Lots of trades and signings to catch up with, so here goes;
Chris Pronger-D -> Ana
Joffrey Lupul-R, Smid-D, 2 1st rnd picks (one conditional), and a 2nd -> Edm
Exactly the kind of deal I've been expecting, except I had Pronger going to the Rangers for Tyutin, Staal and picks as the package. It was impossible to expect Edmonton GM Lowe to get full value for Pronger in return players if only because Pronger is a Norris calibre defenseman, and the other teams that have one (Detroit's Lidstrom, Anaheim's Niedermayer, Ottawa's Redden, Calgary's Phaneuf and maybe Boston's Chara) aren't going to part with them willingly. So the best deal is a package with as many goodies as you can cram into it, and the goodies Lowe recieved are tasty.
Lupul is an up and coming gunner who should excel in the Edmonton system (and easily replace the sporadic offense of the talented but underwhelming Samsonov who is likely on the way out), and one who because of birthplace won't find the notion of playing for the Oilers to be anything other than a dream come true. If he clicks with mgt., he'll be a lifer. The kid already has 30+ goal hands, the real question is whether he can become a 40-40 winger absent a puck moving defenseman like Niedermayer or Pronger to get him the puck, and without a playmaker of note among the Oiler pivots other than Mike Peca (someone who has also asked to be dealt out of town), so it may take aquiring or developing a high end playmaker to tease out Lupul's full abilities.
Smid was the best defenseman prospect in the Anaheim system, being both a mobile and smart defender, he'll easily crack the Oiler blue-line this year. What Smid's eventual upside is (could he be Teppo Numminen good?), maybe unknown, but the two 1sts and 2nd rnd picks make that question easy to put aside. The Oilers will have a chance to double their gains from the next few entry drafts through the picks aquired, and more than either Lupul or Smid how Edmonton translates those extra picks into players will ultimately make or break any final evaluation of the trade.
Pronger in the meantime, will add his Hart Trophy package of skill, size, nastiness and invincibility to fatigue to the Ducks. The Ducks can now forge ahead knowing that at any given time either Pronger, Niedermayer or both are on the ice. It's an enormous investment into a defense corps to have both on the same team, but also somewhat of a luxury.
Lupul and the picks are painless compared to the joys that having two Norris Trophy winners in their prime paired up as rearguards.
Lowe needed to get lots of good assets in his deal for Pronger, and he did just that. Full marks to both teams.
Arnott-C -> Nsh
After a decade of frustrating inconsistency and injury, Arnott seems to have finally put the tools into the same toolbox and emerged as a; point ger game offensive threat, face-off bully, and punishing physical player (a good example of 'big man syndrome' if you ignore the uncharactheristically hot rookie season).
He signs with a team that badly needs his blend of mayhem and skill, and the fact that Kariya's game is so similar to that of ex-A Line linemate Patrick Elias shouldn't hurt in the chemistry department.
On the powerplay Arnott can wreak havoc in the slot with his size and strength, or bomb away with a monstrous slap shot from the point (the latter is actually my prefference, Arnott has a cannon of a shot and with the blue-line stretching the D out further to cover the points, he'll do more damage from there than he will as a garbage cleaner by the net).
If he and Kariya click, and he stays away from the injury bus (still a big if), he should repeat his #1 centre numbers from last season, and make the Predators a legit playoff threat.
Chara -> Boston
Probably the biggest impact signing is Boston landing Zdeno Chara as the anchor for them to build their defense around. Having jettisoned Thornton and Samsonov's salaries they had cap room to do something massive and they did just that, landing perhaps the most dominant pure defensive defenseman in the league. Despite what I believe to be sub-average goaltending (Tim Thomas is merely the latest in a long carousel of one hit wonders for Boston, but since he's already had his mirage season it's next up; Hannu Toivonen!) Boston now has the makeup to be a very special team. Their forwards are young and highly skilled (Bergeron, Boyes, Kessel), and their defense is now solid at its core (Chara and Stuart) for the forseeable future. Add a veteran 2nd line pivot (Arnott would have been perfect) and a top 5 goalie, and they will be scarey.
Doug Weight -> St Louis
He and Tkachuk can now get old, fat, and slow together.
Alex Tanguay -> Cgy
Jordan Leopold, 2 2nd rnd picks -> Col
Andrei Zyuzin-D -> Cgy
Barring injury Calgary is now an elite playoff contender. I seriously wonder about this one from Colorado's perspective. They can afford Tanguay and to have him around while Sakic winds down a first ballot hall of fame, jersey in the rafters career. Tanguay's a high end talent you can compliment with young forwards as you retool, and with Sakic in his twilight, a freak post-season by Theodore, and the scoring exploits of Tanguay and it was possible to consider the Av's a threat.
