Almost one month has gone by since the passing of the trade deadline, and the playoffs are just two weeks away. So, how are the deals making out? Who's hitting his stride and who's tracking sideways? Hey, we get it, don't judge until someone's carrying around the big silver Cup in June. But it's interesting and more than a little illuminating to see just how well the new pieces have fit into the puzzles of their new teams.
The Wings have actually gone a little sideways since the trade deadline, with just five wins in 14 games before Tuesday night's matchup with the Ottawa Senators, but you can't fault Zidlicky, who filled a long-standing need with his big right-handed shot. He's scored three power-play goals, including one game winner, and has nine points in total since being acquired from the New Jersey Devils. Playing with Brendan Smith as the team's third pairing, the experience of Zidlicky, 38, should continue to pay dividends as the playoffs unfold.
Erik Cole, RW, Detroit Red Wings
Cole, 36, filled a need as a power forward (albeit an aging one) who could help provide offense both at even strength -- a Wings weakness -- and on the power play, which is less of a weakness. Cole has been given lots of opportunity to succeed in his new home, playing some on the team's top unit with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader -- although he admitted in a recent chat with our Craig Custance that he has had moments where he's felt a little lost, and that has been reflected in his offensive production: three goals and three assists in his first 11 games. He is also dealing with an injury that has cost him three games. He is expected to return to action this week, but his durability could be problematic heading into the postseason.
Hard to imagine this deal working out any better for a Jets team that continues to scratch and claw its way toward its first playoff berth since moving from Atlanta. Myers, 25, the former Calder Trophy winner as rookie of the year, has rediscovered his confidence after it looked like he might be permanently derailed in Buffalo. Stafford, 29, has played top-six minutes and shown a penchant for producing goals and assists in a timely fashion. With the Jets dealing with injuries to top offensive players and Evander Kane gone to Buffalo in the deal, Stafford's contributions have been key to the Jets' playoff effort. Stafford told ESPN.com this week that the weight of losing took both a mental and physical toll in Buffalo, and he couldn't be happier to be back in the hunt for a postseason berth. The Jets are counting on contributions from both Stafford and Myers to extend beyond the end of the regular season.
The Kings remain on the outside of the playoff bubble and are continuing their dogfight with the Calgary Flames and Jets for one of the final playoff berths in the Western Conference. If they make it, figure that Sekera's presence since coming over from the Carolina Hurricanes will have been a factor in securing a postseason spot. While Sekera's point totals have been modest -- one goal and three assists in his first 16 games -- his impact on the Kings' blue line cannot be overstated. With Alec Martinez injured (he has since returned, also a huge boost to the playoff push) and Slava Voynov suspended, Sekera's arrival allowed head coach Darryl Sutter to cut back at least slightly on the demands being put on all-world defenseman Drew Doughty, which is no small thing. If the Kings do make the playoffs, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Sekera, 28, make even more offensive contributions.
Not all that surprising that it has taken some time for the skilled, puck-moving defenseman to integrate his skill set into the Rangers' lineup. Yandle, who had been playing with Kevin Klein before Klein was injured, had one point in his first nine games with the Rangers but has started to produce on a more regular basis. Building confidence and continuity takes time when you're talking finesse and working with other skilled players. The Rangers are one of the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference, and the presence of Yandle, 28, is one of the big reasons for those lofty expectations.
The veteran defenseman was injured when he was acquired by the Blues from the Arizona Coyotes and has played in just nine games, scoring once and adding an assist. He has bounced around playing with different partners as the Blues try to figure out what their playoff blue-line corps is going to look like, especially now that Kevin Shattenkirk has returned from injury. The team has played poorly of late, with one win in six games, but Michalek, 32, is the kind of big body and experienced presence that should serve the Blues well if they go on a long playoff journey this spring.
