With the Olympics wrapping up, and the trade deadline today, this week’s Stock Watch takes a bit of a different approach. Let’s have a look at whose Olympic performances might carry over into the NHL season, and who might be moving on deadline day.
Pavol Demitra, C, VAN—Demitra’s injury problems and ability to produce when healthy are both well documented. This season has been a particularly disastrous one, and Demitra has posted just 4 points in 11 games with the ‘nucks. That being said, Demitra led the Olympics in scoring with 10 points, and was instrumental to the Slovaks’ inspired run. He won’t spend any time paired with a triggerman like Marian Hossa in Vancouver, but with the Sedins drawing the opposing team’s best checkers, Demitra could quietly post some numbers down the stretch.
Evgeni Nabokov, G, SJ—Nabokov’s meltdown against Canada in the quarterfinals was surprising to say the least. To be fair, Nabokov’s defence offered no support, and coach Vyacheslav Bykov probably should have yanked him sooner. Still, just ask Marc-Andre Fleury how much one loss can shatter your confidence. It took Fleury quite some time to return to form after his famous own goal at the 2004 World Junior Hockey Championship.
Brian Rafalski, D, DET—After three straight seasons of 50+ points, Rafalski was on pace for just 39 this year. He was outstanding in the Olympics though, posting 8 points through 7 games. As the Red Wings get healthy and start to click, look for Rafalski to post big numbers down the stretch.
Sergei Kostitsyn, RW, MTL—Kostitsyn earned six points in seven games for the Habs prior to the Olympics, and five in four games with Belarus. Keep in mind he put up those 5 points with absolutely no offensive support, as Mikhail Grabovski and Andrei Kostitsyn were both forced to miss the Olympics. With Mike Cammallerri still rehabbing his injured knee, the Habs would love to see Kostitsyn’s inspired play continue.
Rick Nash, LW, CLB—Nash may not exactly be a feasible “buy” in your league, but I have every reason to expect that his play will improve over the rest of the NHL season. This has been a difficult season in Columbus, but Nash was impressive throughout the Olympics, particularly in a shutdown role against Alex Ovechkin. Nash has often been viewed as a one-dimensional offensive player, but his play at the Olympics certainly seems to indicate he has matured.
Keep Your Bags Packed
Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW, TOR—Brian Burke must have been salivating when Montreal dished out a 2nd round pick to acquire Dominic Moore. Ponikarovsky is probably the second best offensive option expected to move on deadline day, after just Ray Whitney. Consider the fact that Ponikarovsky is still young, and could be locked up long term, and you could argue that Ponikarovsky would be an even better acquisition than Whitney.
Ray Whitney, LW, CAR—There’s a lot to like here from a rental perspective. Whitney has 8 seasons with 20+ goals, and is a weapon on the power play. He’s also won a Stanley Cup fairly recently, and brings loads of experience to the table. Whitney wants a contract extension before he will waive his no-trade clause, which could limit the Hurricanes’ bargaining power. As the deadline approaches though, it’s difficult to imagine Whitney passing up a trade to the likes of say, the Penguins, even without a contract in place.
Others Who Might Move
And Have Some Fantasy Value
There have been rumblings of Tomas Vokoun being moved, but I just don’t see it happening. Vokoun isn’t getting any younger, so he would only fit into the plans of a team that’s trying to win now.
A quick scan of the teams currently jostling for playoff position yields but a few teams who might want to improve between the pipes—Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, and Chicago.
Chicago is pressed up against the cap, and would need to move Brent Sopel and another high priced player to make this work. They could conceivably move Cristobal Huet, but there would be absolutely no reason for the Panthers to downgrade their goaltending situation without allowing themselves financial flexibility, unless there was a heap of draft picks or prospects coming their way, or the teams somehow worked out a three way deal.
Of the teams mentioned above, Atlanta is my personal favourite scenario. Management really needs this team to make the playoffs this year after dealing away Ilya Kovalchuk, or risk losing a significant chunk of their fan base. Atlanta has the cap space to pull this off, and stability in net could get this team into the playoffs.
On a final note, Jordan Leopold is worth watching now that he’s with the Penguins. His puck skills and offensive prowess could allow him to put up some big numbers, but the Pens already have Sergei Gonchar, Alex Goligoski, and Kris Letang as capable puck movers. Still, the Pens powerplay has underperformed so far this year, so Leopold could get a shot to see if he can shake things up.