Burnside: Hello, my friend. Or should I say bonjour, given that you’re in Montreal ready to take in the Montreal Canadiens-Dallas Stars tilt tonight. But let’s talk about a pretty interesting deal that went down this afternoon. One of the best parts of the trade deadline are the deals that no one saw coming (or at least none of us in the media). The Tampa Bay Lightning, clearly in sell-off mode, dealt agitating forward Steve Downie to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday afternoon for defenseman Kyle Quincey. The Lightning then flipped Quincey to the Detroit Red Wings for a first-round pick in 2012 and defensive prospect Sebastien Piche.
The move looks to strengthen the Avs, who have some depth along the blue line but need more sand up front, and the Red Wings, like many contending teams, wanted to bulk up along the blue line for what they hope is a long playoff run. The move also suggests Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is already looking ahead to restocking the team's shelves as the Bolts now have two first-round picks this June and could have as many as four second-round picks. And Yzerman already knows the 6-foot, 202-pound Piche from Yzerman's days as an executive with the Red Wings. Piche signed as a free agent with the Wings in April 2009.
LeBrun: OK, let’s start with the Red Wings. I think this deal helps them both in the short term and long term. Not only do you always want to add depth on defense, and this case a bona-fide No. 3/No. 4 blueliner in Quincey, but there’s also some protection here moving forward in case either Nicklas Lidstrom and/or Brad Stuart are gone next season. Lidstrom, of course, may retire, although that’s not decided yet. Stuart is an unrestricted free agent, and there’s talk he may head back to California for family reasons. Now, I’m not pretending that Quincey can fill the shoes of either one of those players, but he’s a capable player and the Wings now can head into the offseason not needing to do quite as much work on the blue line.
As for the Lightning, they’ve got a bevy of draft picks now and my sense is that they can use some of those picks to make a play for a goaltender, whether that’s before Monday’s deadline or more likely in the offseason.
Burnside: One thing about the accelerated success of the Tampa Bay Lightning last season is that it likely kept Yzerman from making moves he otherwise might have, given his new position of GM. I think that is what you’re seeing now with the trading of Dominic Moore and Pavel Kubina last week and this move on Tuesday. It wasn’t so much that Yzerman wasn’t enamored with Downie. Downie has shown he has the chops to play with the big boys, such as Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos (with whom he is exceedingly tight), but still has the power to annoy opponents. But Downie has arbitration rights as a restricted free agent and so did Quincey. These moves give Yzerman significant flexibility moving forward, as he has a number of holes to fill in his lineup, most notably finding a No. 1 goaltender.
LeBrun: I would think Cory Schneider of the Vancouver Canucks, Jonathan Bernier of the Los Angeles Kings or Ben Bishop of the St. Louis Blues would all be on Tampa’s wish list for a goalie, among others. Schneider isn’t moving before the deadline, however, so he would have to wait until the summer.
Finally, we should touch on Colorado. The Avalanche, one NHL GM told me Tuesday, could be a very busy team over the next week. He believed there was some desire on GM Greg Sherman’s part to move some parts around and that certainly began with the acquisition of Downie. The Avs have 16 expiring contracts on their current NHL roster -- eight RFAs, eight UFAs -- so there’s some big decisions to make both this week and in the offseason. I don’t think the Avs have made their last move before Monday’s deadline. But one thing you have to keep in mind: Colorado is still in the playoff race and, even if the it wasn’t, it can’t afford to tank the season because its first-round pick belongs to Washington from the Semyon Varlamov deal. Still, if there’s some hockey deals to be had, player-for-player like you saw Tuesday with Downie coming on board, I’m told Colorado is interested in being active.
Burnside: Sherman said it’s rare to find a deal that works on both the hockey level and the business level these days but this was one of those deals.
“In this case it certainly worked out for us,” Sherman told ESPN.com Tuesday evening.
Given Downie’s experience playing with top end talent and his success during the Lightning’s run to the Eastern Conference final last spring, Sherman is expecting Downie to fit in nicely with a group of young forwards that includes skilled players like Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly.
The Avalanche are just three points out of eighth place in the Western Conference and Sherman, who said he was able to part with Quincey because of the team’s depth along the blue line, said this was a deal that he hopes will have an immediate impact in terms of the playoff race and long-term given Downie’s youth.
“His versatility was definitely attractive to us,” Sherman said.
The Avs aren’t all that dissimilar to the Lightning in that two years ago they surprised everyone by accelerating their evolution and making the playoffs behind the stellar netminding of Craig Anderson. They took a big step back last season and now are in the hunt with a very young team. It was a year ago that Sherman rocked the franchise, not to mention the NHL world, by trading power forward Chris Stewart and emerging young defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk for former No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson, Jay McClement and a swap of draft picks. So clearly Sherman isn’t one to sit idly by if he thinks he can move his team forward. Not sure he’s got the goaltending a young team needs, with Varlamov, although Jean-Sebastien Giguere has probably given him more than he expected. I got a chance to sit down with Downie last season and was impressed with his maturity and his desire to be a good teammate as well as a good player. This is going to be an interesting adjustment for him after really finding a comfort zone in Tampa.
LeBrun: Well, after being bored in January and the first half of February, the NHL trade market has really heated up with Nicklas Grossman, Dominic Moore, Hal Gill, Pavel Kubina, and now Quincey and Downie all changing teams. We could very well have a trade a day from here on in.
The domino effect is officially on.
Until tomorrow, my friend.