2008 NHL Trade Deadline

Thank you John Davidson. The New York Rangers have acquired defenseman Christian Backman from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a fourth round draft pick. Backman is not the physical defenseman the Rangers need, but he does add offensive depth on the blue line without costing the Rangers any of their prospects. Backman has a history of injury problems. Since January 2008, he has missed 21 games with a knee injury and recently a left foot injury. In 2005/06, he missed time with a left foot injury.

Backman was a teammate of Henrik Lundqvist during the lockout and on Sweden’s 2006 gold medal winning Olympic Hockey Team. Backman is 27-years-old and is 6-foot-4 and 206 pounds. In 45 games this season, he has 1 goal and 9 assists with 30 PIM. He has played 228 career NHL games and has scored 19 goals and 45 assists with 130 PIM. He was the Blues 1998 first round draft pick (24th overall).

Is the best trade the Rangers could have made? Absolutely not, but considering what they traded it isn’t all that bad. There was no reason for Glen Sather to overpay for a rental player. Reports indicate that Backman has one more year left on his contract at $2.4 million – not all that bad of a cap hit – and it is within reason where the Rangers could move him next season if they so choose.

As some expected the day Don Maloney went to Phoenix, the Rangers have traded goaltender Al Montoya and left winger Marcel Hossa to the Coyotes in exchange for winger Fredrik Sjostrom, goaltender David LeNeveau and left winger Josh Gratton. This trade is a case of Sather moving two players who could be RFAs for some young talent. While Hossa would not be a big free agent loss, the Rangers could have run into problems keeping Montoya. The Blueshirts could face another team offering Montoya a lucrative offer – leaving the rangers with the option of matching (not likely) or receiving draft pick compensation based on what Montoya’s salary would be. In addition, Montoya had fallen behind Finnish netminder Miika Wiikman so one has to wonder if he had fallen out of favor with Rangers management.

The 6-foot-1 and 217 pound Sjostrom can play both wings and came from the same Swedish team as Lundqvist – although the two were not teammates. The 24-year-old was Phoenix’s first round draft pick in 2001 (11th overall). In 51 games this season, he has 10 goals and 19 assists with 14 PIM. I would expect that he will battle for playing time with Ryan Hollweg on the fourth line.

The 6-foot-1 and 187 pound LeNeveu was the Coyotes 2002 second round draft pick in 2002 (46th overall). The 24-year-old turned pro after his sophomore season at Cornell University. With hindsight being 20/20, he would have better off staying in school because Phoenix rushed him to the NHL due to the unsettled nature of their goaltending situation. He has appeared in 6 games this year and is 2-1-0 with a 3.86 GAA and an 894 SV% with Phoenix. He has also played 37 games with their AHL affiliate in San Antonio. He is 13-20-2 with a 2.97 GAA, a 907SV% and 2 shutouts. In his NHL career, he has played in 21 games and is 5-9-2 with a 3.38 GAA and an 888SV%. The one interesting note about LeNeveu is that he has worked with Rangers goaltending coach Benoit Allaire in the past. If Allaire can return LeNeveu back to his collegiate form, he could be the steal of the deal for the Blueshirts.

The 6-foot-2 and 214 pound Gratton provides the Rangers organization with another enforcer – something that is needed given Colton Orr’s “upper body injury” and the fact that minor league tough guys Mitch Fritz and Francis Lessard are out for the season. Once Orr is healthy, Gratton is ticketed for Hartford. The 25-year-old was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2004. In 28 games with the Rampage, Gratton played in 38 games with 5 goals and 9 assists to go along with his 124 PIM. He was teammate of former Rangers draft pick Dylan Reese while in San Antonio. Gratton skated in one game for Phoenix and did not score – although he did pick up 5 PIM. In 87 career NHL games, Gratton scored 2 goals and 1 assist with 237 PIM.

