So, what’s the right balance between risk and reward?
Should a team go for it? Is there no tomorrow when it comes to going for a Stanley Cup? Or, does slow and steady win the race?
The answer is as individual as the 30 NHL teams.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks opted to go for it now, swinging deals to pick up three big-time players who hit the market in Marian Hossa, Brad Richards and Brian Campbell.
Other clubs took a more low-key approach. The Philadelphia Flyers didn’t want to sacrifice a young player like Jeff Carter for a short-term run. Ditto the Detroit Red Wings, who augmented a strong lineup with veteran defenseman Brad Stuart. Ditto the New Jersey Devils, who kept their core intact while adding a dependable defenseman in Bryce Salvador, but not the big scorer some had been wanting.
So, who’s right? Who is wrong? The answer will not be known in the short term, that’s for sure.
Thrashers GM Don Waddell and Sabres GM Darcy Regier made tough decisions to deal talented, popular players who were coming up on unrestricted free agency this summer. Their reasoning was it is better the get something back now than nothing later. It’s hard to argue with that philosophy, and both teams nabbed some solid returns on their investment.
For the Sabres, forward Steve Bernier figures to become a core player and a first-round pick always has value.
For the Thrashers, Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen bring in an immediate return. Angelo Esposito is an intriguing prospect and a first-round pick is a first-round pick.
“By 2 o’clock, I had six pretty darn good options,” Waddell told reporters. “If the deadline would have been 5 o’clock, who knows what I would have got?”
And Waddell insists trading Hossa is not a sign that the season is over in Atlanta.
“We weren’t packing in the season,” Waddell said. “Obviously if we were going to do that, we would have traded lots of the (upcoming free agents). We’re not giving up. We have 18 games left; there’s not going to be any quit in our team.”
There won’t be any quit in Pittsburgh either, where the addition of Hossa presents some tantalizing options.
“There’s a risk any time you acquire players,” Penguins GM Ray Shero said. “There’s also a risk in standing pat. ... This gives us a better chance to win. I wanted to give this team every opportunity to win.”
The Stars’ addition of Richards was a little different in that the veteran forward isn’t a rental, but rather a substantial commitment over the next few seasons. No matter, says Stars co-GM Brett Hull, Richards is a worthwhile addition.
“He is a prototypical Stars player,” Hull said. “He is Mike Modano, he is Brenden Morrow, he is Marty Turco. He is a player of high character who loves to compete. I think he is the perfect fit for this organization.”
The deal was looked upon just as favorably by the Tampa Bay Lightning, who needed to address their goaltending situation and shed some salary after re-signing Dan Boyle to a long-term contract.
“I think it’s a good deal,” Lightning coach John Tortorella said. “And I hate saying that because Brad Richards is involved in it. But you put that aside and you think of the business part of it and how it helps your team.”
And both Tortorella and GM Jay Feaster know they are responsible for the fallout.
“These were our moves,” Tortorella told reporters. “And if we’re going to make the moves, we have to be responsible for them. If they don’t work, then we take the rope and hang ourselves.”
Feaster was a bit more lighthearted in discussing the Richards trade with the media.
“On the conference call, (Dallas co-GM) Les Jackson is saying what a great goaltender Smitty (Mike Smith) is and what great things he’s going to do here,” Feaster said. “I laughed and said; ‘I hope you’re right, because if he doesn’t, I won’t be the one picking the next goalie.’”
But Feaster grew serious when he said there will be more changes ahead for the Lightning.
“I can assure you that come October, the face of this team will be different than it is now,” Fletcher said. “We have to change this team to move forward, and, believe me, we will move forward.”
A number of teams felt they moved forward by limiting movement. That was especially the case among the Red Wings’ decision makers.
“We’ve been a Cup contender for 12-15 years,” GM Ken Holland said. “Some years you’re in a position to go get Chris Chelios or get Mathieu Schneider. There’s other years you bring in Jamie Macoun. You can’t just go every year to the trade deadline and think you’re going to empty your cupboards to take a one-year run at the Stanley Cup.”
Actually, a team can do that if it so chooses, but then it has to be ready to face the music.
“You can do that,” Holland said. “But then you’re gonna wake up. And once you get into a rebuilding mode, those take five, six, seven years now when you’re drafting 18-year-old kids.”
Especially if a rental player moves on, according to Wings coach Mike Babcock.
“If you know the guy’s coming and going, I’m hesitant,” Babcock said of importing a player for the short haul. “If you can get one in and you think you might be able to keep him in your program like San Jose did with Craig Rivet last year, you don’t feel bad about it. It’s gut instinct,” he said.
“The risk-reward for everybody is hard,” Babcock said. “You rent a player for a few months and you win the Cup, you can feel good about it forever because you made the right decision. But when you watch your players (given up in trades) on other teams, that hurts.”
