What is the one goal every single, solitary professional sports team strives for? A championship! How do they get a championship? By collecting a group of individuals that come together as a team that have the talent and a bit of luck along the way to get to the promise land. How do they obtain those individuals? There are a number of ways to do so via trades, signings and draft picks. There are some of these in the NHL that already look good. Just look at guys like Connor McDavid in Edmonton, Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, and Alex Ovechkin in Washington; they have been the stars of their respective franchises since the day they stepped into the NHL. P.K. Subban was traded from Montreal to Nashville and it looked really good as he helped the Predators make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last season. Patrick Marleau signed with the Maple Leafs in the off-season and he will be a great veteran presence on a Maple Leafs team that looks to be up and coming. Unfortunately, where there are good transactions; there are also bad ones as well.
Bad trades, signings, and draft picks happen as often as two plus two equaling four; always! Sometimes teams just whiff on these types of deals because of low productivity from the players acquired. This list takes a look at those whiffs recently and ranks them from bad to terrible and then the very worst! This is going to be tough to write, and I'm sure this will be tough for you fans to read as well if it hits home to your team. Don't worry, we will all get through this together!
15 Trade: Jordan Eberle to New York Islanders For Ryan Strome
The Edmonton Oilers are one of the up and coming teams lately in the NHL. They have a superstar in Connor McDavid, who was recently named the youngest captain in NHL history. They also have a player in Leon Draisaitl that they locked up for the next eight years to be a dynamic duo alongside McDavid. They also had a solid group of veterans that helped lead them to a second round playoff appearance against the Anaheim Ducks. You figured that the Oilers would do anything possible to keep everyone together for another postseason run.
Well, you're wrong! They traded right winger Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders to play alongside John Tavares. This trade looks bad for both sides. Obviously, you have the Oilers that aren't keeping all of their veterans presences in tact which could hurt them down the stretch. But for the Islanders, why are they acquiring a player like Eberle that has been recently declining in past seasons? He's had two 60 point seasons and a 70 point season in the past, but ever since then; he hasn't been nearly as productive. Only time will tell if Eberle proves me wrong and shows everyone he still can put up big numbers like he has in the past.
14 Signing: Matt Cullen to Minnesota
The older you get, the slower you become. The slower you become, the more ineffective you are. The more ineffective you are...well, you get the point. This player clearly is not ready to hang up the skates as he signed a one year, $1 million deal this past offseason with the Minnesota Wild. The Wild, like the Oilers, are an up and coming team and even had a stretch last season where they were the best team in the NHL. But signing this individual was a real head scratcher. Matt Cullen has been a journeyman in the NHL for 20 years now. He has made stops in Anaheim, Florida, Carolina, New York, Minnesota, Nashville, Pittsburgh, and now back with Minnesota. His production has steadily gone downhill and his good days are behind him.
Sure, he has remained a solid player, but what production can a player in his 40s really do? It is nothing short of amazing to think that Cullen is still kicking around in the NHL. Maybe the Wild brought him in because of the familiarity aspect? That would be one's guess. But we will see at the end of the season if the Wild regret this signing, even though it is short term and short money!
13 Draft Pick: Jake Bean to Carolina
The Carolina Hurricanes are trying to do everything possible to come together for another Stanley Cup run like they made in 2006. They are not quite there yet, but they figured the 2016 entry draft would be the place to do so. If you are a top to mid-level first round pick, you are expected to be an impact player right away in the league. This guy has not lived up to expectations so far. Jake Bean is a defenseman who was selected 13th overall by the Hurricanes and was expected to step into the lineup right away.
That vision has taken a little bit of a detour as he is currently playing in the WHL for the Calgary Hitmen. Why would they waste a draft pick on a player that isn't ready to step right into the league if you are a team that is looking to build? You need that superstar like Crosby or Ovechkin or Bergeron that are big names to attract the fans.
12 Trade: Calvin Pickard to Toronto
When the Vegas Golden Knights were in the early stages of their entrance into the NHL, they were busy coming up with their planning of the first roster in team history. They went out and picked up some very known names such as James Neal, Marc Andre Fleury, and others. Every team needs a backup goalie, so the Knights ended up drafting Calvin Pickard. Pickard spent the first three seasons of his career splitting time in Colorado with Sergei Varlamov. He has a losing record thus far of 28-44-6 with a 2.77 GAA, not exactly the type of stats you want to make a case for winning a starting job.
The Knights recently traded Pickard to the Toronto Maple Leafs which leads to a lot of questions. First, why did they draft Pickard in the first place? Sure, they picked Malcolm Subban off of waivers to back up Fleury recently; but it still doesn't reveal what their true intentions were for Pickard in the long run. Also, why is Pickard going to Toronto where Frederik Anderson will get the majority of starts?
