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March 12, 2012
Zamboni Tracks
D-Day, Part 2

by Ryan Wagman

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Two weeks ago, this space analyzed some of the bigger NHL-centric trade deadline day deals, including the Predators acquisitions of both Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad, the swap between Minnesota and Edmonton of veteran blueliners Tom Gilbert and Nick Schultz, the Blackhawks picking up Johnny Oduya for picks, and the Canucks using the same type of resource to acquire Samuel Pahlsson from Columbus.

Of course, that wasn't all that shook down at the deadline. This time around, we will clean house and look at the remaining moves.

Colorado Avalanche

Traded LW T.J. Galiardi and LW Daniel Winnick along with a 2012 seventh round draft pick to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for LW Jamie McGinn, C Mike Connolly, and C Michael Sgarbossa (February 27, 2012)

San Jose Sharks

Traded LW Jamie McGinn, C Mike Connolly, and C Michael Sgarbossa to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for LW T.J. Galiardi and LW Daniel Winnick along with a 2012 seventh round draft pick (February 27, 2012)

An interesting trade for a few reasons, the Avalanche swapped one RFA and one UFA (and a pick) for an RFA and two prospects of varying pedigree. For all that Daniel Winnick had a highly defensive reputation, he spent more time this year playing first-line minutes for Colorado alongside Ryan O'Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog than with anyone else. Not that his talented linemates were able to make Winnick a productive player. In 63 games for Colorado this season, the New Hampshire grad picked up only 18 points and contributed less than one goal above replacement (0.8 GVT). Galiardi also played most of his minutes teamed with top-six players like O'Reilly and Paul Stastny. Slightly more sheltered than Winnick, the younger Galiardi was doubly as effective in lesser ice time. These are two useful players still in the flowers of their combined youth (Galiardi is 23 years old, Winnick turned 27 a few days after the trade). The Avalanche, tied on points for the final playoff berth from the Western Conference on the morning of the deadline, by all rights should have been more inclined to keep their useful core intact to up their chances at playing into the second week of April.

Why make this trade? For one, Jamie McGinn is as good a replacement for Galiardi as may have been possible in the entire NHL. The two players are less than four months apart in age. Although Gailardi is older, he was drafted a year later after being overlooked in his first draft year. That aside, both men were second rounders when they were taken. Both are versatile, third line pluggers, of similar height and weight. McGinn has produced more offense this year than has Galiardi, but that has not always been the case. During Galiardi's first two NHL seasons, he produced at around 0.50 points-per-game. Between injuries and reduced playing time, his scoring rate has since been cut in half.

Jamie McGinn, a product of the famed Ottawa 67's program, has seen his offensive production go in the opposite direction, as his previous two seasons hovered around 0.25 points-per-game and is at over 0.40 points-per-game now. Whereas Galiardi and Winnick were light on production while playing the Colorado's big point producers, McGinn's advances have come alongside the likes of Michal Handzus and Torrey Mitchell, considerably less heralded linemates.

While some might look at the overall career lines of Galiardi and McGinn and see equal prowess, their respective trends show that assessment to be quite false. Galiardi's productivity has been severely hampered by his frequent injuries, most pointedly the wrist injuries that have cost him over 40 games last year. Galiardi will have to show that he has fully recovered from his physical issues and McGinn will have to regress back to being the player he had been in the past few years and the player VUKOTA pegged him as coming into this year for this portion of the deal to work out favorably for San Jose.

As for the rest of the pieces involved, Colorado received two prospects among the many in San Jose's employ that were brought in as undrafted free agents. As with Philadelphia, Doug Wilson has kept the San Jose cupboards stocked with overlooked amateur talent, allowing him more leeway in trading his draft picks to help the NHL team compete more strongly. Both Sgarbossa and Connolly have had impressive seasons, Connolly averaging 0.75 points per game in his first season as a professional and Sgarbossa absolutely lighting up the OHL, currently tied for the league scoring lead with Los Angeles prospect Tyler Toffoli. Sgarbossa has already drawn considerable praise from prospect expert Corey Pronman, who feels that he may yet have third line NHL upside.

