Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Puck Stops Here: Moving Day


Welcome back to another exciting edition of The Puck Stops Here. On Tuesday the NHL Trade Deadline almost passed without too much excitement, and then it happened. The Pittsburgh Penguins shocked most of the hockey world and walked away as victors of the Marian Hossa sweepstakes. Or did they?

Sure, the Penguins finally have the world-class wing to pair with Sidney Crosby, but was the price too steep? I’ll begin with this, if the Pens either a) win the Stanley Cup or b) sign Hossa to a long term deal while leaving them flexibility to keep their other young studs then this deal great. However, I doubt either scenario will occur. I do not think the Penguins will resign Hossa and I think they will lose in the Stanley Cup Finals to Dallas or Anaheim.

When the dust settled the Pens didn’t give up anything amazing, they gave a 3rd line fan favorite, an underachieving center, an underachieving recent first round draft pick and a late first round draft pick. While they didn’t give up a ton, they did give up too much if Hossa turns out to be a rental player that fails in the playoffs. The Pens gave up a lot of young depth to go for it all this year, but I think they are a year too early. I am not crazy about the deal, I don’t hate it, but at the same time I don’t like it. The only thing I do like is that Ray Shero and the Pens ownership group showed they are committed to winning and are willing to try to make it happen (Much more than can be said for the embarrassing Pirates organization).

OK, I needed to get that out, let’s get to the winners, losers and the players that broke even with yesterday’s deadline moves.

WINNERS

Brad Richards, C, Dallas: I think Richards will see a slight increase in production as he should see a regular line combination and better talent than what he was paired with in Tampa Bay. The biggest aspect Richards owners are looking forward to is an increase in his +/-, it has been an anchor killing his value this season. Now that he has shook that anchor loose Richards is once again a top 15 center.

Carey Price, G, Montreal: Price gets a big boost simply because he is now the definite starting goaltender in Montreal. He no longer has to platoon with Huet as the Habs number one goalie. This is similar to Duece McCallister’s recent knee injury, Reggie Bush’s value skyrocketed because of his potential. The same is true for Price, he has number one goalie value with the potential to be a top 6 or 7 goalie. If he is available go get him now.

Tuomo Ruutu, W, Carolina: I like what the change in scenery does for Tuomo’s value. I believe he will get a chance to skate with more talent around him and in turn should produce more. In his first game Tuesday evening, he netted a couple points. This is more a speculative winner, but in the end I think Ruutu is much more valuable in Carolina than he was in Chicago.


Eric Christensen, C, Atlanta: I think Christensen will profit from a change of scenery. Seeing him play for the last couple seasons, Christensen has a boat load of offensive talent, but he never seems to put it all together for an extended stretch. Perhaps a move to another team is enough to get EC going. I would add EC based on speculative value, but remember he had the opportunity to play with Sid and Malkin in Pittsburgh and never really produced equal to his talent level. If EC doesn’t start producing early in Atlanta, I don’t him to produce much the rest of the season.

Jack Johnson, D, Los Angeles: Like Price, JJ didn’t get traded but will benefit from an opening through the Stuart trade. JJ is the best young defenseman in the league and will be looking at more consistent playing time with Stuart out in LA. He is getting significant minutes with Blake out and now that will continue even when Blake returns. JJ may not provide the returns we are all looking for, but for the first time he will be given plenty of opportunities to do so.

Jussi Jokinen, W, Tampa Bay: It is more likely than not that Jokinen will play with Lecavalier and St. Louis which could mean a significant increase in production. I see Jokinen fitting in with the top power play unit as well. If both of the previous statements are true then Jokinen could be the biggest winner of all after the trade deadline. However, I do expect to see his +/- drop after moving from a top to team to one of the worst teams.

BREAKING EVEN

Sergei Fedorov, C, Washington: Fedorov finds himself in an interesting situation in Washington. Federov could either be a winner, loser or just break even. If he plays with Ovechkin then he is a definite winner. If he plays with Semin then he should produce similar numbers as he was in Columbus. But if he finds himself on the third line then his value significantly decreases and probably won’t be worth owning. I think he will end up playing with Semin because Backstrom has played well with Ovie. However, keep an eye on this situation. Remember to look at Washington D.C. newspapers for the developments.

