Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke was candid about why the trade deadline this season was sort of ... weird. It was the economy, plain and simple, as teams got the jitters about payroll and about what the salary cap will look like in two years.
Still, in the end, plenty of moves were made ... just not by some of the teams we expected to be active. A quick glance at six franchises that sat this one out, and what it might mean for their postseason aspirations.
Washington Capitals: Completely conspicuous by their absence, and not because of the reason so many hockey pundits think. The Capitals weren't trading for a goalie, and if they were it wasn't going to be for anyone to compete with Jose Theodore. He's their guy. They committed to him in the offseason, and then recommitted to him when he finally stopped giving up goals on his first two shots of the game. So forget the goalie stuff; it's only what people with a narrow view of the team wanted to see.
The defense ... that's a different story. I've been saying for months that the Capitals could use an upgrade, and evidently the team knew it, too. GM George McPhee spoke with Capitals Insider and revealed that the team had a casual pursuit of Derek Morris but was certainly in the mix for another big name: Chris Pronger. The price was too high:
"For us to do anything, it had to be an upgrade on what we had, and based on what was out there, there were not a lot of upgrades we saw that we could do," McPhee said. "Guys like Pronger and [Florida's Jay] Bouwmeester, but the price to get into that game wasn't something we were willing to pay. We had some discussions with Anaheim and it wouldn't make sense to go after Bouwmeester and have the guy be a free agent."
"We had talked to Anaheim a little bit," he added. "But we got the sense that they probably were not going to trade [Pronger] and if they did, it was going to cost us prospects [Karl] Alzner, [Simeon] Valarmov and [John} Carlson, all these young kids that we've accumulated and that didn't make any sense."
Detroit Red Wings: GM Ken Holland inquired about a few players, including Ottawa Senators forward Chris Neil, but ultimately decided that he didn't want to have to make a decision on a roster player in order to bring on any salary. The Wings aren't a team that "needed" to make a move, but adding a Neil or an Ian Laperriere would have been nice for postseason toughness. But that's why they keep Darren McCarty around, right?
Montreal Canadiens: In fairness, the team has added Mathieu Schneider and Glen Metropolit before deadline day. Neither of them is a replacement for Robert Lang. Getting Alex Tanguay back from injury isn't a trade. GM Bob Gainey wasn't aggressive at the deadline, basically waiting for his phone to ring with "something out of left field." It's nice that Gainey thinks this team is good enough to win as-is. It's also delusional in a brutally tough conference.
Vancouver Canucks: The team is on fire and playing good hockey, and Mats Sundin was a bigger addition than anyone that was moved at the deadline anyway. But the Canucks were clearly in the running for Jay Bouwmeester and didn't pull the trigger. Will they regret it?
GM Mike Gillis said in his press conference that he was looking at deals that "in the short term are high risk and in the long term are total risk." He's been a guy who seemed willing to take a risk, but perhaps flipping Mason Raymond and Kevin Bieksa was too rich for his blood.
Gillis can rest on having a team that's won 11 of 12. "If that's the mix that we have, we were perfectly happy moving ahead with it."
Minnesota Wild: Another team on the playoff bubble, and another team that stood pat. Michael Russo of the Star Tribune explains how it went down:
I was told by a very good source that Marian Gaborik was in play, but clearly the Wild wasn't able to find a market. Asked if he tried to trade Gaborik, Risebrough would only say, "No." Like I said, I trust my source though, and it would make no sense that the Wild wouldn't at least dangle a carrot.
Assistant GM Tom Lynn said the Wild was in a "major deal" up until this morning, and then it fell through. Talking just now to Risebrough, and reading between the lines as you'll read tomorrow, I think it was for Jokinen again. The Wild was just not willing to give up a young player and definitely not willing to give up a first-round pick in any big deal, Risebrough said.
Olli Jokinen on the Wild would have been an interesting fit, but giving up a No. 1 for a player that still wouldn't elevate Minny to elite status was probably a smart decision.
Nashville Predators: I'm absolutely stunned that they didn't upgrade their offense. Dave Pagnotta of TFP reports that "the Predators tried to acquire Alex Ponikarovsky" from the Leafs, but fell short.
Several players were available that could have helped this team; yes, they all have defects to some extent, but that's why you have a coaching staff that puts players into the position that best allows them and the team to succeed. Miroslav Satan could have been had basically for free, and would have been well suited as a 2nd/3rd line winger and power play specialist, which is the exact hole that Poile had been seeking to fill.
Even if the asking price was too high for other forwards like Bill Guerin or Nik Antropov, then why didn't one of the pending UFA defensemen like Greg de Vries, Greg Zanon, or Ville Koistinen get traded for future assets? The impression one is left with is that Poile's infamous patience got the better of him. While the team on the ice is doing the best they can, the front office just failed in their biggest test of the season.
Agreed, wholeheartedly. Look at what the Columbus Blue Jackets did, and look at what the Predators didn't do. It's as simple as that.