MONTREAL – The fireworks ended up being more like flares.
A pile of trade talk accompanied the hockey world to the NHL draft this weekend, but most of it fizzled on the floor of the Bell Centre. Only two big names changed hands – the Calgary Flames acquired the rights to impending free agent Jay Bouwmeester while Chris Pronger found a new home in Philadelphia.
That left the likes of Dany Heatley, Vincent Lecavalier, Tomas Kaberle, Ryane Clowe, Phil Kessel and J-S Giguere in their current homes.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying by the 30 men in charge of making deals. They simply couldn’t agree on a consistent market value for assets.
“It’s just caution,” Tampa Bay Lightning GM Brian Lawton said Saturday. “It seems like there’s a yellow light out there for everyone.
“It’s the salary cap, economic uncertainty. It’s a bit of a perfect storm.”
The Pronger deal was easily the biggest of the weekend.
Philadelphia shipped two first-round picks, defenceman Luca Sbisa and forward Joffrey Lupul to Anaheim for Pronger and prospect Ryan Dingle – a hefty price GM Paul Holmgren was willing to pay in an effort to get his team over the top.
At least one GM felt the deal ended up preventing another star player like Heatley from getting moved.
“When Philly did the Pronger deal, it adjusted two things – it adjusted a key player for us and it adjusted the values,” said interim Panthers GM Randy Sexton. “I know Bryan (Murray) felt strongly that Heatley’s a quality player, but the offers he was getting didn’t meet what he felt.
“The Pronger deal set kind of a certain expectation of the value that should be derived, which is difficult for everybody else to pay.”
Sexton managed to deal his most tradable asset in Bouwmeester, but it took some work. He was hoping to get a second-round pick but ended up settling for a third-rounder and the rights to free-agent defenceman Jordan Leopold.
Even though teams like St. Louis, Philadelphia and Vancouver also showed some early interest in Bouwmeester, the Flames were really the only team in the mix on Saturday morning. Sexton felt he had to make a move.
“An unconditional third round pick is the best, to my knowledge, that anyone’s ever got for someone who was going to go UFA,” he said. “It was unconditional and that was important to us because we felt we had to get some intrinsic value. And when there’s nobody else in the race it kind of limits your negotiating position.
“We held tight for as long as we could, and at the end of the day we felt we needed to get some value rather than none.”
It’s looking more and more like Heatley picked a bad time to demand a trade.
Murray was unable to find a deal that made sense and it’s not necessarily going to happen soon given that the sniper is owed US$7.5 million in each of the next five seasons. The Sens GM certainly didn’t sound very confident.
“I think there’ll be a little further discussions,” said Murray. “I don’t know how much. We’re certainly going to, I guess, attempt to accommodate (his request). …
“I would think we’ll have a little further discussions and see what happens.”
That’s the same game plan Brian Burke has elected to take with Kaberle. He’s only going to move the smooth-skating defenceman if someone “blows his doors off” in the coming few weeks.
Meantime, the Edmonton Oilers had to watch idly as the Flames moved one step closer to signing Bouwmeester. GM Steve Tambellini wasn’t too concerned about his provincial rival and didn’t feel any pressure to try and match the move.
“Every day you’re trying to make your own team better, you can’t control what other teams do,” said Tambellini. “We have to do what’s best for our team.”
The other trades made Saturday that included roster players were:
-Edmonton dealt centre Kyle Brodziak to Minnesota for two draft picks (Kyle Bigos and Olivier Roy);
-Calgary re-acquired centre Brandon Prust for defenceman Jim Vandermeer;
-Washington sent defenceman Sami Lepisto to the Coyotes for a fifth-round selection in 2010.
There is some thought that seeds have been planted for more significant deals that could be made in the coming days.
“Maybe there’s more to follow,” said Holmgren. “There’s certainly enough talk that there’s going to be more. It only makes sense that there’s going to be more at some point.
“It’s just trying to fit pieces together.”
There weren’t many matches to be found in Montreal.
Mike Gillis called his second draft as GM of the Vancouver Canucks a learning experience. Essentially, he found out that it’s not necessarily a time for guys with his job to take the spotlight.
“I learned that there’s a lot of discussion without a whole lot happening,” said Gillis. “It’s a day for scouts and hopefully it’s a great day for these young players to start their pro careers.”