Brad Stuart, D, Detroit: I see a significant short term boost to Stuart’s value in Detroit because Lidstrom and Rafalski are currently missing time with injuries. But when they return, Stuart’s ice time will decrease and so will his boost in production. However, the long term constant should be a boost to his +/- now that he plays for a team with an NHL caliber goaltender. Add Stuart for now but don’t be surprised when his production decreases in a week or two.

Brian Campbell, D, San Jose: I love this deal for San Jose, they gave up little and got a ton in return. Bernier is overrated and a late first round pick in the NHL is not all that valuable. However, Campbell’s value doesn’t really change at all. His playing time will remain about the same, his production will remain the same essentially everything stays the same. San Jose is better than Buffalo but not by so much that a team switch alone will help him that much.

Steve Bernier, W, Buffalo: Despite Bernier’s hot start with his new squad, I see his change of scenery more of a lateral than a promotion. The positive aspect of Bernier’s move is that he may finally get steady linemates to get some chemistry with. The negative aspect is he is moving to a much weaker team and will no longer have the opportunity to play with Joe Thornton. Perhaps a new team is what Bernier needs to get his career going, but I don’t see it happening and expect the same out of Bernier in Buffalo.

Mike Smith, G, Tampa Bay: Smith’s value is interesting. While backing up Turco in Dallas Smith has produced some very good numbers. Many people have been wondering what Smith could do if he was the definite number one. Well now he is, the problem is it is with Tampa Bay. I do think Smith could be a number two goalie if he was playing with a decent team, but for now I view him as a good number three goalie. He should be added and started against advantageous match ups, but I don’t expect anything amazing.

LOSERS

Cristobal Huet and Olaf Kolzig, G, Washington: Huet is a big time loser because he went from a platoon with a very good team to a platoon with an average team. This will most likely mean less wins, a higher GAA and a lower save percentage. Olaf Kolzig has now lost his grasp as the number one in Washington and now has a platoon. Expect the same mediocre numbers out of Kolzig but with less wins. No matter how you slice it, each goalie has lost value; they are the two biggest losers of the trade deadline.

Andrew Ladd, W, Chicago: Ladd, once a big winner from the Ottawa-Carolina deal a couple weeks ago, now finds himself on the losing end of the latest Carolina trade. Ladd finds himself in Chicago where he will get about the same amount of ice time, but will now be playing with a less talented team and linemates. While Ladd may be able to keep his hot Feburary rolling, the odds are certainly not in his favor.

Vaclav Prospal, W, Philadelphia: Prospal’s team may have slightly improved, but his current situation got worse. He may find himself outside of Philly’s top two lines and on the third unit. If this is the case a severe drop in production is imminent. Even if Prospal finds his way onto Briere’s top unit, it still isn’t as talented as Lecavalier and St. Louis in Tampa. No matter how you look at it the situation got worse for Prospal owners.

Marc-Andre Bergeron, D, Anaheim: Bergeron suffers the same fate as Stuart. He moves to a much better team but joins an already talented group of defensemen. Any possible increase in production should be negated by a decrease in playing time. Bergeron had a little fantasy value in New York, but what value there once was is no longer there. Bergeron will have difficulty getting ice time and isn’t worth owning.

Keep an eye on what happens over the next 4 or 5 days. Players completely off the radar may be given a new role and you never know what can happen. If you see a player starting to get hot he may be worth a flier. This is a great time for speculation, as always feel free to share your opinions or ask any questions. Until next week, The Puck Stops Here.




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7 comments:

McPuck22 said...

Never an easy article to write following so many moves and shakeups but I think I agree with much of your analysis.

