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Teams found what they wanted before '04 deadline

by Adam Schwartz
NHL general managers must have been antsy in 2004 because the biggest names that were traded during the 2003-04 season already were with their new teams by the March 9 trade deadline.

Some experts believe the team that trades the best player usually gets the short end of the stick in the deal; some of the major deals in 2004 seem to prove that theory. Like most trade deadlines, there were a few seemingly minor deals that turned out to have major significance.

Here are a few of the major deals of 2004:


The New York Rangers trade Alexei Kovalev to the Montreal Canadiens for Jozef Balej and Montreal's second-round pick in the 2004 Entry Draft (Bruce Graham) -- Kovalev has 28 points in 29 playoff games for the Habs since the trade, and he remains an integral part of the Canadiens. Balej played just 13 games with the Rangers before being traded to Vancouver for Fedor Fedorov. Graham, the 51st pick of the '04 Draft, currently is playing for the Bakersfield Condors in the ECHL; he's yet to reach the NHL.

The Washington Capitals trade Sergei Gonchar to the Boston Bruins for Shaone Morrisonn and 2004 first- and second-round picks (Jeff Schultz and Michail Yunkov) -- Gonchar is one of the game's premiere offensive defensemen, but he played just 15 regular-season and seven playoff games with the Bruins before signing as a free agent with Pittsburgh. Schultz and Morrisonn are both mainstays on the Capitals' blue line and have been positive plus-minus players in their time in Washington. Yunkov never came to North America and currently plays in the KHL.

The Toronto Maple Leafs trade Maxim Kondratiev, Jarkko Immonen a 2004 first-round pick and a 2005 second-round pick to the New York Rangers for Brian Leetch and a 2004 fourth-round pick (Roman Kukumberg) -- In retrospect this wasn't a bad deal for the Leafs, who acquired the aging defenseman for a run at the Stanley Cup. Leetch had 15 points in 15 regular-season games with Toronto and helped them get home-ice advantage in the first round as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Toronto beat Ottawa in the last playoff series they have won, but fell to the Flyers in six games in the second round. Leetch had 8 assists in 13 games in the playoff run. The next summer Leetch signed with the Boston Bruins where he would play the final season of his storied career.

Kondratiev, Kukumberg and Immonen made little impact in limited time in North America, and the Rangers traded the first-round pick to the Calgary Flames, who selected Kris Chucko, who is playing for the AHL Quad City Flames.


The Florida Panthers trade Marcus Nilson to the Calgary Flames for a 2004 second-round pick (David Booth) -- While Nilson isn't the Flames' most skilled forward, he had 7 assists and 11 points in Calgary's unexpected run to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. The Panthers used the pick wisely in selecting Booth with the 53rd pick. He's one of the Panthers' best forwards, and after scoring 22 goals as a rookie, he already has 20 in 47 games this season.

The Edmonton Oilers trade Tommy Salo and a 2005 sixth-round pick to Colorado for Tom Gilbert -- Salo, who was a solid goalie with the Oilers, played just six games with Colorado before going back to Sweden. Gilbert, Colorado's 2002 fourth-round pick, wasn't the best prospect on the market at the time, but he's blossoming into an excellent offensive defenseman. The Minneapolis, Minn., native has a serious shot of making the 2010 U.S. Olympic team.  


The San Jose Sharks trade Brad Boyes to the Boston Bruins for Jeff Jillson; the Sharks trade Jillson and a 2005 ninth-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres for Curtis Brown and Andy Delmore; the Sharks trade Delmore to the Boston Bruins for future considerations -- Boyes had 26 goals for the Bruins as a rookie in 2005-06, but was dealt to St. Louis for Dennis Wideman the following season. He had 43 goals last season for the Blues, and has 25 in 56 games this season. Brown was a defensive forward for the Sharks, and despite fleeing San Jose for Chicago after one season, he returned in 2006 to play two more seasons with the Sharks.

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