There were no bargains to be found for the handful of NHL general managers that waited until the last minute to do their shopping.
The quietest deadline day in a decade was tipped decidedly in favour of the sellers. No one made out better than the Edmonton Oilers, who pried highly rated prospect Colten Teubert and two draft picks out of L.A. for Dustin Penner.
That package was too alluring for Oilers GM Steve Tambellini to ignore. Negotiations really picked up in the final 48 hours before the deadline.
“It became evident that the return was going to fit in with what we’re trying to do here,” Tambellini told reporters in Edmonton. “Now we have significant options here with what we want to do going forward.”
It was a price the Kings were willing to pay because GM Dean Lombardi believes his team is ready to take the next step. There weren’t many others in the same position.
Don Maloney hopes he’s positioned the Phoenix Coyotes to make a playoff run after landing defenceman Rostislav Klesla from Columbus for Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto.
Managing a team that continues to be run by the league, he wasn’t in a position to add to his payroll. Even if he was, there isn’t much more he figures that could have been done.
“It was a limited pool of players available,” Maloney said in an interview. “There are so many teams still that believe that they can be a playoff team. At the most, there was only half a dozen teams looking to move out bonafide NHL players.”
One player who didn’t find a new home is Dallas Stars forward Brad Richards. Ultimately, he was never approached by GM Joe Nieuwendyk and asked to waive his no-trade clause.
He’ll be the highest-profile free agent to hit the open market on July 1 if the Stars aren’t able to sign him to an extension before then.
When it comes to trades, inflation definitely seems to have set in around the league. A total of four first-round picks changed hands ahead of this year’s deadline as teams were forced to pay a higher premium to acquire roster players.
The prices seemed to scare some managers off in the final hours.
“We could have done a lot of different things if we were prepared to move high draft picks,” said Flames GM Jay Feaster. “Some of the prices that were paid—first-round picks and former first-rounds picks as prospects that are moving—(wasn’t appealing). …
“We have to stop the deficit spending as I call it. We just can’t keep giving up next year’s second(-round pick) because you never get caught up.”
Another factor in the slow deadline day was the unusually high number of deals completed before it. More than two-thirds of NHL teams completed a trade leading up to Feb. 28, leaving many GMs feeling less pressure to make a splash.
Brian Burke of the Toronto Maple Leafs certainly fell into that category. His only move Monday was sending minor-league forward John Mitchell to the Rangers for a seventh-round pick.
He was involved in other discussions, but didn’t find the market to his liking.
“I really believe you have to go into the trade deadline with prices set in your mind or you make mistakes,” said Burke. “If you don’t set your prices in advance, you’re likely to overpay. …
“When (our) prices weren’t met, we sat tight.”
In the end, just 16 trades involving 35 players were completed on Monday. That’s the lowest deadline day total since 2000.
Among the other winners were the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators, who each made moves with an eye on the future. Senators GM Bryan Murray shipped defenceman Chris Campoli to Chicago for a second-round pick and forward Ryan Potulny.
That capped an impressive couple weeks for Murray, who got a major head start on his rebuild by shipping six players out of town for a bevy of draft picks. The Senators could have as many as seven of the first 70 selections at the June draft.
“We now have the door open for a number of young people to get a chance,” said Murray.
There will be the same type of atmosphere in Florida, where the Panthers appear to be turning their attention to next season.
On Monday, Dale Tallon made a series of trades that saw four veteran players leave town in exchange for two draft picks, two prospects and young forward Nicklas Bergfors, a former 20-goal scorer.
“(We) added a great number of picks, added some young players, added a different variety of players—more skill, size, etc.,” Tallon told reporters. “We really solidified our future as far as what the blueprint calls for.”
The league-leading Vancouver Canucks are essentially moving ahead with the same group of players. Veteran forwards Maxim Lapierre and Chris Higgins were added in two minor deals, but GM Mike Gillis didn’t want to mess with success beyond that.
“We have been taking to a number of teams for the last few weeks,” said Gillis. “One of the things we found is there were a lot of teams chasing very few players.”