Christian Backman Scouting Report from: thestar.com
ASSETS: Moves the puck well out of the defensive zone. Has an excellent frame and displays plenty of poise from the back end. Owns intriguing offensive upside.
FLAWS: Must add more strength in order to survive the rigors of the NHL. Once he fills out, he must use his size more so as to keep forwards honest.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top four defenseman.

Fredrik Sjostrom Scouting Report from: thestar.com
ASSETS: Has a terrific combination of speed, skill and defensive instincts. Is willing to take a hit in order to make a play.
FLAWS: Needs to make better adjustments to the North American game. Is a bit undersized by NHL standards.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top six winger.

David LeNeveau Scouting Report from: thestar.com
ASSETS: Has an ideal frame for the goaltending position. His combination of first-rate talent and perfect demeanor make him a can’t-miss NHL goalie prospect.
FLAWS: Could stand to add more bulk to his 6-1 frame, so as to better handle the lenghty schedule of the pro game.
CAREER POTENTIAL: No. 1 goaltender.

Josh Gratton Scouting Report from: thestar.com
ASSETS: Is big, strong and as tough as nails. Can drop the gloves against the very best enforcers in the NHL. Understands his role and is a good teammate.
FLAWS: Doesn’t have the speed or skill required to play a regular shift at the highest level. Has a tendency to get into penalty trouble from time to time.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Fourth line enforcer.

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It seems that the Washington Capitals are making a move in the Eastern Conference. They traded a 2009 second draft pick (acquired from Anaheim) to Montreal in exchange for goalie Cristobal Huet. After making that deal, the Caps acquired center Sergei Federov from Columbus. The Blue Jackets receive 19-year-old defenseman Ted Ruth – who was Washington’s 2007 second round draft pick (46th overall).

Just when you thought it was safe to breathe if you are a Capital, George McPhee pulled off his third draft day deal. The Caps send British Columbia native forward Matt Pettinger to Vancouver for gritty forward Matt Cooke.

A couple of other potential trade targets for the Rangers are on the move. The Colorado Avalanche acquired defenseman Adam Foote from the Blue Jackets in exchange for a conditional first round draft pick. If Colorado makes the playoffs, the pick is a 2008 selection. If they don’t, then it is a 2009 pick. The Avalanche might owe Columbus another conditional draft pick depending on Foote re-signing with Colorado.

The Avalanche continued to stockpile new blueliners when they swapped a pair of 33-year-old defensemen. Colorado sent Karlis Skrastins and a third round draft pick to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Ruslan Salei – who has two more years left on his contract.

There is no truth to rumor that Raymond Bourque has expressed an interest in returning to Colorado .

After many months of rumors, Jay Feaster finally broke up his big three. Tampa Bay traded center Brad Richards and goaltender Johan Holmqvist (finally, we have some Ranger connection to a trade) to the Dallas Stars in exchange for goalie Mike Smith, center Jeff Halpern and winger Jussi Jokinen,

The Chicago Blackhawks pulled off a couple of trades – one veteran dump and one swap of former first round draft picks. Dale Tallon sent winger Martin Lapointe, a 34-year-old UFA, to Ottawa for a 2008 sixth round draft pick. Chicago also swapped winger Tuomo Ruutu (9th overall in 2001) to Carolina for winger Andrew Ladd (4th overall in 2004).

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Well, John Davidson sure has not done his former team any favors at the trade deadline. After re-signing defenseman Barret Jackman, the St. Louis Blues have traded d-man Bryce Salvador to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for tough guy Cam Janssen. The 32-year-old Salvador will be an UFA at the end of the season.

Janssen, who is 23-years-old, is a native of St. Louis and played for the NAHL’s St. Louis Sting in 2000-2001. TSN.CA had the following quote from the Blues team president.

“We feel that Cam’s style of play will bring energy and grit to our lineup and being from St. Louis, feel that he will be an instant fan favorite here,” Davidson stated.