Which is a major reason why Flyers GM Paul Holmgren wasn’t going to panic and sacrifice a young player like Jeff Carter to augment his injury-depleted lineup for the short term.
"There was not a day that goes by that someone doesn't call about Jeff Carter,” Holmgren told The Philadelphia Daily News. "I guess because they think we're going to have problems down the road financially with (Carter), I don't know. I don't see that. He is a part of our future.
"We certainly have an eye on down the road. If you get in the playoffs, anything can happen. Right now we're missing three real good forwards. We're not going to get one back in (Simon) Gagne, but (Mike) Richards and (Joffrey) Lupul will be back at some point. (Derian) Hatcher is out, Modry is out; (that's) a couple of pretty good NHL defensemen that have played in the playoffs. "But the idea now is to put our best foot forward and try to get in the playoffs and go from there."
Happy homecoming -- Cam Janssen was more than a little happy to leave New Jersey. Not because of anything to do with the Devils, but because the trade sent him home to St. Louis.
Janssen’s acquisition also was a nice moment for hockey in the city as the Blues now boast two players who played youth hockey in St. Louis in Janssen and Yan Stastny.
“We’d like to think we kind of paved the road for these kids and there’s a lot of good young kids coming up,” Janssen told The Belleville News-Democrat.
Both Stastny and Janssen actually were teammates for a time with the Triple-A St. Louis Sting.
“He was my linemate and my protector, we played well together,” Stastny said. “I play with Cam and hang out with him all the time in the summer, so it’s exciting. He’s a good skater and a physical player. He’ll bring a lot more toughness.”
Blues President John Davidson told the paper that the team had been looking to bring the energetic Janssen home.
“We talked about Janssen last year a little bit to be honest with you,” Davidson said. “We were also told by New Jersey that when he came off the (injured reserve list) they had five calls from Western Conference teams.”
That’s how rumors start -- An interesting item in The Boston Herald shows just how rumors get momentum.
The paper reported that on Tuesday, the Boston Bruins temporarily took Phil Kessel’s name off the roster on the team's Web site. Those eagle-eyed fans figured it meant the rumored trades of Kessel were going to happen.
Not so fast. Actually, Kessel was part of a bookkeeping transaction in which he was temporarily sent to the AHL’s Providence Bruins so he would be eligible for the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Standard operating procedures GM Peter Chiarelli said.
“Basically, you just send them down and bring them back up, and it gives you the ability to put those players in Providence for the postseason,” said Chiarelli, who made the same move with Petteri Nokelainen, Vladimir Sobotka and David Krejci. “That doesn’t mean he’s going to play there, though.”
Quite an impact -- Wade Belak will be the first to tell you he’s no Wayne Gretzky. But don’t for a minute think that a lack of a scorer’s touch made the big fella any less popular in Toronto.
One of the most engaging guys in the League, news of Belak’s trade were greeted with catcalls in Toronto. This for a role player with one goal on the season.
Belak is one of those special players, an “everyman” the fans identify with. Belak told reporters he will always remember the ovation he got from Maple Leafs fans when he scored in December to end a 143-game goal-less streak.
“Way down the road, when I think about being a Leaf, I am going to sit back and think about me scoring, and the fans cheering, and watching the replay and seeing how happy my teammates were for me,” Belak said.
“It was like I scored the overtime winner in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup,” he laughed. “It got to the point where I was kind of embarrassed by it. But seeing how the fans and my teammates reacted ... it might seem like a stupid memory, but it showed me that the people in Toronto really cared.”
Take it as a sign the fans in Toronto know who the good guys are.
Stars of the show -- Anaheim GM Brian Burke took the long view at the deadline. He made a handful of small deals, but resisted the temptation to go with a bigger deal that would have included the first-round pick the Ducks received from the Oilers as compensation for the signing of Dustin Penner.
“Anaheim could have been the star, by putting Edmonton’s pick in play,” Burke said. “We could have blown all the other deals out of the water, grabbed all the hype, but it was not prudent to do so because we believe in our group, and I believe that pick will have tremendous value to this franchise over the next decade.”
Back to the future -- The Colorado Avalanche now sport a new look that is actually an old look after bringing back both Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote.
“For me and everyone that’s played with Adam, we’re excited that he’s coming back,” Joe Sakic said upon hearing Foote had been acquired in a deal with Columbus at the deadline. “We know he missed it in Denver, and it’s going to be great to have him come back. He's a presence in the dressing room and on the ice.”
Foote and Forsberg were two integral members of the Avalanche teams that won Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001.
“I played against them, it was a pretty good team and those guys were a big part of it,” Avalanche forward Ian Laperriere told reporters. “Forsberg and Foote were a huge part of it. To have them on our team right now to help us get into the playoffs and do good in the playoffs, it’s great.
“Everybody was pumped when we found out about ‘Foppa,’ and we can’t wait to see them with an Avalanche jersey on.”
Material from personal interviews, wire services, newspaper, and league and team sources was used in this report.