Wednesday's NHL trade deadline produced 22 deals and 47 players changed teams, but the day lacked the wow factor. All that build-up, all the excitement, all those rumors and poof!
Chris Pronger, Jay Bouwmeester, Nikolai Khabibulin, Keith Tkachuk, Ryan Smyth, Marian Gaborik, Martin St. Louis, Milan Hejduk and Ilya Kovalchuk did not get traded even though all were rumored to be as good as gone at some point over the last few days, weeks and months.
The Red Wings, Capitals, Canadiens, Wild, Canucks and Predators, in fact, did nothing at all.
The marquee name included in the closest deal that could be classified as a blockbuster – Olli Jokinen going from Phoenix to Calgary – is the player who holds the unique distinction of having played more regular-season games than anyone in the history of the game (780) without appearing in a playoff game.
So, is this a bad thing? The complaint not long ago was players moved too frequently, and fans only rooted for the logo on the sweater. Not to share Brian Burke's grandstand, but trades would be easier, and maybe more frequent, if teams had the ability to divvy salary between the two parties. In the previous collective-bargaining agreement one team could take back salary to help facilitate a deal. And now with the salary-cap system, every dollar counts.
What some general managers may have learned is the sun will rise tomorrow if they don't strike a deal today. Mistakes can be made at the trade deadline, big mistakes. The kind of mistakes that could eventually cost a GM his job. Well, everyone not named Don Waddell.
With that in mind let's examine Wednesday's winners and losers.
• The Calgary Flames
The trade everyone likes is the Flames' acquisition of Jokinen in exchange for speedy, but inconsistent winger Matthew Lombardi and young forward Brandon Prust (draft picks went each way, too). The deal gives Calgary the potential to match up against the bigger playoff centers in the conference (Joe Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf, Mike Ribeiro, Mats Sundin, Henrik Zetterberg), and it gives the Flames much needed help at center ice.
But the reason I like what GM Darryl Sutter did on Wednesday was the package of Jokinen from Phoenix along with acquiring veteran defenseman Jordan Leopold from Colorado. Leopold played with the Flames before and he was a perfect fit with Robyn Regehr, who hasn't found the right partner since Leopold's departure.
These are two players who should fit in pretty easily. Jokinen is a Finn as is the team's top goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. And he played for coach Mike Keenan in Florida. The two had a good relationship there. Leopold is obviously familiar with the Flames, so that should work again, too.
There was a gap between the Detroit-San Jose pairing and Calgary, but that difference may have been closed significantly on Wednesday.
Speaking of the top two teams in the West – the Red Wings and the Sharks – both are winners in my book. And yes, I realize Detroit did nothing at all. The Wings didn't have to. They made a subtle addition at the last deadline – Brad Stuart – and they made a huge signing in the offseason with Marian Hossa. They're already a better team than the one that won the Cup last year.
The Sharks are a little backward from most. They have all the top-end talent you need, it's just the supporting cast that needs a tweak. And the only reason for that is because so many third- and fourth-liners are banged up (Torrey Mitchell, Mike Grier, Jeremy Roenick and Marcel Goc mainly). Adding Travis Moen adds grit, experience and a recent Stanley Cup to the third line. Kent Huskins gives the Sharks nine defensemen they can trust during a two-month run.
Boston did a nice job, too, adding pieces that should complement its group. Veteran forward Mark Recchi brings playoff savvy and still has plenty of skills, but he's not being asked to lead the way. Defenseman Steve Montador is an excellent addition because of his versatility, toughness and unselfish play.
Anaheim was in a tough spot. The Ducks had 11 unrestricted free agents, yet they are in the playoff chase. New GM Bob Murray did a tremendous job of getting value for the vets he knew he wasn't going to re-sign, and he started to reshape the defense in preparation for losing Chris Pronger and maybe Scott Niedermayer in the offseason. Assuming the team signs injured Francois Beauchemin, adding Ryan Whitney and James Wisniewski gives the Ducks three bigger defensemen.
Petteri Nokelainen could fill the role previously held by Sammy Palhsson and Anaheim received prospects and picks from San Jose for Moen and Huskins.
The Panthers did the right thing: they held on to potential unrestricted free agent Jay Bouwmeester. The team is playing too well with him, and they owe it to their fans to keep the group together to take a shot at the playoffs. And, you know, if Bouwmeester has a little success with the team in the postseason he might sink roots there.
Lastly, the New York Rangers continued to reshape their room and product on the ice with the addition of the big forward they have lacked – Nik Antropov – and a defenseman who can play big minutes and probably needed a change of scenery – Derek Morris.
The Capitals are an exciting team with holes – not enough bulk, grit and playoff experience on defense and very questionable in goal. And they did absolutely nothing on Wednesday.
Look around. New Jersey, Boston, the Rangers and Pittsburgh all got better by varying degrees Wednesday. The Caps stayed the same. Players notice those sorts of things.
Speaking of doing nothing, we present the Canadiens, Canucks and Wild. This would be the second straight trade deadline where Habs GM Bob Gainey has come up short. Montreal's goaltending is no more ready to win a Cup this year than it was last spring.
The Wild and Canucks are the same, maybe good enough to sneak into the playoffs, but in no way, shape or form are they ready to compete with the bigger teams in the West. Don't forget, Edmonton got better, too, and Calgary is a lock. Four teams are not going to make the playoffs from the Northwest division. So someone from that group will be out.
Los Angeles and Atlanta are not playoff teams, but both could have done more in rebuilding efforts. The Thrashers probably got even worse in losing Erik Christensen and Niclas Havelid. The Kings should have dealt goalie Eric Ersberg because they're going to have a logjam in goal soon. Tom Preissing slipped through waivers and was too expensive for anyone's liking. That was a mistake contract.
Nashville has to take a little grief. The Predators continue to hang around the final playoff spot with what appears an inferior roster.
So you once again have to give kudos to management, but at the same time a little more help would have been welcomed.