NHL Trade Deadline looms with big names on the table

NHL Trade Deadline Looms with big names in play

NHL Trade Deadline Looms with big names in play

One of the most exciting and interesting days of the hockey season is nearly upon us. With just seven

days until the deadline, general managers all over the NHL are positioning themselves to deal a number

of assets before the deadline passes next Wednesday.

 

The trade deadline hasn’t been the firework filled affair that it was a few seasons back, when teams

would swap assets willingly, but rather a day of measured decisions that has been impacted by in-

season deals.

 

Thanks to Ray Shero’s brilliant maneuvering, the Penguins managed to add a trio of well-seasoned

veterans to a roster that was already teeming with talent. As a team expected to be a major buyer,

the Penguins haven’t disappointed. Even after acquiring Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray last

week, Shero managed to pull an 11th hour deal for Jarome Iginla to polish off a roster only found on the

memory of an Xbox or Playstation.

 

Things may shift significantly with Iginla off the market. Since the deadline’s biggest name has already

moved, there may only be ancillary trades made for most of the day next Wednesday. That isn’t to say

that there won’t be any shocking deals – there always is – but the expectations will certainly be lower

than they were before the Iginla deal went down.

 

If you’re holding out hope that this deadline will have some fireworks, pin your hopes to the fact that

the salary cap for next season is dropping and there will be teams looking to get out from under heavy

contracts. If a team is desperate enough, there might just be some big names moved.

 

Down at one Seymour H Knox III Plaza, Darcy Regier is likely working the phones on a handful of hockey

trades. Local media (and some national media) have wondered if Jason Pominville, Ryan Miller or even

Thomas Vanek could be on the block as the Sabres look to hit the reset button on their roster.

 

I, for one, think that Regier could find solid value for Pominville and Miller. However, he may be better

suited to shop that pair in the offseason as the league’s general managers have a better idea of how

they will settle into next year’s cap situation.

 

Maybe Regier will managed to pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade that ships out one of the team’s

core leaders before the clock strikes midnight on the third. However, I expect to see at least three trades

come from the Sabres. Two will be to ship out potential rental players (see: Regehr and Leopold) while

the third will be a textbook hockey trade.

 

Regier made a brilliant move last year when he sent Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani to

Vancouver for Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer. While Sulzer was a pleasant surprise, Hodgson has

blossomed into a dynamic scoring center. It was a trade that benefitted both organizations and went a

long way in addressing a primary need that the Sabres had. The same could be said of the deal he swung

to acquire Steve Ott and Adam Pardy. The Sabres gave up something, but also obtained pieces that can

be used now and in the future.

For a team in desperate need of a fresh start in a number of places, don’t be surprised to see Regier

swing a trade that not only improves the roster, but that you didn’t expect to see come through.

There are some names that keep cropping up in trade rumors, here are a few thoughts on each:

 

Ryane Clowe: Now that Iginla is off the market there isn’t necessarily one single pending UFA who could

be considered the gem of the deadline class. Clowe is one of those players that every team wants. He is

a gritty forward who isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty while adding a significant offensive touch. Granted,

he has gone a long while without scoring a goal this season, but he still has the type of intangibles that

playoff teams value.

 

Reports point to Clowe’s pricetag as a first round pick and a prospect. That is an awful lot to pay for a

rental who hasn’t scored a goal yet this season. However, for teams who are desperate for depth on the

wing, Clowe will be an attractive option.

 

Robyn Regehr/Jordan Leopold: For those fans in Buffalo, this hits a little closer to home. Both

defensemen have playoff experience, are upcoming free agents and are playing for a team that has been

said to be selling on everyone. Regehr has been connected to a number of Western Conference teams,

namely the LA Kings while Leopold has also had his name crop up in a number of circles.

 

While many fans may scoff at the idea of Regehr or Leopold fetching any sort of return, remember

that Regier managed to snage a first round pick for Paul Gaustad last season. While neither of these

defensemen would be worth that much, don’t be surprised if they bring back more than many were

expecting.

