A different look on trade rumours- Jan. 17 Edition

This week: the trades of Valeri Kamensky and Sandis Ozolinsh, and the beginning of rumours surrounding the Atlanta Thrashers’ first round draft pick.First up will be Kamensky. A bust so far this season, the Dallas Stars decided they had enough with him and shipped him unceremoniously to the New Jersey Devils for the unheralded Austrian Andre Lakos. Lakos is 6’6″ and 230 lbs. that really hasn’t accomplished much of anything this season, much like Kamensky, but the upside is that Lakos is 22 years old and has a lot of potential in him. The Devils, meanwhile, got stuck with a former top-flight player whose career seems to be declining rapidly at age 35, an unfortunate thing considering Kamensky seemed to be on the rise back in 1998-99. Still, Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello had to shake up this team somehow, and at least he has someone with name recognition, even if Kamensky doesn’t live up to his name now.

This trade probably also effectively ends what was once one of hockey’s more promising careers, begun as a heralded prospect deep in the Quebec Nordiques’ system and having so much potential as a Colorado Avalanche, winning the Stanley Cup in 1998-99. His production, however, seems hovered at 14 goals, but might have been more if he didn’t miss 25-30 games like he seemed to. However, with only three goals and nine points in 24 games, he’s way off his pace and becomes one of several Dallas Stars free agent busts. Pierre Turgeon remains their only free agent pick-up left, but, as reported earlier, Turgeon is on pace to collect some $700,000 per goal. However, Jyrki Lumme did seem to regain some of his former form as a Toronto Maple Leaf, but Donald Audette is on the shelf as a Montreal Canadien, but if the Devils have any hope, they’ll hope that Kamensky will repeat Lumme’s resurgence and more, but that’s probably wishful thinking. As it stands now the Stars are in seventh place and are unthreatening (don’t let the one-point deficit with the San Jose Sharks fool you), calling into question Bob Gainey’s free agent pick-ups, but Gainey did resign earlier in the year, possibly to avoid the questions. The Devils themselves have questions and now Montreal has moved into a tie for eighth place in the conference with them, but, of all the moves Lamoriello could make, he made this one, a questionable move but considering the context this one doesn’t seem out of place. Maybe Radio Shack can answer the questions bothering both teams, since they can’t.

Speaking of poor schmucks, it’s time now to focus on the Florida Panthers, the poor schmucks tricked by the Carolina Hurricanes into trading for Ozolinsh. That the Panthers and, by extension, GM Chuck Fletcher, were the poor schmucks here should come as no surprise: they’ve been inept for as long as I can remember (sorry pantherboy). However, the Panthers- who traded Bret Hedican, Kevyn Adams and Tomas Malec for Ozolinsh, and top minor league prospect Byron Ritchie- didn’t do too badly in this trade, giving up a pending free agent (Hedican), a decent penalty killer (Adams) and a depth player (Malec), not too shabby for an underachieving superstar defenceman (Ozolinsh) and a top minor league prospect (Ritchie). It isn’t overwhelming and provides both teams with help in key areas, the Panthers getting a power play specialist and a prospect who could play right away, while the Hurricanes get rid of salary but still get a decent defenceman and some depth players, areas in which the Hurricanes were seriously lacking. Melrose also noted that now the Hurricanes can finally make a move at the trade deadline for some depth, where they’ve been lacking, and dumping Ozolinsh’s $4 million-plus salary might make them contenders in the Bill Guerin saga. Don’t look too much into it, however, but with the freed salary, the Hurricanes just may have bigger aspirations in mind.

The Panthers, on the other hand, still remain a work in progress. They’ve taken quite some time to become a force, and, after nine seasons, it seems that they are slowly putting the pieces together. They remind me of The Odyssey, a book I’m currently reading for one of my university courses, since both feature a long journey back to the position they belong. Now, while Odysseus (the main character in the book) did make it back to Ithaka, the Panthers still haven’t made it back to the Cup Final, but I do have reasons to believe it could happen. They finally have two blue-chip game breakers in Pavel and Valeri Bure, a true power play specialist in Ozolinsh, a useful defensive rearguard in Paul Laus (the last original player left on either Florida or the Anaheim Might Ducks), and a rising young netminder in Roberto Luongo, not to mention another tradeable asset in back-up goaltender Trevor Kidd. Add to the mix Guerin or Tony Amonte and the blossoming of players like Ivan Novoseltsev and Kristian Huselius and the Panthers just might become a play-off force in coming years. Given the Eastern Conference’s wide open race, the Panthers might not need much to get to the Final. Winning it will be different, but getting back to the Final is an important first step.

