NHL Deadline Deals

By: Jesse Liebman
NHL Analyst
The NHL trade deadline is a veritable feeding frenzy for teams looking to add
that one player who will push them into contention for the Stanley Cup. It also
has many general managers — and fans — reaching for their anti-anxiety meds.
Some GMs are deciding whether dealing for a player is worth the risk. Others must agonize over whether to gamble by holding on hold to their players. Such is the case with Florida Panthers GM Jacques Martin, who must decide if his
team’s playoffs hopes hinge on keeping defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. Bouwmeester, 25, will be a highly sought-after UFA this summer.
In years past, the Panthers were associated with mediocre hockey and there
is little doubt that Bouwmeester would be on his way out of town by Tuesday. But
the Panthers are in the playoff picture this season, and dealing Bouwmeester at
such a critical time could have jarring implications on Florida’s locker
room chemistry. In the short term, it is best for the Panthers to hold on to the
all-star defenseman.
Martin’s best solution would be to continue to try to sign Bouwmeester to a
contract extension before the June 26 Entry Draft. Should Bouwmeester decide
that he does not want to stay in south Florida, Martin can deal
Bouwmeester’s rights to the team that possesses the first overall pick in
the draft — hello, John Tavares or Victor Hedman! — and prepare for next
While Bouwmeester’s services will likely be retained by the Panthers, there
are still several big names that have been mentioned in trade talks.
The following players are likely on the move, along with possible destinations:
Olli Jokinen – 6’3″, 215 lbs. – Phoenix – C
It seems that around this time every year Jokinen appears in trade discussion
talks. Since the Coyotes have fallen out of the playoff picture, it appears that
Jokinen will spend his tenth NHL post-season on the golf course unless a team on
the bubble is willing to pay the price. Jokinen would be a welcome addition to
any team desperate for scoring. The slick center possesses a strong nose for the
net and provides underrated leadership.
Top destinations: Calgary, New Jersey, Montreal
Tomas Kaberle – 6’1″, 198 lbs. – Toronto – D
It shouldn’t come as a shock that puck-moving defensemen such as Kaberle
are at a premium this time of the year. Leafs’ GM Brian Burke has stated that he
expects at least a first round pick, a top prospect, and a roster player in
exchange for Kaberle. To compound matters further, Kaberle has a no-trade
clause, but did give Burke a list of 10 teams he’d accept a trade to. One of
those teams is reportedly the Bruins, who have the assets to deal for Kaberle.
Top destinations: Boston, New Jersey, Philadelphia
Alexei Kovalev – 6’1″, 215 lbs. – Montreal – RW
Kovalev has endured his share of ups and downs playing for the bleu, blanc, et
rouge. His numbers are not even close to last year’s performance, but with
15 goals and 31 assists through 61 games, Kovalev would be a fantastic pickup.
If Bob Gainey decides that Kovalev is expendable, then the return would most
likely be draft picks or prospects from a rebuilding team. Kovalev is a proven
playoff veteran, having won the Cup in 1993-’94 with the Rangers.
Top destinations: Columbus, Edmonton, Florida
Tim Connolly – 6’1″, 290 lbs. – Buffalo – C
With an injury to goalie Ryan Miller, the Sabres’ playoff fortunes in net
currently rest with Patrick Lalime. The Sabres are likely to deal Connolly as
part of a package deal to shore up their netminding situation while Miller
heals. Connolly posses some soft hands and is an excellent playmaker, but that
may not be enough for teams that are wary of dealing for the oft-injured
forward. Look for the Sabres to throw another player into the mix, and/or draft
picks to sweeten the deal.
Top destinations: Columbus, Ottawa, Washington
Keith Tkachuk – 6’2″, 232 lbs. – St. Louis – LW
The wrinkle in Larry Pleau’s plans to deal Tkachuk depends on how the Blues
fare in the coming days. If they drop out of the playoff hunt, then Tkachuk, an
UFA, will be on the move. The aging Tkachuk still can produce, as his 18 goals
will attest, but the Blues are looking to rebuild. They will likely send Tkachuk
as a playoff rental to a team hoping to add some secondary scoring.
Top destinations: Chicago, Montreal, Columbus
Gary Roberts – 6’2″, 215 lbs. – Tampa Bay – LW
The ageless Roberts could soon find his way out of Tampa, and going to a team
that needs a role player. Roberts can do it all: score, set up, and grind. This season, he
hasn’t benefited from being on a dismal Lightning squad this season, but
would be a boon for the team that deals for him. Last year, his gritty performance in the
Penguins’ run to the Finals last year was highly entertaining; there’s still some hope that the 42 year-old Roberts can provide that same spark.
Top destinations: Calgary, Detroit, Edmonton
Chris Pronger – 6’6″, 214 lbs. – Anaheim – D
The Ryan Whitney trade means one of two things for Pronger: he’s gone, or
he’s got nothing to worry about; at least not yet. The Ducks have the cap
space to hold on to Pronger, but there’s very little wiggle room. Ducks GM
Bob Murray could wait until the offseason when captain Scott Niedermayer will
make a decision to keep playing or retire. If “Nieds” stays, the
hulking Pronger will no longer be able to call the Honda Center home.
Top destinations: St. Louis, Philadelphia, Montreal
Nicklas Backstrom – 6’1″, 189 lbs. – Minnesota – G
The 31 year-old Backstrom would be a welcome addition to a team looking to
shore up its depth in net. Backstrom is 4th in the NHL with a .925 save
percentage, and if the Wild can’t sign the goaltender to an extension, then
his glove hand will find appreciation on another team.
Top destinations: Buffalo, Washington, Edmonton
Maxim Afinogenov – 6’0″, 191 lbs. – Buffalo – RW
The enigmatic Afinogenov is a shell of the player who dazzled crowds in
2006-’07, when he put up 61 points in 56 games, and had a plus-minus of +19. With two goals through 34 games, Afinogenov is not going to command a strong
return, and likely will be thrown in as part of a larger package. An UFA at the
end of the season, Afinogenov needs more than a change of scenery to resurrect
his career, but a new team is a good way to start. When Afinogenov is on his
game, he can score highlight-reel goals that are as pretty as those scored by
fellow countrymen Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk.
Top destinations: New Jersey, Columbus, Florida
Kari Lehtonen – 6’4″, 215 lbs. – Atlanta – G
There was once a time when Lehtonen was once proclaimed as the Thrashers’
future in between the pipes. That title now belongs to Ondrei Pavelec. While
Pavelec continues to develop in the Thrashers’ AHL affiliate in Chicago,
Atlanta GM will likely deal Lehtonen to pave the way for Pavelec’s ascension
to “The Show” next season. Lehtonen still possesses the tools that
once made him a top prospect, including lightning-quick reflexes and the ability
to deliver in clutch situations.
Top destinations: Buffalo, Washington, Philadelphia
Joffrey Lupul – 6’1″, 205 lbs. – Philadelphia – RW
Since joining the Broad Street Bullies, Lupul has emerged as a solid two-way
player. With Danny Briere coming back from health woes, the Flyers need to free
up cap space and Lupul looks to be the odd man out. Lupul brings creative
offensive instinct with a scorer’s mentality and at $2.9 million a season for 4 years. Lupul will be entering the prime of his career after this season.
Top destinations: Florida, Buffalo, Toronto