 

Derek Roy: Here is a name that has only been mentioned recently as some reporters have indicated that

he and the Stars haven’t been able to reach an agreement on a new contract. Aside from the fact that

the Steve Ott trade would look that much better for the Sabres, Roy could certainly be worthwhile on

the trade market.

 

Roy does have some limited playoff experience and is a gifted playmaker. He is also an adept faceoff

man who can kill penalties if need be. He is a valuable asset and could certainly fetch an impressive

price tag if the right team came calling. Considering that the Blackhawks and Kings missed out on Iginla, I

could see them kicking the tires on Roy.

 

Valterri Filppula: Filppula is one player who I don’t expect to get moved. While he is a pending free

agent, the Wings will likely look to keep him on board for this season’s playoffs and for the long-term as

they will soon see some of their world-class mainstays skate into retirement.

 

While Filppula would be a tremendous asset for any team to add, I’d also expect the asking price to be

high. One scenario I could envision would be a team looking to rebuild offered a number of pieces to the

Wings in exchange for Filppula (with the hope of re-signing him) and picks. While it might be unlikely,

that’s probably the only way he is moved.

 

Even if Iginla is the only name on this list who is traded next week, it will mark the biggest name moved

at the deadline in a number of years. Just for that alone, this will be a fun deadline to keep track of.

Goalie Equipment Topic

CCM GP500 Goalie Pads

CCM GP500 Goalie Pads

With some interesting topics being discussed at the GM meeting (coach’s challenge) there have also been a number of no brainer topics floated by the league’s general managers. One in particular, goalie equipment, is something they should seriously consider.

Based on reports, adjusting the size of goaltending equipment appears to be the second most likely topic to move forward beyond cocktail napkins and off-hand conversations. Compared to the debate over grandfathering visors, the rules behind adjusting goalie equipment would be more difficult to fight.

Although there isn’t much room for sweeping change, I think adjustments to what goaltenders can wear could be made. More importantly, these changes can be made without sacrificing the safety of those in net.

After the last lockout, goaltender’s pads were reduced from 12 to 11 inches in length to go along with restrictions to the size of the glove and blocker. Additional restrictions cover internal portions of the pads (knee and calf wings) along with chest protectors. One recent development with chest protectors addressed the build of certain units. The rule states that the chest guard must be anatomically proportional to the goaltender wearing it.

Anatomical restrictions are where I think the league has some room to work when considering new rules to enact.

As it stands now, the league has a rule that stipulates a Limiting Distance Size for each goaltender based on specific measurements that determine the size of goal pads. This requirement ultimately determines the specific height that determines what size pad a goaltender can wear. This basically prevents goaltenders from wearing the largest pad manufactured to maximize blocking area.

While you can’t get much more anatomically correct than that, the rule doesn’t necessarily prevent goaltenders from adding length to the top of their pads. Ironically that is the specific area Kay Whitmore said they could target.

Not all humans are made equal. One 6’1” individual may be top tall and have shorter legs than another person of the same height. Because of this, different goalies wear different sized pads. For example, I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of 6’ and 6’1” and I fit quite well into a 36 inch pad.

Specifically, the pads I wear now are 36+2 – an extra two inches on the standard thigh rise – and they fit quite well. However, that actually makes my pad 38 inches in total. If I tried to wear a traditional 38 inch pad I would swim in it. However, the advent of the thigh rise extension allows my pad to fit me perfectly while still offering the coverage of a longer piece of equipment.

Without getting into the tangled history of goal pad design, the thigh rise extension began picking up steam in the professional and retail world about seven or eight years ago. Adding length to the thigh rise of a pad adds additional five-hole coverage without affecting the overall performance of the goaltender. If the NHL were to limit the size of a goaltender’s thigh rise, I think you would see a number of goalies with significantly different equipment next season.

