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Six big winners during the Worst. Trade. Deadline. Ever.

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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There was probably a moment in which you realized the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline was a slumbering anti-event of tepid speculation and overhyped transactions.

Perhaps when a Tom Gilbert for Nick Schultz swap was analyzed like Chelios for Savard. Perhaps when the Leafs' War Room looked as enthused as the waiting room at a proctologist's office. Perhaps it was when even the beer didn't help any longer.

For me, it was when I saw Brad May giving figure skating tips to Garry Valk between panel hits in our Sportsnet studio. A beautiful moment, no doubt, but a reminder that there were better things to do than break down Mark Fraser for Dale Mitchell.

Sixteen trades, not a hell of a lot happening … but there were some winners.

Winner: Johnny Oduya to the Chicago Blackhawks

Oduya has always struck me as a poor man's Brian Campbell, and not just based on the value of this contract. He's a great skater who can be an afterthought defensively at even strength. As Sam Fels wrote on Second City Hockey:

He was a good puck-mover, good skater, and solid in his own end. Since being traded to Atlanta/Winnipeg his game has slipped. That could be because of the less talent and structure found in that organization, or just a natural regression of a player. We'll find out.

If Oduya maxes out, he's basically a plus-Chris Campoli from last year. He can help the Hawks transition game and breakouts, and maybe even aid the second unit on the power play. He's a decent penalty killer as well.

The Blackhawks didn't address their most glaring need (second line center) and decided to let it ride with their goaltending. But if you're someone that believes the Hawks haven't been the same team without Campbell's speed and puck-moving on the blueline, Oduya can be a suitable proxy.

Winners: Free-Agent Goalies

There wasn't a goaltender moved at the NHL Trade Deadline this season. Some, like Evgeni Nabokov, were unavailable; others like Jonathan Bernier, carried big price tags or weren't seen as sure things.

Ah, but conditions change in the summer, when no less than 30 goaltenders of varying degrees of experience go unrestricted. Again, the issue is how many of these guys can make a difference; but why trade for Tomas Vokoun or Josh Harding when you can sign them this summer? (Or, if you're bold enough, you can dabble in the Cristobal Huet business.)

Winner: Darcy Regier

He turned Zack Kassian into Cody Hodgson. He turned Paul Gaustad into a first-round draft choice. He probably could have turned a plate of Buffalo Wings into duck confit with truffles. But most importantly, the Buffalo Sabres GM may have turned some of his critics around. From Tim Redinger of Sabres Noise:

I was talking to many people throughout the day that were uttering the groans of a depressed fan base, longing for a general manager that would put together a championship team, instead of throwing mediocrity on the ice and telling us to deal with it because that is what was available to them.

Darcy stood up to the plate today, and while we all saw whiffing at wild pitches, he was constructing a plan that would send this one 500 feet over the center field wall. Darcy deserves high marks for this trade deadline, but then again, we have been here before.  Steve Bernier, Raffi Torres, and Brad Boyes all come to mind.  What makes this one any different?  For right now I give Darcy a solid B+ for this trade deadline deal.

The real test will be in the summer, when Regier will either roll with what he has or admit this team has some systemic problems, leading to a move of Derek Roy or some other key player. (Rhymes with "Shmyan Schmiller?")

Winner: Brian Rolston

On Monday, Brian Rolston cleared waivers for the New York Islanders, the rest of the NHL passing on his veteran skill set. His time with the Islanders was at an end; at 39 years old, his future in the League was uncertain.

Now he's a member of the Stanley Cup champions.

Rolston was traded with defenseman Mike Mottau for Boston Bruins' minor leaguers Yannick Riendeau and Marc Cantin. Said GM Peter Chiarelli on Rolston, who has four goals in 49 games:

"[He] hasn't had a great year," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli admitted. "But I feel he's a motivated player. [He has a] terrific shot, can really skate, and he'll add to our depth and versatility. He can move up and down the lineup."

In 48 hours, Rolston went from the Islanders to the scrap heap to potentially being the next Mark Recchi for the Bruins. Not bad.

Winner: Andrei Kostitsyn

While the hockey world was still reeling from Mike Richards and Jeff Carter being reunited in Los Angeles, here's another unlikely NHL reunion that came to pass: The Kostitsyn brothers with the Nashville Predators.

C'mon, if this was going to happen, you were thinking KHL, weren't you?

Instead, Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn have a change to challenge for the Stanley Cup with the all-in Nashville Predators, in what could be the swan song for Ryan Suter. From Josh Cooper in The Tennessean:

Andrei, like Sergei, fell out of favor with the Canadiens, but the Predators were satisfied with their homework on Andrei after some initial trepidation.

"When we got Sergei, I heard nothing but bad things about Sergei — that he couldn't do this, he couldn't do that, he couldn't do this, he's not going to help you, all those types of things," Coach Barry Trotz said. "They're wrong, we're right — Sergei is one of the best things. We virtually gave up nothing and got our first-line left-winger. … He's a good player. I expect the same thing of Andrei. I know he's a terrific talent, and he can play."

And if they don't work … hey, they're both free agents this summer (Sergei's an RFA). Package deal!

Winners: Washington Capitals Fans

Finally, the Washington Capitals' inaction shows that GM George McPhee understands there might not be quick fixes for this schizophrenic club.

From the Washington Post:

"I think our fan base," McPhee said Monday, "I think we've been doing this long enough that they understand that if there was something to do we would've done it, because we always have, but we're not going to make mistakes."

In the long run, considering that the Capitals are already without their top centerman and the prices were high in an extreme sellers' market at this year's deadline, time may prove that McPhee was right not to pawn young assets and draft picks in order to push this year's team over the top.

Elliotte Friedman's take:

Washington Capitals GM George McPhee's decision not to make rental moves at the deadline makes it obvious he doesn't see a winning hand. Three non-Ovechkin reasons: Washington dropped from fourth to 19th (so far) in goals against; Mike Green still looks sore after missing 47 games; and Nicklas Backstrom remains out with a concussion. One has got to think McPhee lacks optimism on the possibility of Backstrom's return.

That doesn't explain why he wouldn't free Mike Knuble from the press box, which would have been a classy thing to do for the veteran now-spare part. But it does point to McPhee understanding that this team has problems that go deeper than the deadline.

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