If there was any doubt the Minnesota Wild are serious about being a contender, picking up Buffalo Sabres captain Jason Pominville should put that to rest.
The Columbus Blue Jackets made an equally bold statement at the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday in sending three players and a draft pick to the New York Rangers for flashy forward Marian Gaborik.
The Wild and the Blue Jackets both joined the NHL in 2000 and haven’t seen much post-season action since.
Both want that to change now.
“I think and I hope it creates excitement,” new Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told the team’s website.
They were the biggest moves on a relatively quiet deadline day, although stars like Jaromir Jagr and Jarome Iginla moved in the days ahead of the deadline.
The Wild announced their ambitions last summer when they spent big to acquire forward Zach Parise and defenceman Ryan Suter and now have added Pominville to a mix that also has offensive stars Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley.
It cost them goalie Matt Hackett and prospect Johan Larsson plus first- (2013) and second-round (2014) draft picks.
They got a leg up in their battle with the Vancouver Canucks for first place in the Northwest Division (and third spot in the Western Conference) by adding an adaptable player who brings leadership as well as strong offensive play from right wing. That he once played on a line with Parise for the United States at a world championship doesn’t hurt either.
There may be salary cap issues in 2013-14 as Pominville has a year left on a contract that pays $5.3 million per annum on a team that has five players making $6 million or more, but the Wild are looking to do damage now.
A cultural change is sweeping Columbus under former St. Louis president John Davidson. The team that traded star winger Rick Nash to the Rangers for Brandon Dubinsky and others in the off-season has now gone to the same team to pick up Gaborik.
They gave up scorer Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and defenceman John Moore, but feel the acquisition of Blake Comeau from Calgary for a fifth-round pick fills Dorsett’s absence. They also sent back-up goalie Steve Mason, whose contract is up, to Philadelphia for Michael Leighton and a third rounder in 2015.
The Blue Jackets have been hot, and are close to making the playoffs for only the second time in team history.
Pittsburgh and Boston—both Stanley Cup contenders—are dealing with bad injury news as the Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby and the Bruins’ scoring leader Patrice Bergeron are in questionable situations as the season winds down.
The Penguins looked to have locked up a second Cup in five years when they got the jump on everyone last week by snagging Iginla, Dallas winger Brenden Morrow and San Jose defenceman Douglas Murray in trades without giving up core players.
Crosby’s injury did not dampen the Pens’ will to go for the Cup this year as they added Jussi Jokinen, a strong faceoff taker who can score, on deadline day.
The Bruins, who made a splash by acquiring Jagr from Dallas on Tuesday, must have liked what they saw of Wade Redden since his salary purgatory ended because they sent a seventh rounder to St. Louis to get him. Boston needs power play help, and they now have a pair of point men that was effective for Ottawa a few years ago in Redden and Zdeno Chara.
The rest of the deals were mainly tinkering or trying to steal an overlooked gem.
The deal of the day may end up being Nashville’s acquisition of centre Filip Forsberg, the 11th overall pick in the draft last June, from Washington for veteran Martin Erat and prospect Michael Latta.
It was a relatively quiet day, although it picked up as the 3 p.m. ET approached.
The Senators sent third goalie Ben Bishop to Tampa Bay for small forward Cory Conacher, who was in the Calder Trophy talk early in the season but has only six points in his last 16 games.
The Edmonton Oilers added depth and helped fix their faceoff woes by getting veteran Jarred Smithson from Florida for a fourth rounder.
Montreal didn’t get the physical forward they were said to be seeking, perhaps when Raffi Torres went from Phoenix to San Jose. They had added a third-pair defenceman Tuesday in Davis Drewiske.
There were plenty of trade talks that went nowhere.
“It was a pretty busy morning when it came to the calls perspective,” said Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who ended up making no trades, although he did pick up centre Mike Santorelli on waivers from the Florida Panthers.
“Things kind of died down (Tuesday) . . . and it was very robust this morning.”
Toronto added depth on defence in Ryan O’Byrne from Colorado for the 2014 fourth rounder.
Calgary had already dealt Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester before sending Comeau to Columbus.
The Vancouver Canucks made their move Tuesday in picking up forward Derek Roy from Dallas.
Among those talked about who didn’t move were Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, Washington centre Mike Ribeiro and Tampa Bay star Martin St. Louis.