There’s nothing like the NHL trade deadline to warp what you thought you knew about teams’ priorities and how players are valued. GMs alternate between desperation to chase the Cup and desperation to get anything for players who can’t wait to high-tail it out of town at the season’s end. The process seems brain-curdling to a lot of NHL front offices.
While the deadline is still a couple of hours away, a flurry of activity hit the wires yesterday. The biggest movers were the Toronto Maple Leafs, as they always seem to be, even when they aren’t. Whatever the Leafs do is loud, even if it’s just the equivalent of heading out for paper towels.
The biggest question for the Leafs, as always, is in net. Starter Frederik Andersen has been hurt, and while the Leafs have told anyone who’s asked that he won’t miss the rest of the season, they’re certainly acting like he’s going to miss the rest of the season. They have turned the keys over to Jack Campbell, who not only has yet to lose in 11 starts but also has the highest save-percentage above expected, according to Moneypuck.com. Still, despite the neon-lighted numbers, it’s still Jack Campbell, who has never been a starter in his career, and it would be extremely risky to completely trust him with perhaps the most pressure-packed position in the sport when the playoffs come.
Whether backing him up with David Rittich, whom Toronto acquired from Calgary last night, is enough insurance, though, is a very iffy proposition. “Big Save Dave” has been pretty shoddy for the past two seasons and has one playoff start to his name. He ceded playoff responsibilities to both Mike Smith and Cam Talbot the past two years. If Jack Campbell forgets how his limbs work in late May or June, the Leafs will be asking Rittich to do something he’s never done before.
Or he’s just a ton of insurance in case Andersen returns, but Andersen has been the problem for the Leafs the last few years when it mattered most. He’s just good enough to break your heart. But there were no sure solutions available at the deadline, so maybe this is the best they could have done.
Even weirder was the Leafs surrendering a 1st round pick for Nick Foligno, who has gotten a lot of mileage out of being a former player’s kid and captain of a team no one cares about or watches, all of which has clouded the fact that Foligno is a critical roughing penalty late in a playoff game just waiting to happen. He can certainly bolster the bottom six of Toronto, but you don’t surrender three draft picks for someone on the bottom six.
It’s even weirder that Foligno cost that, but Taylor Hall — who has an MVP trophy at home — cost the Boston Bruins only a second-rounder and a nothing in Anders Bjork. Teams were obviously terrified of the fact that Hall only has two goals this year, but were not paying attention to his metrics, which indicate he has been unlucky enough to wonder if he accidentally stepped inside a pentagram. The Bruins definitely need help behind their top line, and any kind of rebound in luck for Hall will suddenly make the Bruins as likely to come out of the East as the Caps, Pens, or Isles. But what the Bs really needed was a goalie wherever they could find one, as Tuukka Rask has looked older than the 34 he is.
To top it off, the Penguins are apparently trying to make things even more miserable for Flyers fans, if that’s even possible, by acquiring Jeff Carter after hiring Ron Hextall as GM. The Pens are clearly trying to recreate the strength down the middle with Crosby-Malkin-Bonino from their Cup teams with Carter replacing Bonino. But Carter has spent a fair time at wing this year with Gabe Vilardi. What Carter has left at 36 is hard to guess, but his metrics are some of the best he’s had in years according to NaturalStatTrick.com. And he only cost some mid-level picks. Again, Nick Foligno cost a first and then some.