A couple of goalies who immediately come to mind are Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury. Both are phenomenal goaltenders who also happen to use a fairly significant thigh rise on their pads. While the rise they use on their respective Bauer and Reebok pads wouldn’t completely disappear, it could be limited by a new rule. This wouldn’t affect how their pads fit in anyway, it would only alter the amount of net the pads cover when each goaltender is in the butterfly.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that either would see their play altered by this change, but if they were reliant on the coverage provided by the thigh rise on their pad, there could be a slight adjustment period.

Luckily this isn’t a change that will be felt by amateurs playing travel or in local adult leagues. Unlike the sweeping change to 11 inch wide pads, there will be little change (if any) to the pads you will be purchasing. Retail models of pads would never be affected by such a rule (even if it is reflected in lower levels) which means that the only difference you will see is from the masked men you watch each night in the NHL.

What needs to be determined is if this will actually result in any sort of change in goals scored. I doubt there will end up being any sort of significant change. There will be a few more pucks that find a way through the five hole, but ultimately you’re still talking about the exact same butterfly goalie getting his pads on the ice.

Ultimately I very much doubt that this change would bring about a change in goal scoring, which would be the prime motivation for enacting such a rule. However, when you talk about providing goalies with even a little less room to stop the puck, some change could come about.

In the Crease: Finding the right neck protection

Vaughn Goalie Neck VPC

Vaughn Goalie Neck VPC

One piece of a goaltender’s set of equipment can be overlooked is the type of neck and collar protection they choose to utilize. There are a host of products that can be used by goaltenders and finding the right combination will not only ensure safety but effectiveness as well.

Since goaltending is a position in which you’re exposed to puck battles, skates and sticks in a confined area, the chances are higher that an errant piece of equipment will find a way to hit you. Not to mention the fact that your opponent is slinging a frozen rubber disc at you for three periods.

There are two primary options when it comes to neck protection for a goaltender; a Lexan dangler or a traditional neck guard. Whether using one of these options, or both, it is important that a goalie finds a comfortable option that maximizes protection.

The Lexan throat guard really began to gain popularity as more NHL goaltenders began using them in the 1990s. The dangler hangs off a goaltender’s helmet and serves to protect from direct or deflected pucks and sticks. When worn properly it fills the space between the end of your helmet and the top of your chest protector.

One drawback that goalies find with the dangler is that it can be difficult to adapt to. While the protection it provides is unparalleled, it can be clumsy and even fog up at times. Of course, for every goalie who is uncomfortable wearing it, there are three who can’t play without it.

Personally, I was never able to find a comfort level with the dangler. Even after a deflected puck caught me under the chin, my play suffered after I added the dangler because I couldn’t find the proper fit. My issue, like many others, was finding the right length to hang the dangler from my mask to ensure full protection and minimal interference with my chest pad. Making sure that your dangler is at the proper height as to not catch on your jersey or chest pad is vital because the protection it offers will come at a steep price should it affect your play.

The silver lining here is that a dangler is 100% adjustable and removable. This isn’t like any other piece of equipment that offers limited adjustments that need to be adapted to. Some goalies wear it loose so that it moves freely when they look down or to the side; whereas others tie it tight to their mask so the two move as one unit while extending their neck protection. It is an accessory that can simply be removed if it bothers you too much.

Great Skate carries models from Bauer and Reebok and neither product is cost prohibitive to the point that it isn’t worth purchasing to at least test out to see what kind of comfort level you have.

The second option that all goalies have for neck protection is the collar throat guard. This is worn around your neck and is specifically designed to prevent cuts from skates, sticks or pucks. Collar neck guards are designed to fit comfortably around your neck while allowing for maximum mobility. All models are Velcro adjustable and offer full neck and extended collarbone protection.

These specifically keep you from suffering dangerous cuts from skates or sticks and also offer impressive protection from direct puck impacts as well. However, this isn’t as effective as a dangler when protecting from direct or deflected shots.

Vaughn’s VPC neck guard is perhaps the most popular at the NHL level and is barely noticeable when worn on the ice. It features a low profile design that doesn’t get caught up with the chest protector while still offering full protection. This is the model I choose to use and I would never go on the ice without it. The throat and collar protection are phenomenal and I don’t even realize it is on when I’m playing.

