The Stanley Cup won't be awarded until the late spring, but the Calgary Flames have already emerged as big winners in their own right after the NHL's trade deadline.
According to the official word from the NHL, there were 22 trades made involving 47 players and 21 draft picks. The last three seasons saw 25 deals done with (40, 44, 45 players changing teams respectively).
General Manager Darryl Sutter made the biggest splash of the day with two high-profile deals, acquiring centre Olli Jokinen from the Phoenix Coyotes and defenceman Jordan Leopold from the Colorado Avalanche.
"We wanted to get a centreman and we wanted a defenceman, we knew we'd have to pay a price," said Sutter.
"Being able to accomplish this today was important."
"He's a big, first-line centreman who scores and plays tough. He can play against the big guys on the other team," Sutter said of Jokinen.
The Flames picked up Jokinen, along with a third-round pick in 2009, from the Coyotes for centre Matthew Lombardi, forward Brandon Prust and a first-round pick in 2009 or 2010. Leopold - re-acquired after the Flames dealt him to Colorado three years ago in a package for Alex Tanguay - went back to Calgary for defenceman Lawrence Nycholat, defenceman Ryan Wilson and a second-round pick in 2009.
"Once I left Calgary a couple years ago, I know Darryl didn't really want to part ways, but it's the nature of the beast and it's the business," Leopold explained following the trade. "I thought in the long run that maybe Darryl was thinking about me and apparently he was."
"Calgary came out on top," NHL Insider Darren Dreger said. "They identified a need for a top line centre and Darryl Sutter wasn't afraid to pay the price to get Olli Jokinen. [The trade] is a sign of how good Sutter thinks the Flames are."
Not to be outdone by their provincial rivals down the road, the Edmonton Oilers were also big players - making a three-team deal with the Kings and Hurricanes. The trade saw Edmonton acquire centre Patrick O'Sullivan, Carolina re-acquire veteran winger Erik Cole and Los Angeles take in winger Justin Williams. The Oilers then added more firepower up front, picking up winger Ales Kotalik from the Buffalo Sabres for a second-round pick.
"Edmonton was a winner today by subtracting one forward who was okay in Erik Cole and adding two forwards who have a chance to give them a boost offensively - which could be the difference in the Oilers making the playoffs," NHL Insider Bob McKenzie said.
The New York Rangers - in a dogfight for a postseason berth in the Eastern Conference - also made a big wave picking up defenceman Derek Morris from the Coyotes for blueliners Dmitri Kalinin and forwards Nigel Dawes and Petr Prucha.
The sell-off in Phoenix finished off with a two more deals. The Coyotes sent winger Daniel Carcillo to Philadelphia for forward Scottie Upshall and a second-round pick and shipped goaltender Mikael Tellqvist to the Buffalo Sabres for a fourth-rounder.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, who were expected to jettison as many players as possible in an effort to acquire draft picks, made three moves. With just minutes remaining until the deadline, the club sent forward Dominic Moore to Buffalo for a second-round selection and Nik Antropov to the Rangers for a second-rounder and a conditional pick. The club then acquired injured goaltender Olaf Kolzig, defencemen Jamie Heward and Andy Rogers and a fourth-round draft pick from Tampa Bay for blueline prospect Richard Petiot.
Moore and the Leafs' front office could not agree on a multi-year deal for the impending unrestricted free agent, prompting general manager Brian Burke to trade him with just minutes to go before the 3pm cutoff time. Antropov, who is also set to hit the free agent market, was a career Leaf since being drafted by the club in 1998. Veteran defencemen Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina - who have no-trade clauses - did not end up finding new homes.
In the nation's capital, the Ottawa Senators kicked off Deadline Day with a shakeup of their own, acquiring goaltender Pascal Leclaire and a second-round draft pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets for winger Antoine Vermette.
"The best trade of the day was Antoine Vermette for Pascal Leclaire. Columbus needs to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history and Ottawa proves that it is addressing their need for a goalie," Reporters host Dave Hodge said. "Plus, the second-round pick could turn out to have long term dividends for the Senators. In the end, [the Blue Jackets and the Senators] have taken a bit of a chance but it does address some key issues for both teams."
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins could end up facing each other in the first round of the playoffs and will have plenty of extra firepower and experience going in.
For the second time in two years, general manager Ray Shero acquired another weapon for centre Sidney Crosby at the deadline, this time acquiring winger Bill Guerin from the New York Islanders for a conditional draft pick. The Bruins made upgrades of their own, getting winger Mark Recchi and a 2010 second-round pick from the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenceman Matt Lashoff and winger Martins Karsums and sending forward Petteri Nokelainen to the Anaheim Ducks for defenceman Steve Montador.
The San Jose Sharks, considered by the odds-on favourite to hoist the Cup, improved their lineup by adding forward Travis Moen and defenceman Kent Huskins from the Ducks.
"The most interesting trade today was San Jose adding two Stanley Cup rings in Travis Moen and Kent Huskins," NHL analyst Pierre McGuire said. "The Sharks brought in guys who can help this team win."
The resurgent Chicago Blackhawks also went to Anaheim for help, acquiring former Selke Trophy winner Sami Pahlsson for defenceman James Wisniewski.
There was some thought the Panthers would try to move defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, who is set to become a free agent in the off-season. There were offers, but the team could not find a deal it liked.
"I don't think I should say the number, but there were legitimate offers," Panthers general manager Jacques Martin told the Canadian Press. "They were offers that didn't fulfill our needs. I wanted two players in return, a defenceman who could play in our top four. Some teams thought their defense could play in our top four, obviously, I didn't."
Could a Bouwmeester deal have helped the Panthers? The NHL Insiders Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger disagreed.
"One trade that didn't happen - and shouldn't have happened - was Florida trading Jay Bouwmeester," McKenzie explained. "It would have been unfortunate for Florida to trade him and I'm glad they didn't."
"Jay Bouwmeester should've been traded today," countered Dreger. "Florida is still a developing franchise and now they face the reality of watching a player who could've commanded a great return walk out in July."
NHL on TSN host James Duthie discussed how the economy affected what the general managers did on Wednesday.
"Most GMs temporarily lose their minds on Trade Deadline Day, but today most kept their sanity in check. There is a lot of fear about taking on salary when the cap is expected to go down," Duthie said. "The economy played a huge factor with a lot of GMs choosing to be conservative today rather than take financial risks. You don't always see that on Trade Deadline Day. I liked it when GMs went crazy."
In other moves:
- The Atlanta Thrashers traded forward Erik Christensen to Anaheim for prospect Eric O'Dell.
- The St. Louis Blues traded defenceman Andy Wozniewski to Pittsburgh for blueliner Danny Richmond.