Post-Deadline or: How I Learned to Stop Predicting and Love the NHL

Yeah, so trade deadline day has come and gone and with it my hopes and dreams were dashed in an instant. OK, not really, but it did make my predictions from the previous blog entry look like, well, a pile of crap. However, I will take solace in the fact that I was right in the Los Angeles Kings being interested in Robyn Regehr. It made perfect sense and sure, it was basically a gimme, but i’ll take credit for it even though I failed to “stamp it” in the fearless prediction section. Whatever. As for Carolina, well suffice to say injuries hit them like a ton of bricks and they simply decided it was better to write the year off and start fresh next season. Can’t say I blame them. However, I will take credit for probably ruining their season. Sure, I have no personal influence on the Power Rankings, as they’re solely formula based, but the fact that they were ranked so highly way back when the lockout was still in full swing may have created too lofty of expectations. The weight of it likely crushed the team and spurned injury upon injury. Right?

Anyway, let’s forget all about that and instead turn our attention to the NHL’s teams post-trade deadline. Lots of movement, most of it fairly predictable, but with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. I really dig Washington’s addition of Martin Erat (hopefully he wasn’t hurt too badly the other night) and Vancouver adding Derek Roy to a group badly needing another legitimate center. Philadelphia’s acquisition of Steve Mason is odd, but when you consider the strange history of goaltending in Philly it makes sense. Won’t work, but makes sense. Love Minnesota bringing Jason Pominville into that group, but hopefully they use an amnesty buyout on Dany Heatley in the offseason. St. Louis created the best defense in the league by getting rid of Wade Redden and adding Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold. Boston inexplicably took Redden, but made up for it by also snatching up Jaromir Jagr. The Rangers may have overpaid for Ryane Clowe, but I like what he brings to that club and they needed it. Finally, the blockbuster involving Columbus adding Marian Gaborik and the Rangers adding Derick Brassard/John Moore was a bit of a shock, but has the potential to work out well for the both of them.

There were plenty of other trades besides those, but I don’t exactly have all day, so now I’ll focus in on the one trade that will probably work out well for both of the teams involved.

Ottawa Senators: Cory Conacher and a 4th-Round Pick in 2013
Tampa Bay Lightning: Ben Bishop

Conacher1

I really like this trade from Ottawa’s perspective. They already have Craig Anderson signed for two more seasons beyond this one at a reasonable rate and he’s proven himself to be a more than capable starting goaltender in this league. Plus, they still have Robin Lehner waiting patiently for his time to come and in my opinion he’s a far superior goaltending prospect than Ben Bishop (probably the second best in the league behind Jacob Markstrom). Obviously one of the three had to go and with such a tough market out there for goaltenders it’s rather surprising that they got as much as they did for Bishop.

As for Conacher, I think he’ll fit in well with the Senators. He didn’t look good in his first game with the club, but was much better in his second, scoring a goal and playing over 16 minutes. For a team starving for offense he’s a welcome addition. His size is still an issue, but he has the makings of another Martin St. Louis type and in Ottawa he’s surrounded by plenty of big bodies. Everyone else in the top nine in Ottawa is at least 6’1″, 200 lbs (excluding Alfredsson), so he’s well protected and in a perfect situation to produce offensively.

The fact that Ottawa got a 4th-Round Pick in the upcoming draft as well is just icing on the cake. Any pick outside the first two rounds is generally more of a toss up anyway, but always nice to be able to draft an extra player. Ottawa would be wise to draft another goaltender with that pick (or an earlier one), as after Lehner the cupboard is pretty bare in that regard.

Bishop1

Turning now to Tampa Bay, I don’t like the trade as well from their end, as they possibly gave up too much, but it’s something they had to do. Mathieu Garon is likely gone at the end of the season, while Anders Lindback has yet to truly prove himself capable of carrying the load. He’s looked good at times, but overall he’s been well below average for a starting goaltender in the NHL. The Lightning do have an elite goaltending prospect in the system, Andrey Vasilevskiy, but he’s likely to spend another season or two in the KHL and would then need a year or two of seasoning in the AHL before being ready for NHL action.

On the other hand, Bishop had been well above average for the Senators and has performed admirably for the Lightning through four games thus far. He has the tools to be an elite goaltender in the NHL, but it’s going to be a waiting game for now to see if he can actually achieve it. For now it looks like he’ll be the #1 in Tampa Bay to finish the season and heading into next season, with Lindback serving as backup. It’s still possible Lindback could become a starter as well, maybe even with Tampa Bay if Bishop falters, but in the short-term at least this gives the Lightning some goaltending depth while they await the arrival of Vasilevskiy.

Losing Conacher is a blow to Tampa Bay’s offense, but it does allow them to try out other guys in the top six, such as Brett Connolly, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat, and Richard Panik, all of whom are bigger than Conacher, with the exception of Johnson. Johnson is another undrafted player they signed around the same time as Conacher and he too was a standout during Norfolk’s march to the AHL Championship last year. This season in Syracuse he was out-shining Conacher on most nights and he hasn’t looked too out of place in the NHL, recording 6 points in 13 games.

Still, the Lightning would probably prefer another big body in the top six due to St. Louis still being a huge part of it and each of Connolly, Killorn, Palat, and Panik have shown promise to varying degrees. Connolly still retains the highest ceiling, but Killorn has been the best of the lot for awhile now, regularly seeing more than 20 minutes of ice time and has 17 points in 29 games. Not bad at all.

It’ll be awhile before we find out who wins this trade, but as of now it looks beneficial to both teams, with a slight edge going to the Senators. It could still go either way though, so we’ll just have to wait this one out.