It was a busy day Wednesday in the NHL as teams scrambled to make trades on the last day allowed for players to be eligible for the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. There were 20 trades on NHL Trade Deadline day, and a total of 39 deals in the month leading up to it.
Something happened (or didn't happen) in that month that hasn't been the case in any season since the 2004-05 lockout: No team officially traded a first-round pick in the upcoming draft.
Two teams, the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues, traded first-round selections in the 2015 NHL Draft and both of those deals included an extra conditional pick that could become a first-rounder in the 2014 draft. This was the first time a first-round pick in the forthcoming draft was not moved on deadline day since 2010, and the first time none officially were moved in the month before the deadline since the aforementioned lockout.
First-round picks traded as the primary asset within a month of the NHL Trade Deadline
In fact, as of March 5 only one 2014 first-round pick officially had changed hands -- the Anaheim Ducks received one from the Ottawa Senators in the Bobby Ryan deal. The New York Islanders traded a first-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres in the original Thomas Vanek swap, but it could be (and given the Islanders' position in the standings is likely to be) pushed to 2015.
The only players who elicited a first-round return of any kind were Martin St. Louis and Ryan Miller.
If the Rangers reach the Eastern Conference Final their first-round pick would go to the Tampa Bay Lightning; if the Blues reach the Western Conference Final or sign Miller to a new contract, their No. 1 pick would go to the Sabres. And if the Islanders go on a late-season surge to finish above the bottom 10 in the standings, their pick would go to the Sabres.
In previous seasons it has not taken a player of that stature to secure a first-round pick; Jason Pominville, Dustin Penner, Paul Gaustad and Brendan Witt have fetched top-round selections near the trade deadline.
What are the reasons for NHL general managers suddenly getting stingy with their high-end picks? The biggest may have been supply and demand.
For years the narrative around the trade deadline has been parity in the standings equals not enough teams willing to sell, so buyers paid premium prices. That certainly was not the case in recent days.
Vanek, Marian Gaborik and Matt Moulson all are quality NHL players with proven goal-scoring track records. All three were dealt Wednesday, but none brought back a first-round pick. There were so many potential top-line forwards available that pending unrestricted free agent Michael Cammalleri was not traded, in part because Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke said the offers were so low he wasn't giving the player away on principle.
It is a bit of a weird year for draft picks as currency anyway because the top players eligible for the 2015 draft, specifically centers Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, generally are considered better long-term prospects than any of the players at the top of the 2014 draft. Because of that, 2015 first-round picks carry more value than normal so far from the draft because teams will be looking either for more chances to win one of the top two or three picks in the lottery or to stockpile choices with the hope of being able to make a trade to move up.
It still is a surprise that no 2014 first-rounders changed hands Tuesday or Wednesday.
The Super 16 this week is going to focus on what each of the top teams have done despite not trading an unconditional 2014 first-round pick in the past month.
DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, it focuses more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings and likely will take more of a long view than a short one. If two teams are close the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series tonight, who would prevail? Stop by to see where your favorite team ranks, but stay for the information. Also, statistics and team records are through the games on Wednesday.
1. St. Louis Blues (41-14-6) LW: 2
Where the Blues go from here this season almost certainly will be tied to Miller, rightly or wrongly, but the other player in that trade, Steve Ott, might be more fascinating. Just as the Blues didn't necessarily need a better goaltender, they didn't need another player with Ott's particular set of skills, either, with Maxim Lapierre and Brendan Morrow around.
Ott's final season in Dallas was a strong one, and he positively affected possession numbers for nearly every teammate he saw major ice time with. That hasn't been the case in his two seasons with Buffalo. Was it the start of a decline in his career? Or an inability to play well on a struggling team? The Blues already were incredibly deep up front, so where Ott fits and what impact he has will be worth monitoring.