UPDATE: The Florida Panthers have acquired forward/defenseman Wade Belak from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 2008 fifth round draft pick. It is an interesting move from a team, the Panthers, that is expected to be a seller. Could the Panthers be adding some depth in advance of making a bigger deal?

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Business picked up as far as the Rangers are concerned on the eve of the NHL trade deadline. No, Glen Sather has not been wheeling and dealing, but other teams have been – and that will have an impact on what the Blueshirts can and will do.

Philadelphia fired off the first shot by reacquiring Vaclav Prospal from Tampa Bay in exchange for defenseman Alexandre Picard and a conditional 2009 draft pick. The Flyers needed help up front with Simon Gagne done for the season and Mike Richards sidelined indefinitely.

With the Lightning freeing up some money, they re-signed Dan Boyle to a reported six-year $40 million deal – thus removing one potential Ranger target.

John Davidson removed another potential target as St. Louis re-signed Barret Jackman to a four-year $14.4 million deal.

In addition, it is very possible that John-Michael Liles, an UFA, will be off the market with Colorado signing Peter Forsberg for the remainder of the season. It is hard to imagine the Avalanche bringing in Forsberg and then moving Liles without getting equal NHL value – something the Rangers don’t have among their defenseman.

With Paul Mara out at least two weeks after facial surgery, it seems that the Rangers list of defenseman is contracting to the point the organization has to think long and hard about giving someone like Ivan Baranka, Cory Potter or Michael Sauer a chance to show their stuff. That would allow the Rangers to give one of the youngsters playing time in meaningful games. However, it also means playing four young defensemen. The other option would be to try and get Thomas Pock through waivers – something that is not likely to happen. They could also try to run Andrew Hutchinson through waivers. While he might clear waivers and help the power play, he is too much of a risk defensively.

Given that the Rangers signed Jason Strudwick at the end of the season last year even though he would not be eligible for the playoffs, look for the Rangers to be active in acquiring a veteran defenseman. Here is a list of the usual suspects:

ROB BLAKE – Much has been written as to whether or not Blake would waive his no-trade clause. However one thing that seems to be certain is that he will not waive it to play for an East Coast team. If he is traded, the furthest east he goes is Detroit.

NICK BOYNTON – The Phoenix defenseman is signed through next season at a manageable $3 million. Coyotes GM Don Maloney knows the Rangers’ organizational depth better than anyone – maybe even Glen Sather. He isn’t the best offensive or defensive defenseman available, but he is a solid two-way defenseman who does hit and has a strong shot from the point.

BRIAN CAMPBELL – If you polled Ranger fans, Campbell would be their guy because he is the offensive d-man the fans want – even though there is probably a more pressing need for a better defensive player than Campbell. The problem is that the Sabres have to extract as much as possible from any trade partner given they let Daniel Briere and Chris Drury leave as UFAs. With so many other teams looking for offensive help on the blue line, the Campbell bidding war might be too pricey for the Rangers.

MATT CARLE – If you are wondering why the Sharks would be looking to shop a young offensive defenseman, one only needs to look at his contract – which has four years and $14 million remaining. He is not that physical, but is the power play QB teams are looking for at the deadline.

HAL GILL – You know Jaromir Jagr would be happy not to have to face the 6-foot-7 and 250 pound Gill any more. While his skating and offensive game leave a lot to be deserved, his size and ability to clear the net would be a plus for the Rangers. With the situation in Toronto so unsettled, it is hard to handicap what the Leafs are going to do. Gill only has one more year at a reasonable $2.1 million so acquiring him would not prevent the Rangers from bringing in a defenseman during the summer or re-signing Michal Rozsival

RON HAINSEY – Columbus GM Scott Howson still hasn’t decided whether to be a buyer or a seller. Given he is in his first year with the Jackets, he can get away with being a seller and trying to build the organization. Odds are he will look to move Hainsey and Sergei Federov. While his defensive game is not as strong as his offensive game, the 26-year-old is progressing nicely. However, at 6-foot-3 and nearly 215 pounds he does not to be more physical.