11 Signing: Nick Bonino to Nashville
The Nashville Predators were the Cinderella story of the NHL last season, making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before bowing out to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins. They were looking to find a few more pieces to their puzzle to get over the hump this season to lift Lord Stanley's Cup into the air. This guy unfortunately doesn't seem to be the answer to that request. Nick Bonino signed with the Predators in the off-season for four years and 16.4 million dollars. This was an interesting signing for the Predators based on Bonino's past production during the regular season.
He has never put up a 50 point season and been in the high 40s only once. He did have one great postseason during the 2015-16 season that included four goals and 14 assists. That is the one reason I can possibly think of that enticed the Predators to sign Bonino. What other reason is there to sign a guy that can't do it during the regular season? Postseason experience? Veteran presence? Yeah, those are nice. But if they don't make the playoffs, will the Predators be happy with a guy that can't really make an All-Star level difference?
10 Draft Pick: Michael McLeod to New Jersey
The New Jersey Devils used to be a premiere team in the 1900s and early 2000s. Now they are trying to regain that form in the year of 2017. They have a very good goaltender in Cory Schneider to build around, but they need more offensive firepower. In 2016, they had the 12th overall pick and they thought that they could draft an immediate impact player. So far in 2017-18, he hasn't had any statistics to back up that claim...seriously, there are no stats available! Michael McLeod had been spending the last few seasons playing in the OHL for the Mississauga Steelheads. He had a great season last year, putting up 73 points with 27 goals and 46 assists.
It seems pretty clear he is ready for the NHL, even if it is on the 4th line. So why isn't he getting a shot to help the Devils out? That seems like a mystery to a lot of Devils fans. Maybe they think he is still not ready. But, if they do not get McLeod on the ice soon; this will look like a bust of a draft pick more than it already is.
9 Trade: David Schlemko to Montreal
The Vegas Golden Knights just continue to make headlines with all of the shaking and baking they are doing with their roster in their expansion year. One piece of their transactions comes in the form of a player that hasn't even played 70 games in an NHL season yet in his nine year career! David Schlemko (what a name!) has been a part of multiple franchises. He spent most of his time in the Phoenix/Arizona franchise while making pit-stops in Calgary, Dallas, New Jersey, and San Jose.
Montreal has some good pieces in place but to trade for a guy that hasn't even registered a 20 point season is really baffling to all involved. When the Habs acquired Schlemko, they intended to keep Andrei Markov as well, but with Markov gone, their blue line is thinner and when Schlemko returns from an early season hand injury, he's going to be asked to do a lot more than was originally intended. That won't end well.
8 Signing: David Backes to Boston
The Boston Bruins have been looking to make a deep postseason run since their Stanley Cup run in 2011. They have some great goal scorers in Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand along with a young stud defensemen in Charlie McAvoy. They were looking in free agency last off-season for an impact goal scorer to help balance out the lines. They thought they had their man in David Backes. Backes had a fairly mediocre first season for the black and gold. He put up 17 goals and 21 assists in 74 games played. His 2017-2018 season hasn't started off well as he is on the disabled list for 3-4 weeks with diverticulitis. It is hard to see a guy like Backes go down with his toughness and abilities to create opportunities on the power play.
For now, the likes of Marchand, Tuukka Rask, and others will have to step up in Backes's absence. Unless he can come back and have a highly productive year like he did so many times for the Blues; he will be looked at as a bust of a signing.
7 Draft Pick: Olli Juolevi to Vancouver
If teams use their first round pick on a guy that doesn't play in the first season after selection, they usually come up to the big club within the next season or two afterwards. That's especially true if that player is a top five pick. With this particular player, he has played two seasons since being drafted. His numbers are not what the Vancouver Canucks want in order for him to contribute the way he should. Olli Juoveli was the number five overall pick in the 2016 NHL entry draft. In his two seasons in the OHL with the London Knights, Juoveli has 42 points exactly both times. He was low on the goals with nine and ten respectively along with 33 and 32 assists.
The bottom line is very simple: this guy is a top five pick in the draft. That means he should be making an impact right now after a year of growth and preparation. So how can he not be considered a bust if he hasn't played in the NHL yet and it is uncertain still when he will make his debut?
6 Trade: Tyler Graovac to Washington
The Washington Capitals have been the prime example of a team that has excelled in the regular season and failed miserably in the postseason. Some other examples in other sports where this has happened are the Buffalo Bills of the early 1990s or the Atlanta Braves in the late 1990s. Going back to the Capitals, they have a tremendous goal scorer in Alex Ovechkin, a top center in Nicklas Backstrom, and a top five goaltender in the league in Braden Holtby. The Capitals figured making some moves in the offseason would give them the capability to finally get over the hurdle that is the postseason.
