Blue Line Bill’s Trade Deadline Special

Bill Stoklosa

I know what you’re all thinking, didn’t we just hear from this hockey loving Canadian wannabe two weeks ago? Well you would be correct; however the momentous events of the trade deadline were just too important to be kept waiting until after spring break. If you didn’t pay attention to this year’s deadline deals, I’ll give you a recap and provide my quasi-expert opinion on them.

One of the most talked about trades has been the departure of All-Star defensemen Brian Campbell from Buffalo. Why did a Sabres team battling for the final playoff spot in the East get rid of their only All-Star this year? Many disheartened Sabres fans like Scott Konicki can’t explain it.

“It’s a disappointing trade that you would get rid of your only All-Star and one of the best defensemen in the league and in return receive only unproven talent at the forward position,” Konicki said.

The answer is that the decision was motivated solely by economic considerations. Campbell was set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and the Sabres had failed in their attempts to resign him. Having already let Chris Drury and Daniel Briere walk without getting so much as a hockey puck in return, the team felt they had to get something for Campbell. The front office obviously felt that even with Campbell, the team was not a Cup contender, and they were probably right. The something they got back for Campbell was a first round pick in next year’s draft and forward Steve Barnier. Barnier scored two goals in the first period of his first game in Buffalo, but hasn’t scored since then. Barnier’s a risky pick-up, he is a streaky player, looking brilliant at times and looking awful at others. He certainly has potential, but there is serious doubt as to whether he will ever live up to it. The first round pick is nice, but figures to be in the low first round. The Sabres really needed a defenseman; especially with Campbell leaving; instead they got a forward, and an unproven one at that. I don’t disagree with trading away Campbell. He wanted to be paid like an elite defensemen, when he is simply a good defensemen, but the Sabres needed to get more out of the deal than this.

San Jose might be a little disappointed with Campbell. He’s a great passer and physical, but sometimes makes costly mental errors. He’ll definitely help down the stretch and help bolster an already strong San Jose lineup. I give the Sabres a C- for the trade and the Sharks a B.

Another big name going west this deadline was Brad Richards. Richards has been a stalwart in Tampa for a long time, but now he’s a Dallas Star. Richards is a solid all around offensive player and will be great skating with Mike Modono. Richards started off his career in Dallas by dishing out five assists in one game. He followed this up with a disappointing -2 effort, but I think his initial performance was more indicative of what you can expect from him. Richards is always good for 20 plus goals and 40 plus assists; he’s a solid, consistent player. This was a salary dump for the Lightning, but they did get some pretty good players in return. Getting rid of the human sieve Johan Holmqvist was a positive in itself. They got a pretty solid goalie, Mike Smith, who will help a Lighting team that has suffered from the league’s worst netminding. They also got two decent forwards, Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern each with over 10 assists and 10 goals. This is probably the best they could have expected from this kind of deal. The Lightning get a B from this deal and the Stars an A.

The third big deal on deadline day was Marian Hossa’s move from Atlanta to Pittsburgh. Hossa is one of the better forwards in the game, and with Sidney Crosby just coming back from injury, the threesome of Hossa, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin will be extraordinary. Hossa will give you 30 goals every year and will be a great talent to complement Crosby’s line. The Thrashers got two unknown prospects and a first round pick in return. The success of this trade for Atlanta will hinge on how those three unknown quantities pan out. The Thrashers also got forward Colby Armstrong who is the definition of mediocrity. The Penguins offense will be a force to be reckoned with down the stretch while the implications for the Thrashers are not clear at the moment. Therefore I give the Penguins an A+, but the Thrashers an incomplete.

Aside from these three big deals there were several other deals that, while not as high profile, could make that difference between late season success and failure. The Flyers added one of the most underrated forwards in the league, Vaclav Prospal. They also picked up defensemen Jaroslav Modry, one of the few solid players on the Kings this year. The Kings also sent their only other quality defensemen, Brad Stuart to Detroit, where he beefs up an already stellar defense. The Capitals also made two notable moves. One was picking up Sergei Federov, but he won’t be much of a factor as he is just a shell of his former self. The most important acquisition was picking up Cristobal Huet from the Canadiens. Huet was considered expendable by Montreal after they opted to go with youngster Carey Price between the pipes. Olaf Kolzig’s best days in Washington are behind him, and his sub .900 save percentage showed it was time for a change. Huet is a very good netminder and he’s only allowed two goals in his first two starts in Washington. He’ll help the Caps as they battle for the Southeast division title.

The trade deadline was once again a day full of fast and furious action. The result is that a lot of Cup contenders now look good on paper. However, we all know that Stanley Cups are not won on paper. Only time will tell how things will pan out as the regular season terminates and the playoffs begin. I’ll be back again soon to tell you how things are shaping up.