Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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With the NHL trade deadline behind us, Eddie Razo and Matthew Ruskan have chosen this year’s winners and losers as we approach the Stanley Cup playoffs. Which teams have a better shot at the playoffs or are getting set for a rebuild? Which teams failed to make a positive splash? Find out in this edition of Our Sports Report’s Winners and Losers.
Detroit Red Wings: Losers
Eddie: I am going against the grain here by questioning Ken Holland, but in a wide-open Eastern Conference, they could have done more to make them the favorites at the deadline. They missed on Jeff Petry and traded for two players too long in the tooth in Erik Cole and Marek Zidlicky. Now, before I get ripped a new one by Red Wings fans, let me explain. Have they not seen this before over the last few years bringing in players via trade or free agency that are a bit over the hill? Stephen Weiss has been a bust thus far, granted he’s dealt with injuries, but still missing games nonetheless. Then you add last seasons trade deadline acquisition of David Legwand who didn’t accomplish much. With the assets the Red Wings have, I felt they should have made a push for Chris Stewart that gives them that power forward they lack with Johan Franzen out of the line up.
New York Rangers: Winners
Eddie: The Rangers made the biggest splash just prior to the deadline acquiring Keith Yandle, as well as adding James Sheppard and Carl Klingberg for depth as they make another run at the Stanley Cup. Although I feel they gave up a lot in Anthony Duclair who could turn out to a be stud, then add in the draft picks it took to acquire Yandle, it looks like the Rangers are mortgaging the future for the now since they don’t own a first in the next two years nor a second-round pick this year. Still with all that said, I’ll have to label them winners because Glen Sather sees that Henrik Lundqvist isn’t getting any younger and knows he has a few years left playing at an elite level, so I applaud him for going all in for this year. Now, if they fail to win a cup and Anthony Duclair tears it up in Arizona that will be a discussion for another day, but for the deadline I view them as a winner.
Winnipeg Jets: Winners
Eddie: Over the years since the Jets came back into the league, General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has earned the nickname Kevin Chevel-”day off” since he was non-existent in the trade market. However, this season he more than made up for it getting rid of a headache in Evander Kane along with Zach Bogosian for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Brendan Lemieux, Joel Armia, and a first-round pick. With this move, Cheveldayoff was able to garner a huge return for Kane and Bogosian, pieces in Myers and Stafford that help them make a push for a playoff spot in a tough Western Conference this season, and two prospects and a first-round pick that can help them in the future. Obtaining these entire pieces make the Jets a winner and which will result in them making the playoffs this season.
Buffalo Sabres: Winner
Eddie: Boy, oh boy do the Buffalo Sabres have a roster equivalent to an American Hockey League team, and you know what? That is a good thing! For goodness sake their starting goaltender is going to be Ander Lindback for the rest of the season, which will get them Jack Eichel at the very least if they don’t win the draft lottery for Connor McDavid. So prepare yourself Sabres fans because the rest of the season will make for some really bad hockey, but look at the big picture which means you’ll be guaranteed one of the two franchise changers, so that makes the Sabres a winner for looking towards the future.
San Jose Sharks: Losers
Eddie: It’s been a tough season for the Sharks, who are in a tough predicament as they currently sit just on the outside looking in, not willing to sell nor willing to buy at the deadline. So I am assuming they’ll still trying to push for a playoff spot since they only shipped off Tyler Kennedy to the New York Islanders and acquired Ben Smith from the Blackhawks and kept most of their core players in tact. So with that said, I have to label them losers because with their core players still in San Jose, I am assuming they’re pushing for the players and in a tough Western Conference, I don’t see them making it out because they didn’t bolster their team as they’re just fighting for their playoff lives.
