit and leadership necessary for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to flourish in the hardcore world of the NHL postseason.

Meanwhile, fans in Pittsburgh will be screaming "Can you smell what Laraque is cooking?" The big guy can fight! But I remember him with Edmonton during the Oilers great run last spring and he did it all. Big hits to get the fans going, the occasional fight (which he never loses), and the timely goal. Laraque doesn't score often but when he does it rallies his team and generally comes at critical times. I would not want to play Pittsburgh.

The San Jose Sharks netted Billy Guerin for winger Ville Nieminen, a 2007 first-round pick, and prospect Jay Barriball. The Sharks got a Stanley Cup winner who provides toughness and goals. Guerin makes the Sharks a much harder team to play against and similar to what Roberts will do for the Penguins, he can show young stars Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo how to win in the playoffs.

The Dallas Stars bolstered their defense considerably by getting d-man Mattias Norstrom, right wing Konstantin Pushkaryov, and third and fourth-round picks this summer from the L.A. Kings for d-men Jaroslav Modry and Johan Fransson, a 2008 first-round pick, and second and third-round picks this June. Although this is only the second time Norstrom will be in the playoffs (once before in 2002 with L.A.) he is the rock that Dallas needed. The Swede will round out an already stingy defense with Sergei Zubov, Philippe Boucher, Darryl Sydor, and Stephane Robidas. Norstrom was the Captain of the Kings and at 6'2", 240 pounds, is a very, very hard hitter. He won't score many goals, but he makes few mistakes with the puck and rarely takes any meaningless penalties. I'd love to see him paired with Zubov. As a matter of fact both men were draft picks of the Rangers, and were separately part of the two worst trades during Neil Smith's tenure as Rangers' GM. Dallas has one heck of a mean hockey club and is definitely going to be a tough out in the Western Conference. Now if only Marty Turco could play like the 'other Marty.' Meanwhile, Modry returns to the Kings where he played from 1998-2004.

The New York Islanders nabbed right wing Ryan Smyth from Edmonton for centers Robert Nilsson and Ryan O'Marra, and a first-round pick this summer. This trade would be a slam dunk if the Isles had signed Smyth beyond the remainder of the season. But here's the problem: He's an unrestricted free agent July 1 and is going to command $5 million per year. The NYI are not guaranteed to make the playoffs at this point - currently in eighth - and if they do qualify will either play Buffalo or New Jersey. Highly unlikely the Isles could beat either team. Throw in the fact that Nilsson (15th in 2003 and has been compared to Peter Forsberg) and O'Marra (15th in 2005) are former first round picks.

By the way, Robert is the son of Kent Nilsson, who won a Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers in 1987. Kent is regarded as one of the best players ever to come out of Sweden. Allegedly he was threatened during that season by Mark Messier to either toughen up or get thrown off an airplane. Legend has it.

Anyway, if the Islanders were higher in the standings and had a legit shot at the Cup, I would love this trade. But they gave up way too much for a guy who in all probability will be back in Edmonton having hot dogs with Oilers' GM Kevin Lowe some time around the Fourth of July. This is a classic case of an experienced GM taking an inexperienced one - GM Garth Snow (first year) - to school.

The Detroit Red Wings rarely do anything wrong, so I was quite hesitant to put them in this column. But to trade for Panthers' forward Todd Bertuzzi who has not played much this season is extremely risky. The Red Wings will send a conditional pick – either a first, second or third-round selection in this year’s draft and a conditional second-round pick in next year’s draft back to Florida. Bert underwent surgery for a herniated disk on November 2 after experiencing back problems right from the start of the year. Apparently he has resumed skating and is close to playing, but after that type of surgery I would be surprised if he is even close to being like the old Todd Bertuzzi. The Bertuzzi situation can end up being a distraction to a team who already includes Mr. Distraction himself, Dom Hasek. GM Ken Holland will rue the day he didn't go harder after Guerin or Keith Tkachuk.

Some Good, Some Bad:
Hard to figure both on and off the ice of course are the New York Rangers. Don't know where the guy was living, but I hope he wasn't overly ambitious and paid his rent already for March. Because Pascal Dupuis is on the move again. Acquired from Minnesota for Adam Hall on February 9, he was sent today to Atlanta along with a third-round pick this summer for highly-touted forward Alex Bourret. The 5-foot-11, 205 pound Bourret was drafted 16th overall in 2005 and is currently playing forward in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves. Bourret put up pretty gaudy numbers with Shawinigan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), scoring 44 goals and helping out on 70 others. But beware because that league is a scorer's paradise. Don't believe me? That's where former superprospect Christian Dube once roamed.

According to reports the last few days Aaron Ward was more of a problem than just his on-the-bench spat with Jaromir Jagr February 3 in Tampa Bay. So exit Ward, enter Paul Mara. The Rangers exchanged defensemen with the Bruins bringing back Mara, who has 11 of his 18 points (in 59 games) when Boston has the man advantage. So the thinking might be that he will help the Broadway Blues on their very inconsistent power play. But the folks in The Garden are going to have to be wary of short handed goals; what with Mara possibly manning a point with his abysmal -22 rating. Yes, -22! Can you give me a loud OOFFAAA!

All in all a pretty exciting day. There were some other deals that bolstered depth and added youth to rebuilding teams. The Flyers got goaltender Marty Biron from Buffalo which was a very good move; Colorado brought back right wing Scott Parker; Buffalo added right wing Dainius Zubrus who is having his best season (20 goals and 32 assists in 60 games); Brad May comes from Colorado where he has only played 10 games this year and will bring toughness to the Ducks if he ever gets off the bench; Bryan Smolinski and Brent Sopel go to the Canucks which would be great if goalie Roberto Luongo can get hot; and Minnesota traded for Dominick Moore who can say hello to the guy he was traded for during the summer, Adam Hall.

Stay Onsides!

No comments: