Cullen: Breaking down NHL trade deadline activity

Scott Cullen
2/27/2012 7:49:29 PM
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Now that the dealing has begun, here are Scott Cullen's breakdowns on the deadline transactions.

This blog will be continuously updated throughout the day, touching on all deals, while the more significant trades will get full Numbers Game articles.

Wojtek Wolski is a 26-year-old winger who has offensive upside, having scored a career-high 23 goals and 65 points in 2009-2010, but he's been maddeningly inconsistent and has managed 22 points in 46 games with the Rangers since he was acquired from Phoenix last season.

This season, Wolski played in only nine games for the Rangers, missing 31 games with a groin injury and then spending time as a healthy scratch. When he was in the lineup, Wolski played a career-low 11:20 per game, so the Blueshirts didn't do anything to enhance his value.

In Florida, the Panthers have enough need for a skilled forward that Wolski will get a chance to resurrect his career, again, and might even be a late-season sleeper.

Wolski's cap hit is $3.8-million this season and he will be a restricted free agent in the summer. If he doesn't play well enough down the stretch to earn a contract extension, he could be a candidate to not receive a qualifying offer in the summer.

In return, the Rangers received minor-league defenceman Michael Vernace, a 25-year-old who has 16 points and a plus-5 rating in 44 AHL games this season. He has played 22 career NHL games, but is an organizational guy. The Panthers also included a third-round pick in 2013 to complete the deal.

One of the hottest goaltending prospects in the AHL this season, Ben Bishop was enjoying a superb season for Peoria in the AHL. The 25-year-old was 24-14-0 with a 2.26 goals against average and .928 save percentage in 38 games, but had drawn interest because he was slated to be an unrestricted free agent unless he played in at least 17 games this season.

The Blues signed Bishop to a one-year, one-way contract extension, worth $650,000 before dealing him, which gives the Senators options as they try to fill in for injured starter Craig Anderson. Robin Lehner, the Senators' top prospect in goal, has played well in two starts for Ottawa (including Sunday), but has put up pedestrian numbers (3.38 GAA, .905 SV%, 27 GP) in the AHL this year.

If Bishop and Lehner are the top options for the Senators going the rest of the way, that leaves Alex Auld on the outside of the crease looking in, but a couple of promising young goaltenders should be able to play well enough to keep the Senators in their playoff position while Anderson is sidelined.

The Numbers Game piece is here.

26-year-old Grant Clitsome broke through in a short spurt last season, contributing 19 points in 31 games while playing more than 21 minutes a night, which earned him a new two-year deal in Columbus. However, his role has been dramatically reduced (after playing 22 minutes per game in October), and while Clitsome has 14 points in 51 games, he has four points in his last 34 games.

Clitsome provides depth for Winnipeg, a serviceable No. 6 or No. 7 defenceman who can fill-in on the power play in a pinch, and will be under contract through next season, at a cap hit of $1.25-million.

Montreal claimed RW Brad Staubitz on re-entry waivers from Minnesota. An enforcer who has played 6:30 per game while going scoreless in 43 games this season, Staubitz has fought 44 times over the last four seasons. He'll add muscle to the Canadiens' lineup for the rest of the season and since it's a re-entry deal, the Canadiens only pay half ($287,500) of his cap hit.

D Mike Commodore, 32, has been a spare part for the Red Wings this season, playing in only 17 games and just 11:30 per game. Commodore had two assists and a plus-3 rating, though his shot differential (plus-2.4 per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play; was worst among Red Wings blueliners this season.

Commodore was an effective defender as recently as 2008-2009, when he was plus-11 when playing nearly 23 minutes per game for Columbus but, as big as he is (6-foot-4, 230 pounds), Commodore's lack of mobility can be problematic.

Acquired for a conditional seventh-round pick, Commodore gives the Lightning a warm body to play out the rest of the season, possibly allowing the Lightning to deal a pending unrestricted free agent like Brett Clark.