Pure and simple Tanguay is top line calibre skill forward with both shooting and playmaking ability. He instantly adds upwards of 30 goals to Calgary's pop gun offense, and either as a linemate (sweet), or powerplay compliment, he'll elevate Iginla's game back to it's elite level by creating chances, or by taking some of the defensive assignments away from him.
So why get rid of him?
They gave him up for what most people saw as an offensive defenseman who doesn't actually give you much offense in Jordan Leopold. Indeed, Leopold's talent level is not unlike that of Zyuzin, he can skate very well, but isn't above average at anything else. Leopold was the top blueliner in Calgary for minutes played last year (think about that, more than Phaneuf or Regeher), and yet he barely had a pulse on the offensive stat sheet. Calgary tried him out in a full time role as team QB and he just wasn't up to it, while rookie Phaneuf clawed for every minute and made them count. I suspect ultimately that the deal was more about the 2 2nd round picks that will be used to restock the Colorado talent pool that is all but dry as the Sahara after power forward project Woltek Wolski.
Zyuzin will play for Calgary as a depth defender in case of injury.
(I said this in comments on a post elsewhere, but is their a tougher GM in the league than Sutter? If all the GMs gathered in the basement of the Corel centre for a knife fight, is their anyone who would bet against Sutter carving the rest up like Freddie Krueger? Maybe Bob Gainey gives him some momentary trouble. Maybe. And maybe it's just me but wouldn't you pay top dollar to watch him take a switchblade to Bob Clarke?)
I also don't think Calgary is through yet, they could still add a skilled vet like Lindros (though all my poolie friends in Calgary just collectively screamed 'NOOOOOO' when I typed that), whose playmaking abilities and size would be a good fit, or Bill Guerin who might regain his goalscoring touch on a team like Calgary where he wouldn't need to be the top line gunner. My expectation is that we should be watching Calgary compete well into the playoffs.
Andrew Raycroft-G -> Leafs
Tukka Rask-G -> Bos
Pavel Kubina-D -> Leafs
Hal Gill-D -> Leafs
Brian McCabe-D -> Leafs
Tie Domi - dumped
Eric Lindros - dumped
Raycroft is a nice addition for the team, in that he's young, talented (Calder Trophy winner), and above all, cheap. He gets a chance to ressurect his career after being the latest to flame out in the #1 role as part of Boston's decade long goaltending carousel of horror. He'll be embraced by fans immediately as they chug the Maple Leaf Nation cool-aid and plunge headlong into the fantasy that Ferguson has finally got his team rebuilding in the right direction.
However, as everyone in the press has noticed, aside from Sundin, the majority of the teams payroll is tied up in the top four defensemen. McCabe will be a lifer for the Leafs now that he has emerged as a Norris calibre offensive threat, and his contract reflects that. Kaberle also has the wheels to play in the new NHL, and he should continue to progress as a top 4 defenseman. Pavel Kubina? Hal Gill? Both of these guys are 'old NHL' type players. Not speedy. Not quick. They are lumbering towers of beef whose best attributes were tying people up with their long arms/sticks, and powerhugging forwards against the glass. With the leagues new emphasis on speed and the crackdown on clutch and grab BS, these two will have a very hard time staying out of the box and out of the coaches doghouse.
I think of the Kubina/Gill signings as Ferguson's 'Brett Ratner move' ala the pointless Magneto levitating the bridge plot point from X-Men III. That is, it may look pretty at first blush (Two key top four defensemen signed!), but thinking about it for any length of time has you going 'WTF was Magneto thiking doing that?'
That all said, Toronto lacks anything like a first line player other than Sundin among the forwards and without an infusion of talent and youth, the money heavy hold the fort blue-line will be irrelevant.
That said, Raycroft may end up being a solid #1 keeper.
Martin Gerber-G -> Ott
Redden-D -> Ott
Has a FUNHL prospect gone from zero to hero faster than Gerber just did by signing on with Ottawa? Despite missing Chara and Pothier, Ottawa still boasts a respectable defense corps with Redden and Phillips as the cement of their foundation, so Gerber's numbers have shot up from expecting to be virtually non-existent as a cast-off from Carolina thanks to Cam Ward, to eminently draftable with goalie starved Ottawa. That all said, he's still not good enough to get them to the promised land.
