Tuesday, February 12, 2008

First Trade Deadline Deal

The NHL trade deadline is still a couple weeks away on February 26th, but the first trade deadline style deal was made yesterday. In general, it is hard to make a trade in the salary capped NHL, but one window where trades do occur is around the trade deadline. Some teams realize they are out of the race and sell off their soon to be free agents to playoff contenders. Here salary cap considerations are minimized because most of the contracts of the players to be traded have already been paid this season.

In yesterday's trade, the Carolina Hurricanes decided they were not likely to make a run at the Stanley Cup. Even if they win the Southeast Division and thus get third seed in the East Conference (and they are only one point back of Washington in that race), they are unlikely to have a significant playoff run. Thus they traded unrestricted free agents to be Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore to the Ottawa Senators for Patrick Eaves and Joe Corvo.

Stillman has 46 points and was fourth in scoring with the Hurricanes. He will likely provide some offensive depth to the Senators for their playoff run. Commodore is a solid but unspectacular defenceman, who was second among Carolina defencemen with 12 points (which is evidence that no Carolina defencemen have any offensive ability).

Joe Corvo has 27 points and is the second highest scoring Ottawa defenceman. He is signed through the next two seasons. He will be making $2.75 million each year, making him likely overpaid. Corvo is the highest paid player in this deal by about $1 million a year and that is why Ottawa is willing to let him go. They feel they made a mistake on his contract and can try again with a new free agent defenceman this summer. While Corvo can score his defence is often suspect and has kept him from the success one might expect with his offensive numbers.

Patrick Eaves is the potential gem in this deal. He is only 23 years old and will be a restricted free agent this summer. This season, injuries have limited him to 26 games, where he has scored 10 points. He had a 20 goal rookie season only two years ago and could blossom given some icetime in Carolina.

As is usual in these kinds of deals, I think the buying team (Ottawa) paid too much for some short term rentals, which probably won't make the difference between winning and not winning the cup. They certainly didn't address their biggest weakness - goaltending. I doubt either of Martin Gerber or Ray Emery have what it takes to backstop Ottawa to the Stanley Cup. Of course, the Senators made the trade that was available and presumably no top goalie was offered to them.

Carolina will likely be the winner. I would not be surprised if Eaves scores more points with Carolina then the other three players in the deal do with their current teams combined. Ottawa should find themselves with nothing to show for Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves come July.

As a footnote to the deal, Cory Stillman waived his no trade clause to allow this deal to go through.

The first trade deadline deal occurred yesterday. Ottawa is gambling a piece of their future for the faint hope that the missing pieces they added will make them a Stanley Cup winner. Don't count on it making much of a difference.

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