A deadline bust


Matt Duchene stayed put due to Colorado’s absurd asking price on a disappointing trade deadline day that lacked the usual theatrics. AP Photo via Getty Images 

If you played hooky from school or work today in anticipation of something big going down on #NHLTradeDeadline Day, you came away disappointed. Especially if you root for the area locals.

After parting with a 2017 third round pick and the second round pick in 2018 they got from Ottawa for Brendan Smith, the Rangers did nothing else. Even with the knowledge Jesper Fast will miss two to three weeks with a separated shoulder caused by a brutal Alexander Ovechkin hit in a 4-1 humiliation the night before, they didn’t go out and address a huge weakness up front. So, there won’t be a agitating, physical forward with some scoring touch who can play the game.

Instead, we’re left with the same group. One that has done well even if they currently sit fourth locked into the first wildcard. However, with Derek Stepan in a huge scoring slump, Kevin Hayes coming back to earth and Michael Grabner without a point in seven straight, there is growing concern. Mika Zibanejad didn’t play yesterday due to his wrist. Is he available tomorrow at Boston in Smith’s debut on the blue line where he should be reacquainted with former Wisconsin Badger teammate Ryan McDonagh?

Making matters worse, Grabner was injured during practice when Adam Clendening cross checked him. So, his status is uncertain for Thursday. Of course, dopey reporters who block our fans for anything due to thin skin tried to make it sound like Clendening intentionally hurt Grabner. Right.

While GM Jeff Gorton was unable to get anything done, other competitors did. Montreal added Steve Ott and 2015 recurring nightmare Dwight King to a roster that includes pest Andrew Shaw. Now, if they draw the Canadiens in the first round, the Rangers will be huge underdogs. It’s not like they’ve proven they can win in Montreal. Forget the 2015 Eastern Conference Final. That was a different team. Unless something unforeseen happens, Carey Price is healthy and Shea Weber is better than P.K. Subban. The Habs are better than they were then with Alex Radulov, an improved Alex Galchenyuk and captain Max Pacioretty. Jeff Petry is also vastly overlooked on the back end. Claude Julien coaches them too. It won’t be a picnic.

Jarome Iginla wound up with the Kings, who for some odd reason gave away King and then went for the 39-year old vet. The other experienced veteran Shane Doan remained with the only franchise he’s known in Arizona. Poor guy. Radim Vrbata also didn’t go.

The Avalanche wanted too much for Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. So, they failed miserably. The Islanders wanted Duchene but the price was too rich for Garth Snow’s blood. After all the hot rumors about them wanting to make a splash, the Islanders did nothing. They’ll stick with what they got and see if it’s enough to squeak in as a second wildcard. It shouldn’t be easy with them competing against the improved Leafs and healthier Panthers, who added Thomas Vanek from Detroit. All they gave up was Dylan McIlrath and a conditional third round pick based on whether they make the postseason. Poor McIlrath. I still blame our coach for his current situation.

The Devils also didn’t do much. They swapped defenseman Kyle Quincey to Columbus for Dalton Prout. Then GM Ray Shero only got back a sixth round pick from the Predators for P.A. Parenteau. That is disappointing for them. I don’t even think Hasan will have any thoughts.

The Sabres didn’t do anything of note either. Evander Kane, who has a year left on his deal, stayed. I would kill to have a player like him on the Rangers. Imagine a physical forward who finishes plays and is a complete nuisance with great speed. He’s a bit streaky but he turned his season around and leads Buffalo with 22 goals. Off the ice, Kane remains a headache. What is it about the name Kane and off the ice stuff? Cody Franson also stays put. He’ll hit the market in July.

The best move was made by Steve Yzerman, who dumped the contract of Valtteri Filppula on the Flyers along with a fourth round pick, a conditional seventh for vet defenseman Mark Streit. So, they got rid of Filppula’s $5 million cap hit which has a year left and then swung Streit to the Pens, who need defense. They also acquired Frankie Corrado from Toronto for Steve Oleksy, Eric Fehr and a 2017 fourth round pick. Are these moves enough to match the Caps, who added big piece Kevin Shattenkirk and got Matt Niskanen back. Brooks Orpik is on the verge of returning. The threesome of Shattenkirk, Niskanen and John Carlson make the Caps overwhelming favorites.

