Happy New Year to everyone out there! Glad to see you made it to 2011 and hopefully you are having a great time kicking the new year in with some sports or time with friends and family. After sadly some time away with the Buzz Between the Boards, I now fully plan for you to have something new and interesting to read every weekend on the latest trade news and buzz during the season, and free agent action and possibilities in the spring and summer. I’ve suffered through some sickness and being without my personal laptop for half of the month of December, but now everything is back and running.
So while I am cooking up the latest on some of the most talked about players that may be moved in Brad Richards and others like half of the Calgary Flames now, I figured I would kick off the 2011 by looking back at some of the biggest moves of the 2010 and the trades that captivated our attention this last year.
First, we can not look back on the trades of 2010 without looking at one Russian guy that was talked about so much. Ilya Kovalchuk was the target of the biggest trade rumors and drew so much publicity during the 2009-2010 season. The All-Star winger was the star and sole offense some nights for the Atlanta Thrashers since being the 1st overall pick back in the 2001 draft. Kovalchuk was the first and is still the only Atlanta player to score 50 goals in a year (05-06), and during his time in Atlanta looked like a stud forward. Despite being the captain for the team, the Thrashers had been rumored to be considering the option of trading Kovy since the summer before last season. His contract was to end in the summer of 2010 and the price that it would take to sign him just seemed to keep going up. Thrashers reportedly offered him a 12-year deal for about $100 million and another for 7-years for $70 million. Ilya turned them both down and as the season turned to the second half of the season it was becoming obvious that he was going to be traded and that he was not going to come back to Atlanta. So on February 4th, 2010, Kovalchuk was moved to the New Jersey Devils in a big blockbuster deal. Kovalchuk and Anssi Salmela headed to NJ and the Devils sent a package of rookie forward Niclas Bergfors, defender Johnny Oduya, a prospect, and the Devils 2010 first round pick. It a big whirlwind in the summer, the Devils signed Ilya longterm deal eventually worth $1oo million over 15 years after a bogus contract was shot down by the league. Since then the Devils have imploded this season after starting it looking like one of the top 5-10 teams in the league. The Ilya deal looks like a bust so far for New Jersey, while the Thrashers are surviving and surprising their way to being in a playoff spot as of New Year’s Eve after some smart moves in the summer and young talent stepping up. Time will tell on this one, but the Devils will have 15 years to figure out if this thing was worth it. So far my opinion is that Atlanta looks great through all of this and the Devils may have taken a big gamble that has backfired with how the team as a whole is doing now.
Another big move took place weeks before the trade deadline as well. And this one actually was two moves made by one team, but it shook up that team and changed the roster significantly, for better or worse. The Toronto Maple Leafs made news on January 31st, 2010 by making not just one move good sized move, but a pair. First they traded journeyman and often laughed at goalie Vesa Toskala and veteran winger Jason Blake to the Anaheim Ducks for veteran goalie and former playoff hero J.S. Gigeure. While not a huge move, the Leafs picked up a goalie that they hoped could be good in net for them for a few years with a bunch of younger guys in their system and on the team. The Ducks dumped Giggy with little need for him as Jonas Hiller had taken over and had become a guy entering his prime years that the team looked better with. But just as soon as the word had spread and the talks and thoughts had begun to generate around that, GM Burke and the Leafs made an even bigger splash. In a seven-player trade with the Calgary Flames, the Leafs acquired all-star Dion Phaneuf from the Flames in exchange for a four player package featuring Stajan, White, and Hagman. The Leafs sent out a few players that were role and 2nd line guys in Toronto for a guy still not 25 years-old and expected to be an anchor for a defense and team for years to come. Phaneuf was since named the Leafs captain before this season, followed by offensive struggles this season and missing extended time after a skate blade cut into his leg in early November. At the time I full liked the moves by Burke, but so far the results are sub-par and while not trading anything serious to the teams rebuilding, the change in leadership and new captaincy so far has not lived up to Leafs fans’ hopes….but little does anymore.
Finally, the last big trade or set of trades that I want to put with this list is the moves made in the summer. The Montreal Canadiens made a surprising run through the 2010 playoffs thanks not to believed goalie of the future Price, but by 25 year-old Jaroslav Halak who broke out from the backup role to take over the team and guide it in the second half of last season and in the playoffs. With both Price and Halak being restricted-free agents in the summer, the debate began who the team who keep between the two young men. Well the St. Louis Blues benefited and got Halak while not having to send much to Montreal. The Canadiens got two forward prospects, while the Blues now have a quality goalie and someone to add with their young and budding team. The returns for this trade will be decided how Price and Halak play more then anything. But if things long term go great for Halak and St. Louis, then fans of the Habs will always wonder. A few other big trades in the summer all revolved around one team, as the champion Chicago Blackhawks shipped out what seemed like half of their team right after winning it all. Cap problems and a couple bad contracts forced the Blackhawks into the situation, and the Thrashers benefited. In all Chicago made seven trades over the summer and two notable ones led playoff hero Dustin “Sound it out” Byfuglien and winger Andrew Ladd landing with Atlanta as the Thrashers twice made big trades with the Blackhawks and are playing well this year behind many of the players they got from Chicago.
There you go, some of the bigger trades in the last year. Sure there were more. Horton to Boston, Lehtonen to Dallas and his fresh start helping the Stars, and Jokinen being traded to New York only to turn around and go right back to Calgary. But the ones above changed the landspace of NHL rosters the most, and will define and guide the teams for the next few years….or sometimes maybe 15. Get ready, as the hockey season shifts towards the second half and trade rumors pick up. Anytime in the next two months we could see deals like these, or even bigger, that will again shake up the hockey world. Happy New Years and as always you can find daily great hockey articles here at Too Many Men and find myself regularly covering the Stars at Blackoutdallas.com and at Twitter.com/blackoutdallas.