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March 1, 2011
Buyers and Sellers
Best and Worst Trades

Hockey Prospectus


Despite of what you hear from certain quarters, there was a substantial number of quality players moved between teams over the past few weeks. Who were the winners and the losers amongst the buyers and sellers? The authors of Hockey Prospectus—plus a few of our friends—weigh in.

Robert Vollman

Best Trade: Pittsburgh Penguins acquire Alexei Kovalev (4.4 GVT) from Ottawa Senators

By moving quickly and early, the Pittsburgh Penguins picked up Alexei Kovalev from the Ottawa Senators for practically nothing. They're starved for offense on the wing, and their power play needs a serious jolt in the arm. By acquiring a UFA for a late conditional draft choice, the Penguins offered a perfect example of how to make a low risk deadline deal.

Kovalev currently carries a $5.0 million cap hit, but the Penguins could use the extra negotiating time to convince the 37-year-old UFA to sign a much lighter contract next year in order to once again get to play alongside one of the game's greatest players, and hopefully wrap up his career on a high note wearing the same jersey he wore where he enjoyed some of his greatest success.

For Pittsburgh there's tremendous upside to this deal. Though Kovalev's obviously not the player he once was, there's still the potential that he could recapture some old magic and generate more offense than anyone else who was available at the deadline. Even at his advanced age, the talented Russian consistently (though barely) produced at the established top-six level of offense at even-strength of 1.8 points per 60 minutes for the preceding three seasons. He could potentially do quite a bit more on the right Pen pairing. He hasn't been great lately on the man advantage, scoring 3.4 points per 60 minutes last year and just 2.8 this season, but he at least has the potential of getting closer to the amazing 8.3 he enjoyed with the Habs in 2007-08.

What's the downside? He may continue to play mediocre hockey, in which case he's still one of Pittsburgh's best options, and be without any future salary obligations. Oh, and the Penguins are out a seventh round draft choice.

Worst Trade: Toronto Maple Leafs acquire Joffrey Lupul (2.0 GVT) and Jake Gardiner from Anaheim Ducks for Francois Beauchemin (1.5 GVT)

The Leafs picked up prospect Jake Gardiner, which is great, and it was almost enough for me to pick another trade as this year's worst. But I just hate the fact that they picked up Joffrey Lupul's contract, which will cost them a cap hit of $4.25 million per season for two more seasons after this. They've done such a great job of shedding contracts, making it all the more puzzling that they'd take on Lupul's.

I probably would have let this trade slide if they hadn't also traded away Kris Versteeg, which strikes me as just the type of player they need to keep. Don't get me wrong, it's always nice to get first round picks, but he's only 24, is far better than Lupul, and carries a cap hit of over a million bucks less.

Kent Wilson

Dale Tallon was very busy this last month and was party to some of the best and worst trades in the league.

Worst Trade: Florida Panthers send Michael Frolik (4.5 GVT) to Chicago Blackhawks for Jack Skille (2.7 GVT)

The deal that saw Michael Frolik and Alexander Salak traded to Chicago for Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman and David Pacan is a disaster from a Florida perspective. They gave up the better immediate asset right now in Frolik, who is only slightly older than Skille but far more experienced and far more capable at the NHL level currently. Skille is only now finding his feet at the NHL level and despite his high draft pedigree, probably has a fairly low ceiling. The Panthers also dealt the better future asset in Salak, who is considered one of the better goalie prospects currently. David Pacan is an undistinguished former sixth round pick putting medicore numbers as a 19-year-old in the OHL, while Hugh Jessiman is only famous for being the worst first round choice of the remarkable 2003 draft class.

Best Trade: Florida Panthers acquire Niclas Bergfors (4.7 GVT) from Atlanta Thrashers for Radek Dvorak (5.3 GVT)

On the other hand, Tallon also managed to grab Niclas Bergfors (and Patrick Rissmiller) from the Atlanta Thrashers for Radek Dvorak and fifth round pick. Dvorak is still a functional checking forward in this league, but at 33-years-old doesn't have much tread left on the tire. Bergfors, on the other hand, is a 23-year-old sophomore coming off of a 21-goal rookie season. He also has some of the best underlying numbers on the Thrashers, includng a +4.71/60 Corsi rate despite seeing a good level of competition and a zone start ratio of 47.3%. He's a nice player who projects well, so this is a clear win for Tallon who has initiated (yet another) severe rebuilding phase for Florida.

Ryan Popilchak

Best Trade: Buffalo Sabres acquire Brad Boyes (9.8 GVT) from St. Louis Blues

Up until last night, I thought Brian Burke had locked up the best deal of the last month. The Leafs got a top prospect at center (Joe Colborne) and a first round pick for 20 games worth of Tomas Kaberle. Granted, Kaberle has averaged 11.5 GVT per year but the Leafs got approximately 10 GVT in value back and Kaberle was going to walk at the end of the season anyway. However, last night the Sabres stole Brad Boyes from the Blues for only a second round pick. A second round pick is worth 3 GVT while Boyes has averaged 10.3 GVT per year and is beating that pace this season. He gives Buffalo another top six forward for the playoff push and is under contract for next season too. This is easily the best trade of the past month.