As for Miller, he's been better than Jaroslav Halak this season while facing an inordinate amount of high-quality chances. It will be a much different experience for him in St. Louis. How much better is he than Halak? It might not be much, but given how tight Stanley Cup Playoff series can be, not much might be the difference for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.
MUST READ: Justin Bourne of The Backhand Shelf writes about how tough it is going to be to score on the Blues in the playoffs
2. San Jose Sharks (39-17-7) LW: 4
The Sharks were remarkably quiet in the past few days. Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com and TSN reported they were in on ex-Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, but as David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News points out, GM Doug Wilson did not add any players to the roster at this time of year for the first time in his tenure.
San Jose didn't have much in the way of salary cap space, but a healthy Logan Couture and Raffi Torres makes a big difference for the Sharks. They might even get rookie sensation Tomas Hertl back at some point.
Couture faces tough competition as coach Todd McLellan starts him in the defensive zone a lot and he still is a dominant possession player. For all of his past discipline issues, Torres has had a Corsi-for percentage at even strength north of 51 percent each of the past two seasons. As of now, the Sharks are a definite threat to win the Cup. If Hertl can come back at some point they might look a lot like the team that was rolling through the League earlier in the season.
MUST READ: Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area writes about San Jose's inactivity at the deadline.
3. Chicago Blackhawks (36-13-14) LW: 1
The Blackhawks didn't make a big move but they already had added a couple of interesting pieces. Kris Versteeg has been a seamless fit in his return to the club and enhanced an already deep top-nine forward corps. Peter Regin might end up as the team's No. 2 center.
GM Stan Bowman didn't flinch when the Blues made a splashy trade, just as he's seen there is no reason for real concern with the way the team has played. The Blackhawks remain one of the favorites to win the Cup.
MUST READ: Bowman has faith in the team he constructed, writes Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.
4. Anaheim Ducks (43-14-6) LW: 3
The Ducks reportedly were looking for another deal after a flurry of moves the day before the deadline, but nothing materialized. There still is a lot of depth up front, but moving Dustin Penner and not adding another forward takes away from a strength. If they were in on the Ryan Kesler sweepstakes, it makes sense because the center position behind Ryan Getzlaf remains a concern in comparison to all of the other contenders not named Chicago.
Defenseman Stephane Robidas potentially is a big addition, provided he remains the same player upon returning from a broken leg. He likely will draw tough assignments, both in quality of competition and zone starts, and adds a lot of what is missing with Sheldon Souray out.
MUST READ: Eric Evelhoch of Anaheim Calling isn't worried about the lack of a deadline-day trade.
5. Los Angeles Kings (35-22-6) LW: 8
Two seasons ago, GM Dean Lombardi traded for a dynamic forward from the Columbus Blue Jackets who hadn't fit as hoped in central Ohio and that player helped the Kings win the Stanley Cup. Can Gaborik be the 2014 version of Jeff Carter?
Gaborik likely will get some help from the team's overall luck improving, just as Carter did in 2012. The Kings have won their four games since the Olympic break and averaged more than three goals doing so. If the team's shooting percentage continues to normalize, the offensive improvement would have happened without Gaborik.
By adding another dangerous shooter the Kings now boast as much offensive depth as the other contenders in the Western Conference to go along with their sterling ability to prevent goals.
MUST READ: Robert Paredez of Jewels From The Crown calibrates expectations for Gaborik.
6. Boston Bruins (39-17-5) LW: 6
The Bruins were desperate for a defenseman to replace the injured Dennis Seidenberg. Would Robidas have been a better addition than Andrej Meszaros? Yes, but Robidas had a no-trade clause and might not have been interested in just going to the highest bidder.
Meszaros doesn't make the Bruins what they were before Seidenberg's injury, but the only other defenseman of note traded was Andrew MacDonald, and given his price and possession numbers, Meszaros likely will be a better value.
MUST READ: Joe Haggerty of CSN New England writes about the addition of Meszaros.