STEVE STAIOS – If Campbell is the favorite of the fans, it seems that Staios is the favorite of some of the media. While the 34-year-old was a Blues first round pick in 1991, he is currently a member of the Oilers so Sather might feel compelled to give his old buddy Kevin Lowe a call. He is the solid physical defenseman the Rangers need, and while in consistent offensively, he does have some offensive ability. However, he is also as a history of knee injuries during the last two seasons and has three years and $8 million remaining on his contract.

BRAD STUART – The Kings defenseman is an UFA who is only 28. He has all the potential to be a big-time d-man. He is a fluid skater with great vision and passing skills and the skating ability to match. However, he tends to have problems in his own zone and he is not as physical as someone with his size should be (6-2/213).

CAM BARKER – I left the most intriguing player for last. Barker was a player I hoped the Rangers would draft in 2004 before Chicago snatched him up third overall. The Blackhawks are looking to add some scoring up front and are willing to trade from their strength on defense. The 6-foot-3 and 222 pound Barker would be an acquisition that would pay even more dividends in the future than he will now. While he needs to find a consistency to his game, especially in his own zone, the positives well outweigh the negatives. He is a physical blueliner with a big-time shot from the point that would to be an asset on the power play. He is signed through next year at only $984,000 so he would be a steal as far as the salary cap goes. The down side for the Rangers is that it would cost them one of their young forwards – possibly a Petr Prucha – and a prospect and/or draft picks. If the Rangers could retain their core prospects (Alexei Cherepanov and Bobby Sanguinetti) and keep their first round draft pick, it would be worth the while to move Prucha to bring in Barker.

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As the New York Rangers stand poised one week away from the NHL’s February 26 trade deadline, it is all but certain that Glen Sather will be a buyer rather than a seller.

In a normal trade deadline setting, a General Manager faces a buyer beware scenario. However, Slats must truly be in a caveat emptor mode as the deadline approaches given the NHL’s salary cap and what lies ahead for the Blueshirts in 2008/2009.

In addition to being mindful of his current cap situation, Sather must be even more wary of trading the franchise into salary cap hell for next season. The Rangers President/GM has drawn some criticism from fans for being so free in re-signing Dan Girardi, Henrik Lundqvist and Fedor Tyutin. If one thinks the heat was on for those signings, watch how the temperature rises if Sather brings in players with financially restrictive contracts beyond this season.

The Rangers are facing a daunting task come July 1. The Blueshirts are faced with the prospect of having the following 11 players become Unrestricted Free Agents: Sean Avery, Andrew Hutchinson, Jaromir Jagr, Darius Kasparaitis, Marek Malik, Paul Mara, Michal Rozsival, Brendan Shanahan, Martin Straka, Jason Strudwick, and Stephen Valiquette. Of course, no one expects (or wants) the Rangers to bring all of these players back, but re-signing them or bringing in replacements will eat up a lot of fishnagels.

Things get even trickier because it is pretty much accepted that Jagr will not hit the targets to trigger his option for 2008/2009 which means his entire salary would count against the Rangers salary cap. Don’t forget that it is possible that the Rangers will have to pay off Shanahan’s 2007/2008 bonuses against next year’s salary cap.

On top of all of those UFAs, the Rangers will have the following six players who will be eligible for Restricted Free Agency: Ivan Baranka, Nigel Dawes, Marcel Hossa, Al Montoya, Greg Moore and P.A. Parenteau. Obviously, the most important names on that list are Dawes and Montoya. While the odds are not that high that another team would make a Kevin Lowe-type offer to Dawes, the same might not be true for Montoya. It is possible that another team will present Montoya with an offer the Rangers might have to refuse – with the Blueshirts settling for draft picks.

As a result, Sather has a difficult decision in Montoya’s case. Does he try and lock up his former first round draft pick and add a couple of million dollars in payroll for a backup goaltender? Does he roll the dice and see what the market will bear with the understanding that he is willing to accept draft picks as compensation> or does Sather take what is behind door number three and trade Montoya?

