Two teams in dire need of a shakeup have done just that.
The Calgary Flames have traded defenceman Dion Phaneuf, forward Fredrik Sjostrom, and prospect defenceman Keith Aulie to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for forwards Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and defenceman Ian White.
The Maple Leafs and Flames have been working on the components of this blockbuster for a week to ten days, but sources say the details of the deal didn't fall into place until late last night.
"[Phaneuf] is a warrior. He's got a cannon for a shot," explained Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke on Sunday. "He plays the game hard and I want players who play the game hard because they're hard to play against."
The former all-star defenceman was emotional when he told reporters that he was caught off guard by news of the trade.
"It was definitely a shock, but I'm very excited about going to Toronto and being a Maple Leaf.
''The toughest part is saying goodbye to your buddies,'' he said. ''It was a great four-and-a-half years in Calgary. But it's part of the business.
''It's a cliche, if Wayne Gretzky can get traded anyone can get traded," he said. "I was very surprised, but on the other hand I'm very excited to be going to the biggest hockey market in the world.''
Phaneuf and Sjostrom will arrive in Toronto on Sunday night and will skate with the team on Monday. Aulie will join the AHL Toronto Marlies on Monday.
''It's a fresh start for me now, and I'm looking forward to going to Toronto and hopefully making an impact there,'' Sjostrom said.
Flames general manager Brent Sutter said that seeing both Phaneuf and Sjostrom leave town was tough, but he was looking forward to the players that were coming in.
''I have a lot of respect for Dion, but this is part of the business,'' Sutter said. ''It happens at times, and it's happened here.
''It's tough to see Freddy leaving too because he had a roll on our team, but we're getting some established players right now that bring us some needs that we can use.''
Phaneuf has two goals over his last three games and is signed through the 2013-14 season ($6.5 million per). He had 18:49 TOI last night, only the third time this month he's been under 20 minutes in a game. The big defenceman has 10 goals and 12 assists to go with a minus-3 rating over his 55 games.
Sjostrom has played 46 games with one goal and five assists for Calgary this season. Aulie was drafted in the fourth round, 116th overall of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The six-foot-six defenceman had spent this season with the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL.
Hagman has 20 goals and 13 assists, while Stajan has 16 goals and 25 assists, each over 55 games this season. Both players have a minus-3 rating. Mayers had expressed interest in being traded earlier in January. He had two goals, six assists and 78 penalty minutes over his 44 games with the Maple Leafs this season. White had nine goals, 17 assists and a plus-1 rating over his 56 games.
Burke admitted the loss of Stajan and Hagman would leave a hole in the Maple Leaf attack, but explained that acquiring Phaneuf was too good an opportunity to pass up.
"It takes some offence out of our lineup and that's the next question ... who replaces that offence we lost today, but it puts a major weapon on the blueline and makes us much more difficult to play."
Since he entered the NHL in the 2005-06 season Phaneuf is tops among defenceman with 75 goals (2nd Sheldon Souray - 68), power-play goals with 48 (2nd Zdeno Chara - 41), game-winning goals with 21 (2nd Dan Boyle - 15) and shots at 1,150 (2nd Chara - 992) over that span.
In addition, Phaneuf (48) ranks second to Paul Coffey (50) in power-play goals by a defenceman over the first five seasons of their career and he is tied with Denis Potvin for game-winning goals (21) over the same span.
The Flames were mired in their worst slump (0-6-3) since an 11-game losing streak in 1986 before getting on the winning side of the tracks on Saturday night with a 6-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in the Battle of Alberta.
The Maple Leafs are coming off a dramatic loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday evening, giving up a three-goal first period lead before falling 5-3. With the loss, coupled with Carolina's 4-2 victory over Chicago, Toronto now sits 29th in the NHL standings. The Hurricanes and Leafs are tied in points with 45 but Carolina is ahead because of more wins.
The Maple Leafs also acquired veteran goaltender Jean-Sebastien from the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. In exchange, the Leafs shipped netminder Vesa Toskala and veteran forward Jason Blake to the Ducks.