2012 NHL Trade Deadline: How The Fight for 8th Changes

By acquiring Cody Hodgson, the Sabres improved relative to the rest of the bottom half of the Eastern conference.

The Sabres' deadline moves improve the Sabres for the future, and make them a little better off for the rest of this season. Losing Gaustad's size, face-off ability, and penalty killing minutes hurts, as does losing the depth provided by Kassian and Gragnani, but adding a talented playmaking center more than covers the losses. Also important to the Sabres' playoff run is what the rest of the conference did. In this post, I'll recap what the other teams fighting for 8th did, starting at the bottom of the conference with Montreal.

Montreal

The Canadiens made one move on deadline day, trading away Andrei Kostitsyn, who had fallen out of favor with coach Randy Cunneyworth, to Nashville for picks. The Canadiens also claimed enforcer Brad Staubitz off waivers. The deadline moves followed the mid-February trade that saw Hal Gill and a 5th round pick traded to Nashville for a pick and prospects Robert Slaney and Blake Geoffrion, the 2010 Hobey Baker winner. Geoffrion is going to get a shot playing on the Canadiens after his Monday recall from Hamilton of the AHL. The Canadiens were clear sellers and are positioning themselves nicely to claim the 2nd pick in the draft.

In: Brad Staubitz, F

2013 2nd-round pick
Cond. 2013 5th-round pick

Out: Andrei Kostitsyn, F

Sellers

NY Islanders

The Islanders traded veterans Brian Rolston and Mike Mottau to Boston for prospects Yannick Riendeau and Marc Cantin. Riendeau and Cantin were assigned to AHL Bridgeport. Rolston had 4G, 5A in 49 games and Mottau had 0G, 2A in 29 games for New York. The Islanders gave up some NHL talent for prospects, which makes them sellers, but they aren't much weaker of a team for it. From purely a team mindset view, it looks like they're throwing in the towel for the season, although they're only one point behind the Sabres with one more game played.

In: Yannick Riendeau, F
Marc Cantin, D

Out: Brian Rolston, F
Mike Mottau, D

Sellers

Carolina

The Hurricanes stood pat on deadline day as they have for all of February. Keeping pending UFAs Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek is a sign that the Hurricanes still believe they have a shot at the playoffs. Further, they extended Tuomo Ruutu and Tim Gleason before the deadline. The Hurricanes have been happy with the team's performance under new coach Kirk Muller, who took over in late November, and are looking to make a run.

No Moves

Tampa Bay

The Lightning made three moves, bringing in defensemen Brian Lee, Keith Aulie, and Mike Commodore while giving up Matt Gilroy, Carter Ashton, and a conditional pick. At first glance, it looks like the Lightning were buyers. However, the Ashton for Aulie trade with Toronto exchanged two players who were in the AHL, although Aulie will transition back to the NHL with the Lightning. Commodore had only played in 17 games with Detroit, recording 2 assists. Gilroy had 2G, 15A in 53 games with the Lightning, while Lee had 1G, 7A in 35 games with the Senators. Lee is more defensive minded than Gilroy, and will be a RFA in contrast to Gilroy, who will be an UFA at the end of the season. The Lightning are improved by bringing in three defensemen who they will use in the NHL at the expense of a single NHL defenseman and a prospect. However, these moves follow trading away Steve Downie, Dominic Moore, and Pavel Kubina for picks and prospects earlier in the month. The Lightning were deadline buyers, but February sellers, when all of their moves are considered. It looks like the Lightning aren't putting much stock in the rest of this season, although they marginally improved their team on the deadline, while building for the future throughout the month.

In: Brian Lee, D

Keith Aulie, D

Mike Commodore, D

Out: Matt Gilroy, D

Carter Ashton, F

Cond. 2013 7th-round pick

Deadline Buyers, February Sellers

Toronto

Toronto swapped minor league players with the Lightning and the Ducks. After a 1-7-1 slump leading into the deadline, Brian Burke showed confidence in the group of players they have. Burke considers this slump to be "10 bad days out of 180 days in the season." Toronto does not look like a playoff team right now, and fortunately for the Sabres, they didn't change their look.

In: Dale Mitchell, F

Carter Ashton, F

Out: Mark Fraser, D

Keith Aulie, D

No NHL Moves

Winnipeg

The Jets were 4-0-2 leading into the deadline, and they wanted to keep the team intact. Trading Oduya for draft picks and claiming Clitsome off waivers leaves the team slightly worse off. Clitsome had played in 51 games with Columbus, registering 4G and 10A. Oduya had 2G and 11A in 62 games. Oduya had some productive seasons with the Devils, but never returned to that form with the Thrashers/Jets. The Jets are deadline sellers, but keeping the majority of the team intact suggests that they're still making a playoff push.

In: Grant Clitsome, D

2013 2nd-round pick
2013 3rd-round pick

Out: Johnny Oduya, D

Sellers

Washington

Washington kept their team intact. There were rumors that disgruntled players Mike Knuble and Roman Hamrlik would be moved, but they both remain in Washington. Knuble will be an UFA at the end of the season. Washington thinks they have enough pieces to make the playoffs in a Southeast division that is still up for grabs.

No Moves

Florida

The Panthers made their move 2 days early, trading away minor leaguer Mike Vernace and a pick to the Rangers for Wojtek Wolski. Wolski is only 26, and followed up being chosen in the first round with 4 consecutive seasons with 42 or more points with Colorado, including a 65 point season in 2009-10 with Colorado and Phoenix. However, he has failed to come close to that form in the past two seasons, even spending time in the AHL this season. Bringing in Wolski, who will become a RFA at the end of the season, makes the Panthers buyers. They're trying to remain at the top of the Southeast.

In: Wojtek Wolski, LW

Out: Mike Vernace, D
2013 3rd-round pick

Buyers

The only teams at the bottom of the East that are improved after the deadline are the Panthers and Sabres. Carolina, Toronto, and Washington didn't make any changes to their NHL rosters, and Montreal, the Islanders, Winnipeg, and Tampa Bay were sellers. Montreal and the Islanders are the only teams that appear to have given up on the playoffs, while Tampa still appears to be trying after having sold earlier in the month. The Sabres still have to deal with many playoff contenders in Florida, Carolina, Toronto, Washington, Winnipeg, and Tampa Bay, but they have benefited from improving their team more than their competition, excluding the Panthers. The Sabres had a successful deadline by improving relative to their competition, while also helping build for the future.

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