Based on the return headed to Colorado, it can only be inferred that Doug Wilson and the San Jose braintrust feel that Winnick and Galiardi give them a better chance during the postseason* than McGinn and either of Frazer McLaren or Jesse Winchester, who will both lose ice-time to the newcomers. If neither Sgarbossa nor Connolly pan out, then this trade may well turn out as a mild win for San Jose. If either becomes a serviceable NHLer, Colorado comes out ahead.

*It should be noted that Winnick and Gailiardi have two postseason points between them in 13 combined career NHL postseason games. McGinn has a solitary point in 22 career NHL postseason games.

Ottawa Senators

Traded D Brian Lee to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for D Matt Gilroy (February 27, 2012)

Tampa Bay Lightning

Traded D Matt Gilroy to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for D Brian Lee (February 27, 2012)

Traded a conditional 2012 seventh round draft pick to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for D Mike Commodore (Feb, 27, 2012)

Before the season started, the Tampa Bay Lightning could have been expected to carry a blueline corps solid enough to help the team compete for a postseason berth. They were veteran laden, with Marc-Andre Bergeron, Eric Brewer, Brett Clark, Pavel Kubina, and Mattias Ohlund all on the far side of 30. Victor Hedman, a sprightly 21, is a supremely talented youth, having played over 150 games in the NHL before he was legally allowed to drink after home games. Providing depth were veteran blueliners Bruno Gervais, Matt Gilroy, and Mike Lundin. And yet, on the morning of the trade deadline, the Lightning stood eight points back of the final seed, and had already begun selling off parts, sending Kubina to Philadelphia, third-line center Dominic Moore to San Jose, and agitating winger Steve Downie to Colorado.

A large part of the Bolts' failure to launch can be attributed to disappointing results from their blue line. Ohlund had not played a single game on the season, suffering from knee troubles. Bergeron has already missed 20 games and is not expected to return this season, dealing with a back problem. Gervais and Hedman have also missed significant time on the season. Of the blueliners to remain healthy and steadfast in the lineup, Brett Clark seems to have fallen off the cliff, so to speak, seeing his GVT drop from 7.5 last season to a below-replacement -0.6 through 65 games this time around. Of all of the aforementioned players, only Bergeron has been a positive in the possession game this season, although his status as the only regular Lightning defenseman to have a positive even strength relative Corsi is more than somewhat mitigated by his extremely sheltered minutes, starting over 70% of his shifts in the offensive zone. In short, the defense corps has been a failure. Thankfully for the sake of a rebuild, many of those pieces were not under contract beyond the end of this season. Bergeron has one more year to go on his contract, Brewer and Ohlund each have another three seasons, and Hedman is locked up through 2016-17.

Without much in the way of high-end defensive prospects on the farm, Steve Yzerman rightly targeted an upside play in Brian Lee, once upon a time the ninth overall selection in the draft. Soon to be 25, Lee has not lived up to his lofty prospect billing, and has yet to play more than 53 games in a single NHL season. A frequent healthy scratch with the Senators earlier in the year, the native of Moorhead, Minnesota will need to play in every remaining game on the Lightning docket to break that mark this season. He has so far been given a longer leash under Guy Boucher than he received under Paul MacLean in Ottawa, consistently playing over 16 minutes per game since the trade, whereas he more often played 13-14 minutes per game before the move. Set to become an RFA this summer, Lee will see his salary rise above the affordable $925,000 he is receiving this year to a number that requires more brainpower in deciding whether or not to keep him. He likely will not grow up to play in the first two pairings, but can be a solid contributor, along with fellow deadline acquisition Keith Aulie in the third pairing next season.

The move to bring in Mike Commodore, coming at zero expense (the seventh round pick promised to Detroit only comes into play if the Lightning make it past the first round of the playoffs), will do little more than to ensure that Guy Boucher will not have to risk giving more ice time to Evan Oberg.* Before he departs as a UFA this summer, the veteran from Fort Saskatchewan will help to mentor fellow acquisitions Lee and Aulie, as they are expected to play a similar defensive role to that of the former Red Wing.

*Oberg, who has been recalled from, and assigned to the AHL no less than ten times this season, has only actually appeared in three games for the Lightning, playing a combined 29 minutes. It's an honor just being nominated, I guess.