7. New York Rangers (33-26-4) LW: 10
St. Louis is a better hockey player than Ryan Callahan, and for that reason alone the Rangers have a better chance of winning the Stanley Cup than they did earlier this week. Adding a player the caliber of St. Louis could give the Rangers the ability to compete with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Bruins in the playoffs.
The defense was solid in front of a world-class goaltender, but the offense might have been a player short. It isn't now. It was a steep price to pay, but St. Louis is one of the top 20-25 players in the League and the best to change addresses this season.
New York also has added Kevin Klein and Raphael Diaz to the defense corps while subtracting Michael Del Zotto. And the Rangers already were playing well before adding St. Louis. Times are good on Broadway, err, one avenue to the west of Broadway.
MUST READ: John Kreiser wrote about how the trade deadline helped the Rangers end a long Stanley Cup drought 20 years ago.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (41-16-4) LW: 5
|*Not on active roster
|Key: ES TOI - time on ice at even strength; CF% Corsi for percentage at even strength
The defense corps is a concern because of an injury to Paul Martin and Kris Letang's recovery from a stroke. The offensive depth has been far worse than a concern. Tyler Dellow of mc79hockey and Mike Darnay of Pensburgh wrote before the deadline about Pittsburgh's depth issues.
GM Ray Shero made a pair of moves to address the glaring weakness. He didn't land Kesler, but Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak will help. Goc has had a Corsi-for of more than 52 percent in five of the past seven seasons with three different clubs, including two of the past three with the Florida Panthers.
Stempniak is at 48.3 percent, but was at 50.0 or above in three of the previous four seasons. Injuries have forced the Penguins to use a bunch of players on the bottom two lines and they've all been bad possession players.
Pittsburgh has 10 forwards with at least 170 minutes of even-strength ice time and a Corsi-for percentage below 46. Meanwhile, the eight forwards who have played predominantly on the top two lines all are above 52 percent. If Goc and Stempniak end up as two more players who can break even or better, they will represent big upgrades in that department.
MUST READ: Jesse Marshall of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes about how the Penguins have missed Pascal Dupuis to go along with the bottom-six woes.
9. Colorado Avalanche (40-17-5) LW: 7
The Avalanche did not make any major moves, adding Reto Berra as another option in goal behind Semyon Varlamov while hanging on to potential unrestricted free agent Paul Stastny. Colorado is in a weird spot as a young team far exceeding preseason expectations but also one with some potential turnover forthcoming.
There weren't a lot of defensemen on the move and that was the one area Colorado could have used an upgrade. How coach Patrick Roy uses Berra could be interesting. Jean-Sebastien Giguere had a great start to the season but he's played five times in 2014 and had a sub-.900 save percentage in five of his past eight appearances. Varlamov has played a ton of late, so adding Berra might offer the chance to get him some more rest before the playoffs.
MUST READ: Ryan Boulding of Mile High Sports writes about the continuing ascent of rookie Nathan MacKinnon.
10. Minnesota Wild (34-21-7) LW: 11
Though there will be plenty of focus on the goaltending because of rookie Darcy Kuemper's strong recent play and the addition of Ilya Bryzgalov, the Wild just might be a dangerous opponent in the first round because of an improving offense.
Top center Mikko Koivu is back from injury. Mikael Granlund had a star turn at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and has four points in three games since the Olympic break ended. And the Wild added Moulson from the Sabres just before the deadline.
Moulson's offense dipped without playing next to John Tavares but not as much as might have been expected; he'll have better teammates again in Minnesota. The Wild probably can't catch Colorado for third place in the Central Division, so they likely will be the top wild-card team in the Western Conference, which could mean a date with Chicago, St. Louis or Anaheim. They don't look like an easy out like last season.
MUST READ: Ger Devine of Hockey Wilderness breaks down Moulson.
11. Tampa Bay Lightning (34-23-5) LW: 9
So Wednesday was one of the strangest days in the history of the franchise. There was exciting news in the morning when Steven Stamkos announced he's returning from a broken leg, and then the St. Louis trade happened a few hours later.
