x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

NHL managers are not waiting till deadline to reveal their hand

So many big deals have gone down already there may be no more blockbusters.

Craig Anderson makes a save on his way to a shutout victory in his first game for Ottawa. Chris Young / AP Photo
Craig Anderson makes a save on his way to a shutout victory in his first game for Ottawa. Chris Young / AP Photo

A funny thing happened on the way to the NHL trade deadline: the league's general managers suddenly remembered that they are not obligated to wait for the zero hour before swinging a deal.

The result of that revelation has been a flurry of player movement in the weeks leading up to February 28, and the possibility deadline day itself will be a bit of a dud, at least compared to recent years when there have been more than 20 transactions on the final day.

Given the quality of players who have changed jerseys since Brian Burke, the Toronto general manager, sent Francois Beauchemin, the veteran defenceman, to Anaheim on February 9, there is a good chance deadline day will be devoid of blockbuster deals, too.

Burke also sent Tomas Kaberle, the longtime Leafs player, to Boston in exchange for a prospect (Joe Colborne) and draft picks. The deal is notable because it involved the first top-flight Stanley Cup contender, Boston, making a move as the deadline approached.

The Leafs and the Ottawa Senators have made three significant trades each. But they are not alone - there have been 18 trades in the two weeks since Beauchemin left Toronto.

The Colorado Avalanche sent Craig Anderson, the starting goalie who was eligible for unrestricted free agency in the summer, to Ottawa for Brian Elliott, who has logged a lot of time in the past two seasons as the busy backup to the oft-injured Pascal Leclaire.

Then the Avs pulled off a stunner, shipping Chris Stewart, the power forward, and Kevin Shattenkirk, the young offensive defenceman, to the St Louis Blues for D-man Erik Johnson and two-way checking star Jay McClement.

St Louis also sent Eric Brewer, their captain, to Tampa for a prospect and a pick. If Brewer can recapture the form that saw him named to Canada's 2002 Olympic team as a 22-year-old, he will help a surprising Tampa team.

A deal between Pittsburgh and Dallas was also loaded with intrigue as the Penguins traded Alex Goligoski, an offensive defenceman, for James Neal, a power forward winger, and Matt Niskanen, a no-nonsense defender. The Pens hope Neal can be a complementary winger for Sidney Crosby, while the Stars hope Goligoski can become the next Sergei Gonchar.

Fans of 20-plus other teams hope there's still a few scraps to barter over as the deadline approaches.




Players of the week

• Ales Hemsky, Edmonton. Four goals and seven points in three games shows the Oilers what they had been missing when Hemsky was hurt.

• Antti Niemi, San Jose. Three wins, one via shutout, in three contests is good news for the goalie.

• Alex Ovechkin, Washington. Don’t look now, but Ovechkin, below, is heating up with three goals and six points in four outings.

Teams of the week

• Edmonton Oilers. They might be last in the league, but they beat Dallas, Montreal and Atlanta in a productive week.

• New Jersey Devils. The unlikely play-off drive continued as they downed Carolina twice and blanked the Rangers.

• San Jose Sharks. Team defence came to the fore in wins over Nashville (2-1), Washington (3-2) and Colorado (4-0).

Duds of the week

• Curtis McElhinney, Anaheim. With 16 goals against on 68 shots over seven periods, the Ducks back-up faltered when his team needed him most.

• Atlanta. After an impressive first half, three more losses banish the Thrashers further down the East standings.

• Stephane Robidas, Dallas. The defenceman registered a minus-6 rating while failing to record a point.


Series of the week

• Chicago at Nashville, tomorrow. The Predators have a chance to help prevent the Stanley Cup champions from making the post season.

• San Jose at Calgary, Friday. Two of the hottest teams in the NHL over the past two months.

• Boston at Vancouver. It is not implausible to imagine the Bruins and Canucks meeting up in the cup final.