For weeks it wasn't if Doug Weight would get traded to Ottawa, but when.
That's what made Monday's deal that sent Weight from St. Louis to Carolina so shocking. Well, there's that and the fact that in just a few short months the Hurricanes have transformed themselves from Eastern Conference afterthought to a team worthy of waiving a no-trade clause to join.
Weight fills Carolina's need for depth at center. He'll make their power-play better. He'll provide veteran leadership. As important: he's off the market. Ottawa probably needed him more.
It was a statement move that capped a 13-1 month. Carolina becomes the third team this season to sit atop the Yahoo! Sports Power Rankings.
(Records and rankings through Wednesday, February 1.)
1. Carolina Hurricanes (37-11-4; Previous: 2) – Nice job grabbing Doug Weight when Ottawa was widely considered to be the clear front-runner. Carolina's already-potent power play may be the league's best by season's end.
2. Ottawa Senators (34-12-4; Previous: 1) – Those fears about Dominik Hasek's durability, particularly in light of the condensed schedule, are growing now that backup Ray Emery (7.53 GAA in January) has hit the skids.
3. Detroit Red Wings (35-13-5; Previous: 3) – It has been quite a coming-out season for 2004-05 AHL All-Stars. The next to make a splash could be defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who had two assists Wednesday in his season debut.
4. Dallas Stars (36-15-2; Previous: 7) – If you have Dallas on the ropes, you need to pull out all the stops to land that knockout blow. The Stars scored in the final six minutes to force overtime in four straight wins last week. You won't beat this team in a shootout.
5. Philadelphia Flyers (31-13-8; Previous: 4) – Peter Forsberg is confident that his groin will be healed in time to allow a trip to Turin. Flyer fans are probably hoping he'll have a change of heart.
6. Buffalo Sabres (32-15-3; Previous: 5) – Maybe it's due to a long history of frustrations, but few teams roll with the punches as effectively as the Sabres. From Ryan Miller's injury to the inexplicable non-review against Calgary to the hit that sidelined Tim Connolly, nothing seems to faze these guys.
7. Nashville Predators (31-15-6; Previous: 8) – Mike Sillinger shouldn't have any problems fitting in with his new mates. He has plenty of experience with joining playoff-bound teams – Sunday's deal that sent him from St. Louis to Nashville was the seventh pre-deadline deal of his well-traveled career – and he has played with new linemates Steve Sullivan and Scott Walker in the past.
8. Colorado Avalanche (29-19-5; Previous: 9) – Coach Joel Quenneville is at a loss to explain his team's shootout woes. He pretty much has to pencil in Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk, but the two are a combined 0-for-10 in this season. Two more shootouts last week. Two more losses.
9. New Jersey Devils (27-20-6; Previous: 12) – After seven periods without a goal, the Devils beat Dominik Hasek three times in the first period Wednesday.
10. Calgary Flames (30-16-7; Previous: 6) – Calgary should have grabbed two points Monday when visiting a Blues team that was without Doug Weight and Mike Sillinger. Ditto for Wednesday's home tilt against Columbus. Those are points they have to have in order to hold off Vancouver.
11. New York Rangers (30-15-8; Previous: 11) – Monday's loss was a heartbreaker. Up 2-0 with less than 11 minutes remaining, the Rangers collapsed in an eventual 3-2 loss to the Flyers. Give the Rangers credit for avoiding a letdown Wednesday against Pittsburgh.
12. Vancouver Canucks (30-18-5; Previous: 10) – Somehow the Canucks won 7-4 Tuesday despite being outshot 42-26. Vancouver has allowed an average of 38 shots per game in the first five games of its current road trip. Not a good trend, and one that's not likely to reverse with defensemen Ed Jovanovski out for 6-8 weeks.
13. Tampa Bay Lightning (28-21-4); Previous 16) – After his team fell 6-0 to the Lightning Saturday, Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said Tampa Bay is playing the best hockey in the Eastern Conference right now. Presumably he forgot about Carolina, but it was a nice complement nonetheless.
14. Edmonton Oilers (28-18-6; Previous: 17) – So the Oilers beefed up their defense. But were they accumulating weapons for the stretch run or bargaining chips? General manager Kevin Lowe says the team still has one more need to address. No question he means the team will still land a goalie.
15. Anaheim Mighty Ducks (24-18-10; Previous: 18) – Teemu Selanne grabbed headlines by reaching the 1,000-point plateau, but it's the play of guys like Chris Kunitz and Joffry Lupul that has this team excited about making a playoff run.
16. San Jose Sharks (24-19-7; Previous: 13) – Jonathan Cheechoo set a team record Wednesday with his third hat trick of the season, and second against the Ducks. A pre-Olympic, five-game homestand will be critical to remaining in the playoff race.
17. Boston Bruins (22-22-8; Previous: 20) – Over the past month all journeyman goalie Tim Thomas has done is win six games while posting a 1.96 goals-against average. Anyone want to consider shipping him back to the minors after Monday's 5-0 shutout of Ottawa?
18. Los Angeles Kings (30-21-4; Previous: 15) – The Kings went just 3-4-2 against division opponents in January. Never at a loss for words, Sean Avery gave the Los Angeles Daily News the following gem: "We're in big trouble here."
19. Atlanta Thrashers (23-24-6; Previous: 14) – Ilya Kovalchuk was caught using an illegal stick Tuesday, the fourth such infraction of his career. It's been five games since a puck left his stick – legal or not – and found the net.
21. Minnesota Wild (25-24-4; Previous: 19) – Yes, that was defenseman Andre Zyuzin playing center Tuesday night. Injuries have not been kind to the Wild.
22. Phoenix Coyotes (26-25-3; Previous: 21) – Coyote fans will fondly remember goalie Brian Boucher's incredible run of five straight shutouts during the 2003-04 season. He was traded Wednesday as the team addressed its need for center depth.
23. Florida Panthers (20-25-8; Previous: 25) – Roberto Luongo's shutout of New Jersey Friday gave him 100 career wins. He probably thinks he should have more than that, however, which is why Florida can't nail him down with a long-term deal.
25. New York Islanders (23-25-3; Previous: 27) – In spite of all the turmoil, the playoffs are still in reach. Home games against Washington and Pittsburgh are must-wins, and the Isles did just that last week in building just their second three-game win streak of the season.
27. Washington Capitals (18-28-5; Previous: 26) – The Caps were surprisingly competitive playing without Alexander Ovechkin Tuesday. The rookie has had a hand in 47 percent of the team's goals this season, but Washington managed to stay even with the Islanders until a pair of late goals established the final 5-3 margin.
29. St. Louis Blues (12-31-8; Previous: 29) – What has gotten into the Blues? Leading scorers Mike Sillinger and Doug Weight were jettisoned, and the team responded by beating Calgary and giving Detroit all it could handle. Heck, trade Keith Tkachuk and St. Louis might make a playoff run.
30. Pittsburgh Penguins (12-31-10; Previous: 30) – Will Ric Jackman be the next Pittsburgh defenseman to find a new address? He has asked management to trade him if he can't crack the lineup, something he hasn't done with regularity.