Worst Trade: Dallas Stars send James Neal (8.8 GVT) and Matt Niskanen (-0.2 GVT) to Pittsburgh Penguins for Alex Goligoski (7.0 GVT)

As much as I hate to criticize Joe Nieuwendyk, he gets my vote for worst deal of the past month. The swap of James Neal and Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski was definitely in Pittsburgh's favor but wasn't too lopsided from a GVT perspective. The reason I disliked the trade was the fit for the organization. Neal was playing on the top line for Dallas at the age of 23 and is on pace for a GVT over 10 this season. For those who like counting stats, he's scored 20 goals for three straight years. He's a guaranteed top six forward. Meanwhile Goligoski was facing third pairing competition in Pittsburgh. The trade definitely saved Dallas some cap room. However, unless they use it to keep Brad Richards, they traded the wrong top line forward.

Jonathan Willis

Best Trade: Buffalo Sabres acquire Brad Boyes (9.8 GVT) from St. Louis Blues

I hate to copy other writers, but the best deal made has to be the Buffalo Sabres' acquisition of Brad Boyes. I've already commented on the deal in detail, but the Sabres got a highly useful offensive forward with a year left on a reasonable deal in exchange for a very small return, compared to what players of Boyes' caliber were going for. This was a fantastic move by Sabres' management.

Worst Trade: Colorado Avalanche send Craig Anderson (-7.4 GVT) to Ottawa Senators for Brian Elliott (-15.1 GVT)

I tend to agree with the other writers on the bad deals, so I'll highlight a nonsensical one that in terms of pure impact may not literally be the worst of the lot: Colorado's decision to send Craig Anderson away for Brian Elliott. Anderson's had a bad start, compounded (perhaps caused) by injuries, and the Avalanche panicked, ignoring his career record and swapping him for a below-average goaltender. The Senators now have the opportunity to sign a very good goalie at a low cost thanks to this lost season.

Corey Pronman

Worst Trade: Philadelphia's overall direction

I'm wondering if Philadelphia is under the impression that if they give away every possible future asset they have, that magically out of the clear blue sky once they hit absolute rock bottom, their organizational will be flooded with a swarm of talented U-20 players. I'll repeat what I said after the Versteeg trade, the value of a guy like Michael Chaput (and during the Versteeg trade a late first rounder) is not that much, but good grief, Chaput was one of the few forward prospects in the Flyers system—if not the only one— with a marginal hint of potential pro offensive upside. The Flyers seem very content apparently for the next few years to be looking outside for additions to the team in a cap system where value—and for the most part contenders—are found in young players and good contracts.

I would love to see Philadelphia's five-year plan from their management as of now, because for their sake I hope they know something that I don't as I fully believe this team is going to hit a wall in the near future.


While this isn't a comment on best or worst deals, I would like to say that I liked the degree of variance there was with the trades leading up to the deadline. I often hear the words "market price" thrown around after individual deals as if one deal sets a precedent for the rest—which I have always found to be a ridiculous theory. Market price exists but on a much larger scale. Tomas Kaberle obviously did not set a standard for somewhat one-dimensional defenders on expiring contracts—just look at what the Rangers gave for Bryan McCabe. Chris Kelly didn't set a market price for a second round draft pick, because look at what it took to get Alexei Kovalev and Brad Boyes. In individual deals, the price one is willing to pay amongst many factors includes a combination of things like the market as a whole, the participants willingness/need/urgency to make the deal, their current foundation at the NHL and future asset level, the amount of information they have about the pieces involved in the deal and what they know their best alternative is should a deal with Participant A not go through. I look forward to referencing these last few weeks to anyone who throws the words "market price" around outside of the context it should be used in.

Matthew Coller

Worst Trade: Florida Panthers sending Cory Stillman (1.7 GVT) to Carolina Hurricanes for Ryan Carter (-0.3 GVT)

I would love to agree with the Sabres having the best deadline deal—and don't get me wrong, Boyes was needed and may perform closer to the old Boyes if he's with Stafford and Vanek—however, the fact that Buffalo did not move the $4 million man Tim Connolly sours my taste on the deal. Not moving Connolly was the worst non-deal but the worst actual trade was Florida giving away Cory Stillman to Carolina for Ryan Carter and some broken sticks. Carter will have zero impact and shouldn't be in the league and there are a ton of teams lacking depth who may have passed along more than Carter for a veteran third liner had Florida waited a few more days until deadline day.

