More and more, the NHL’s trading deadline day is evolving into the NHL’s trading-deadline window, which generally begins when the first shoe drops. In that context, the annual shuffling of the roster deck began early – more than a week ago – when the Pittsburgh Penguins landed Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames, stealing him out from under the Boston Bruins.
From there, most of the other key dominos fell quickly – Derek Roy traded from the Dallas Stars to the Vancouver Canucks; Jay Bouwmeester from Calgary to St. Louis; Jaromir Jagr went from Dallas to Boston. It meant that when Wednesday dawned, Canada’s national sports networks were left to babble about virtually nothing for the first six hours of their programming windows, waiting for something – anything – to happen.
Mercifully, at the 11th hour, a few transactions of note finally occurred. The Washington Capitals, a team many viewed as a possible seller, took the largest leap of faith, surrendering top prospect Filip Forsberg to the Nashville Predators in exchange for winger Martin Erat. Of all the blue-chip young players that changed hands these past few days, Forsberg was by far the best – and you wonder, in hindsight, if the Flames shouldn’t have waited a little longer in dealing Iginla to see if they could coax him into playing with Alex Ovechkin as opposed Sidney Crosby.
Erat? Iginla? Who would you rather have?
Marian Gaborik became largely expendable when Rick Nash joined the New York Rangers, but few figured he would go the other way nine months later and land in Columbus, on Nash’s former team, where he will at least get out from under coach John Tortorella’s thumb. Versatile Buffalo Sabres forward Jason Pominville ended up with the Minnesota Wild, where he will flesh out a lineup that already includes Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and the improving Devin Setoguchi.
For the first time in their history, Minnesota is a team to watch, deep up front, solid on the blueline (with Ryan Suter having an exceptional last six weeks) and decent in goal. But they paid a heavy price for Pominville, two decent prospects, plus a 2013 first-rounder and a 2014 second-rounder. Minnesota could, and should, push Vancouver right to the end as the Canucks try to wrap up the Northwest Division title for the fifth consecutive season.
Flames’ goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff didn’t get traded and neither did the Canucks’ Roberto Luongo, but it didn’t mean the goalie market was completely flat, either. Ottawa made a nice deal with Tampa for Ben Bishop and Philadelphia – that notorious goalie graveyard – had everybody scratching their heads by taking a chance on the slumping Steve Mason, who’d been relegated to the backup role in Columbus by former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky.
Luongo provided the greatest theatre of all. He was pulled off the ice with 10 minutes remaining in practice, and Twitter exploded with the possibility that a deal was in the works. It wasn’t, but in an extraordinary post-deadline news conference, Luongo acknowledged that something had been brewing, but never got to the point that he needed to waive his no-trade clause to complete a deal.
Luongo went on to say that he is a member of the Vancouver Canucks – still – because “my contract sucks” and that if collective agreement permitted it (which it doesn’t) “I’d scrap it if I could right now.”
Amazing stuff from a player who genuinely convinced you that he’d walk away from the remaining $40.6-million guaranteed on his contract for the next nine years in exchange for a chance to play as a starter somewhere. The Leafs inquired after both Luongo and Kiprusoff but ultimately Kiprusoff stuck to his guns, told Calgary that he didn’t want to move on at the deadline and the expectation now is that he’ll likely pack it in once the season ends.
The Penguins added Jussi Jokinen as a temporary replacement for the injured Crosby, but the reality is, they did all their shopping well in advance of the deadline and ended up with the biggest haul of players – Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray. They are stacked for the playoffs and Boston isn’t far behind – adding Jagr, still formidable at 41, plus defenceman Wade Redden, which is interesting mostly because it reunites him on the same team with Zdeno Chara, a former Ottawa Senators teammate. Hard to believe that in the summer of 2006, Ottawa rated Redden ahead of Chara and let the latter go as a free agent. Maybe playing with the Big Z again can get Redden’s game back on track. He became expendable in St. Louis after the Blues landed Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold (from Buffalo).
Otherwise, Wednesday’s deals were largely small, strategic gap-fillers. The Anaheim Ducks, for example, settled for Matt Lombardi to bolster their centre-ice corps, in a minor deal with the Phoenix Coyotes, who also traded Steve Sullivan to the New Jersey Devils, where his career began. The Coyotes’ Raffi Torres changed teams as well, but instead of landing back in Vancouver, he went to the San Jose Sharks instead for a third-round pick.
But the big news was Luongo, still in Vancouver, still wearing his heart on his sleeve and still trying to keep a stiff upper lip. Amid all the speculation that has swirled around him for the better part of a year – and did not mercifully come to an end Wednesday – Luongo has remained a good soldier and said his fervent wish now, in the short-term, is to win a Stanley Cup with the Canucks.
We’ll see. The Canucks were conference champions two years in a row but are now in a pitched battle to make the playoffs. With Roy in the lineup, Ryan Kesler returning and expectations far more measured than they have been for years in Vancouver, maybe this is the year they sneak through and win it all.
As the Los Angeles Kings can well attest, stranger things have happened.