The NHL Trade Deadline started off slowly Wednesday morning. But when the dust settled, a number of big deals were made that could change the shape of the race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It's too early to pick winners and losers, but I really like what the Los Angeles Kings did in getting Marian Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Even if he's only at 75 percent to 80 percent of what he's capable of doing, it gives them something they don't have. He's a game-breaker and they don't have that. When Jeff Carter is flying he has a little bit of that in him because he's so fast and can shoot and score off his wrister.
Now you get Gaborik, who is a pure goal-scorer with speed. He adds a different dimension by backing off the D and forcing opposing forwards to use a lot of energy on backchecking. He's a one-shot guy; he's not a volume shooter, he's not going to need six or seven opportunities to score. I like the fact that they bring something different into their group.
With all due respect to the Kings' system, it's great but they don't score. They couldn't' score last year and they can't score this year. The system is awesome because everyone buys in and they play hard, but they still have to manufacture offense. It's nice to add a different ingredient to the mix here in hopes of getting a different result.
Staying in L.A., I think Brayden McNabb, who was acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres, could be a player. He's kind of impressed me at times down with Rochester in the American Hockey League. This will be a good opportunity because L.A has done a good job of developing young defensemen, whether it's Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, Slava Voynov or Alec Martinez. I can go down the line, they've done a good job of developing defensemen there. I don't know how much he is going to play now or if he'll go to Manchester of the AHL. Either way, he has a chance to be a decent defenseman in this League.
The big news Wednesday was the trade that sent Martin St. Louis to the New York Rangers and Ryan Callahan to the Tampa Bay Lighting, a deal I think benefits both sides. I'm not sure if Callahan re-signs with Tampa Bay, but he's going to be playing for a great coach and they're having an excellent year down in Tampa. Ben Bishop has been sensational and Victor Hedman has improved by leaps and bounds. He joins what is now a very young team and he should get a very good opportunity to play in a more offensive system. And who knows? Maybe he doesn't have to run around and hit and block shots as much as he did in New York. Maybe that keeps him healthier and fresher and he gets a chance to expand on his game.
As far as Marty St. Louis, this is good for him. I talked to him Wednesday and now he gets a chance to play for a team he's wanted to play for for a while. He's playing for an Original Six franchise, he lives in Connecticut during the offseason and his wife is from there. Also, he has a chance to reunite with former Lightning teammate Brad Richards. They looked really good together against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night, and I think that's only going to get better. I think it's a good fit for him and for the Rangers. The work ethic in the group is going to go up exponentially, as will the accountability.
There's always a couple of under-the-radar trades that don't get enough attention. I believe Jaroslav Halak to the Washington Capitals could be one of those deals. Chris Stewart to Buffalo is another. If Chris plays the way he can, he could take his game to the next level. I think it's a great opportunity for Chris playing for Ted Nolan. That could be a good launching point for him.
I also like Mike Weaver going to the Montreal Canadiens, just as a depth player. He's very competitive. I was speaking with Kevin Dineen, who coached Weaver with the Florida Panthers, and he was raving about him. I also think Andrew MacDonald to the Philadelphia Flyers could also be a nice deal, based on his mobility. He competes and skates well. We knew Philly needed help on their blue line and he provides that.
I don't know if you can call it an under-cover deal but you can definitely call it a steal. Thomas Vanek going from the New York Islanders to Montreal, considering the price that Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin didn't have to pay, was a crazy acquisition.
The Islanders had an excellent season last year and started turning the corner from a credibility and performance standpoint. But they still didn't address their most pressing need, which is goaltending. I said it when they first acquired Vanek; he is a nice player, but he is not what you need if you're the Islanders.
Now that the deadline has passed, NHL rosters are mostly set. That's why the march to the postseason just got more interesting.