NHL Trade Market Heats Up
The new year begun, the NHL trade freeze lifted, and some teams have already started making moves to fill holes or better position their teams for the second half of the season.
Former injury-prone Avalanche player Marek Svatos returned from the KHL, intending to sign a contract with the St Louis Blues. Svatos, a former 32 goal scorer, had seen his numbers and responsibilities diminish with Colorado as he sustained groin, ACL and hand injuries. The Blues are amongst the lowest scoring teams in the Western Conference, have a number of forwards in sick bay, and are clinging to one of the lower playoff spots. Unfortunately for St Louis, Svatos did not make his way through waivers and he was claimed by the Nashville Predators, a division rival with injury and scoring worries of their own. Through 2 games with the Preds, Svatos has yet to score, averaging about 10 minutes a game.
The Montreal Canadiens made a move, sending a second round pick in ’11 and a 5th round pick in ’12 to the Islanders for James Wisniewski. The Habs have a history in recent years of needing an offensive minded defenseman, ever since the departures of players like Souray and Streit. Andrei Markov had rounded into form, however Markov was injured just 7 games into this season and will not return. Arriving with 3 goals and 18 assists, Wisniewski has already made an impact with the Habs, contributing 2 goals and 3 assists in only 3 games with his new team. The ever-rebuilding Islanders receive draft picks, and though they had plenty of cap space, shed the remainder of the defenseman’s $3.25M cap hit.
Pierre Gauthier was not done yet, sending Maxim Lapierre to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Brett Festerling and a 5th round pick in ’12. Word is that Lapierre was not a good dressing room guy, and Montreal management had tired of his act. After hitting career highs in 08-09 with 15 goals and 13 assists in 79 games, the forward’s numbers had dropped to 7 goals and 7 assists and an ugly -14 last season. This year Lapierre had only 5 goals and 3 assists and was -7 in 38 games. Festerling is a big-body defenseman, really not much more than a depth move for Montreal. He was sent down to AHL Hamilton immediately.
Also not done were the Islanders. The playoffs a distant dream, GM Garth Snow sent 41-year old and soon to be free agent Dwayne Roloson to Tampa Bay in exchange for defense prospect Ty Wishart. Roloson of course is a clutch goalie, earning the reputation in his stints with Minnesota and Edmonton. Tampa Bay, though leading the Southeast division, have a fairly weak tandem in net, as Dan Ellis and Mike Smith have not provided GM Steve Yzerman with confidence either can backstop a long playoff run. Neither Tampa nor NY Islanders had significant cap worries. Wishart is a former 2006 first round draft selection of the San Jose Sharks. He’s 6’4″ and 215lbs, and shows some offensive upside, having put up 32 points last season for AHL Norfolk. In 5 career NHL games with Tampa, he had 1 assist.
As always, rumors continue to abound, specifically around certain teams. In the new NHL, no trade is made without some attention being paid to the salary cap. It will be interesting to see if these transactions will spark other moves to be made throughout the league. One team to watch closely will be Calgary , as GM Darryl Sutter has been let go, and Jay Feaster steps in as interim GM. The Flames are a team hard against the cap now, and with over $56M committed for next season already. A large number of their players have no-trade or no-movement clauses in their contracts. Additionally, much of Calgary’s core of players are north of 30 years old now, and it will be interesting to see if Feaster can move at least some of what he’s got, or if the Flames will simply stay the course and hope it’s enough to make the playoffs.