As for the Senators, their season has been almost a mirror opposite to that of Tampa. While Tampa was expected to compete but has struggled, Ottawa was expected by many to struggle. VUKOTA was one of many prognostication systems to miss on the Sens, predicting them to finish 28th in the league this year, particularly struggling to score goals. Instead, Ottawa is currently sixth in the NHL in goals scored per game, sitting at 3.01 per, through 69 games while maintaining a chance to beat the Boston Bruins for the Northeast Division title.

Whereas Tampa could afford to pass up a productive young veteran who is about to enter into unrestricted free agency in exchange for a player with some upside and some team control, the Senators are happily surprised to find themselves in a position to trade away a disappointing player with remaining upside in exchange for a player more likely to play an important role in this year's playoffs. Not that Gilroy has reams of playoff experience under his belt—while already 27 years old, the late blooming former Hobey Baker Award winner has only two years of NHL experience and five total NHL playoff games played—but Gilroy has established himself as a bona fide NHL regular capable of playing heavy minutes on the second pairing, on both special teams and against above average competition. With only three defensemen already under contract for next season, a strong performance by Gilroy through the remainder of the season could see him establish career security in the form of a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract with the Senators. In other words, there are easy-to-spot scenarios in which both the Lightning and the Senators win in this trade.

Boston Bruins

Traded D Marc Cantin and RW Yannick Riendeau to the New York Islanders in exchange for winger Brian Rolston and D Mike Mottau (February 27, 2011)

Traded D Steven Kampfer to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for D Greg Zanon (February 27, 2012)

Like many previous championship winners, in hockey as well as in other major sports, the Boston Bruins followed up their 2010-11 Stanley Cup parade by making as few roster moves as possible, returning nearly the entire Cup winning team intact for 2011-12. Mark Recchi retired, Michael Ryder signed with Dallas, and disappointing rental Tomas Kaberle was allowed to leave, signing with Carolina. To replace the departed, the Bruins signed winger Benoit Pouliot from Montreal and traded for defenseman Joe Corvo from Carolina. That's all. Ice time was shuffled. Tyler Seguin has taken on a much more prominent role as a sophomore. Jordan Caron has gotten his feet wet in the best league in the world. For all intents and purposes though, this is the same team that ended the Bruins' 39 year Cup drought.

The strategy seems to be working. The Bruins have maintained a grip on the lead in the Northeast Division. The Ottawa Senators are challenging them, but with three games in hand and a two point lead as of March 9, 2012, the smart money is on Boston to hold onto the number two seed in the Eastern Conference. In other words, the team that won in 2010-11 is good enough to be considered among the front runners to win in 2011-12. The path to a repeat will be fraught with difficulties, however, and many times, simply being great is not good enough. Many times, the winning team is the team with the best depth; the team with players up and down the lineup who can hurt the opposition.

These two relatively minor trades have both been in the service of improving depth at the NHL level for Boston. The expense in acquiring Rolston and Mottau was negligible as both Riendeau and Cantin were originally acquired as undrafted free agents and little was expected professionally of either. The Islanders gave both veterans away to do little more than to save money before the end of the season, as they likely value the $1.25 million saved more than the incoming players.

Kampfer, dealt to Minnesota in exchange for Greg Zanon, played a depth role during last year's regular season march, but was relegated to the press box throughout the playoffs, not appearing in a single game. This year, he was further relegated, spending much of his season in Providence prior to the trade. He may yet prove to be a regular NHLer, but the Bruins' window to win is right now. Kampfer is a nice asset, but a low-upside backline puck mover is imminently replaceable.

Zanon has been playing in most games since the trades (he saw the press box twice as Mottau laced up for his first two games with his hometown Bruins), but the low-end minutes he has thus far received do not indicate that his spot will be secure once Andrew Ference returns from injury. An interesting point about the two new Boston blueliners is that, as exemplary shot blockers—both among the top 30 in the NHL at even strength—their strengths are not maximized on a team like the Bruins, with stellar goaltending that is less in need of extra help stopping pucks. Much like no-fault insurance, the Bruins cannot lose with these trades, as long as they are comfortable with the premiums.

Ryan Wagman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Ryan by clicking here or click here to see Ryan's other articles.

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From Daigle To Datsyuk (03/09)
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Zamboni Tracks (02/29)
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Zamboni Tracks (04/05)
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