Until the Los Angeles Kings made the biggest move of NHL trade deadline day by prying forward Dustin Penner away from the Edmonton Oilers, the further breaking up of the Florida Panthers dominated an otherwise dull day of dealing.
Penner was the main marquee player to change teams on Monday, in what was an out-of-character slow deadline day. The Oilers, who own the NHL's worst record, unloaded their star forward for an impressive bundle - receiving prospect defenseman Colten Teubert, a first-round pick this year, and another draft selection next year.
There were 16 deals Monday involving 35 players and 12 draft picks, nowhere near the record level of last year when 31 trades with 55 players included were completed.
This was the fewest number of trades on deadline day since 2000 when there were 12. The last time fewer players changed teams was in 2004 when 32 were dealt in 20 trades.
"There's only a few teams, really, that are out of the playoff races in the East and West. That means most teams were looking to add as opposed to looking to sell players," Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said. "When that happens, there's just not a lot of players in play.
"It takes two parties to want to make a deal, and with just a few teams that were willing to trade players away, it made it difficult."
In addition to Penner, other familiar players on the move included center Jason Arnott, who waived his no-trade clause to go from New Jersey to Washington in a deal that sent Dave Steckel to the Devils; Fredrik Modin was dealt to Calgary by Atlanta for a seventh-round pick; and the Carolina Hurricanes sent forward Sergei Samsonov to Florida for Bryan Allen in one of four deals made by the Panthers.
Florida, which sent veteran defenseman Bryan McCabe to the New York Rangers on Saturday, also dealt veteran forward Radek Dvorak to Atlanta for forwards Niclas Bergfors and Patrick Rissmiller. The Thrashers made three deals on deadline day and claimed center Rob Schremp off waivers from the New York Islanders.
The Panthers also dealt Cory Stillman and Michael Frolik earlier this month.
Brad Richards was the highest-profile player believed to be on the market, but the potential unrestricted free agent center is staying with the Dallas Stars, at least until July 1 when he will be able to sign anywhere.
The Rangers were known to have interest and likely will again this summer if they can create enough cap space to fit in Richards.
Ottawa held on to Chris Phillips after signing the veteran defenseman to a three-year, $9.25 million extension. Phillips has spent his 13-season NHL career with the Senators.
One factor in the lack of deals was the fact that all but seven teams started Monday within four points of a playoff spot. And many clubs in need secured pieces for the stretch drive in the days leading up to the deadline.
Ottawa, the last-place team in the Eastern Conference, traded Mike Fisher to Nashville, Chris Kelly to Boston, and Alex Kovalev to Pittsburgh earlier this month.
St. Louis also sent defensemen Erik Johnson and Eric Brewer packing nearly two weeks ago with plenty of time to spare, leaving fewer coveted pieces available on Monday.
"There are teams that aren't going to be making the playoffs, but there are certain teams that are banging right on the door," Rangers general manager Glen Sather said. "You can go from fourth place to 12th place quite easy. There is not a lot of room between these teams. The teams that were really selling were selling to just about to anybody for anything.
"You've got to be careful you don't overpay at this stage of the year. At the same time, you want to try to strengthen your team and not disrupt it too much."
The Devils were in a bit of a tough position, trying to decide if they are really in the East playoff race or much more of a long shot despite a major surge in recent weeks.
The decision was made to unload Arnott, who scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal for New Jersey in 2000 in his first stint with the team. The veteran center can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
The Devils are still nine points and five places behind Carolina and the postseason cutoff with 20 games remaining. New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello forcefully said that he was not giving up on this season with this deal.
"Exactly the opposite," he said. "Unquestionably. We will continue to do what we have done: take it one game and one day at a time. The ultimate goal is to have success and let the end result take care of itself. But (Steckel) is a player we talked about.
"We felt that in order for us to trade Jason Arnott, we had to bring a player into our lineup that would not miss a beat with the type of team we had. It had to be a perfect fit because we don't want to lose anything in what has been happening."
Washington also acquired defenseman Dennis Wideman from the Panthers for forward Jake Hauswirth and a third-round pick.
"We've got a young group," Capitals GM George McPhee said. "Specifically with Arnott, he's been the captain of an NHL team, he's won a Cup - and those kinds of intangibles, I think, were something we wanted in the room."
The Columbus Blue Jackets traded the last remaining player from their original team in the 2000-01 season, sending Rostislav Klesla, to the Phoenix Coyotes for left wing Scottie Upshall and defenseman Sami Lepisto. Columbus also included minor-league forward Dane Byers, acquired from the New York Rangers.
The Blue Jackets and Coyotes are among those clubs fighting for spots in the crowded Western Conference playoff race.
Columbus also traded left wing Tom Sestito to the Philadelphia Flyers for former Blue Jackets center Greg Moore and center prospect Michael Chaput.
"We had some discussions on some of the bigger name players," Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson said. "We made some overtures and talked about some players. We weren't in the ballpark, I guess. Nobody ended up really being in the ballpark.
"The cost was high and there's just some players who weren't going to be included in our proposals. I'll just leave it at that."