Thursday the 1999 first-round draft pick was involved in one of a record 25 deadline-day trades that went down. The haul this time: 31-year-old defenseman Brendan Witt.
Welcome, hockey fans, to the salary cap era in the National Hockey League.
Trying to keep a trade tracker updated Thursday was exhausting. But if you were waiting around for a headline-grabbing blockbuster, you were sadly disappointed.
In those 25 trades, 40 players changed teams. For the most part teams favored fine-tuning over a complete overhaul. Defensemen were in demand. Backup goalies were a hot commodity.
Even teams that probably won't make the playoffs – see Toronto and Florida – opted against blowing up their rosters.
Plenty of teams pretty much played spectator Thursday, but for the sake of stirring up debate, each NHL team is branded a winner or loser in the latest update of the Yahoo! Sports Power Rankings.
(Records and rankings through Thursday, March 9.)
1. Carolina Hurricanes (43-14-5; Previous: 1) – Winners. Carolina needed to fill the scoring void created by the injury to Erik Cole, and in Mark Recchi it gets a veteran scorer who can still do some damage on the power play. If Ottawa was interested as rumored, this is an even bigger coup for the Canes.
2. Detroit Red Wings (42-15-5; Previous: 2) – Losers. This was not unexpected. Without any glaring needs to address and with no salary cap room for a luxury addition, Detroit stayed out of the fray, adding only a third-pairing defenseman in Cory Cross. The road through the playoffs got tougher when Edmonton, Detroit's first-round opponent if the playoffs started today, loaded up for the stretch run.
3. Dallas Stars (41-19-3; Previous: 3) – Winners. Nothing more than a little fine-tuning was expected here, and that's all Dallas did. In Willie Mitchell, the Stars get a reliable defenseman who eats minutes and led Minnesota in plus-minus. Consider this insurance against Janne Niinimaa remaining in a funk.
4. Ottawa Senators (41-15-5; Previous: 4) – Winners. They didn't run out and get a rental, so the Senators must not be too worried about the near-term health of goalie Dominik Hasek. Claiming Michael Morrison off waivers from Edmonton was a shrewd depth move. Tyler Arnason gets a change of scenery and a chance to thrive as Ottawa's No. 2 center.
5. New York Rangers (36-17-9; Previous: 5) – Winners. The Rangers defense, while reliable, was almost totally devoid of flash. Enter Sandis Ozolinsh, whose willingness to jump into the play borders on reckless. A worthwhile gamble, particularly when the price tag was only Ville Nieminen, who was dealt to San Jose in a separate deal to clear cap room.
6. Buffalo Sabres (40-16-5; Previous: 6) – Losers. Martin Biron stays, meaning the Sabres move forward with one of the best 1-2 goalie combinations in the business. But Biron hasn't been the most content backup, and his value clearly peaked back in December when his 13-start win streak was intact. Before he was dealt Thursday for a second-round pick, Mika Noronen called the proceedings "… stupid and a big joke."
7. New Jersey Devils (32-22-8; Previous: 7) – Winners. As owners of a 16-4-3 record since Jan. 1, the Devils weren't expected to make any major moves. They didn't, instead adding some solid character guys for the playoffs. Defensemen Ken Klee and Brad Lukowich are good fits and Jason Wiemer provides toughness up front.
8. Philadelphia Flyers (35-18-10; Previous: 8) – Losers. The Flyers were aiming higher. Mark Recchi was rumored to be on their wish list. So was Todd Bertuzzi. Instead Philadelphia landed Niko Dimitrakos, who had fallen out of favor in San Jose. Defenseman Denis Gauthier strengthens their penalty kill, but he has yet to live up to his pre-draft hype.
9. Edmonton Oilers (32-22-9; Previous: 14) – Winners. Already this year's team that nobody wanted to face in the playoffs, the Oilers just got a lot better. Edmonton's goalie search yielded 2004 All-Star Dwayne Roloson and in Sergei Samsonov the Oilers add a speedy winger to a group of young forwards that already gives opposing defensemen fits.
10. Colorado Avalanche (36-23-6; Previous: 10) – Losers. They traded David Aebischer for a goalie who may miss the rest of the regular season, then learned their top goal scorer has played his last game of 2006. The Avs needed to add pieces, not lose them, for a stretch run in a division where three points separates first from third.
11. Vancouver Canucks (35-23-6; Previous: 11) – Winners. Vancouver needed help for its injury-depleted blueline, and it got just that in landing Sean Brown, Keith Carney and Eric Weinrich. But the biggest acquisition may have been upside-goalie Mika Noronen.
12. Nashville Predators (37-19-7; Previous: 9) – Losers. To Nashville's credit, this is a well-built team that didn't need to do much. But just behind them in the standings, Colorado took a huge gamble, Vancouver loaded up, Los Angeles added two pieces essentially for free and Edmonton hit a home run. The Preds' addition of Brendan Witt was more like an infield hit, and Nashville had to sacrifice a first-round pick to get him.
13. Montreal Canadiens (30-23-9; Previous: 17) – Winners. Montreal loses a Vezina winner in Jose Theodore, but also cuts loose a distraction while saving about $3 million per season. Between Cristobal Huet and David Aebischer they'll find a goalie capable of shouldering the load. Now it's just a matter of spending that $3 million wisely.
