Now that we have had a couple of days to analyze what went down at the trade deadline (and more importantly this season, the weeks leading up to the deadline), here is a list of my top 3 teams who got accomplished what they wanted to going into Feb 28th.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs – Joffrey Lupul and his offensive ability has been a boon to the Leafs’ first line, and his addition has made Kessel and Bozak better players. The return Brian Burke was able to get for Francois Beauchmin, Tomas Kaberle and Kris Versteeg was impressive. The young prospects and draft picks bode well for the future. Kaberle was stagnant in Toronto and Versteeg never really found his place in the lineup. Beauchemin was addition by subtraction, as Keith Aulie has stepped in and filled his shoes admirably. Taking three everyday players out of the lineup for solid returns, and not hurting the Leafs playoff chances backs up Burke’s bravado.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins – The loss of Evgeni Malkin for the seaon and the uncertainty over Sidney Crosby‘s concussion problems necessitated GM Ray Shero‘s activity at the deadline. They have added a power forward in James Neal from Dallas and basically gave up nothing for Alex Kovalev, who may find success during his second tour of duty in Pittsburgh. They gave up D Alex Goligoski in the Neal trade, but added Matt Niskanen to replace him. If Crosby can come back before the end of the season, the Penguins have solidified themselves as contenders again this year, even without Malkin.
3. Washington Capitals – Some mixed reviews of their pickups at the trade deadline, with Jason Arnott and Dennis Wideman joining the Caps. It is my opinion that Arnott, even a aging as he is, can provide some of the experience and leadership that might have been missing in Washington. He also adds some offensive depth up the middle, where the Caps were lacking. Wideman will be a veteran contributor to a blue line that will be without Mike Green for a while, and when Green returns Wideman can settle into a more suitable role, likely playing with one of Karl Alzner or John Carlson. The Capitals have always had top end talent, but the experience of Arnott and stability of Wideman will help in April and hopefully for the Capitals’ sake, well into May.
Honourable Mentions: There were other winners that also deserve mention including Boston, Vancouver, Ottawa, Edmonton, St. Louis and Florida.