HiR:tb Toots (@warwalker)

Trade Deadline Day

I haven’t had a chance to sit down and look at all the deals, but just off the top of my head, here are a couple of thoughts:

Biggest Trade: Atlanta sends Marian Hossa to Pittsburgh for prospect Angelo Esposito, Colby Armstrong and Eric Christensen. Sid the Kid gets some help – like he needs it with that guy Malkin around. If Pittsburgh gets any kind of decent goaltending out of Conklin/Fleury/Sabourin/Patrick Lalime/Ken Wregget/Bunny Larocque, they could make some noise in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The way is open for pretty much any club that qualifies for the dance to take a shot at Lord Stanley’s mug. Which makes the following all the more puzzling…

Strangest Trade: Cristobal Huet to Washington for a 2nd round draft pick – in 2009! The Habs give away their starting goaltender, the guy who’s been carrying the load (and playing quite well) – basically for nothing, or at least nothing that’s going to be anything until at least 2010 or 2011. In so doing – keeping in mind that they are one of the wide-open Eastern Conference contenders too – they dump the starting role on Carey Price, who’s all of 19 years old. Now, it says here that Carey Price will win a Vezina trophy someday, and he has the kind of confidence and talent to make it at least possible that he could bring home the hardware, but how many times does one organization expect to saddle a rookie goalie with the hopes and dreams of a hockey-mad city – and end up successful? Ken Dryden did it for them in 1971. Patrick Roy did it again fifteen years later in 1986. Are the Habs essentially thinking they’re overdue for a rookie-goalie Cup here, having failed to win it in 2001? When I first heard of the trade, I assumed that the Habs must be making salary room to grab Marian Hossa – it was the only explanation that made any sense to me. Then, of course, it was announced that Hossa is now a Penguin. I know that Huet was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, but this one is a bit of a head scratcher, it seems to me.

Addendum: Though I continue to wonder somewhat about the wisdom of relying so heavily so on Carey Price so early in his career, it occurred to me over dinner that this might have been the plan all along. It is possible that Habs management took Price’s superb, dominating play during last year’s march to the Calder Cup (a marvellous performance I was fortunate enought to witness along with several thousand of Steeltown’s Bulldog fans) as a sign that Price was certainly going to be their netminder of the future. If one accepts that as fact, in view of Huet’s rapidly expiring contract, it suddenly makes perfect sense that Price was kept with the big league club when Montreal broke camp in October – they knew they had to get the kid some NHL experience, because they knew they were going to trade Huet before the season was over. Heck, doing it this way even avoids a possible goaltending controversy between Halak and Price; this way, Price is the natural successor to the job and Halak is cast as a talented call-up watching for his chance. That hypothesis is further supported by two additional facts: one, Bob Gainey is not a stupid man; and two, the Habs were careful to send Price down to Hamilton for a conditioning stint about a month ago. Price’s brief demotion happened during a period when Huet was playing exceptionally well and the rookie wasn’t getting much playing time; not a good situation if you know that within a couple of weeks he’ll be the guy on the hot seat. Solution: send the Kid to Hamilton, get him some game action and make sure he’s ready to step up to the plate. If all of that is true – if Gainey had the foresight to know that Huet would be gone before the season was through, that he therefore had to bring along his young goaler right from the beginning of the season and that he could do it in a way that avoided unnecessary controversy – well, frankly I’m impressed. That, folks, would be called “having a plan, and sticking to it – a concept that the Leafs’ recent brass have spectacularly failed to grasp: cf. Ed Belfour’s departure and the arrival of Andrew Raycroft.

Leafs Trade: Wade Belak to Florida for a 5th round draft choice, i.e. a guy who ain’t playing for a guy who won’t play.

6 comments to Trade Deadline Day

  • geezer

    But I note that you picked up Price in the hockey pool pretty quickly – just ahead of me, actually,

  • Naturally!

    (1) I needs me some goaltending help in like every pool I’m in; and
    (2) Whether this is the right move for Carey’s career or not, he’s going to win some games before this year is out – how many more games does he have vs. Southeast Division opponents?

  • geezer

    Me again. Don’t you think Tampa Bay made out pretty well today? They got rid of Richards – a good player but a guy they can’t afford (after signing Boyle)- and got a goalie at a reasonable salary. I think 2 big shooters up front (Vinnie and Marty), a good d-man (Boyle) and a much better goalie (Smith) make this team a lot better. Thoughts?

  • Agreed. You have to have talent at all the positions to go anywhere, and T-Bay’s moves were certainly about the balance. I am encouraged about this, of course, to the extent that it means the Lightning might pick up a few more points and float past the (hopefully) tanking Leafs so we can see Doughty or Stamkos in Leaf blue in the not too distant future.

    One reason I didn’t talk about Tampa immediately is that I think – even though Mike Smith is a good netminder – it’s tough for me to say that they did “well” giving up both Prospal and Richards. Intellectually, I know it’s true that they couldn’t keep the old gang together any longer (and Richards was bound to be the odd man out as opposed to Vinny Lecavalier or Marty St. Louis) and I guess that achieving their organizational goals means they did well, but savvy though it may be, it doesn’t have the flash and splash of Pittsburgh’s deal.

    In summary: workmanlike and efficient, but an Andreychuk four-footer compared to Pittsburgh’s flashy Sid the Kid spinarama score.

    p.s. I’m NOT forgetting that the Pittsburgh deal may tend to be over-rated because Hossa is likely to get hurt.

    Update (Feb 29th, 20008): Yep. It took 13 shifts, exactly.

  • geezer

    I’m thinking the best part of the Pittsburgh day might be the acquisition of Hal Gill. By the way, I don’t think Prospal went anywhere, did he?

  • Prospal went to Philadelphia yesterday for a defenceman named Picard and a conditional pick – see this link…

    Just out of curiosity, what do you think of the suggestion that this was all part of the grand plan?