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Late action at deadline reshapes NHL landscape

Thursday, 03.05.2009 / 12:22 PM / 2009 Trade Deadline

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"We always said we wanted someone who is a No. 1 centerman and it's always hard to attain that player. To do that sends a message that we're not just trying to make the playoffs, but go deep in the playoffs. The same thing with Jordan. I think we needed another quality guy there, not from a depth standpoint, but more for a guy that fits into the group and knows the group."
-- Calgary GM Darryl Sutter talking about his acquisitions, Jokinen and Leopold

While there may not have been the number of blockbuster moves at Wednesday's trade deadline that defined last year's deadline, there were still a number of trades that helped re-shape some of the Stanley Cup contenders.

Between 9 a.m. Wednesday and the deadline -- which fell at 3 p.m. ET and marks the last chance for GM's to remake their rosters -- there were 22 trades made, involving 47 players. The most prominent of those players was center Olli Jokinen, who was dealt from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Calgary Flames.

With 21 goals and 42 points this season, Jokinen gives the Flames the legitimate No. 1 center they lacked, and the potential of a top line of Jokinen, Jarome Iginla and Todd Bertuzzi, when he returns in a month from knee surgery. That certainly could be a dominant trio in the playoffs.

The Flames also acquired Jordan Leopold from the Colorado Avalanche to bolster their blue line. Leopold played on the Flames' team that advanced to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final.

"We always said we wanted someone who is a No. 1 centerman and it's always hard to attain that player," Flames General Manager Darryl Sutter told the NHL Network. "To do that sends a message that we're not just trying to make the playoffs, but go deep in the playoffs. The same thing with Jordan. I think we needed another quality guy there, not from a depth standpoint, but more for a guy that fits into the group and knows the group."

The Flames were just one of the Western Conference contenders to be active at the deadline.

San Jose picked up grinding forward Travis Moen, who played a major role in Anaheim's 2007 Stanley Cup run. Columbus acquired center Antoine Vermette from Ottawa, Edmonton picked up forwards Patrick O'Sullivan and Ales Kotalik, and Chicago traded for top checking center Samuel Pahlsson.

The only Western contender not to make a move was Detroit -- who passed San Jose to take over the conference lead thanks to Wednesday's 3-2 defeat of Colorado.

"I had some calls, I talked to a few teams," Wings GM Ken Holland told the NHL Network. "We explored, kicked the tires a bit for some secondary forwards."

At the end of the day, though, Holland likes his team and didn't see the reward equaling the cost.

"For pretty good prospects or picks, it didn't make any sense to upgrade whatever percentage we thought we could upgrade," Holland told the Detroit News.

In the Eastern Conference, the biggest upgrade was made by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Less than a week after acquiring forward Chris Kunitz from Anaheim, the Pens sent a conditional 2009 draft pick to the New York Islanders for 38-year-old forward Bill Guerin.

Penguins GM Ray Shero said on the NHL Network that Pittsburgh wasn't the team the Islanders seemingly had a deal with during the weekend that had left Guerin in limbo for four days. Instead, much like last year when he made a late push to land Marian Hossa, Shero said he was a late arrival for Guerin.

"We've had some interest in Bill for a while," said Shero. "I had talked to (Islanders GM) Garth Snow over the last five, six days, but we weren't the team he was waiting on. I think we were in at the end, probably the last day and a half, and we made the decision around 2:30 we should do it."

Guerin had 16 goals in 61 games with the Islanders, who play an aggressive style. The Penguins have installed a more up-tempo attack under interim coach Dan Bylsma, but their offense is led by All-Stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

"I'm looking forward to playing the up-tempo style," Guerin told Penguins.com. "I can still skate at my age, but I'm not going to change my style. My biggest asset is going to the net. With the puck handlers that we have, I'm a guy that will go to the net and open up room for them. I have certain talents and other guys have certain talents. I like being in front of the net and in the slot."

The Penguins enter Thursday eighth in the Eastern Conference with 72 points, the same as the seventh-place New York Rangers, who made a pair of moves to upgrade their team, acquiring defenseman Derek Morris from the Coyotes and center Nik Antropov from the Maple Leafs.

In exchange for Morris, the Rangers shipped out forwards Nigel Dawes and Petr Prucha and defenseman Dmitri Kalinin. To get Antropov, the Rangers dealt a pair of draft picks.

"I wanted to get some scoring, some size, some grit, and some speed," Rangers GM Glen Sather told Rangers.com, "and I think we've done that."

Even though he has just 5 goals in 53 games, Sather believes Morris can add an offensive element to the blue line

"Morris is a smart player who has a history of playing on the power play, though I don't think his numbers have been as good this year as they were in previous years," said Sather. "We'll work with him when he gets here. Morris is a good, solid defenseman who gives us a little more bite on the back end."

The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Antropov makes the Rangers much larger down the middle, and also gives them a degree of versatility. Antropov has 21 goals this season while playing center and wing.

Two other Eastern Conference contenders picked up extra options.

The Bruins added forward Mark Recchi from the Lightning and defenseman Steve Montador from the Ducks, while Philadelphia added toughness in Phoenix forward Daniel Carcillo.

Florida, aiming for its first playoff berth since 2000, made its best move by standing pat. The club elected to keep All-Star Jay Bouwmeester, rather than trade the defenseman, who could be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
 
"I think we had a couple interesting offers," Panthers GM Jacques Martin told Panthers.com, "but in the end, we're very pleased to keep Jay here."

 
Bouwmeester was one of a number of big names rumored to be available at the deadline -- Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, Anaheim's Chris Pronger and St. Louis' Keith Tkachuk among them -- staying put.

There seemed to be a few prevailing reasons for the lack of big-ticket moves. One is the downturn in the economy that has hit all areas of society, plus the number of teams hard against the salary cap.

"We couldn't add, we only could upgrade," said Holland. "We had to get rid of players if we wanted to add somebody."

Fear of a falling salary cap in the next few years also went into teams not wanting to acquire players with long-term contracts. Of the 32 players with NHL contracts dealt Wednesday, only nine are signed beyond this season.

"I think it's a function of the economy," Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke told TSN. "Any player that has a contract that extends beyond this coming season is undesirable or unattractive."

The other aspect was teams desperately holding onto draft picks and prospects. Only one team traded a first-round pick Wednesday, compared to last year when three teams moved their top pick. This season, it was Calgary moving a first as part of the package for Jokinen.

"The system now is really designed where you need a steady influx of young, cheap players and you have to get them through the draft," said Holland. "It's hard to keep trading away draft picks and prospects."

The pick Shero sent to the Islanders can rise as high as a third-round pick, and he only set that condition because he had a second third-round selection. To get Marian Hossa and Hal Gill at the deadline last year, the Pens surrendered 2008 first- and second-round picks.
"The important thing for me going into this deadline was I knew what I did not want to give up." -- Penguins' GM Ray Shero
"The important thing for me going into this deadline was I knew what I did not want to give up, and I wasn't into giving up my first-round or second-round pick this year," said Shero. "... It took me out of the running for some of the higher-profile guys, but that was OK. When we ended up getting Billy Guerin for the price, I think that's a good fit for us."

With 42 days until the playoffs start, we'll see how all the new pieces fit.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.
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