, Newburyport, MA

March 6, 2014

St. Louis and Callahan swap highlights busy NHL trade deadline

On Hockey
Mac Cerullo

---- — Trade deadline season is one of the most fun times to follow sports, and one thing that sets the NHL’s trade deadline apart is that teams aren’t afraid to go out and make bold moves. There doesn’t seem to be the same paralysis that grips teams in other leagues, and every year it seems like there are at least a couple big names switching uniforms.

This year was no exception, and after a busy couple of days leading up to the deadline, the final hour hit with a flurry of activity, and once the dust had finally settled, two franchise-altering deals had been finalized that could completely change the landscape going into the stretch run.

Tampa trades Martin St. Louis to the Rangers for Ryan Callahan and two draft picks

How often do you ever see a trade like this go down? Two captains traded for one another straight up? It’s almost unheard of.

To be fair, it’s not a one-for-one swap, Tampa Bay is also going to get a 2015 1st round draft pick and a 2nd round pick for this year that could turn into a first if the Rangers make the conference final. But still, St. Louis was one of the best players in Tampa Bay history, and Callahan was expected to be one of the Rangers’ building blocks for years to come.

Evidently the contract talks between Callahan and the Rangers broke down, and rather than overpay for a guy they weren’t completely sold on, the Rangers brass decided to ship him out and get something in return. It’s not entirely a surprise that St. Louis was traded — his relationship with GM Steve Yzerman reportedly deteriorated sour after Yzerman left him off the Canadian Olympic roster — but for Callahan and two high picks, who could’ve predicted a haul like that?

So what is New York getting in St. Louis? Well, he was one of the best players in Tampa Bay Lightning history, he was instrumental in the team’s 2004 Stanley Cup Championship, and even though he’s 38 and had been supplanted by Steven Stamkos as the Lightning’s best player, he still led the league in scoring last season.

Most importantly, St. Louis has one more year on his contract, giving the Rangers an extra year of team control over a highly productive player. Should Callahan resign with Tampa Bay, however, he and Stamkos would form the nucleus of what should be a contending team for years to come. Good deal for both parties.

Montreal wins the Thomas Vanek sweepstakes

If the Bruins missing out on Vanek wasn’t bad enough, the fact that he’s going to Montreal for what doesn’t appear to be much looks like a worst case scenario for Bruins fans.

Vanek was one of the most highly sought-after players of the deadline, and it was well known that a number of teams, including the Bruins, were interested in him. So for him go to the team’s biggest rival for only prospect Sebastian Collberg and a conditional second round pick is a bit of a tough pill to swallow. You’d think the Bruins could have beaten that price.

By landing Vanek, Montreal is getting one of the most consistently productive players in the league. He scored 25 goals or more in each of his first seven seasons to start his career, and likely would have topped that mark last year as well if it wasn’t for the lockout.

He’s also a notorious Bruins killer, and during his time in Buffalo he averaged more than a point per game against Boston.

While they missed out on Vanek, the Bruins weren’t completely silent at the deadline and did address a glaring need on the roster.

Bruins acquire Andrej Meszaros from Philadelphia

The Bruins needed another defenseman, and the Flyers had a logjam at the position after trading for Andrew MacDonald earlier this week, so this move made sense for both teams.

Meszaros comes fairly cheap. The Bruins only gave up a 3rd round pick to get him, but he’s not the impact player many had been hoping for and likely won’t provide a huge boost to the Bruins blue line. He will give the team an extra set of fresh legs, which the Bruins badly need right now, and he was teammates with Zdeno Chara on the Slovakian Olympic team, so there should be some familiarity there too.

Speaking of familiarity …

Tim Thomas traded from Florida to Dallas

When Roberto Luongo was traded from Vancouver to Florida earlier this week, it was fairly evident that Tim Thomas was probably on his way out. While it would have been fun to see Thomas and Luongo make a habit of pumping each other’s tires before every game — or at least hear people crack tire jokes all the time — their time as teammates is already up.

Thomas was traded yesterday to the Dallas Stars for goalie Dan Ellis, who will presumably become Florida’s backup keeper. Dallas already has Kari Lehtonen on its roster, but Thomas will give the Stars some added strength between the pipes and allow the Stars to either rest Lehtonen or bench him during what figures to be a tight playoff chase.