The Trade Winds Are Blowing: A Metro Hockey Update
Arguably the most important day of the hockey season, Deadline Day (March 11 this season) presented the final opportunity for teams to improve their rosters before the start of the playoffs. All three local Metro-area teams made roster changes, either on Deadline Day or the preceding week. Here’s a look at each team’s moves:
New York Islanders
Acquired defenseman Janne Niinimaa, and a second round draft choice from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for forwards Brad Isbister and Raffi Torres; acquired forward Justin Papi neau and a second round draft choice from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for goalie Chris Osgood and a third round draft choice; traded forward Claude Lapointe to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a fifth round draft choice; acquired forward Randy Robitaille from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a fifth round draft choice
Mad Man Mike blew it AGAIN. No, you most certainly are reading a new article. This is not a rerun. Islander general manager Mike Milbury once again failed to upgrade his team’s talent, and may in fact have weakened it. Sure, Niinimaa will certainly help strengthen a chronically injured defense corps. But is another power play point man necessary? Was the stronger and much more physical Dan McGillis not available from the San Jose Sharks, a rebuilding team that was willing to pawn off its veterans cheaply? The Islanders need more strength at the blueline, not more finesse. And for BOTH Isbister and Torres (a former first-round pick)?!?! Ouch!
The Lapointe deal was pointless – no pun intended; the Isles have now succeeded in providing the division rival Flyers with the type of hard working role player they have been lacking for years. Milbury should have had the common sense to at least trade him to a Western Conference team. Meanwhile, Randy Robitaille offers nothing except an odd goal now and then. The problem is the Islanders have plenty of players who can ONLY score the odd goal now and then.
And why in hell was Osgood dealt? Sure, he’s had a tough season with the Isles. But the season is about to get a lot tougher for the entire team when it realizes that it’s gonna enter the playoffs with an unproven rookie (Rick DiPietro, who has shown no evidence that he is this year’s version of Patrick Roy circa ’86) and a career backup (the highly overrated Garth Snow). Milbury failed yet again to acquire the scoring depth necessary to win, despite the fact that scorers such as Anson Carter (more on him later) and Miroslav Satan were available. It’s doubtful that limited team finances were the issue – trading Osgood provided a savings of $4 million.
If they were, then it is clear that Computer Associates, the company that owns the Isles, is unwilling or unable to invest in its on-ice product.
Sorry Fishstick fans. It just doesn’t look good. If the team succeeds, I’ll be happy to eat crow. However, the overwhelming evidence suggests otherwise. IF by the grace of God or the spirit of Maurice Richard that the Islanders do make the playoffs, it will surely be a quick exit.
New York Rangers
Acquired forward Anson Carter and defenseman Ales Pisa from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for forward Radek Dvorak and defenseman Cory Cross; acquired defenseman Lawrence Nycholat from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for goalie Johan Holmqvist.
Face it: the Czechmates are dead. Actually, the famed, short-lived Ranger line was dead ever since the day Jan Hlavac was traded for Eric Lindros. While he was certainly an interesting character to watch, with his horrifying-yet-fascinating aversion towards shooting the puck, Radek Dvorak was pretty much done in New York. Although the return of ice dancer Alexei Kovalev may indicate otherwise, the Rangers are finally catching on to the idea that hockey is a contact sport. Dvorak was unable to fulfill the role of power forward alongside the likes of monstrous centermen Lindros and Bobby Holik; therefore, getting the versatile Carter was crucial to the team’s post season aspirations.
Carter is a physical player who became familiar with the hard-hitting Eastern Conference during a successful stint with the Boston Bruins earlier in his career. His style fits in nicely with that of either Lindros or Holik’s, and his hockey sense (25 goals so far this season) can be a plus on a line with finesse center Petr Nedved as well.
26-year old rookie defenseman Ales Pisa offers the team protection in the event of losing either Brian Leetch or Boris Mironov to free agency during the offseason. The Holmqvist deal was little more than an exchange of minor leaguers.
New Jersey Devils
Acquired defenseman Richard Smehlik from the Atlanta Thrashers for a fourth round draft choice; acquired forward Grant Marshall from the Columbus Blue Jackets for a conditional draft choice.
Relax Devils fans. Despite whatever some other hockey journalists say, everything is fine. General Manager Lou Lamoriello was wise in standing pat at the deadline. Hey – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Trading forward Scott Gomez would have been disastrous both in the present AND future tense. The same applies to Patrick Elias. Additional scoring depth is unnecessary; Joe Niuwendyk and Jeff Friesen have recovered from lousy starts and now contribute offensively on a regular basis (the former is on a six-game point streak, while the latter has recently reached the 20-goal mark for the fifth time in nine seasons). Marshall and Smehlik are big, tough players that can fill in for such injured regulars as defenseman Colin White and forward Sergei Brylin.
The Devils’ inactivity at the deadline may cause some fans to panic. They shouldn’t. Stories of locker room dissension were largely absent this season (the bizarre Mike Danton affair notwithstanding), and core players like captain Scott Stevens, goalie Martin Brodeur, and forward John Madden have been playing well and injury-free. Did you really want to disrupt the chemistry with some hastily added outsiders? Of course not.
With their current roster, the New Jersey Devils match up very well with such Eastern Conference titans as the Flyers (who have added sniper Tony Amonte), the Toronto Maple Leafs (even with their new additions of forwards Owen Nolan and Doug Gilmour, and defensemen Phil Housley and Glen Wesley) and the Ottawa Senators (who have added enforcers Rob Ray and Vaclav Varada). Of all three Metro-area teams, the Devils are, to no one’s surprise, the only true contender.
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