Reebok has also begun to manufacture a number of impressive models in this line. Their TCRBK has a very similar construction to the Vaughn model and offers full neck and clavicle protection. They have also developed a larger option that has additional clavicle protection. The Reebok TCPro is built with beefed up shoulder and collarbone padding to go along with the traditional neck guard. Reebok also introduced the padded goal shirt recently that basically has their traditional neck and collarbone protection built into a full base-layer long sleeve shirt. This is a new product designed to maximize protection and comfort by eliminating the need for an additional piece of equipment under your chest pad.

All goalies should use at least one of the Lexan dangler or collar neck guards. Playing a position that can expose a player to dangerous situations, ensuring your safety is vitally important. Trying on the different neck guards sold by Great Skate will give you an idea of what fits you best and using practice time to find the right comfort level with your collar guard and/or dangler is the best way to figure out how you feel about each of these.

After a few ice times trying each out, you’ll certainly know what works best and you can begin using that set up in each game moving forward.

Warrior breaking tradition with goal line

WarriorWarrior’s introduction to the hockey world has been far from ordinary. After building a strong niche with their stick and glove designs; the company recently ventured into the realm of goal equipment. Warrior pulled pad guru Pete Smith to head the design group building their goal equipment.

This isn’t a new strategy for Warrior, as they also pulled experts from other companies such and Innovative and MIA for their stick and glove departments in the past. For goaltending the company has really begun to push the envelope with their new line of chest protectors.

The new Ritual line has unveiled a number of new features that will easily set their equipment apart from traditional powers. For 2013, the Ritual Pro will have all of the new bells and whistles that include a few additions that haven’t been considered in chest pad design.

The most obvious of these changes is the Shockshield feature on the arms of the unit. This is a hard plastic cap that is designed to disperse the impact of the puck while increasing protection over the typical soft pad. The Shockshield is designed to float just above the rest of the arm guard to offer additional protection.

While this certainly seems like an interesting addition that will surely increase protection, one worry has to be the chance of rebounds coming off the arms harder than they usually would with a softer design. Even though the number of pucks bound to hit your arms on a game-to-game basis might be low, the difficulty of trapping a puck between your arm and chest could certainly be difficult should the plastic Shockshield kick pucks out.

Warrior also built the Shockshield to function in unison with the Axyflex system that is designed to maintain maximum protection while increasing comfort and flexibility of a goaltender’s arm. Much like a sliding toe bridge allows for your skate to be at a better angle of attack, the Axyflex has a similar feature on the outside of the elbow that slides in and out with the arm guard as you bend your elbow. Quite literally, the Axyflex is a mechanical hinge that will increase flexibility at what has traditionally been an awkward and bulky area of a chest protector.

Introducing the Axyflex and Shockshield designs are two very interesting steps for Warrior to take simply because they are truly groundbreaking additions. While the Ritual Pro has many features found with other manufacturers units, these two additions set the equipment apart for a very good reason.

The rest of the build is fairly traditional. The Ritual has more of a tapered fit as opposed to a bulky, boxy fit that should maximize mobility for the wearer. This is a design feature that is reflected throughout the line with the Ritual senior, intermediate and junior models.

The remainder of the line reflects many of the major design features seen on the pro model just without the two new innovations – Shockshield and Axyflex. This means that the rest of the line is a far more traditional looking and feeling chest protector that maintains the protective and mobility that Warrior has built in the past and has improved upon this year.

One feature that the entire line does have is the Adjustable Chest Height system. This is nothing more than a Velcro strapping system that will tighten or loosen the fit of the chest pad depending on how high a goaltender wishes to wear the unit. What is so interesting about this is that it eliminates the annoying nylon straps adjusted with various plastic pulleys that are the norm on nearly every other chest protector ever manufactured. The Ritual’s system makes adjustments incredibly quick, easy and comfortable as there is little guess work as to where the most comfortable setting will be found.

