When the 2011 NHL trade deadline passed, it appeared Los Angeles had reeled in the biggest fish on the market by bringing in Dustin Penner from Edmonton for Colten Teubert and two draft picks. But while the Kings did manage to split their two games in San Jose to open the Western Conference Quarterfinals last week, Penner had a muted influence in the proceedings, registering no points and collecting a minus-2 rating for his efforts.
Instead, it's looking like the biggest catch pulled in before the deadline this season is Mike Fisher, the center Nashville acquired from Ottawa for the relative bargain of two draft picks. For a franchise that is hoping to get out of the first round for the first time in its history in six attempts, Fisher has proved an invaluable piece of the puzzle.
In a dominating road win in Anaheim to open the playoffs, Fisher was by far the best player on the ice, tallying 2 goals and 1 assist as the Predators shocked the Ducks 4-1 in Game 1. Fisher added an assist in Nashville's Game 2 loss before potting the game-winner in Game 3 Sunday night. In addition to producing offensively, Fisher displayed some toughness by scrapping Sunday night with Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf, even if it may have made wife Carrie Underwood wince. In total, Fisher has 5 points in three postseason games -- a mark bettered by no one and equaled only by Daniel Sedin, Pavel Datsyuk and Corey Perry.
While Fisher's contributions are the most noticeable among midseason acquisitions, they aren't the only ones. Not far behind is Jason Arnott, who was brought to Washington from New Jersey in hopes of adding postseason experience the team lacked a season ago when it suffered a first-round ouster despite winning the Presidents' Trophy. Arnott's experience is invaluable to the locker room -- he's one of just two active NHLers to have an overtime Cup-clinching goal to his credit, which he scored for New Jersey in 2000 -- but tangibly, he has been a big contributor on the ice as well as off. After tallying a sold 4 goals and 3 assists in 11 games for Washington this season, Arnott has reached the score sheet in each of the Capitals' three games against New York, netting 1 goal and 2 assists while averaging 15:59 of ice time per game this postseason, a decent amount for any player let alone a 36-year-old.
Tampa Bay, too, has reaped dividends from its deadline moves, as defenseman Eric Brewer, who was brought in from St. Louis, almost singlehandedly evened the Bolts' first-round series with Pittsburgh. Brewer scored a pivotal opening goal just 2:02 into Game 2 at the Consol Energy Center and added 2 assists in a 5-1 win.
And a handful of other acquisitions have also impressed -- Chris Higgins scored the game-winner in Vancouver's postseason opener, Alex Kovalev broke a scoreless tie for the Penguins in the third period of Game 1 and despite Chicago's 3-0 hole, defenseman Chris Campoli has managed a plus-3 rating while averaging more than 15 minutes of ice time. But Fisher, Arnott and Brewer have made impacts more significant than most.
Deadline deals have a tendency to fail as often as they work out, but most Cup winners don't reach June without a successful one. With the first round still not finished, talk of a championship for any of these teams is extremely premature, of course, but Nashville, Washington and Tampa Bay have to be pleased with the results of their moves so far.
At the very least, as far as the trade deadline is concerned, those three already look like winners.
I think I'm lucky to be here and you definitely don't take very many things for granted, if you take anything for granted. I definitely put my family and my wife and my close family in perspective, that they're the most important thing in the world. I want to do whatever I can to play hockey, but like I said, under the right circumstances.
— Stars forward Rich Peverley to "The Musers" radio show on The Ticket 1310 AM in Dallas