AUDIO: HEAD COACH WAYNE GRETZKY ON THE COYOTES TRADES
On Thursday, the Phoenix Coyotes established themselves as a major player in the trading deadline action as Coyotes Executive Vice President & General Manager Mike Barnett made six deals acquiring everything from future draft picks to established NHL players.
In the Coyotes first deal of the day, veteran defenseman Sean O'Donnell was sent to Anaheim in exchange for prospect Joel Perrault.
"He (Perrault) was one of the leading scorers for Anaheim's American Hockey League club," said Barnett. "He is a very good addition for us."
The next trade completed by Phoenix sent defenseman Denis Gauthier East to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for prospect Josh Gratton (cousin of former Coyote Chris Gratton) as well as a pair of second round draft picks in 2006.
"There are a lot of teams in out conference that have a heavyweight and it was a area we needed to fill," said Barnett. "Josh (Gratton) has been the King of the Jungle at the AHL level and now he is going to get a chance to show what he can do up here."
Phoenix's third transaction of the morning came when they were able to acquire defenseman Jamie Rivers from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a seventh round draft pick in 2006.
A ten-year NHL veteran, Rivers brings to Phoenix a rich knowledge of the game but also a winning mentality instilled while playing for one of the most storied franchises in the league.
The Coyotes fourth deal of the day came when San Antonio rampage forward Tim Jackman was sent to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Yanic Lehoux. This marked the second tour of duty for Lehoux with the Coyotes organization as he had been claimed off waivers by Phoenix back on November 5, 2005. In three games with the Coyotes, Lehoux recorded two penalty minutes and one goal, which he happened to score on his first shot, of his first shift as a Coyote in a game at Minnesota on November 8, 2005.
Lehoux produced an amazing junior career with Baie-Comeau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in which we tallied 382 points (164 goals, 218 assists) in 266 games.
Phoenix's biggest deal of the day may have come when Barnett obtained center/left wing Oleg Kvasha from the New York Islanders in exchange for a third round draft pick in 2006.
"We have wanted to add some more size to our team, especially up the middle and this helps do some of that," said Barnett. "He (Kvahsa) will become a unrestricted free agent at the end of the season so he is really playing for a new contract from all 30 teams for next season. This will give us a change to watch him up close and have exclusive negotiating rights."
The final trade of the day came when forward Jamie Lundmark was sent to Calgary in exchange for a fourth round draft pick in 2006.
While all eyes around the hockey world were taking in the trades that were made on Thursday, some of the Coyotes biggest moves turned out to be deals that weren't done. Weeks of speculation had goaltender Curtis Joseph rumored to be heading to anyone of a half a dozen teams that were looking for an upgrade between the pipes. But the for the Coyotes, the prospect of dealing "Cujo" was never a serious consideration.
"Curtis has been amazing this season," said Barnett. "We are in our position today because of him. He as be very popular among our fans and we had every intention of keeping him here."
Even with the Coyotes desire to keep Joseph, other teams continued to call Barnett and explore just how serious Phoenix was about sticking with their number-one goaltender.
"We received several call about Curtis," explained Barnett. "But he had come to us and told us that he wanted to stay here and we were committed to that. It really would have taken a monumental offer for us to have considered making a deal (involving Curtis.)"
There is no arguing that Thursday's transactions were big within the Phoenix organization, but perhaps the biggest deals cam on Wednesday when Barnett was able to come to terms with forward Steven Reinprecht and defenseman Derek Morris on three-year contract extensions for both players. Locking up one of the games best young blueliners in Morris, gave the club added stability on the blueline, while Reinprecht gives the club a talented forward that will help serve as the foundation of the franchise in the years to come.
"Those were big signings for our organization," said Barnett. "They are both extremely talented and we feel, have their best years ahead of them."