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Following early trade flurry, few deals made on deadline

by | CBSSports.com Staff Writer
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As far as reality television goes, it was a flop.

Not that anyone should really be surprised. With so many trades of significant magnitude having been completed in the three weeks leading up to the deadline, even the large group of panelists that populated the NHL Network studio seemed prepared for a slow day.

At least they came ready with enough idle chatter material to fill the time between trades. They needed it too, despite 16 deals involving 35 players and 13 draft picks taking place. Most of them were of the non-descript variety, which was probably inevitable because the story of this season's trade deadline was less about the final day than the weeks leading up to it.

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The Boston Bruins, for example, did nothing on Monday. But Boston had already made themselves a more serious Stanley Cup contender long before, picking up a prize in defenseman Tomas Kaberle, and adding depth at forward with veterans Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley earlier in February.

Philadelphia made its big depth move early as well by adding Kris Versteeg, while the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins filled some of their holes cost-effectively by doing some shopping ahead of time, too.

And the biggest deal of the season, between two non-playoff teams and involving several young star players, happened long before the deadline. The trade that saw Erik Johnson and Jay McClement go to Colorado from St. Louis for Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk happened during the night, but there was no way it was going to be topped on deadline day.

Still, there were some noteworthy occurrences as the final hours wound down, with the Washington Capitals grabbing Jason Arnott late in the process and the Los Angeles Kings solving one of their problems by acquiring Dustin Penner. Even the Vancouver Canucks got in on the action, although they probably didn't have to.

The league-leading Canucks have a lot going for them this season, yet decided it couldn't hurt to add depth forwards Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre if it didn't cost anyone off the roster. But on the whole, there was little about deadline day that made for riveting viewing.

The problem was that the trade everyone was waiting for was always a long shot because Brad Richards still has a concussion, not to mention a no-trade clause and the Dallas Stars still have a chance to make the playoffs. Dallas is up for sale though, while Richards will be an expensive unrestricted free agent after the season and they had a gentlemen's agreement to move things along if the team could get the right price.

Under the circumstances they couldn't.

No doubt several other teams in this very tight NHL season found themselves in the same situation. But some still managed to have a pretty good day. A look at the winners and losers:

Winners

Washington Capitals: Washington optimists still believe this is a team lying in the weeds and waiting to pounce in the playoffs. That's debatable given their inconsistencies this season, but the Capitals did pick up a couple of good pieces in Jason Arnott and Dennis Wideman. Arnott is a rental who was sought after by several teams looking for a big, physical center and fills a need on the Capitals' second line. Wideman meanwhile, is erratic in his own end, but has a good offensive skill set, especially on the power play. Washington is concerned with the injuries to offensive defensemen Mike Green and Tom Poti, but Wideman will help pick up some of the slack and make the team deeper when they return.

The Kings' latest acquisition, Dustin Penner, knows how to get to the net and has 30-goal type of talent. (Getty Images)  
The Kings' latest acquisition, Dustin Penner, knows how to get to the net and has 30-goal type of talent. (Getty Images)  
New Jersey Devils: They gave up Arnott who wasn't coming back next season, but considering the circumstances, the Devils got a very good return in David Steckel and a second-round draft pick. New Jersey still thinks it is in the playoff hunt despite being nine points out because the Devils have won 17 of their last 20 games, but Arnott wasn't committed to the effort and said so publicly several times in the last few days. That didn't put New Jersey in a particularly good bargaining position, and while Steckel doesn't have Arnott's offense, he can score on occasion, plays better defense and is very good in the faceoff circle.

Los Angeles Kings: They really wanted Brad Richards, but the price they would have had to pay to extract a pending free agent from a bitter division rival didn't make sense. Still the Kings had to do something to offensively upgrade a team that justifiably thinks it has deep playoff possibilities. Penner probably wasn't the Kings' first choice, but with the trade market being as tight as it was, he was a good "settle." Penner is big, strong, gets to the net and when he's on, has 30-goal type of talent. Penner should fit easily into Los Angeles as well with a couple of ex-Oilers around and his familiarity with the area from his days with the Ducks. And the Kings didn't have to touch their roster to get him.

Florida Panthers: GM Dale Tallon was busier than anyone, stripping his team of as many veterans and as much salary as he could while stockpiling draft picks to continue his rebuilding process. Tallon struck it rich in last year's draft with six of the first 50 picks. His deals Monday upped his collection for this June's draft to 10 picks in the first three rounds, and it cleared millions off the payroll for the balance of this season and beyond. That's as good as it can get on deadline day for a team that is about to miss its 10th consecutive playoff and is losing a lot of money.

Ottawa Senators: Their biggest deal of the day was not trading defenseman Chris Phillips. The Senators re-signed the veteran hours before the deadline, but still managed to get in one more deal that gained them a prospect and a second-rounder. It was the end of a frenzied fire sale period for Ottawa that saw the Senators move out a number of veterans while reloading with lots of draft picks.

Losers

New York Rangers: They made a move a couple of days earlier to get Bryan McCabe, but their real target was Brad Richards. New York will probably make a play for him when he's a free agent next season, but they wouldn't meet the Stars' asking price, which apparently included Artem Anisimov, a first-round pick and a prospect. That's a lot, but if Richards does get healthy soon, he's the kind of player who would have made a big impact down the stretch in the wide-open East for a hard-working team that has a great goaltender.

Montreal Canadiens: Drew MacIntyre is not the answer to any question in Montreal. The Canadiens needed to add some size, preferably down the middle. And Jason Arnott was obviously available.

Minnesota Wild: You could have gotten good odds at the start of the season betting Minnesota coach Todd Richards would still be around at the deadline, but he's done a good job keeping this moderately talented team in playoff contention. Problem is they're in a dog fight for one of the seeds and missing captain Mikko Koivu for the next few weeks. The Wild needed to add some depth, but only came up with minor leaguers Jeff Penner and Mikko Lehtonen.

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