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March 9, 2006

Deadline? Dead Time.


(WASHINGTON, DC) -- The 2006 NHL trade deadline played out a lot like this year's Academy Awards.

There was no "King Kong" or "Batman Begins" nominated in the major categories.

Archived Articles

(Mar. 2) Clearly, This Rule's a Bad Idea

It was, from a general fan perspective, a day that honored players whose popularity and impact aren't exactly computed through ticket sales. 

Who knew the No. 5 defenseman was the hockey equivalent of the indie film?

Dave Aebischer for Jose Theodore was like giving the Oscar to "Crash" over the cowboys — a stunning moment for anyone who wasn't paying attention. 

Aebischer's stock was very high coming off Torino, while Theodore's couldn't have been lower following his broken ankle and embarrassing positive test in pre-Olympic drug screening. (That testing snafu has been completely forgotten, hasn't it? Maybe Barry Bonds should just plead "Propecia?")

Aebischer is a solid citizen and not a bad pick-up for the Habs if they intend to use him as a No. 1 goalie. That's really all the guy wants, after being stuck in Joel Quenneville's three-headed monster goalie rotation this season. 

Quenneville has gone on the record saying he couldn't figure out Aebischer's inconsistency this season; I wonder how well Joel would perform if two other head coaches were on the bench every night ready to take over upon his first screw-up?

The bottom line is that Aebischer, 28, has only been given the majority of the work for an entire season once, in 2003-04, when he played 62 games; he posted some flashy BCBA (Before CBA) numbers (2.09 GAA, 924 save percentage). 

After he went 1-0-2 with a .940 save percentage for Switzerland in the Winter Olympics, there was some interest from teams around the league about freeing him from the Avs' goalie rotation. What's interesting is who ended up biting. 

Theodore is not Patrick Roy, Part Deux, for Colorado. He's a gamble, and potentially not even one for this season.

Entering Friday night's action, the No. 9 Ducks were eight points away from the No. 5 Avs in the Western Conference. It would take a big time slump for Colorado to tumble down the standings; but what if Peter Budaj and Vitaly Kolesnik, holding down the fort until Theodore is healthy, suddenly hit the wall?

No, this trade is one for next season. Why? Because Theodore's seasons are like Star Trek movies: every other one is a classic. He follows a 2.57 GAA and a .909 save percentage in 2000-01 with a 2.11/.931 in 2001-02. He slumps to 2.90/.908 in 2002-03, and then comes back the following season with a 2.27/.919. 

This season has been garbage for Theodore. 

But wait 'till next year.


As I said before, this trade deadline was a snooze fest. I haven't hit "refresh" on my laptop so many times with such little payoff since the draft lottery. 

It wasn't always like this. Remember those halcyon days back in 2002, when we saw deadline deals like:

  - Adam Oates to the Flyers for their No. 1 goaltending prospect and three draft picks. 

  - The Rangers landing Pavel Bure.

  - Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner to the Devils for Jason Arnott, Randy McKay and a first-round pick.

And that was allegedly in a season that didn't appear to have many <i>sellers</i>, just like this deadline. In fact, the biggest news on Thursday was the seller that didn't sell: Florida, which re-signed Olli Jokinen to a four-year, $21 million deal. (Or, perhaps, that was Jokinen re-signing with the Panthers after he finally realized what his "new" NHL market value was going to be this summer.) 

But isn't a lackluster trade deadline the norm in a salary-capped sport? 

The NBA trade deadline has minimal impact. I'm not sure if the NFL even has one. Obviously, the NHL is now an off-season sport when it comes to blockbuster trades and big names changing uniforms. 

The March deadline will now be a haven for hockey wonks like you and I, who spend sleepless nights wondering what Brian Burke will do with that second-rounder from the Islanders that he received in the Keith Carney deal. 

From the moves that were made, here are the five winners from this season's deadline derby:

1. Everyone in the West seeking to dethrone the Calgary Flames

Say you're the No. 3 team in your conference, yet you've been outscored (162) this season by the St. Louis Blues (163). What do you do? Why, you bring in that offensive panacea known as Jamie Lundmark, who has dazzled the league with 18 points in 38 games with Phoenix. The gamble here is that the refs will put their whistles away and allow the Flames to play their brand of "defensive" hockey in the postseason. But if the "new" NHL is status quo come April, will the 14th best powerplay in the league be good enough to give Miikka Kiprusoff something to work with?

2. Carolina 

OK, now this is the way a winning team works a deadline: add a significant player without mucking up your chemistry. Mark Recchi still has plenty in the tank, and has scored 11 goals in his last 31 playoff games. The Hurricanes are eighth in the league in power-play percentage. Adding Recchi can only improve that. 

3. Washington

Give the Capitals credit – when your captain demands a trade, your first inclination is to ship his butt to Siberia, which in NHL terms would have been St. Louis. But Washington held on and sent Dave Poile's boy back to him in Nashville for a No. 1 pick and Kris Beech, who was involved way back when in the Caps' trade for Jagr. 

Witt is a free agent, a hot-head, and at times looked obsolete in the "new" NHL; but with the Preds' defense what it is, he's a necessity. 

But the good news didn't end there for Washington, which later found a taker for the sulking mess that is Jeff Friesen, snagging a second-round pick (!) from the Ducks. The Capitals have a bevy of draft picks to start building around Alex Ovechkin. Now, if only someone could do something about the guy making those picks…

4. Edmonton

TSN's Bob McKenzie is a hell of a lot more excited about these moves than I am, but Kevin Lowe at least tried to inject a little juice into what is the No. 8 seed in the West right now. 

Dwayne Roloson has never been a No. 1 goalie and, if you haven't noticed, Jacques Lemaire wasn't part of the deal. This is as much a gamble as the Avs' trading for Theodore, but what were Lowe's options after CuJo was yanked off the market? 

Lowe scored Sergei Samsonov for forward Marty Reasoner, forward Yan Stastny and a second-round pick in 2006; that's a great trade if Sammy is playing for a free-agent contract down the stretch. 

5. New Jersey

Lou Lamoriello knows this team better than anyone else, having put it together and now having coached it since December. He knows the Devils will live or die on the EGG line and whether a second scoring line can develop to support it in the postseason. So he forgets adding high-salary offensive veterans (learning the error of his Mogilny obsession) and instead adds veteran defensive depth in Brad Lukowich and Ken Klee; specifically, so that if the Devils can't get Richard Matvichuk healthy they'll have a fallback position. 

He also brought in Jason Wiemer for a fourth-rounder, which gives Jersey a physical force for those potential playoff games against the Rangers and Flyers. You can read these moves in two ways: either Lou was strapped by the cap from making a big move, or he thinks with Brodeur playing out of his skull, the Devils are a few tweaks away. 


Greg Wyshynski, also the Sports Editor of The Connect Newspaper, is a columnist for and the Washington Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine. 
His book, "
Glow Pucks and 10-Cent Beer: The 101 Worst Ideas in Sports History" is now on sale.



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