Columbus improved by adding Quincey to an already strong blue line featuring Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Jack Johnson, David Savard and Ryan Murray. They then added some solid forward depth getting Lauri Korpikoski from the Stars for D prospect Dillon Heatherington. With Sergei Bobrovsky in net and a balanced group up front led by dangerous sniper Cam Atkinson, playmaking pivot Alexander Wennberg, Nick Foligno, Brandon Saad along with the rugged combo of Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner, they have the look of a contender. It depends on if they’re ready and who they draw. They’re looking at a potential first round showdown against the Pens. A match-up no one wants. But Dubinsky relishes facing Sidney Crosby and has flourished against him this season.

San Jose added depth in forward Jannik Hansen, who comes over from Vancouver for Nikolay Goldobin and a 2017 fourth round pick. A pesky forward, he was added probably due to how much of a bust Mikkel Boedker has been. Tomas Hertl has also only played 30 games.

I neglected to mention that the Ducks made a good move last week acquiring Patrick Eaves from Dallas for a 2017 second round pick. The 32-year old veteran forward has posted a career high 21 goals. The highest output since he scored 20 his rookie year back in ’05-06 for Ottawa. I really like the look of Anaheim. They no longer hinge on Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry. While they’re still vital to the team’s success, Richard Rakell is the top finisher and Ryan Kesler has been their best forward. Jakob Silfverberg’s scored big goals and Cam Fowler has had a good year with 11 markers and 20 assists from the back end. It depends if former USA World Junior Championship hero John Gibson is ready.

The Bruins added Drew Stafford from Winnipeg for a conditional sixth. That’s a steal. They look like they’ve recovered since firing Julien. Maybe this time, they make it. Patrice Bergeron’s having a big second half and Brad Marchand is over a point-per-game with 66 points in 63 games. David Pastrnak is 26-26-52. Tuukka Rask must carry them.

That’s pretty much it for the trade deadline. Overall, disappointing. Patrick Sharp stays with Dallas too. The 35-year old proven scorer who’s won three Cups with Chicago will be unrestricted this summer. Injuries have limited him to seven goals and eight assists in 37 contests. He might be a guy who has to take a one-year deal to prove himself. If that’s the case, there should be plenty of suitors.

The big winners are the Caps, Leafs and Lightning. The first two for what they added while the latter for being able to unload contracts freeing up precious cap space to re-sign key restricted’s Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. Yzerman landed a second round pick for Brian Boyle and got a D prospect for Bishop while dumping Filppula’s contract. He’s always ahead of everyone. Even if Steven Stamkos comes back and they miss the playoffs, the future is set up. Andrei Vasilevskiy now assumes the mantle in net with vet Peter Budaj backing up.

My biggest takeaway is that Gorton didn’t want to part with anything significant. He must realize it’s not about this year. The Rangers remain flawed and look like they’re headed for another early exit. They are what they are. It’s why I would’ve held off before extending Alain Vigneault. What he decides with the blue line once Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein are healthy could go a long way to determining how the Spring goes. With Marc Staal in a funk and Nick Holden struggling, Adam Clendening and Brady Skjei are their best pair.

The hope is that Smith adds some snarl while solving the first pair issue reunited with McDonagh, which would push Girardi down the depth chart. I would imagine they’ll look to move Klein in the off-season for a draft pick and buyout Girardi. How Smith performs could determine if they keep him.

Grabner remains the goal leader with 26. But he could be exposed to Las Vegas, who was officially welcomed to the NHL today. I would love to keep him. Maybe they’ll try to trade him. Who knows.

In a league of parity, Montreal and Toronto upgraded. Ottawa confused me. They also dumped Curtis Lazar to Calgary. How is it possible the former first round pick had only one assist in 33 games? The Senators also made that foolish deal with the Canucks for Alex Burrows, who they then extended two years. If Burrows still had value, don’t you think former coach Vigneault would’ve been in on him? He’s a dirty player but exactly the type the Rangers lack.

This deadline was puzzling. I guess that’s what happens when some teams overplay their hand. Not everyone is willing to pay. As Gorton said in an interview, you’re going to overpay. I’m glad he didn’t. Even if it means a disappointing conclusion to the Rangers’ 90th Anniversary. The future is more important. Let’s see how it plays out.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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2 Responses to A deadline bust

  1. hasan4978 says:

    re: your lead I actually read on HF a Devils fan complain they took the day off from work for this. I’m sorry if you took off from work expecting more than PAP and Quincey to get moved for menial returns, joke’s on you. I didn’t even bother taping it today, I pretty much knew what to expect and the deadline fell below even my modestly low expectations, both leaguewide and for us.


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