Trading Montoya is not as crazy as it might have seemed at the beginning of the year. Valiquette has shown that he can step in and give the rangers quality play as a backup. Rookie Miika Wiikman’s play in Hartford has caused many to wonder if Wiikman has moved ahead of Montoya on the organizational depth chart.

Montoya would be a valuable trade asset because he still represents an NHL caliber goaltending prospect whose contract won’t be as restrictive as a veteran NHL netminder. This idea could prove very valuable to an NHL team looking to rebuild with younger and cheaper players. The main roadblock is the Rangers need to be prudent when it comes to adding future salary.

For example, one player who has been linked to the Rangers is defenseman Tomas Kaberle of Toronto. He has three more years left on his contract at $4.25 million per season. If the Rangers were to add Kaberle, it lessens their ability to bring back Rozsival or sign a free agent blue liner in the summer.

Many point to an offensive defenseman like Kaberle as the Rangers main need because of the perceived need for a QB on the power play. However, I don’t believe that is all that necessary. The Montreal Canadiens have been at or near the top of the NHL when it comes to their power play. Their “QB” is Andrei Markov – hardly the next coming of Brian Leetch. The Habs power play works because of the system, not necessarily the players. They work hard at getting traffic in front of the goalie and move the puck and themselves. They are particularly adept at finding the weak side point man as he moves in from the point for a one-timer on goal.

In other words, adding a big-time offensive defenseman is not going to solve the Rangers inconsistency on the power play if they are going to continue to play a perimeter game. Odds are the power play would improve if they changed their style rather than their personnel.

Frankly, if the Rangers were to acquire a defenseman I would go against the tide and look to add a solid defensive defenseman – someone who would be a physical player on the blue line because that is what the Rangers are missing. Our buddy John Davidson has two such players in Barret Jackman and Bryce Salvador. Both players are UFAs making between $1.5 and $2.2 million so they would not be a drag on salary this year or next.

With the Rangers set to lose almost $8 million of salary between Malik, Mara and Rozsival, it is conceivable the Rangers could re-sign a Rozsival and one of the Blues defenseman and still have a little money left over. Of the two Blues blueliners, Jackman would be the better prize given his ability.

While the Blues have some young netminders in their system, they still might be willing to make a deal with the Rangers if the Blueshirts traded some of their organizational depth along with a draft pick or two. The Rangers have an extra third round pick as a result of the Matt Cullen deal, so Sather could add a second round draft pick to sweeten any potential trade.

As the NHL draws closer to the trade deadline, the Ranger rumors are sure to heat up. The one thing that Glen Sather has to be aware of is that he has to be as concerned about next year as he is this year when he makes any trades. One does not always have to make the big blockbuster trade in order to make a difference on a hockey team. Sather’s acquisition of Sean Avery didn’t garner many headlines around the league, but it was the exact tonic the Rangers needed.

UPDATE: It seems that the trade deadline frenzy is under way. The Philadelphia Flyers have reinforced their injury-depleted blue line by acquiring defenseman Jaroslav Modry from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a 2008 third round draft pick.

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We are about two weeks away from the NHL’s February 26, 2008 trade deadline and it looks like business is starting to pick up.

The Ottawa Senators acquired forward Cory Stillman and defenseman Mike Commodore from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for forward Patrick Eaves and defenseman Joe Corvo. In order for the deal to take place, Stillman agreed to waive his no-trade clause.

In Stillman, the Senators add some offense to go along with their top line of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza while Commodore adds a physical defensive presence on the Ottawa blue line. Both players will be Unrestricted Free Agents at the end of the season.

For the Hurricanes, Corvo is the key to the deal. Carolina has been searching for an offensive blueliner to quarterback their power play. Corvo is under contract for two more years. Eaves is a Restricted Free Agent at tend of the season.

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