Tampa Bay has been a great story. They are a team that improved its ability to possess the puck midseason and did so without its best player. Adding Stamkos and Callahan while subtracting St. Louis is a net positive but not as much of a positive as welcoming back Stamkos. The Lightning were competing with the Rangers to be the third-best team in the Eastern Conference at one point, but they might be a half-step behind New York now.
MUST READ: Sam Hitchcock of Intelligent Hockey writes about the historical precedent of St. Louis.
12. Dallas Stars (29-23-10) LW: 13
It seems peculiar that the Stars were willing to let Robidas leave just as he might have been able to come back and help the team secure a postseason berth. GM Jim Nill said he liked the players who have been playing in Robidas' absence and wanted to let him move on. Still, the Stars were another of the teams that probably could have used another defenseman.
Nill did add goaltender Tim Thomas to back up Kari Lehtonen. Thomas has been slightly better than the player he will replace, Dan Ellis, and one extra win could be the difference between making the playoffs or not for the Stars. If they do get in, there's a decent chance they'll face the Ducks and their new defenseman in the first round.
MUST READ: Trading for Thomas was a bold move, writes Brandon Worley of Defending Big D.
13. Montreal Canadiens (35-22-7) LW: NR
If the Rangers didn't make the most improvements leading up to the deadline, then the Canadiens might top the list. Adding Vanek could give the offense a jolt, and doing so for such a low cost could prove to be the best trade anyone made this month.
Not to be forgotten with the addition of Vanek is the trade for Mike Weaver, who could help ease some concerns about the depth of the team's defense corps. There also was the minor deal for an insurance policy in net with Devan Dubnyk. If Carey Price can get healthy the Canadiens are on the growing list of teams that might be able to prevent a Boston-Pittsburgh conference final matchup.
MUST READ: Olivier Bouchard writes about the addition of Weaver.
14. Detroit Red Wings (28-21-12) LW: 14
Based on the team's recent play and the addition of center David Legwand, the Red Wings could be a couple of spots higher. The continuing concern about Pavel Datsyuk's health is why they're not.
Legwand gives the team more depth at center, which has been an ongoing issue because of injuries. The Red Wings were yet another team that in a normal season probably would have added another veteran defenseman, but there just weren't many available. Detroit can make the playoffs without Datsyuk, but it isn't going anywhere in the postseason without him.
MUST READ: Ansar Khan of MLive.com writes about how Legwand will help the Red Wings.
15. Columbus Blue Jackets (32-25-5) LW: 12
The Blue Jackets are the Stars of the East. Both franchises have missed the playoffs for some time but both are run by relatively new GMs who aren't looking at the postseason like it will save their jobs. So like the Stars, the Blue Jackets traded away a pending UFA who might have helped them reach the playoffs.
Also like the Stars, the Blue Jackets still can get there. Even if Gaborik wasn't meeting expectations, he still provided more offensive balance than whoever is going to replace him. Columbus did add defenseman Nick Schultz, but he shouldn't be expected to play a large role. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is playing well and the schedule is favorable, so Columbus still could emerge from the muddle in the Metropolitan Division.
MUST READ: Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch was on board with the Gaborik trade.
16. Philadelphia Flyers (33-24-6) LW: NR
The Flyers and the Toronto Maple Leafs are similar in that while they both currently are in a position to make the playoffs, it is acceptable to question whether they really are among the top eight teams in the East (or the top 16 in the NHL, for that matter). Philadelphia added MacDonald and subtracted Meszaros from the defense corps.
Though the Flyers got younger and cheaper at the position (two musts for the long-term), did they actually get better? MacDonald has had awful possession numbers while playing huge minutes for the Islanders. He should play less for the Flyers, but if other players continue to play better without him on the ice, the price paid for MacDonald will prove to have been too much.
MUST READ: Charlie O'Connor of Broad Street Hockey looks for positives in the addition of MacDonald.