Best Trade: Pittsburgh Penguins acquire James Neal (8.8 GVT) and Matt Niskanen (-0.2 GVT) from Dallas Stars for Alex Goligoski (7.0 GVT)

I'll choose the Penguins' move to get James Neal as the best of the deadline. For now, the 23-year-old Neal will nab some goals here and there and help drag Pittsburgh into the playoffs. But 2011-12 is where Neal will do his most damage. He's under contract for next year and will presumably be surrounded by uber-talent that he can gel with and learn from. It's a close call, with second place for me going to Ottawa's getting rid of Mike Fisher to load up on draft picks—an excellent rebuilding move.

Timo Seppa

Best Trade: Pittsburgh's trades

If Sidney Crosby can return this season, the revitalized Penguins—with Alex Kovalev and James Neal—might be just about as good as the early season Pens with Alex Goligoski and a floundering Evgeni Malkin. Shero's given Pittsburgh a fighting chance to make it out of the East.

Worst Trade: Everything Los Angeles is doing

GM Dean Lombardi helps out Boston by taking Marco Sturm off their hands. Later, he's lucky to have Washington return the favor. The Kings sign one-way defenseman Jack Johnson at $4 million-plus per year into his thirties. Lombardi extends mediocre and injury-prone Justin Williams at nearly $4 million per season through age 34. L.A. arguably overpays for Dustin Penner, especially when they really need a forward that's much better on the power play. A young, up-and-coming team that should be a top contender within a few seasons isn't managing their assets wisely to say the least.

Mike Colligan

Best Trade: Pittsburgh Penguins acquire James Neal (8.8 GVT) and Matt Niskanen (-0.2 GVT) from Dallas Stars for Alex Goligoski (7.0 GVT)

Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero entered February in the unenviable position of needing scoring in a seller's market. Defenseman Alex Goligoski was his most valuable trading chip, but it was hard to envision a scenario where Shero could really cash in on the talented youngster prior to the offseason. Making phone calls to fellow GM's while a dozen players sit injured or suspended doesn't exactly scream leverage, but Shero still found a way. He took advantage of the Dallas Stars' financial woes and internal pressure to re-sign Brad Richards to snag budding power forward James Neal and depth defenseman Matt Niskanen. It's hard to imagine a forward better-suited for the system coach Dan Bylsma deploys and the sky is the limit for the 23-year-old Neal. The ability to identify and capitalize on situations like this are the reason the Pittsburgh front office staff is recognized as being at the top of the profession these days.

Worst Trade: Everything Colorado Avalanche has been doing, including trading away Chris Stewart (6.2 GVT) and Kevin Shattenkirk (5.9 GVT)

Five years from now, we still might not have a clear winner in last week's after-midnight shocker between Colorado and St. Louis. Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Erik Johnson are just beginning their careers, but the timing of the trade from Colorado's perspective earns them the honor of worst trade. The Avalanche rode the back of Craig Anderson to a shocking playoff appearance last season and took a predictable step backwards this year. A weak group on defense was finally exposed and it's tough to argue the addition of Johnson doesn't make them better. But at what cost? Not every young team moves from first round playoff exit to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Avalanche were on the right track under Joe Sacco and had great pieces in place to take another step forward next season. Instead, they blow up the plan by throwing away Anderson, dealing Stewart and Shattenkirk, and inevitably they'll be left with more questions than answers.

Tom Awad

Best Trades: Ray Shero's moves in Pittsburgh

Obviously, among the winners are teams that managed to add moderate-impact players for bargain basement prices: the acquisitions of Alexei Kovalev, Brad Boyes and Dennis Wideman are three of these. One clear winner from this trade deadline, yet again, is Ray Shero, although with his two superstar centers out it's not clear that the focus should be on this year. Parlaying Goligoski into Neal and Niskanen is a major win for years to come, and the Kovalev trade can only be positive.

Worst Trades: Dale Tallon's moves in Florida

I can't help feeling that Dale Tallon is one of the losers, getting seemingly poor returns on his fire sale…or maybe his players just suck, which would explain why Florida is where it is in the standings. He also seems to be under orders to dump salary, as the Bryan Allen trade indicates. Contrast this with Bryan Murray in Ottawa, who got a first for Mike Fisher, a second for Chris Kelly, a second for Chris Campoli, and Craig Anderson for this season and maybe beyond.


The Penner-to-LA trade looks like a win-win for now. If LA does something this year or next, it's a big win for LA. If the first-rounder or (less likely) Colten Teubert turn out to be impact players, Edmonton looks smart. Both teams got what they wanted in the short term.

Richard Pollock

Best Trades: George McPhee's additions in D.C.

The Capitals did well to address needs on offense (Arnott and Sturm) without giving up a first round pick and without taking on the salaries for these two players past this season. Additionally, adding depth to the team's defense at the expense of an ECHL prospect and a third round pick serves as an upgrade over their bottom two defensemen.

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