February 15th, 2011 by

NHL trade deadline: Sell the farm to land the big name?

February 28 is almost here: the NHL trade deadline.

That’s right folks. We’re just inside the two-week mark of the most exciting, most anticipated time of the hockey season. It’s that time where we’ll soon find out…who’s buying and who’s selling?

Is your favorite home team in the hunt? Do they have the chips to make that all important move to put you team over-the-top?

When you’re sitting at your computer on Monday the 28th from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. — with one eye locked inside your favorite chat while keeping the other open on Darren Dregger and the rest of the TSN folk on Twitter — will your general manager make you jump for joy by landing the biggest, most sought-after name on the open market? Or is he doing to destroy your expectations of Lord Stanley’s quest by standing pat or making irrelevant moves for future picks and considerations?

While it’s fun to look back at some of the big names that have helped one team win it all by changing sweaters at the deadline, it’s even more fun to look at the over-priced blunders that have occurred throughout the years.

Why? Because hooking the big fish by the deadline rarely works.

First, let’s just take a look at the recent Stanley Cup winners over the last five seasons and some of their in-season transactions:


2010 Chicago Blackhawks:

  • The Blackhawks traded defenseman Cam Barker to the Minnesota Wild for defensemen Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy.

2009 Pittsburgh Penguins:

  • Pittsburgh steals Bill Guerin — who waives his no trade clause —  from the New York Islanders (61 games played, 16-20-36) in exchange for a conditional draft pick (Michael Lee)
  • Claimed Blackhaws’ RW Craig Adams (2-4-6 totals in CHI) off waivers
  • Acquired left wings Chris Kunitz (16-19-35 in 62 games played in ANA) and Eric Tangradi (OHL/AHL) from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defenseman Ryan Whitney. Kunitz: 1-13-14 in 26 playoff games.

2008 Detroit Red Wings:

  • Acquired defenseman Brad Stuart from the Los Angeles Kings for a 2008 second-round pick (Peter Delmas) and a 2009 fourth-round pick (Ben Chairot)

2007 Anaheim Ducks:

  • Acquired a whole bunch of non-factors, including Joe Motzko and Mark Hartigan from Columbus and shipped Zenon Konopka and Curtis Glencross to the Blue Jackets — Shane Endicott acquired from the Nashville Predators for Chris Durno
  • Acquired Brad May from Colorado for goalie Michael Wall; and George Parros from Colorado for a 2007 second-round pick (T.J. Galiardi)

2006 Carolina Hurricanes:

  • Acquired Mark Recchi (57 points at the time) from the Pittsburgh Penguins for former first-round draft pick, center Krys Kolanos, former eighth-round pick and left wing Niklas Nordgren, and a 2007 second-round pick (Kevin Marshall)
  • “Rented” Doug Weight (and Erkki Rajamaki) from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for their own first round draft pick in 2006 (Matt Corrente), Toronto’s fourth-round pick in 2006 (Reto Berra), Chicago’s fourth-round pick in 2007 (Cade Fairchild), right wing Jesse Boulerice (who went on to play 19 more NHL games over the next five seasons), center Mike Zigomanis (has since spent most of his time in the AHL, and now Swedish Elite League) and rights to Magnus Kahnberg (who never saw any time in the NHL).
  • Although headed back to Pittsburgh at St. Louis, respectively, that summer, Recchi and Weight each scored 16 points and had their names engraved in Lord Stanley’s Cup (for a small price).

The acquisition of Recchi by Carolina looks like a large sum on the surface, but this was one case where the rental(s) worked. The last time that a big deal went down that helped win the Cup, and that player stayed at least one more season, was in 2001.

Defenseman Rob Blake was shipped to the Colorado Avalanche in February of ’01 — along with Steven Reinprecht — for Adam Deadmarsh, Aaron Miller, Jared Aulin and the first-round pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft (Dave Steckel). Blake scored 19 points (six goals) as the Avalanche rolled through the Cup Finals, and went on to play four more seasons in the Mile High.