On the Hossa trade, I agree that only time will tell, but on the surface I think the Penguins unloaded 3 "possibles" and a late round draft pick. Of those 4 pieces, I think the draft pick is the biggest loss from Pittsburgh's perspective. With more scorers at center than most teams have in their entire organization, there was little room to move up for Christensen and Esposito. These two have the skills to produce in Atlanta but huge risks still remain. Colby Armstrong would be an great addition to any team but his upside is limited at this point. Pittsburgh has 10 players that have shown they can contribute in a 3rd/4th line role and it won't be difficult to find a replacement for Army. The argument for Hossa is obvious. I will say it's good to see Atlanta was able to fill alot of holes before Hossa went the way of Briere/Drury. I do agree if the Pens don't win a cup or resign him though, Atlanta will likely get the best of this deal...but I don't think any fan could ever ever blame GM Shero for taking the chance.

One last thought - I think Steve Bernier should be on your Upgrade list. He's got size, strength and a nose for the net that fits perfectly with skilled guys such as Roy and Vanek in Buffalo. Bernier has shown glimpses in his 3 seasons of the damage he can do when he's paired with the right players. On the subject of Buffalo, what about Jaroslav Spacek?? I think you've got another sleeper there with Campbell gone.

Great ideas on your list though. Keep up the good work, it's great to see insightful analysis and not some columnist just choosing the players that have scored the most points in the past 10 days.

Joe Romano said...

Mcpuck,

I appreciate the compliment and I am glad someone has noticed what I am trying to do. There are many articles out there that simply make their decisions based off the highest point totals for a week or two. But with my hockey background, I try to look at all factors and make a meaningful determination on who to pick up. I believe my picks and their results have shown that this type of analysis pays off in the end.

Bernier was tough for me. Consistent time with Vanek and Roy could allow him to blossom. But San Jose gave him multiple different stretches of games with Thornton and he never was able to prove that he can be a consistent scorer. While I do think he has a chance to improve in Buffalo, I don't see the opportunity being that much better than what he had in San Jose. He certainly has shown upside in his debut performance, but he has done this many times in San Jose and that didn't work out well.

I hate to admit it, but I overlooked Spacek. Spacek is a winner from this trade deadline. He becomes the number one defenseman in Buffalo. He will get plenty of ice time and now more ice time with the top power play unit. I would like to make an amendment to my article and include Spacek on the list of winners. Thanks for pointing it out.

Joe

braskypoop said...

I have to disagree with you on your hesitation to call the Hossa trade a "good deal" for the Pens. If you really step back and take a look at the trade, it's a huge win for the Pens. Let's face it, Colby is a fan favorite but realistically, how much can he do that just about any other 3rd liner in the league can't do? The answer is absolutely nothing. As far as Eric Christensen, you're absolutely right, he has "boat loads" of offensive talent but he was never able to put it together. Christensen is a guy that could go elsewhere and put up pretty good numbers (ala Markus Naslund but not as good). His potential was not and would never be reached in Pittsburgh. I truly think he might be one of those guys that needs to be featured on a top two line. I know he played with Malkin and Crosby but he was never "the guy" on a line and it seems he lacked some confidence with his demeanor on the ice (never really seemed to excited to be there). So I consider him being gone as a good parting of the ways for both parties.
As far as Esposito and the draft pick, you are putting entirely too much emphasis on the "chance" we might get some talent with either the pick or in Esposito. There must be a reason this guy fell in the draft significantly, got cut i think 3 times from the Canadian Junior team (think thats the team) and really hasn't performed up to expectations. You have to remember that the Pens are a young team and despite a couple loses through free agency in the next couple of years, this is a young nucleus that does not have too many holes. Also, I've heard from two different media outlets about a young kid named Luca Capoti (no sure on the spelling) who is supposed to be a monster. So, the future of the Pens was not hinging on the backs of Angelo Esposito and their "late" 1st round pick next year.
As far as the rest of the NHL, I totally agree with your analysis about Montreal. That might have been one of biggest "bonehead" trades I've ever seen. Talk about counting your chickens before they're hatched. It is quite clear that the pick they received was going to be used as part of their offer to get Hossa.