Another team with an “Odyssey” of sorts is the Atlanta Thrashers, who Toronto Star writer Damien Cox reports are “tired of drafting No. 1″. The Thrashers, he claims, will probably look to trade their first round draft pick- probably after the season once their position is determined- but I’ve decided that the rumours surrounding it have to start now if Atlanta will get anything done by draft day in Toronto. Cox also reports that Atlanta’s fans are becoming impatient with the Thrashers’ losing ways, and, despite the promise that four high picks present- that is, right winger Ilya Kovalchuk, centres Dany Heatley and Patrik Stefan and possibly defenceman Jay Bouwmeester or Finnish goalie Jari Lehtonen, which Cox says will evoke images of the ’70s Islanders- fans want a winner and now. Attendance is down in Atlanta, and will continue to go down if Atlanta can’t discover how to win. The fans there are rightly frustrated, not with the Thrashers but with sports in general: the Hawks and Falcons are just as inept as the Thrashers are (though the Falcons are starting to recover), and the Braves seem to be a on a downward curve, not to mention the fact that baseball keeps giving itself black eyes with the revenue disparity, further souring Braves fans. A winning Thrashers team next year will probably propel the Thrashers into Atlanta’s sports consciousness: if the Thrashers wait they’ll lose out on their status and might have to move, just like their old Flames team did.

However, as Cox notes, there isn’t too much Atlanta could trade for with the No. 1 pick. He notes the several stalls in progress that David Legwand (one goal since the end of November) and Vincent Lecavalier have made, not to mention the busts that were Alexandre Daigle and Pat Falloon, the former No. 2 pick that once held promise but no longer plays in the National Hockey League. Furthermore, he mentions the slow progress of Patrick Marleau and Atlanta’s own Stefan, meaning that a superstar for the No. 1 pick is defintely out of the question, although the Ottawa Senators did deal Alexei Yashin for the No. 2 pick, but only with solid players like Bill Mucklat and Zdeno Chara included (Mucklat’s been a bust but Chara has been playing extremely well, almost covering Mucklat), and I agree with him. There are no shortage of teams wanting the pick but there are not too many suitors out there: the winning teams won’t want to take that much of a risk and the losing teams don’t have much to offer- witness the Canadiens’ failed bid to land Kovalchuk. However, I am willing to throw a few names onto the table and see what happens: could the Avalanche give up some of their valued youngsters like Ville Nieminen and Vaclav Nedorost and maybe their first round pick for the pick? They’ve been extremely good with talent finding so they could enter the fray relatively interested and just might have the goods Atlanta is looking for. Could Tampa Bay trade Lecavalier there and prove to everyone that they can make a smart No. 1 pick? Of course, Atlanta won’t want a bust in the making for what could be a future star, but if Tampa did throw in a few other players- maybe Brian Holzinger, maybe even the promising Ben Clymer- could that be too much for the Thrashers to refuse? Could the Vancouver Canucks, with their plethora of centes, have enough to entice Atlanta? Maybe, but the only player I can think of is Andrew Cassels, but no one will take him on draft day since he’ll be a pending free agent. Could the talent rich but aging Detroit Red Wings give up one of their aging players for the pick and some extraneous players? Maybe, but I don’t think the Red Wings will give up Brett Hull or Luc Robitaille all too easily, though it might look good on Atlanta (still, it’s probably wishful thinking). A number of other scenarios could erupt, but I’ll leave them for you guys to sift through and ponder. Draft day isn’t for another five months, so we have plenty of time to think about this.

That’s this week’s edition of “A different look on trade rumours”. Feel free to comment on these or any other trade rumours.

-DG

Stats & Info: courtesy Toronto Star, ESPN.com

(P.S.: if anyone has any trade rumours they’d like to give me, they can reach me at htrrumours@yahoo.ca, and I’ll publish all the rumours I get. Thank you.)


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