14. Los Angeles Kings (35-24-5; Previous: 18) – Winners. If you believe the rumors, the Kings nearly shook up the Western Conference by acquiring goalie Roberto Luongo from Florida. Now that would have spiced things up. Instead they get former 30-goal scorer Mark Parrish and an underrated defenseman in Brent Sopel from the Islanders for a pair of prospects.
15. Calgary Flames (36-19-7; Previous: 12) – Losers. Miikka Kiprusoff may well carry this team deep into the Western Conference playoffs. Or the Flames may regret not adding a center worthy of sharing a line with Jarome Iginla. GM Darryl Sutter had pretty much said the Flames wouldn't make a splash at the deadline, and he was true to his word, acquiring only underachieving forward Jamie Lundmark from Phoenix. Not enough.
16. Anaheim Mighty Ducks (29-20-12; Previous: 16) – Losers. Some curious moves here. Sandis Ozolinsh and Keith Carney say goodbye. Both where key contributors to Anaheim's run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2003. With apologies to Jeff Friesen, the Ducks' most valuable acquisitions Thursday were draft picks.
17. Tampa Bay Lightning (33-26-4); Previous 13) – Losers. Tampa Bay has allowed at least four goals in five straight games. Twice that goals-allowed figure reached eight. Plenty of goalies were on the market, but the Lightning couldn't land one. Or they didn't try. John Grahame and Sean Burke may turn it around – they did it once before – or the Lightning may pay the price for sitting this one out.
18. San Jose Sharks (29-23-9; Previous: 15) – Losers. The Sharks needed a wing for Patrick Marleau's line or a solid defenseman who can move the puck. Instead they got a gritty forward in Ville Nieminen. He's a great final piece for a sure-thing playoff team, not a difference-maker for a team that has catching up to do.
19. Atlanta Thrashers (30-27-6; Previous: 23) – Losers. To get serious about a playoff run, Atlanta needed to get much better on defense. They addressed depth at the position by acquiring Steve McCarthy from Vancouver, but he's more likely than not a rental and not one likely to make a difference. Keeping center Marc Savard was a plus.
20. Florida Panthers (24-29-9; Previous: 22) – Winners. Olli Jokinen stays. So does Chris Gratton. By locking up those keys pieces, Florida increases its chances of re-signing Roberto Luongo in the offseason. He wanted to know the Panthers were committed to winning, and keeping Jokinen sends a message.
21. Minnesota Wild (30-28-6; Previous: 20) – Winners. Everyone knew Dwayne Roloson was gone, so in a sense Minnesota landed a first-round pick and defense prospect Shawn Belle in exchange for Willie Mitchell. Solid moves for the future.
22. Boston Bruins (25-28-10; Previous: 19) – Losers. Boston has now traded two of the top eight picks from the 1997 draft just as both players were reaching their prime years. Sure Sergei Samsonov was struggling with injuries this year, but after losing Joe Thornton earlier in the season, it's a surprise that the Bruins didn't sign Samsonov to an extension before it came to this.
24. St. Louis Blues (18-32-10; Previous: 24) – Winners. With Doug Weight and Mike Sillinger already dealt, most of the dealing was already done before Thursday's deadline. Youngsters like Dennis Wideman, Lee Stempniak and Jay McClement have shown potential. The Blues could be next season's quick turnaround team, so management was wise not to further dismantle the foundation.
25. Phoenix Coyotes (29-30-4; Previous: 25) – Winners. General Manager Mike Barnett says the team will have roughly $20 million to spend in the offseason. Most of the league-high six trades Phoenix pulled off Thursday had salary implications.
26. Toronto Maple Leafs (28-28-5; Previous: 26) – Losers. Toronto basically did nothing. If the Leafs are serious about a playoff run, why didn't they add a piece or two for the stretch drive? If they're building for the future, where are the building blocks? Seems like management was afraid to wave the white flag, a moment of pride that may hurt them in the long run.
27. New York Islanders (28-29-4; Previous: 27) – Winners. Mike Milbury's final moves as Islanders GM were modestly effective. The first move – sending Mark Parrish and Brent Sopel to the Kings – essentially signaled the end of New York's playoff hopes. But in return New York got a pair of former first-round picks from Los Angeles who are still considered prospects.
28. Washington Capitals (22-33-6; Previous: 28) – Winners. The Caps have some serious building to do around Alexander Ovechkin. By dealing Jeff Friesen and Brendan Witt – two players who don't figure into the team's long-term plans – the Caps acquired two more picks in the 2006 draft and now will have five selections in the first two rounds. It's a start.
29. Chicago Blackhawks (20-33-9; Previous: 29) – Winners. Acquiring Brandon Bochenski was a step in the right direction. He spent some time on Ottawa's top line this season and had 22 goals in 33 games down in the AHL. He's a pure goal scorer, which fills a need on a team that ranks 29th in scoring.
30. Pittsburgh Penguins (14-37-12; Previous: 30) – Winners. In exchange for Mark Recchi, Pittsburgh got two young forwards and a second-round pick in the 2007 entry draft. Not bad considering Recchi's advancing age (he's 38). Niklas Nordgren recently spent time on Carolina's No. 1 line and Krystofer Kolanos is a former first-round draft pick. Getting rid of troublesome defenseman Ric Jackman was also a plus.
- Mark Recchi