The Numbers Game article is here.

D Keith Aulie is very big defenceman, but has struggled this season. With the Toronto Marlies in the AHL, Aulie has one assist and a minus-8 rating in 23 games.

The 22-year-old also had two assists and a minus-2 rating in 17 games with the Maple Leafs; his shot differential (minus-4.7 per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play; wasn't great, though he did face a high calibre of competition relative to other Toronto defencemen. He'll be groomed to move into a shutdown role for the Lightning, but if he doesn't progress to that point, Aulie should at least be able to make it as an NHL regular on the blueline.

20-year-old Carter Ashton has promise as a goal-scoring power forward and has 19 goals and 35 points with a plus-8 rating in 56 games with Norfolk. Ashton has slumped lately, with two goals and four points in his last dozen games, but with more time in the AHL, he could become a top-six forward and offers the size (6-foot-3, 206 pounds) that the Maple Leafs covet.

The Numbers Game article is here.

Lee, 24, has not been able to live up to his draft position (9th overall in 2005) and has spent most of his time in a sixth or seventh defenceman role. This season, Lee has played a mere 14:39 per game in the 35 games the he has dressed, scoring on goal and eight points with a minus-2 rating, while his shot differential (minus-4.8 per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play; was worst among Ottawa defencemen this season while facing a low calibre of competition.

At a cap hit of $875,000 against the cap this season, Lee will be a restricted free agent in the summer. He may not get much higher than sixth on a team's defensive depth chart, but Lee will get a fresh start on Tampa Bay remodeled blueline.

Gilroy is a 27-year-old that didn't have the immediate career impact that might have been expected when he came out of college as a Hobey Baker winner, but given a fresh start in Tampa Bay this season, Gilroy has 17 points and a plus-2 rating in 53 games this season.

Making $1-million this season, Gilroy will be an unrestricted free agent this year. He's an upgrade on the third pairing for the Senators right now. His shot differential (minus-2.7 per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play) is hardly special, but he was doing it for a Tampa Bay team that ranks 26th in shot differential.

Samuel Pahlsson, 34, has been a long-time checking centre who has accrued 81 playoff games during his career, playing a vital role in the Anaheim Ducks' Stanley Cup win in 2007.

Pahlsson's never been a scorer, topping out at 26 points in 2006-2007 and had two goals, 11 points and a minus-6 rating in 62 games this season. While Pahlsson had a negative shot differential (minus-3.9) and played his fewest minutes per game (15:02) since 2002-2003, he still faced a high calibre of competition (behind only Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger among Columbus forwards).

Joining Vancouver will give Pahlsson a chance to play for a contender in a role as a checker and penalty-killer. He comes at a $2.65-million cap hit this season and will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer.

The Blue Jackets get two fourth-round picks from Vancouver (one via Buffalo), along with ECHL defenceman Taylor Ellington. Derek McKenzie and Darryl Boyce will get more time in roles as checking centres for the rest of this season.

Johnny Oduya is a 30-year-old defenceman who will bolster a Chicago blueline that is currently missing Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador due to injuries. Oduya has played 19:20 per game this season, the fifth straight year that he's played at least 19 minutes per game.

When Chicago is healthy, Oduya should be a solid No. 5 defenceman and capable addition to the penalty killing unit.

Having added Grant Clitsome earlier in the day, the Jets have an easy replacement to slide into the lineup for Oduya and they get second and third-round picks from Chicago in 2013 -- not a bad haul for a decent veteran defenceman.

39-year-old Brian Rolston is on the last legs of his career and has managed just four goals and nine points in 49 games with the Islanders this season, despite ranking fifth among Islanders forwards in power play ice time (1:59 per game). Rolston does have 339 career goals and is a seven-time 20-goal scorer, so perhaps he might be able to capture something in short stint with Boston through the end of the season and into the playoffs.

