Well, I just got home from class and the Devils won 1-0 over Pittsburgh. I guess Brodeur is better than Crosby. I taped the game, so I should get a postgame recap up tomorrow sometime. Though I may not do one and do a month-in-review instead. Who knows! In any case, here's NHL.com's recap of the game.
First, the one trade that does involve the Devils: Calgary getting David Hale and a 2007 5th Rd. pick for a 2007 3rd Rd. pick. David Hale was clearly the #6 defenseman on the team from the start and there have been many games where he would get less than 10 minutes of ice time. Needless to say, head coach Claude Julien didn't rate him. Given that the Devils are among the top teams in the league on defense, I don't think the loss of Hale will affect them that much. Some cap space is cleared and now perhaps the Devils can call up some of their more high-priced players from Lowell. Andy Greene filled in David Hale's spot tonight and played 10:36. It's my understanding that Greene made the team in training camp, but the salary cap pretty much guaranteed his stay in Lowell. Guess Greene will now stay up with the club. Does this mean Richard Matvichuk will be activated and play in the playoffs? I don't think so. Putting in a defenseman who hasn't played at all in a season right into the playoffs is a poor idea unless he's Scott Niedermayer or Nicklas Lidstrom or Scott Stevens or someone else who is a world-class defenseman. Matvichuk is not one of those guys. The extra third round pick is a decent return for a salary-cap based move. It may be higher than San Jose's third from that cancelled Korolyuk deal.
Pittsburgh was quite active. Pittsburgh acquired Georges Laraque for Daniel Carcillo and an 8th Rd. pick. I thought the draft was only 7 rounds long? In any case, Pittsburgh gets the most skilled enforcer in the league. He can destroy people and is far from a liability on offense and defense. I guess he'll be Sidney Crosby's "protection, though if he hasn't been messed with by now, I don't think anyone will. The Devils sure won't, but Cam Janssen may have someone to try and impress. Not a big deal vis a vis the Devils. Pittsburgh also got Gary Roberts for Noah Welch. Roberts is a veteran forward at the spry age of 41, but he's got experience in the playoffs from way back. Pittsburgh's young, so he'll help. Given he only has 13 goals and 16 assists in the 50 games he played for Florida, I don't think he'll become another feared weapon in the Penguin offense. Of course, if he's rejuvenated by playing on the same team with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, etc.; it could pay off big dividends for the Penguins, and that doesn't help the Devils at all. The Penguins moved Dominic Moore to Minnesota for a 3rd Rd. pick in 2007; that means one less checking/character forward on the Penguins for oppositions to deal with. In other words, it means little in the big picture. Lastly (I won't mention the Nolan Schaefer deal, it's too insignificant), the Penguins get veteran defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski for a 4th Rd. pick in 2007. He can't be as bad as Rob Scuderi or Josef Melichar, so he should give the Penguins defense a boost - something they were lacking. I don't think it will make a huge impact, but it helps the Penguins, which could make them a little harder for the Devils to beat them. The Penguins improved a little bit, not nearly as much as...
...the New York Islanders! Wow, did they get stronger. OK, their pickup of Richard Zednik from Washington for a 2nd Rd. pick in 2007 was a bit of a head-scratcher. The Islanders needed a consistent scorer to help their offense and in turn help their playoff push. Zednik is not that guy. To be fair, he has been injured for stretches of the season. On the other hand, 6 goals and 12 assists in 32 games is nothing special. The Islanders did address this need in a big way, trading Robert Nilsson (a.k.a. the guy they drafted when it should have been Zach Parise), Ryan O'Marra, and a 1st Rd. pick in 2007 for Ryan Smyth. I was amazed he was even on the market, given that he has been the heart and soul of the Oilers since 1999 or so. What's more is that he's still scoring at a great pace. 31 goals and 22 assists in 53 games. He's been having such a good season and the Islanders picked him up. OK, they may have mortgaged the future a little bit, but he definitely makes the Islanders a lot more dangerous. He's a scorer, he's a hard worker, and is coming off a big playoff year. Does this help the Islanders in their push for the playoffs? Yes. And now opponents of the Islanders, such as the Devils, will have to worry about Jason Blake (who was NOT traded), Alexei Yashin, Mike Sillinger, and Ryan Smyth up front. They could cause a lot of damage for whoever they face in the first round, who could be the Devils. While New Jersey has done very well against the Islanders, a lot of those games have been close. Smyth could easily be a difference maker in those games (and in other close games with other teams) in favor of the Islanders. I wish Blake was traded, now I can't laugh at the Islanders giving a 2nd Rd. pick for Zednik. I have to worry about them not only as rivals but also as potential first round opponents for NJ. Sigh.
Buffalo traded their very capable backup goaltender Martin Biron for a 2nd Rd. pick to Philadelphia. Had they waited a day, maybe the Sabres could have gotten more given that a similar pick was good enough for Richard Zednik. The Sabres filled their goaltending hole with Ty Conklin (acquired from Columbus for a 3rd Rd. pick) and young Mikko Lehtonen (from Nashville for a 4th Rd. pick). Conklin can be good, Lehtonen may have potential, but from what I see, the Sabres go as Ryan Miller goes in net. Which is good for them, since Miller is pretty good in net (though he's no Martin Brodeur). Buffalo did get stronger, which makes me mad, getting Danius Zubrus and Timo Helbling from Washington for Jiri Novotny and a 1st Rd. pick. Zubrus is a talented right wing who can step right in and make an impact. He's been very productive in Washington with 20 goals and 32 assists in 60 games. Now he'll be playing for one of the top offensive teams in the NHL. Good for Buffalo, great for Zubrus, bad for the Devils. Plus, Buffalo subtracts Novotny, who from what I understand sucks, so that could be an addition by subtraction. I think this move helps the Sabres try to stay stable in their attempt in securing the number one spot in the Eastern Conference. Which is to the detriment of the Devils, of course. The Sabres remain really good if not a bit better. Bah.
The Rangers made two deals. After acquiring him earlier this season, the Rangers sent Pascal Dupuis to Atlanta for Alex Bourret (prospect) and a 3rd Rd. pick in 2007. Obviously bolsters the Rangers' prospects, and I don't think the loss of Dupuis will hurt the Rangers unfortunately. The Rangers also get some help on defense by trading Aaron Ward to Boston for defenseman Paul Mara. Mara is an offensive defenseman, putting up big numbers in his last two years with Phoenix; but he hasn't been getting it done in Boston. Maybe the scenery change will help, but I hope not. The Rangers adding a good shot from the point isn't good for the Devils. Defensively, the addition of Mara will not bolster them too much. So provided Mara doesn't thrive at MSG, I don't think either deal should give the Devils pause nor cause of concern.
Well, the Devils did make a deal so I was wrong in stating that the Devils will do nothing. As it is, the core of the team remains the same and clearly remaining solid. Now with an 11 point lead over the Penguins, they can focus on trying to catch up to Buffalo for the first seed in the Eastern Conference. There were quite a few big trades relating to the Western Conference you should check out. Detroit adding Todd Bertuzzi could really pay off if he returns to form. All the same, the Devils won and that's what really matters tonight. Just need to pay more caution to the Islanders and Buffalo.