I think the absolute sleeper trade during the entire deadline was the Federov trade. I've always been a fan of Federov and if he is able to develop some chemistry with Ovechkin, look for those two Russians to make a push. It seems like every year someone makes a trade for a veteran who gets his legs and scoring ability back and looks like they're young again. (see Larry Murphy from Toronto to Detroit). I think Federov will be that guy this spring. Plus, wouldn't this be so typical.....1 v. 8 seed....Pittsburgh v. Washington 1st round. Lord knows we've seen that a couple times.

Lastly, I love seeing Phili scramble during the trade deadline. Other than the demise of the WVU athletic program this past year, I don't know if I have ever enjoyed seeing a sports team crumble like the Flyers of late. I enjoy each loss more than the last and it seems just like yesterday Ron Hextall was chasing Robbie Brown.

Dave said...

I almost completely agree with Mcpuck's comments, but to say that if the Pens are losers of the deal if they do not win a cup or sign Hossa to a long-term deal is tough for me to swallow. Despite Colby being a "great guy" and "a fan/locker room favorite" he is a regular third line energy forward who makes around a mil a year. How many of those exist in the league? How many Hossa's are in the league?

The Pens had a choice to stay as a 2-4 team in the East or make a play to be a 1. If they do not sign Hossa to a deal, Stanley Cup or no this year, the Pens will basically be the same team as they were pre-Hossa, except Geno and Sid will continue to improve, as will Whitney, Brooks, Letang, and the rest of the crew. Colby would probably remain the same. Christensen might have improved, but as mcpuck said, he is a center, how many can you have on a team?

No one can predict what Esposito will end up doing, but did he drop from a consensus #1 overall pick to the 20's for no reason? One would think not. I'm going with Shero on this one, I think he knows what he is doing.

Joe Romano said...

Brasky,

I agree the Fedorov deal was great for Washington. I think Washington really improved at the deadline. Early reports have Ovechkin and Fedorov skating together. If that's the case, I really like Fedorov. Washington's moves will get them to the play offs.

I also agree that the demise of the Flyers is one of the greatest sports stories for a Pittsburgh fan. This rates a close second behind the Patriots choking in the Super Bowl and Belichik being out coached by Coughlin. Nothing would please me more than to see Philly end in the basement.

You are right Colby is only a third line guy. But he is a very very good third line guy, who is young, cheap, and has all the intangibles that make great players. He just lacks the talent to be a top two line guy. But Stanley Cups are not won without character guys like Colby and in the long run losing Colby will hurt. He is the type of guy that would take a little less money to play for the Pens. That is what makes this deal questionable in my mind.

Joe

Joe Romano said...

Dave,

I don't mind giving up EC, that was the perfect move for the Pens. It was like that long term relationship that neither person wanted to end but knew they had to. I just really think the subtraction of Colby will hurt more than we all think. Sure character doesn't score goals, but it sure does forecheck, kill penalties and causes you to give up your body to make a play. Take a look at the old Penguins Stanley Cup years. Players like Bourque, Loney and Erey were indispensable. Mario and his crew racked up points in the regular season, but in the playoffs, the third line character guys all saw increased ice time.

You don't win Stanley Cups without the Lemieuxs of the world, but you also don't win them without the Loneys of the world. A very underrated movie once said, "the world needs ditch diggers too." Stanley Cup teams also need those ditch diggers and that is what Colby Armstrong did.

Dave said...

Joe,

I'm not saying that I am not going to miss Colby, I am saying that he is replaceable. Just because he is gone does not mean that his position is going to be filled with a guy with less talent and charisma.

I think if you were asked whether you would rather have Hossa or Colby for your Stanley Cup run, the choice would be obvious. Since you do not mind the rest of the package, the Colby for Hossa swap is what is making the difference in your mind between a "good" and "bad" trade. Even without Colby next year, the Pens are set to be awesome.

You think the Pens were hurt emotionally when they traded John Cullen and Mark Recchi (K Stevens best friends)? They were "great locker room guys" too and prolific scorers. You think we wouldn't have traded Phil Bourque for Mike Modano in a heart beat?

The bottom line here is that while it stings to lose Colby, you are getting a top 5 forward in the league -- Sid has never had a chance to play with such talent. Look for fireworks when he returns, this could be really, really special.