Despite minimal goal production this year, Rolston ranked third among Isles forwards in shot differential (plus-4.9 per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play). He comes with a cap hit of $5,062,500 ( and will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer.

Mike Mottau, 33, has missed time with a concussion and hasn't played much when healthy for the Islanders this season, logging 14:11 per game in the 29 games he's played this season, recording two assists and a minus-10 rating. In limited ice time, Mottau has a minus-0.6 shot differential this year, which isn't quite as bad as his plus-minus indicates.

A standout at Boston College, Mottau has been a serviceable defencemen in recent seasons, good enough that he should be okay as the Bruins' seventh defenceman for the rest of this season. Mottau comes with a cap hit of $800,000 and, like Rolston, he'll be an unrestricted free agent this season.

Marc Cantin is a 21-year-old minor-league defenceman who has split this season between Providence in the AHL and Reading in the ECHL. Same goes for 23-year-old RW Yannick Riendeau; neither one figures to become an NHLer, making the deal merely a matter of cash savings for the Islanders.

GAUSTAD, fourth-round pick to PREDATORS; first-round pick to SABRES
Paul Gaustad is a 30-year-old checking centre who is good in the faceoff circle and adds some size (6-foot-5, 212 pounds) to the Predators' forward ranks. In the last three seasons, Gaustad has won 58.1% of his faceoffs and has played at least 15 minutes per game in each of the last five seasons.

While Gaustad can chip in a little bit offensively, his career highs are 12 goals and 36 points, but he has seven goals and 17 points with a minus-1 rating in 56 games this year and has zero goals and eight assists in 38 career playoff games.

Gaustad's shot differential is mediocre (minus-2.5 per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play;, but he faced the highest-calibre of competition of any Sabres forward this season.

An unrestricted free agent in the summer, Gaustad is a $2.3-million cap hit this season.

The Sabres included a fourth-round pick as a sweetener in the deal to help convince the Predators to meet their asking price of a first-round pick. While Gaustad is a decent player who may fill a useful role for the Predators in the playoffs, the Sabres have to be thrilled to get a first-round pick in return. Even a pick in the 20s has a chance to make a bigger impact than a checking centre.  

One of the game's premier shotblockers, 31-year-old D Greg Zanon has missed 16 games with a groin injury, yet he consistently blocks a couple of shots per game (104 in 39 games this season) and had the best shot differential (plus-0.5 per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play) among Wild defencemen as a result. He's played at least 18 minutes per game for five straight seasons and should be reasonable fit on the third pair and as a penalty-killer for the Bruins down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Zanon comes with a cap hit of $1,933,333 ( and will an unrestricted free agent in the summer.

23-year-old Steven Kampfer is a different style of player than Zanon. Kampfer is a strong skater with good mobility and puck skills, but he wasn't able to crack into the Bruins regular lineup this season, playing just 10:30 per game in 10 games. Still under contract through next season (at an $850,000 cap hit in the NHL), Kampfer will get a better chance to stick in Minnesota, but he'll still be facing a battle to earn regular playing time.

John Scott, 29, is one of the most fearsome fighters in the league. He's listed at 6-foot-8, 258 pounds and, according to has fought 21 times in his NHL career, winning every single one -- most decisively -- according to the votes on that site.

As a player, Scott is limited, shuffling between left wing and defence, he played under seven minutes per game. To his credit, though, his shot differential (plus-3.7 per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play) has been fine, understanding that he was protected in his usage. He's in the final year of his deal, making $512,500, and will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

While Scott doesn't figure to play a major role in New York, he is a nuclear option should the Rangers meet up with the Flyers or Bruins and things get overly physical. 

The Blackhawks get a fifth-round pick in exchange for Scott; not bad given his limited contributions (one goal, five points in 140 career games).

The Numbers Game article is here.

It wasn't the most exciting deadline day ever, but it looks like the Canucks and Predators did the most to help themselves right now.

Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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