Anaheim Ducks: Winners
Matthew: Take the kids and run! Somehow, and I really have no idea how Bob Murray pulled this off, the Ducks duped the Penguins into trading Simon Despres for Ben Lovejoy. Now don’t get me wrong, Lovejoy is a very solid blue liner, but Despres is 8 years younger (23 versus 31), bigger (6’4” and 214 pounds versus 6’1” and 206 pounds) and Despres has a higher overall talent ceiling. I just don’t get what the Penguins were looking at, but this works out exceptionally well for a backline in Anaheim missing Sami Vatanen. The Ducks also acquired speedy Tomas Fleisdhmann, who brings some more grit, speed and size to the Ducks’ wingers. To top it all off, the Ducks also nabbed James Wisniewski and a 2015 3rd-round draft pick from Columbus for Rene Borque, William Karlsson and a 2015 2nd-Round pick. Borque is of no great loss, but Karlsson is an extremely talented player, one the Jackets are excited to obtain. Wisniewski adds some more offense to the Ducks’ defense and makes them a team that I think has to be tabbed the overall favorite to win the Cup entering the final stretch, making them winners at the deadline.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Winners
Matthew: Only time will tell if what I say here is true, but I am going to label the Blue Jackets winners at the deadline. Even with David Clarkson tearing his oblique and missing the rest of the season, he fits in well with the physical style of the Jackets, something that was not as present in Toronto. Only losing Nathan Horton who most likely will never play again only makes the deal better. The other major deal was the one detailed above for James Wisniewski. While I am not a huge fan of Rene Borque, William Karlsson, who was top 5 draft pick, and a 2015 2nd-rounder, makes this deal well worth it for a team building for next season. Assuming the Jackets can stay healthy next season, I think these deals give them a chance to make a run in 2015-2016.
Detroit Red Wings: Winners
Matthew: Unlike Eddie, I think the Red Wings should be considered winners at this year’s trade deadline. While Ken Holland would have liked to pick up Jeff Petry, Marek Zidlicky (besides having one of the better last names in the league) is a very underrated stand up defenseman who can also put the puck in the back of the net every once and awhile, as he did in his first game with the Wings in overtime against the Rangers. Also, adding experience to your backline is always a good thing. I also think that Erik Cole is an excellent pick up. He is 6’2” and 205 pounds, a very good power forward who can replace Franson for some time. I think these two deals bring in two veterans to mix with some of the younger players on the Red Wings roster and that experience could push the Wings into the playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Losers
Matthew: For the definition of epic nosedive, please see here. For a season where the Leafs jumped out of the gates so quickly, things have turned disastrous. While moving the Clarkson contract was huge, in the end I do not think that the Leafs got enough value in their moves. Zach Sill and a 2nd and 4th round pick for Daniel Winnik? Nope. Olli Jokinen (who they later moved for even lesser value), Brendan Leipsic and a 2015 1st-rounder for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli? The 1st-rounder is nice, but odds are it will be later because the Predators are killing it. Plus, Toronto loses two very solid players that I think they could have used in the rebuild process. There was also a lot of talk about moving captain Dion Phaneuf and star forward Phil Kessel. If you are going to talk that game, you better move them. And they did not. Which means you now have two pissed off, big money players that you cannot move until the offseason. The Maple Leafs, I think, hurt their team more than helped its rebuild at the deadline.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Loser
Matthew: I honestly am not entirely sure what General Manager Jim Rutherford was doing at this trade deadline. I thought that the Penguins were in pretty good shape after acquiring David Perron earlier this season and did not really need to make any more moves. The trade for Daniel Winnik in exchange for two picks I think did help, but losing the grit and fighting ability of Zach Sill will hurt come playoff time. Winnik is an expert penalty killer and a solid all around forward. The Lovejoy deal, however, still has me scratching my head for the reasons I detailed in the Anaheim segment. Ian Cole was not much of an upgrade for Robert Bortuzzo, who was traded along with a pick to obtain Cole. Pittsburgh had a lot of good going, and I think that all the moving parts might actually mess with that down the stretch, which is why I am labeling Pittsburgh with loser here.
Boston Bruins: Losers
Matthew: For a team barely clinging onto a playoff spot, this was a trade deadline to forget. Opposing GM’s knew Peter Chiarelli was on the hot seat and needed to make some deals, which meant they could hold out for better deals. The result was not much happening in Beantown and what did happen was severely underwhelming. The Bruins acquired Zack Phillips from the Minnesota Wild for Jared Knight in a trade of AHLers, Max Talbot and Paul Carey from Colorado for Jordan Caron and a 2016 6th-round pick, and Brett Connolly from Tampa Bay for two 2nd-round picks, one this year and one next year. Max Talbot is a good veteran who has won a Cup in Pittsburgh, scoring twice in game seven to do so, but he is past his prime now. Carey has been almost invisible with the Av’s this year, and Connolly, although a good player, has already broken a finger and will not be available for at least a few weeks. All together, I think the Bruins will find themselves on the outside of the playoffs looking in.