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Staying put? A few signs indicate that trade deadline might be slow

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

In reality, Niklas Backstrom was only speaking for himself.

But in discussing the US$24-million, four-year contract extension he had just signed with the Minnesota Wild, Backstrom may have highlighted a developing theme on the eve of the NHL's trade deadline - staying put. "My goal was to stay here and I'm really happy it's possible," he told reporters in Vancouver on Tuesday morning. "It's sort of like a second dream come true after you got a shot to play in the NHL.

"Now I have a chance to stay here for years to come."

And with that, another set of trade rumours went up in smoke.

While it was never a certainty the all-star goalie would be dealt without a new contract, GM Doug Risebrough would have faced a tough decision before Wednesday's 3 p.m. ET deadline. The 31-year-old Backstrom is one of the league's top goaltenders and the Wild would not have wanted to lose him for nothing.

Instead of looking at trades, the GM was able to let out a sigh of relief.

"Nik is one of the most reliable players and people on our team, and that combination enables winning," Risebrough said in a statement. "A snapshot of Nik's three NHL seasons shows a staggering run of success, but to see that whole picture unfold daily, we have not been surprised.

"Instead, we are proud of what he has accomplished, and we are excited for what he will."

A quiet Tuesday produced some indication that NHL general managers might not accomplish as much at this year's deadline as in years past. Gary Roberts (Tampa), Miroslav Satan (Pittsburgh) and Brendan Morrison (Anaheim) were among the players placed on waivers - a clear sign they didn't have much trade value in the current market.

Of course, it's impossible to predict exactly what Wednesday will bring. NHL general managers are a notoriously impulsive bunch and there should still be plenty of players available.

Jay Bouwmeester remains unsigned in Florida, Bill Guerin sits in limbo on Long Island, Chris Neil and Filip Kuba are still without contract extensions in Ottawa and the Toronto Maple Leafs held forwards Dominic Moore and Nik Antropov out of Tuesday night's game in anticipation of potential deals.

And that's just naming a few.

Even without any trades the day before the deadline, a couple players found new homes. Controversial winger Sean Avery is heading back to Broadway after being claimed on re-entry waivers by the New York Rangers and defenceman Lawrence Nycholat was plucked off the waiver wire by Calgary.

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said injuries restricted Nycholat's playing time in Vancouver.

"Lawrence is a great kid," said Vigneault. "He didn't play a lot with us but never said a word and worked really hard.

"What they have is a defenceman that can move the puck fairly well and competes hard. Size is an issue with him but he makes up for it with good competitiveness."

The Canucks also removed a potential target from the trade market, signing forward Alex Burrows to a four-year deal believed to be worth $8 million.

"Alex plays with intensity and determination at both ends of the rink," Canucks GM Mike Gillis said in a statement. "He's a fierce competitor and a versatile player. We look forward to further growth and development in his game."

Burrows, who is in his fourth year with the team, is having a break out season with the Canucks, posting a career-best 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists).

While it was no surprise to see the Rangers put a claim in on Avery, it was unknown if any of the 18 teams lower in the standings might have taken him first. The 28-year-old was thrilled to get through and return to the franchise where he's had his most success.

Even though new Rangers coach John Tortorella was critical of Avery while working as a commentator for TSN, he's ready to welcome the player into his lineup.

"He's really tried to help himself, and (GM) Glen (Sather) believes in second chances," said Tortorella. "I think he's done his homework here and we'll see where it goes."

Calgary's decision to pick up Nycholat could keep them out of the trade market.

The 29-year-old has played 45 NHL games for three different teams over his career and will give the Flames a little depth down the stretch.

"Nycholat is a similar type player to Mark Giordano," said Flames GM Darryl Sutter. "We were prepared to give up a draft pick to acquire a depth defenceman."

It doesn't look like they'll have to.

There are a number of reasons to expect fewer than the 25 deadline day trades made each of the past three seasons, but the biggest one is economic uncertainty. There seems to be fewer GMs willing to take financial gambles.

While it might seem like Risebrough had to pay a lot to keep Backstrom, the deal brings him in line with other top goalies in the NHL.

He's now signed through the 2012-13 season and is happy to be staying in Minnesota. Not that Backstrom expected to be sent anywhere else.

"I didn't think too much about it so I didn't let it bother me," he said. "I was thinking the only thing I can do is play as well as I can and just worry about the hockey games.

"If you play well, the rest will take care of itself."


With files from Jim Morris in Vancouver and The Associated Press.


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