Several years ago, when the Sabres were in the midst of a goaltending controversy, we stumbled across a trade suggested by a fan on the interwebs. This well-reasoned, highly-plausible proposal was as follows: The Sabres would trade Ryan Miller and Martin Biron to the Devils for Martin Brodeur and Colin White. The fan explained that this solved everybody’s problems, and was one of those win-win deals for both teams; the Sabres would be giving up a headache of a goaltending controversy and be acquiring a hall-of-fame netminder still in his prime, and would shore up their D with a top-pairing, physical defenseman with a Devils pedigree and two Stanley Cup rings. Meanwhile, the Devils would be giving up the cornerstone of their franchise and their top D-man and be getting in return the entirety of the Sabres’ goaltending controversy. It made perfect sense! How did that trade, and the billions like it suggested by fans every year, not get made? Because professional NHL general managers are chicken, or stupid, or both, that’s why! In the spirit of that trade that never happened, here are a few proposals of how we’d be moving players around right now if we were GMing the Devils and any number of other teams.
1. John Madden and Johnny Oduya for Vincent Lecavalier.
Everyone knows the Lightning have depth issues, and are a bit thin on the blue line now with Dan Boyle needing more surgery for his freakishly injured wrist. So this trade would address both of those needs, giving them a suddenly-spry third-line center who’s found an unexpected bit of scoring pop and a young, salary cap-friendly defenseman with that coveted Devils pedigree. Meanwhile, giving up Lecavalier would give them a little more breathing room under their horrifically mismanaged salary cap, thereby affording them the opportunity to find some NHL-caliber goaltending. As for the Devils, this would be a tough one to swallow for the fans, but eventually they might warm to Lecavalier filling in the gaping hole left at the top line’s center after that guy, what’s-his-name, left as a free agent. Sure, on paper this looks heavily stacked in the Lightning’s favor, but in the long run this would probably end up being a pretty even trade.
2. Kevin Weekes, Cam Janssen and Johnny Oduya for Henrik Lundqvist.
This is another one that, on paper, really seems to be stiffing the Devils, but hear us out. The Rangers, like the Lightning, are in tight under the cap, and have a lot of money locked up in a very few forwards. It only makes sense for them to trade Lundqvist now while they can still get something back for him, instead of losing him to the greener pastures of free agency. This deal would give them a replacement goaltender who also happens to be a guy who was Tom Renney’s goalie of choice during the 2006 playoffs — clearly the man has a ton of faith in Weekes. In Cam Janssen they’ll be picking up a “bash brother” to accompany Ryan Hollweg on what is sure to be the hardest-hitting (and most suspendable) line in hockey, making the Rangers the most fearsome team in the big, bad Atlantic Division. And in Oduya they’ll be getting the low-priced, puck-moving defenseman their stagnant offense needs. It seems like a lot to give up, but we’ve got a lot of faith in this Lundqvist kid. We think he’ll be a capable backup for Marty, and is a sound investment in the Devils future.
3. Patrik Elias and Johnny Oduya for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Now that Bill Wirtz is gone and the Blackhawks are finally allowed to see the light of day again, it’s time for them to make a bold statement that the time is now for the team and its fans. And nothing makes as bold a statement as going after, and catching, the one that got away, right? There was all kind of innuendo in the summer of 2006 that the Hawks were in the running for the big free-agent prize that was Patrik Elias, a signing that would have meant he and long-time buddy Martin Havlat could pair up on a totally kick-ass line that would never dream of falling short of expectations. Elias, of course, got cold feet at the last moment and re-upped with the Devils, but that’s nothing that can’t be remedied now with a little give-and-take between these two teams. Also thrown into the mix for the Hawks would be a steadying presence on the blueline in Oduya, a point-producing defenseman who came up under the tutelage of the Devils vaunted defensive development system. In return the Hawks would be giving the Devils some young zip to toss in with their currently moribund offense. Kane and Toews have a lot of upside, though, so it would be worth it to the Devils to have to put in the work of shaping them into full-time, regular NHLers.
4. Johnny Oduya, a fifth-round draft pick and a conditional draft pick for Henrik Zetterberg.
The Red Wings seem very happy with their free agent acquisition of Brian Rafalski, and we can’t blame them — the guy’s a power play point-scoring machine. But he’s also got a lot of miles on the odometer, and we worry they might find themselves, in a not-too-distant future, yearning for the days when Raffie was a young, slow, turnover-prone PP specialist. Well, have we got the player for them! Johnny Oduya is a considerably-less-expensive (and not at all commensurately less talented) version of Rafalski, but clocks in at about 25 years younger. We realize that kind of youthfulness makes the Red Wings nervous, but we’ll be able to alleviate some of their anxiety about such a risky pick-up by tossing in a choice draft pick. In exchange for this offensive-defensive juggernaut, we’ll take Henrik Zetterberg as a rental; if we can re-sign him in ’09, we’ll send another fifth-rounder Detroit’s way.
5. Johnny Oduya for Scott Stevens.
“Wait,” you’re thinking, “Didn’t Scott Stevens retire? As a Devil? Years ago?” Yes, he sure did. And we think we can solve a boatload of problems for several parties if we can swing this deal to bring him back to the team. Of course we don’t expect him to play — he’s 700 years old and retired with concussion problems. But here’s the thing: we’d be sending Oduya to Stevens’ house, giving Donna Stevens a younger, quicker guy to help out with chores around the house and to help keep up with the kids. In return, Scott would get a chance to enjoy all-expenses-paid trips to exotic places like New York City, Philadelphia, Long Island, Pittsburgh and… well, that’s about it. And what would the Devils get? Well, we’d get a chance to reminisce about better times while not having to watch Johnny Oduya on the ice. Actually, come to think of it, we’ll throw in Brian Gionta and Patrik Elias while we’re at it.