Now let’s take a look at some of the bigger named superstars who were moved (starting from the lockout) on-or-around the NHL trade deadline, their teams’ results, and where that player wound up the following season:

Everyone had to have Thrashers’ sniper Ilya Kovalchuk…who eventually went to the New Jersey Devils (with defenseman Anssi Salmela) in exchange for defenseman Johnny Oduya, first-round draft pick Niclas Bergfors, big junior prospect Patrice Cormier, and first-round draft pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

  • Result: (This guy said it in January) The second-seed Devils got smoked by the Flyers in five games; New Jersey, who eventually inked Kovalchuk to a life-long deal, gets slapped by the NHL for circumventing the system, losing this year’s third-round pick, a future first-round pick, $3 million; were in salary-cap hell this year; and are now playing second-half catch-up, hoping to capture a playoff spot.

Calgary Flames acquired center Olli Jokinen from the Phoenix Coyotes for Mathew Lombardi, Brandon Prust, and the 2009 first-round draft pick (Tim Erixon)

  • Result: Jokinen posts 2-3-5 in an early exit, losing in six games to the Blackhawks. Jokinen, with the Flames out of the playoff run the following season, is dealt to the New York Rangers for Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik.

In the mother of all deals, the Atlanta Thrashers shipped Marian Hossa (and Pascal Dupuis) to Pittsburgh in exchange for 2008 first-round draft pick (Daultan Leveille), Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, and top-prospect Angelo Esposito

  • Result: The Pens lose 4-2 in the Cup Finals to Detroit; Hossa, who went nuts posting 12-14-26 scoring totals in 20 Pittsburgh playoff games, slaps the Pens in the face and inks a one-year deal with Cup-winning Red Wings

The New York Islanders acquired Ryan Smyth from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for former first-round picks Robert Nilson and Ryan O’Marra, and their 2007 first round pick (Alex Plante)

  • Result: New York gets bounced by Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs; and Smyth, who posted 1-3-4 totals in the post-season,  leaves the Isle to join the Colorado Avalanche.

Detroit Red Wings acquired Todd Bertuzzi from the Florida Panthers in exchange for forward Shawn Matthias, a 2007 conditional draft pick (Nick Spaling) and a 2008 conditional second-round pick (Peter Delmas)

  • Result: Detroit loses to the Anaheim Ducks — who went on to win the Cup — and Bertuzzi, who had seven points in 16 playoff games with the Wings, packs his bags and signs a two-year deal in Anaheim.

The Nashville Predators hooked Peter Forsberg from the Philadelphia Flyers for forward Scottie Upshall, defenseman Ryan Parent, and 2007 first- (Jonathon Blum) and third-round draft picks (Phil De Simone)

  • Result: Nashville gets bounced in the first round by San Jose; Forsberg, 2-2-4 in five playoff games, becomes a UFA and eventually returns to the Avalanche.

Why all of this? It goes to show that landing the big cahuna, although making the fans go bananas, rarely works.

Arguably the biggest name this offseason, which has been floating around the Boston Bruins’ radar, is Dallas Stars stud center Brad Richards. I’d go on about how Dallas trading this player is highly unlikely to happen, but I’ll leave it to the guys from StanleyCupofChowder.com instead.

The NHL has seen some significat trades already. The Flyers got even better by landing former Bruin Kris Versteeg from the Maple Leafs for a first- and third-round pick. The Predators got deeper in the West by snagging Mike Fisher from the Senators for a first- and second-round pick. This only means — as good of players that Versteeg and Fisher are — that the price for a player of Richards’ caliber has shot to the moon.

It’s great to see GM’s make big trades to help their teams. But, as history has proven, sometimes what an already good-team needs is just a couple of smaller pieces to the puzzle.

So while you’re crossing your fingers for your team to hook that sublime player come the 28th, keep some of those previous duds that have happened in the past fresh in mind as well.

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