This past Tuesday, 25 trades, involving 45 players were made at the NHL trade deadline. Of the record-tying number of deals that went down, 11 involved teams from the Southeast Division with 24 players changing uniforms.
The Washington Capitals and the Florida Panthers were the most active SE clubs, each team making three trades. The Atlanta Thrashers and the Tampa Bay Lightning each took part in two transactions, while the Carolina Hurricanes remained relatively quiet by making just one deal.
The Caps came away with the best acquisitions for the present, acquiring three-time Stanley Cup winner Sergei Fedorov from the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Ted Ruth, agitating winger Matt Cooke from the Vancouver Canucks for forward Matt Pettinger, and All-Star goaltender Cristobal Huet from the Montreal Canadiens for Anaheim's second-round pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, which Washington had previously acquired in another deal.
"On paper, we really got a lot of depth now," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said on washingtoncaps.com. "You assume Matt Cooke and Fedorov are going to be good hockey players. Our depth is really good and I think we can throw four lines at people that are going to come at you pretty hard. Fedorov is still older, but he can skate and he's intelligent and he can play the point on the power play. He can do a lot of stuff. I think we're better."
"We like the addition of Fedorov,” Caps forward Brooks Laich said. “He gives us an element, maybe something we have been missing. You can never have too many guys like him. Obviously, his track record speaks for itself. His experience is something that we are going to need in this locker room. His ability, his talent, the way he skates, I think he will help us out tremendously."
The Thrashers built for the future. GM Don Waddell was flooded with offers at the deadline for upcoming unrestricted free agent Marian Hossa.
Minutes before the deadline expired, Waddell opted to go with Pittsburgh's offer of up-and-coming forwards Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen and Angelo Esposito and a 2008 first-round pick for Hossa and forward Pascal Dupuis.
"It was bittersweet because Marian Hossa's such a big part of our franchise and we knew it was coming to this point, and you have to make these tough decisions and try to do the best you can with it," Waddell said. "We really like the deal we made and we'll get these players in here and try to turn the page."
In a smaller deal, Atlanta acquired right winger Joe Motzko from the Capitals in exchange for left wing Alexandre Giroux.
The Tampa Bay Lightning also made a solid move for their future by acquiring 25-year-old goalie Mike Smith, 24-year-old forward Jussi Jokinen, veteran pivot Jeff Halpern, and the Stars’ fourth-round draft pick in the 2009 Entry Draft for center Brad Richards and goaltender Johan Holmqvist.
"Trading Brad Richards was one of the most difficult moves I have made as manager of this hockey club," General Manager Jay Feaster said. "Aa we have discussed for some time now, we need to address our goaltending situation and we have been targeting Mike Smith for the past two seasons. We would not have given up a player and a leader such as Brad unless we were getting outstanding value in return and we feel that Mike, as well as Jeff and Jussi, certainly meet that objective. It is very difficult to say goodbye to Brad and Holmer, however, we feel strongly that we have improved our hockey team now and going forward with this transaction."
In another deadline deal, the Lightning traded forward Jan Hlavac to the Nashville Predators for their seventh-round pick in the 2008 Entry Draft.
The Florida Panthers made trades they hope will put them in a position to grab one of the eight playoff spots in the East this season. In separate deals, Florida picked up forwards Wade Belak and Chad Kilger from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a couple of picks in the 2008 Entry Draft, while also acquiring defenseman Karlis Skrastins and a third-round pick in 2008 from Colorado for defenseman Ruslan Salei.
"I feel that we addressed several issues we've had," Panther GM Jacques Martin said. "We've continued developing our plan which is important. The first one is the acquisition of Wade Belak. We've talked numerous times this season about our toughness. We've acquired an individual now that legitimately is a tough guy. Belak's a heavyweight who can also play and he has great character.
"As you know we lost (Richard) Zednik a couple weeks ago. I think with Kilger, he's an individual who can play with Olli (Jokinen) on the right side or left side – either one. He's got great speed and he's a big guy. He's a good skater, who can get some pucks out and he was a first-round pick.
"We got an individual (in Skrastins) from Colorado who is a heart-and-soul individual, great character, who will play hard every night."
Martin said his newest additions will be key contributors in the final weeks of the regular season.
"The other thing that's going to be a big factor for us is people coming back from injuries," Martin said. "(Stephen) Weiss, (Radek) Dvorak, (Jozef) Stumpel, (Noah) Welch, and (Mike) Van Ryn. That's going to be a big part for our push. Now with the acquisition of Belak for the toughness part and Kilger, we're set to push to get into the playoffs."
The Hurricanes didn't tie up the phone lines on deadline day, believing they had the pieces in place. The only trade the 'Canes made on Tuesday came with Chicago. Carolina dealt Andrew Ladd, the fourth-overall pick in 2004, for Tuomo Ruutu, the ninth-overall pick from in 2001.
"Tuomo is a versatile player who gives the coaches more options at center or wing," Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford said. "He's a hard-hitting and skilled two-way player who will complement our group of forwards."
The 25-year-old Ruutu, who is in his fourth NHL season, comes to Carolina with 48 goals, 66 assists and 259 penalty minutes on his NHL resume in 228 games. The Vantaa, Finland, native recorded 21 points on six goals and 15 assists in 60 games for Chicago this season before landing in Raleigh.
Who's hot -- Tampa Bay defenseman Filip Kuba has recorded four assists in his last six games, including one helper last Saturday in a 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins. … In seven games since returning from a hand injury, Rostislav Olesz has recorded six points for the Florida Panthers on four goals and two assists. In a 4-3 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night, Olesz contributed one goal and one assist to the Panthers’ cause. … Washington's Alexander Semin has posted six points in his last six games. During the hot streak, Semin potted goals in five consecutive games, including two power-play tallies and one game-winner. … Carolina left wing Sergei Samsonov has nine goals for the Hurricanes since being acquired on re-entry waivers from Chicago on Jan. 8. Overall, the Moscow native has 18 points (9G, 9A) in 22 games with Carolina, including five points in his last three games on three goals and two assists. … Atlanta's Mark Recchi has 29 points (10G, 19A) in 35 games with Atlanta, registering four points in his last three games.
It was a good measuring stick for us. We got beat, three games in a row, pretty bad. It was in the back of our minds, no doubt. It was an important game just to prove to ourselves that we can match against anybody. - Sergei Samsonov
Southeast Quotes -- "It was a good measuring stick for us. We got beat, three games in a row, pretty bad. It was in the back of our minds, no doubt. It was an important game just to prove to ourselves that we can match against anybody."
-- Carolina winger Sergei Samsonov said after scoring two goals, including the overtime winner, Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils, the No. 1 team in the East.
"I'm looking forward to working with the organization and hopefully be part of something special, like make a playoff run and making the playoffs. I just met the coach, and he told me that I'm going to play a little bit more than I played in Columbus. For me, that's exciting news."
-- Newly acquired Capitals' forward Sergei Fedorov said in a press conference Wednesday with the Washington media.
The week ahead -- On Friday, Feb. 29, the Capitals are in New Jersey, the Florida Panthers play host to the Minnesota Wild, and the Tampa Bay Lightning play the Toronto Maple Leafs. On Saturday, March 1, the Atlanta Thrashers travel to Boston, the Lightning bolt up north to Raleigh, where they will face off against the Hurricanes, and the Caps host to the Maple Leafs. On Sunday, March 2, the Panthers square off against the Islanders in New York, and the Thrashers stop off in Pittsburgh.