The next thing Ottawa GM Muckler must decide is what to do with high octane sniper Martin Havlat. (My guess is he tries to pry Al Montoya and a pick from the Rangers. )
Rob Blake -> Kings
Home sweet beach house.
Pavol Demitra -> Wild
Patrick O'Sullivan and a 1st rnd pick -> LA
I think everybody sees this move the same way, LA wanted to ditch salary and get some young talent (accomplished!) and the Wild wanted a slovak buddy/pivot to convince Gaborik to resign in Minny (done!). A classic win win trade. O'Sullivan is an intriguing prospect and could make the jump to LAs roster immediately after a dominant AHL season. The only downside to the whole deal is that Minny is gambling that Demitra can; A - stay healthy, B - keep Gaborik around. If either turns out to not be the case, the cost is probably too high.
Patrick Elias-L -> NJ
Elias takes a franchise player type of contract from Lamouriello and will settle in as the Devil's undisputed first offensive option and all-round most talented player (and eventually he will have his number retired next to Daneyko's and Brodeur's). His battles with hepatitis will bear monitoring, but health issues aside he is a clear cut top 3 LW in the league with years of elite play in him.
Willie Mitchell-D -> Van
I guess I'm just not a believer in Willie D. He'll fill in nicely alongside Ohlund, Salo, and Bourdon to make a decent defensive minded top four, but he's hardly the calibre of defenseman the Canucks need to replace the departing Jovo-Cop.
- I think the Lost Boys new GM is already showing good predator instincts. The bloated Tkachuk had to be moved on, replacing him at the ED was unappealing without a high lottery choice to guarantee one of the top players, and he had nobody on the farm ready to promote from within. He not only moves Tkachuk on, he does so without parting with either of his top prospects (Martin Swiss Cheese Gerber, and Joe Nieuwendyk clone Eric Fehr). Ryan Whitney may end up having draftable numbers, but Gerber could concievably start for the Lost Boys, and its only a matter of time before Eric Fehr lands a permanent job scoring goals for Washington.
Nice. In return for the flabtastic Tkachuk, comng into the FP slot is Mr Class Joe Sakic - a quality#1 pivot with a couple of years left in the tank who can allow the GM time to rebuild his 2nd FP options (behind Kovalchuk) without resorting to risky adventures wading in the deep end of the ED or blowing up the entire roster in trades.
- Yzerman's decision to retire is a good one. He had only pain and frustration in all but the most Polyanna of scenarios for how the next season would have played out, and the time was good to pack it in and start anew. First Ballot HOF, and future President or GM of the Red Wings.
- By making the playoffs and having a cinderella dance at the finals that was one glass slipper short of perfection, Lowe and MacT are now all but invincible in their offices for the next five years. The Pronger situation was a tricky one that could have soured badl, but they handled it (mostly, who leaked the fact he wanted out? I'm just saying) with aplomb, humanity, speed and intelligence.
- In contrast, Bryan McCabe's meltdown about his wife's condition and the personal matters that kept him from signing quickly the contract that Toronto offered were example A for why it is only harmful to speculate about what 'personal reasons' are when offered as a defense for quietude by players facing a contract situation or requesting trade. I enjoy the talk of pregnant weather girls and 'Iafrate situations' as much as the next guy, but ultimately the answers are alwas less filling than the tasty speculation leads us to expect. The best thing to do is to leave the players alone, and to get on with trading/signing them as best you can.
Sometimes it just doesn't work out.. Suck it up, walk it off, and move on.
- Just to end any rampant speculation out there about who the first overall pick will be now that it is in the hands of the Severed Heads for the first time in a generation, we currently have Miika Kiprusoff as the highest rated player available.
- With Gaborik and Zetterberg likely to be on the GW roster as matches for the first two rounds, is their any chance that Demitra slips to the third round long enough for the Great Whites to unite Demitra and Gabby as fantasy and real-life winger/pivot?
I'm betting, 'no'.
- Is Zdeno Chara still an FP calibre defenseman? Probably not. Chara's value came from his triple threatability (points/pim/+/-), and in Boston, we are likely to see two of those three decline (points/+/-) that turn the monstrous numbers he was putting up into merely an above average TG option.
- Who should be the next FP selection? I'm betting Brad Richards is probably at the top of nearly everyone's 'who should be an FP but isn't list'. I still have Bertuzzi on my list as well, and Alfredsson is also a solid candidate.