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Trade deadline deals helped all four NHL conference finalists

The Anaheim Ducks didn't make a notable move at the trade deadline last season but still captured the Stanley Cup.

It made many ponder whether the trade deadline was more hype than actually about helping teams get better.

Different story this year.

"The highest-profile players moved at the deadline were probably Marian Hossa and Brad Richards and both those teams are in the final four," Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland told The Canadian Press on Monday. "But I honestly don't think there's a blueprint. As it turns out this year, the top four teams left all made moves at the deadline.

"Next year you could have four teams in the conference finals that do nothing at the deadline," added Holland. "I just think it's the way it's turned out. We've had years where we made big deals and it didn't pan out."

It just so happens that the four GMs left in the playoffs now look pretty darn smart for their trade deadline decisions.

The Wings picked up defenceman Brad Stuart, the Philadelphia Flyers acquired forward Vaclav Prospal and then the two blockbusters - the Dallas Stars getting Richards and the Pittsburgh Penguins trading for Hossa.

Everyone's real happy right now.

"Even if we weren't as successful, we would be happy," Stars co-GM Brett Hull said from Dallas on Monday. "We know who we have in Brad. He's a quality guy, a quality hockey player, and we were going to be happy down the road just as we are right now."

The Stars got Richards from Tampa Bay along with backup goalie Johan Holmqvist in exchange for goalie Mike Smith, forwards Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern and a fourth-round pick in the 2009 NHL entry draft.

Richards, unlike the other three players, isn't a rental player. While Hossa, Prospal and Stuart are slated for unrestricted free agency July 1, the 28-year-old Richards has three more years left on his deal at US$7.8 million per season.

The 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner has produced 11 points (2-9) in 12 playoff games while playing more than 20 minutes a game and in key situations.

"That wasn't a trade just for this year," said Hull. "You've got Mike Modano, who is 37 years old, and Mike Ribeiro who were our two top centres. Looking to the future, we said, 'We need a guy who is young and can play and that can solidify not only our team now but for years to come.' And he was a logical choice. ...

"Your teams are always made up down the middle. To have Ribeiro, Richards and Modano in our lineup makes it a pretty good three guys coming at you."

The Penguins are also a different team since trade deadline day. Adding a star player like Hossa gave centre Sidney Crosby the linemate he was missing, giving the Penguins two top scoring lines.

"We had tried so many guys there in the past, to varying degrees of success," Penguins GM Ray Shero said Monday from Pittsburgh. "Hossa really solidified our top-six forwards, no question."

Shero got Hossa and forward Pascal Dupuis from Atlanta in exchange for forwards Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, former first-rounder Angelo Esposito plus a 2008 first-round pick.

Hossa has 10 points (5-5) in nine playoff games and a plus-3 rating.

"The way he plays both sides of the puck ... he does a lot of good things for us," said Shero.

Dupuis is no throw-in, either. He's played on a line with Crosby and Hossa, putting up five points (1-4) in the playoffs. In addition to Shero's pickup of defenceman Hal Gill from Toronto at the trade deadline, the Penguins addressed another key area.

"Dupuis and Gill are two guys that helped our penalty killing, which wasn't great during the regular season," said Shero. "And it's been good in the playoffs (ranked second overall) and it's going to need to be good against Philadelphia, that's for sure."

The Flyers got Prospal from Tampa in exchange for young defenceman Alexandre Picard and a conditional draft pick.

"We knew Simon Gagne (concussion) wasn't going to be back," Holmgren said Monday from Philadelphia. "And we felt we needed to try to upgrade offensively just a little bit. Vinny is one of those guys that has the ability to make plays and score goals. We thought he would be a good guy to fit in with Danny (Briere) and help him along as well. He's been pretty good. He's been a nice fit for us."

Briere and Prospal are playing like they've been together for years. They're 1-2 in Flyers scoring with 26 combined points.

"Guys like that, with really good offensive instincts, they seemed to click right away," said Holmgren.

The Wings added Stuart from Los Angeles in exchange for a 2008 second-round pick and a 2009 fourth-rounder.

"He's really filled out our top four," said Holland.

Stuart, who has played more than 20 minutes a game in the playoffs, complements a blue-line group topped by Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Brian Rafalski.

"And he's given us a different dimension than the other three," said Holland. "He's got a physical edge to his game, he's a big, thick body.

"He can play on the second power play, he can kill penalties, we can use him against the other team's bigger forwards, and he's making a good first pass for us."


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