One of those moves was for a guy who only played in 58 career games. Tyler Graovac was appeared in 52 games for the Minnesota Wild last season, registering seven goals and two assists. The Capitals need to make a bigger move than this if they want to make it to the Conference Finals, let alone the Stanley Cup Finals! This trade is definitely going to be a dud for a guy that hasn't played more than 60 games in a season. I wonder if the Capitals can learn a thing or two about winning moves from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
5 Signing: Antti Niemi to Pittsburgh
A former Stanley Cup champion, Niemi seemed like a sensible solution for the backup job for the Pittsburgh Penguins after the departure of Marc-Andre Fleury. Antti Niemi was a long time starting goalie in both Dallas and San Jose and won a Cup in Chicago in 2010. Now, he is a backup to Matt Murray. Now, I understand all teams need a backup goalie in case their primary goalie goes down.
But did they really need to sign Niemi? It seems that the Penguins were in a tough spot, losing Fleury to the Knights and they needed somebody. This was more of a panic signing if any. Expect Niemi to get about 25 starts this season if he is likely. His good days are behind him and his career is slipping. You had to look no further than his first start of the season when he was chased from the net in a 10-1 loss to Chicago.
Update: The Penguins clearly saw this was a bad move too, as Niemi has been waived and claimed by the Florida Panthers.
4 Draft Pick: Alexander Nylander to Buffalo
The Buffalo Sabres just locked up center Jack Eichel for the long term, essentially making him the centerpiece of their franchise. Along with a capable center in Ryan O'Reilly, the Sabres figured in the 2016 draft that they needed another high powered scorer to help those two out. They ended up drafting Alexander Nylander and so far, not so good to say the least. He appeared in four games last season registering one assist and a +/- rating of -2, not exactly the best start to your career.
Believe it or not, Nylander is a big key to the Sabres future success. Sure, Eichel is the main guy; but he needs some help too. O'Reilly has been good the past couple of seasons but if he can't produce at the same level, that is where a guy like Nylander can help a ton. Right now, it is not looking that way. But the season is young and he can easily turn it around at 19 years old. But right now, this hasn't been an encouraging pick in Sabres fans eyes.
3 Trade: Reilly Smith to Vegas
Las Vegas was going to get the lowest of the low, the players that other teams in the NHL didn't want to keep "safe" from being picked up. This defenseman didn't get chosen to be safe and before the draft, was involved in a trade to go over to the NHL's newest team. Reilly Smith has been an interesting player. He had two 50 point seasons in his career, one with the Bruins and one with the Florida Panthers. But then again, he has also had some lackluster seasons as well. Last season was a down one for him as he only had 37 points, 15 being goals and the other 22 being assists. This is quite a gamble of a trade for the Knights. Then again they are in Las Vegas, otherwise known as the gambling capital of the world. All joking aside though, this could end up being detrimental to the franchise and is already a bad trade to begin with. Reilly Smith definitely could have it worse though, he could be Jimmy Hayes!
2 Signing: Jimmy Hayes to New Jersey
Have you ever heard the expression "bodies to the net"? This typically means the biggest bodies will stand around the net and bang in the loose pucks in front of the net. This guy was supposed to be that kind of force when he came to the Boston Bruins, but fell well short of expectations. Jimmy Hayes was a big body that barely made a dent in the points sheet last year. In 58 games, he registered five points, two goals and three assists. He signed in the offseason with the New Jersey Devils on a one year deal. But the thing is, why would they want a guy like this? Sure, Hayes was signed on a very short deal, at $700,000. But why would a guy like this fit into what the Devils want to do? Maybe they are hoping Hayes is a 30 point guy with some clutch plays down the stretch. But for now, this signing just looks ugly. The ugliest of all transactions might come with the worst draft pick in recent memory coming up!
1 Draft Pick: Jesse Puljujarvi to Edmonton
Here it is, arguably the least encouraging NHL draft pick to recently occur. The problem with any of these professional sports is being an "in-between player". You aren't good enough to contribute consistently at the highest level or you're too good for the second highest level. This guy seems to be stuck in limbo. Jesse Puljujarvi was drafted fourth overall by the Oilers in 2016. He appeared in 28 games for the Oilers and had a goal and seven assists in his inaugural season. This year, he is back in the AHL playing for the Bakersfield Condors. So we get a sense of that stepping stone to get to the NHL and then staying there is so incredibly difficult.
Imagine if he worked out along with Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid; that would be an incredibly dangerous trio to try and stop. But right now, he is not looking good or shows signs of improvement.
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