Since free agency has begun, there have been some blockbuster trades made around the league that have the potential to drastically change not only the league, but specifically the Metropolitan Division.
Shifts in teams are commonplace, and some of the trades were foreseen due mostly to cap space, but some of these will undoubtedly ensure the Rangers have some preparation to do during training camp. The trades of Phil Kessel, Brandon Saad, TJ Oshie, and, last night, Patrick Sharp are all NHL-News-Alert-on-your-phone worthy. The first three are now menacing the Metro and will be familiar foes against the Rangers come October.
Saad was traded from Chicago to Columbus on June 30 for Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano and two prospects. Saad, who was third on the team in playoff scoring (8-3-11, ranking only behind the Hawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane) was considered, at 22 years old, to be a key piece of the future of the Hawks. He was a pending RFA and, with three seasons and two Cups under his belt, was looking for a long term deal.
So what’ll Saad bring to Columbus? He’ll most certainly make that cannon more active, but aside from that, he plays with a work ethic that borders on desperation, except that he doesn’t let it cloud his judgment. He plays much older than his age. He’s a big body (6’1, 202) who goes all out to make the play. He tallied 52 points last year and, shortly after the trade, signed a six year, $64M extension with Columbus. Short of something happening, he looks to be a thorn in the Rangers side as far as we can see.
There’s no question that cap space was the reason for Saad’s departure, despite the forward openly saying he would take a hometown discount to stay with the winning team. The threat of an offer sheet, along with the two sides not coming close to a deal, proved to be opportunistic for the Blue Jackets.
The next day, Toronto traded elusive winger Phil Kessel (plus, including Tim Erixon who has been around the past couple of years) to Pittsburgh for two prospects and two picks… oh and the Leafs will eat 15% of Kessel’s cap hit over the remainder of his contract, which ends in 2022. It wasn’t Kessel’s cap hit that was ailing Toronto, it was his personality. It was also this massive overhaul that Brendan Shanahan seems to be creating with no particular end in sight.
Toronto tanked hard last year, yet another disappointing season that led to so many jerseys on the ice and just about everyone getting fired (as per my favorite spoof). Kessel had been vocal against the often-harsh Toronto media, specifically angry at their blaming Dion Phaneuf for being a poor captain. Entering a rebuild mode with Mike Babcock now at the helm, perhaps he thought that Kessel would be less “coachable” under a new system. Maybe Kessel was all that the team thought they could get a good return on.
Regardless of the reason why he was traded, he makes the Penguins a much better team. The Pens that the Rangers faced in the first round of the playoffs this year are not the Pens that we should grow accustomed to. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are elite talent, Kris Letang will be back next year, and with 3-on-3 overtime beginning next year, the thought of Kessel playing with Crosby and Malkin should scare you. Kessel has the 4th most goals over the last five years in the entire league, and the three other guys (Alexander Ovechkin, Corey Perry, Steven Stamkos) weren’t stuck on a line with Tyler Bozak. I’m preemptively shaking.
The very next day — July 2, for those keeping track — TJ Oshie was traded to the Washington Capitals for Troy Brouwer, a goalie prospect, and a third round pick. By the time this trade showed up on my phone, I’m pretty sure I screamed (which actually happened when Carl Hagelin got traded, but I digress). It was pretty clear that the Blues were shopping, and it makes all the sense in the world when you look at the hefty extension they gave Vladimir Tarasenko shortly afterwards. Someone would have to be moved for cap space.
It seemed as though nobody was safe on the roster, with rampant trade rumors surrounding Oshie, David Backes, and Alexander Steen. The Blues chose to not re-sign veteran defenseman Barret Jackman, who’s spent his entire 13-year career in St. Louis. After so many first round playoff exits, the Blues need a new identity.
We all know Oshie from Sochi and the epic shootout win early on that Saturday morning in February against Russia. He’s got lightning quick hands and an amazing release. Goalies don’t see him shoot the puck, and it makes him very dangerous. He’s racked up 50 or more points in 3 of his 7 seasons, including the lockout shortened season in which he only played 30 games. For a team that needs consistent secondary scoring, Oshie will fit in nicely. Hopefully, he will be ineffective against King Henrik, but we’ll have to wait and see.
The Hawks made the move we were expecting to see on Friday, trading away Patrick Sharp to Dallas for Ryan Garbutt and Trevor Daley. The Stars will also retain half of Garbutt’s cap hit next year. This was an obvious move for Chicago, one that was expected before Saad was traded weeks before. Sharp, an alternate captain in Chicago, is 33 years old and making $6.5M a year. His production took a definitive dive last year, going from a consistent 60-(and even 70-)point scorer to a mere 43 points last year. Though this could be a slump, when you factor age in and the tremendous pressure that Chicago has on their cap space, it made a lot of sense to deal him. The Hawks now have space to breathe and still are yet to deal Bryan Bickell.
The Stars could benefit from having the veteran Sharp on the team. In the best case scenario, playing on an offense-loaded team (not that Chicago isn’t!) will spark his productivity and he could get back to the goal scorer he’s been his whole career. In reality, he will certainly be a positive veteran force for the locker room, having been an alternate captain for years and having been in the NHL for 13 seasons. Playing on a wing with either Jason Spezza or Tyler Seguin potentially at center… that could be fun to watch.
Of these trades, which are you most excited and/or afraid to see play with their new squad?