Like the Myers-Stafford combo in Winnipeg, Franson, 27, and Santorelli, 29, arrived early in the trade period from the Toronto Maple Leafs, so they have both had time to work into new routines and systems. The two were part of a long sideways slide in March, but the Predators have turned a corner and currently own the top spot in the Central Division. Franson has been playing with Ryan Ellis as part of one of the deepest defensive corps in the NHL. Meanwhile, Santorelli has played up and down the lineup, one of the reasons he was so attractive to a number of teams. Assuming players such as James Neal get healthy, expect Santorelli to add punch to the Preds' third or fourth line in the playoffs.
Stewart's name was in the trade winds virtually since the start of the regular season, but it wasn't until late on March 2 that the big winger was dealt. Stewart, 27, has chipped in nine points and is playing modest minutes, usually between 13 and 16 minutes a night, although those numbers could go up as he's playing mostly with captain Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter on what is a big, bruising forward unit. On a deep, talented Wild team that is looking to do damage come playoff time after a scorching second half, the key will be to keep the notoriously streaky Stewart producing when it matters most.
Vermette, 32, was the most sought-after pending unrestricted free-agent forward heading into the deadline and, with Patrick Kane lost long-term with a broken clavicle, GM Stan Bowman moved decisively to pick up the veteran forward. So far the returns have been modest, to say the least. Vermette has yet to score in 13 games and has moved up and down the lineup, collecting just three assists since coming over from the Coyotes. But, like Yandle, integrating skill into a lineup isn't a simple process. The Blackhawks will be happy if Vermette doesn't come out of his offensive shell until the games start mattering more.
Petry, 27, was another right-handed shooting defender whose name was connected to a variety of teams during the trade period. A steady presence along the blue line, Petry's value will be in providing defensive depth for a Canadiens team that has hopes of ending a Canadian Stanley Cup drought that dates back to 1993. With the Habs, Petry has played some with former Edmonton teammate Tom Gilbert, but has settled in more consistently with Alexei Emelin and regularly plays 20 to 22 minutes a night.
Wisniewski, 31, missed the first week after the deadline recovering from injury but has, as expected, had an impact on the Ducks' blue line, especially with his offensive upside. He has five assists in 10 games and had a three-game point streak after feeling his way in the lineup during his first few games. Wisniewski has been playing with a number of different partners, including former Penguin Simon Despres in a recent victory, and will be counted on to join with Francois Beauchemin in providing veteran ballast to a young and skilled blue line. With a couple of young netminders in Frederik Andersen and John Gibson shouldering the load in the playoffs, stability on the blue line is going to be key and Wisniewski will be counted on to provide that.
There are lots of things to like about the Lightning as they continue to battle the Canadiens for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. But apart from the goaltending of Ben Bishop, perhaps the biggest question mark will be whether they have enough defensive depth. GM Steve Yzerman moved to address that issue with the addition of veteran Coburn, 30, from the Philadelphia Flyers, but Coburn was hurt shortly after his arrival and isn't likely to return until the start of the playoffs. If he plays as he can, Coburn will eat up minutes with solid, but unspectacular, play. With the Lightning also missing Jason Garrison long-term and cornerstone defenseman Victor Hedman injured on Monday night, that's a potentially critical "if" for the Lightning.
Kimmo Timonen, D, Chicago Blackhawks
Like Vermette, defenseman Timonen, 40, was brought in to help secure wins in May and June, not March. Which is a good thing, given that it's taken time for Timonen to readjust to life as an NHLer after missing most of the season with blood-clotting issues. Timonen had zero points in his first 13 games back, and played just 9:15 in Sunday's last-minute win over the Jets.
How many times have the descriptors "ageless" or "future Hall of Famer" been attached to Jagr over the past three or four seasons? The trend is continuing in Florida, where the five-time scoring champ is playing with youngsters Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, and keeping the Panthers' slight playoff chances alive. Jagr, 43, had 12 points in his first 14 games with the Panthers, and it's easy to imagine him being a fit with the emerging Cats beyond this season -- even if they fall short of the postseason.