Warrior’s new Ritual chest protector line will be hitting stores soon and the impressive new designs will be available to the public before you know it. For those considering a new chest pad purchase this year, be sure to consult with a Great Skate associate once the Ritual is in stores.

Goalie Pads: Too loose, too tight or just right?

Bauer Supreme One90 Sr. Goalie Pads

Bauer Supreme One90 Sr. Goalie Pads

Compared to the equipment that goaltenders had at their disposal 15 years ago, the position has changed drastically. Not only has the technical side of the game changed, but the effect equipment has on the position has changed as well.

With the evolution of the position, pads have evolved to complement the pro-fly style that is seen used by a majority of goaltenders at all levels. Not only has the design and technology of pads changed, the way goaltenders wear them has changed as well.

The way goaltenders wear their pads is one major difference from the way things were done just 15 short years ago.

Back when it was more important to have the goaltender and his pads move as one, the rule of thumb was to keep your pads farily tight from the bottom straps right up to the top. But as the butterfly style has become the predominant approach to goaltending, wearing a loose pad has become the norm.

The science behind this trend is fairly straightforward. The outer straps on a pad are designed to hold that pad against a goaltender’s leg and move as the goaltender dictates. The tighter the straps, the closer the pads mimic a goaltender’s movement. With the strapping system kept, the pads have more freedom to move around a goalie’s leg to provide the maximum amount of blocking surface.

While the traditional approach was to keep your pads tight to your legs so that a goaltender could move freely and react to the puck, the current methodology reflects the changes in both the technique and equipment used for the position. A fairly basic set up would be to have your bottom straps kept relatively tight and loosen as you go up the pad. Yet many goalies are keeping all of their straps quite loose with the hope of covering more ice and putting their equipment in a position to cover more net.

There are benefits to both styles, although modern pad technology can be negated if a pad is worn too tight. Pads like the new Vaughn Ventus and Warrior Ritual are designed with a flat blocking surface that is meant to lay flush against the ice. When a goalie drops into a butterfly with their straps loosened, the pad with rotate around his or her leg as the inner portion of the pad hits the ice. If the pad is too tight the face of the pad will end up laying on the ice rather than facing the shooter.

Many NHL goaltenders wear their pads very loose. A great example of this is Marc-Andre Fleury who wears his Reebok Premier Series 4 pads very loose. This not only ensures that the full face of the pad will be facing the shooter, but it also allows him to cheat the play in some ways. Of course this isn’t cheating in the traditional sense.

By wearing a very loose pad, Fleury’s pads almost hang on his legs as opposed to being strapped right against them. This strategy will allow the pad to hang closer to the ice surface when Fleury’s legs are pointed in a downward angle, thus limiting the distance they need to travel to cover the bottom of the net. This is a useful strategy and has become popular at all levels of hockey, but in order to be effective in utilizing a very loose pad, be sure your pads have interior support along the leg channel – typically Velcro to hold your knee and calf in place. If your pads don’t have these supports and you outer straps are kept loose there is a good chance your pads will flop around and it will be very difficult to move and make saves.

Not all goalies practice this, however. Those goaltenders who rely more on athleticism than simply blocking area use a slightly tighter set up to ensure the pad will not hinder their movement in the crease. Ryan Miller is a great example of a goalie who keeps his pads a bit tighter. Even Miller does keep his pads loose enough to rotate around his legs properly of course.

The key for any goaltender is to find a strapping set up that makes you feel comfortable, keeps you safe and utilizes all the technology your pads have to offer. All pads are designed to rotate around your legs and goalies of all ages should ensure there is some room for this to occur. Finding the most comfortable and effective way to strap your pads is important and you should practice with a few different variations to find what works best for you.

Not only will you be able to try out different ways to strap your pads in Great Skate’s goalie specific section, but you should also make sure the strap set-up you choose works on the ice.

Don’t just go into a game thinking that you want to wear your pads like Marc-Andre Fleury before you know if a very loose pad is right for you. Take a practice or two to try out a few different methods of strapping your pads so you know what will be comfortable and what makes you the best goalie you can be.