2004-03-19 / Sports

Making Trades For Present, Future: A Metro Hockey Update By Andrei Petrovitch

Hockey Columnist
Making Trades For Present, Future: A Metro Hockey Update By Andrei Petrovitch Hockey Columnist

Making Trades For Present, Future: A Metro Hockey Update
By Andrei Petrovitch


Newly acquired Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Brian Leetch smiles as he makes a pass during the team warmup prior to his first game against the Islanders. Leetch’s three assists helped the Leafs win 6-2. The Leafs are currently in 2nd place in the Northeast Division with 90 points. (AP Photo/Frank Gunn).Newly acquired Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Brian Leetch smiles as he makes a pass during the team warmup prior to his first game against the Islanders. Leetch’s three assists helped the Leafs win 6-2. The Leafs are currently in 2nd place in the Northeast Division with 90 points. (AP Photo/Frank Gunn).

Another National Hockey League trade deadline has passed, and each of the Metro area teams have made important moves either on March 9th or the preceding weeks. Here’s a look at what each team did:

The New York Islanders:

Nothing much to say here, but, in fairness, the team did address some pressing issues. Actually, THE biggest issue was the lack of scoring depth, but that was addressed with the early season signing of free agent Cliff Ronning (who, by the way, was mentioned in this column a while back as a player the Islanders should get). But general manager Mike Milbury did try to solve other problems that involved team chemistry.

Enforcer Steve Webb, a fan favorite and supposedly popular "locker room guy," was reacquired via trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Milbury also traded a fourth round draft choice to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for ex-1994 Ranger Alexander Karpot sev. Although injury prone, Karpotsev is a tough defenseman who is fearless at blocking shots and clearing the crease. These moves, along with the return of star center Alexei Yashin from injury, will help, although they may not be enough to prevent the Buffalo Sabres from taking over the last playoff spot. The Islanders, from now until the start of the postseason, will need a healthy and, more importantly, focused lineup in order the secure the 8th playoff seed. Barring a catastrophic collapse (unlikely, but always a possibility with these headcases), there no real reason for the team to miss the playoffs.

The New Jersey Devils:

General manager Lou Lamoriello’s silence at the trade deadline wasn’t a case of standing pat. If anything, it was more than likely a silence born of frustration. While the Devils did ac quire much needed depth at center with their trades for Viktor Kozlov and Jan Hrdina, other needs were not fulfilled. Ever since Scott Stevens went down with post-concussion syndrome, the Devils’ defense, once the envy of the league, simply hasn’t been the same. Attempts to acquire defensemen were fruitless; making matters worse is the fact that one of their big additions, Kozlov, has been suffering from injuries all year.

But wait, there’s more85defenseman Brian Rafalski, the team’s power play point man, has aggravated the knee injury he suffered earlier in the season and is currently out. While Lamo riello’s attempts to prevent being fleeced in a trade are admirable, the fact remains that the Devils simply
did not do enough to guarantee Stan ley Cup contention. Unless the injury list shrinks between now and mid-April, a championship repeat is highly unlikely.

The New York Rangers

This wasn’t a fire sale85this was a whole scale inferno! After years of futility, the Ranger organization decided to throw in the towel by trading away several veterans, including Brian Leetch, Matthew Barnaby, Mar tin Rucinsky, and Greg deVries.

In addition to a slew of draft picks (mostly in the second round), the team acquired such youngsters as Pavel Rachunek, a tough, mobile young de fenseman; Josef Balej, a Czech winger with speed to burn; collegiate center Dwight Hellemen, who was acquired in the Petr Nedved-to-Edmonton trade; and Maxim Kon dratiev, the centerpiece of the Leetch-Toronto Maple Leaf trade. Unsigned former first round pick R.J. Umberger was also acquired, coming from Vancouver in exchange for Rucinski.

What does this all mean? For start ers, the team is cutting nearly all ties with the past (too bad many Ranger fans can’t do the same, as evidenced by the idiotic widespread mourning of the Leetch trade). Second, the team will finally build around two players in their prime – namely, winger Jaromir Jagr and center Bobby Holik. But don’t expect the Rangers to turn into the last-place Pittsburgh Penguins; the Rangers will probably reacquire fan favorites like Barnaby and Rucinsky via free agency, and GM Glen Sather will most certainly at tempt to move up in the first round of the June entry draft in order to obtain can’t-miss prospect Aleksander Ovechin. Be patient, Ranger fans. Be patient.


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