There were 16 deals involving 32 players and 11 picks on Monday, but that pales in comparison to the hectic pace of last-minute moves of just a few years ago. Still, there were plenty of notable moves, and even more non-moves with some of the day's biggest stories involving the players who were not dealt.
It will take time to fully evaluate how each of those decisions will play out, but here's a look at some of the apparent initial winners and losers from this year's trade deadline frenzy.
Winner – Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres haven't won much this year, at least not since Milan Lucic steamrolled goalie Ryan Miller back in November. But Buffalo has rallied of late to get itself on the edge of playoff contention. On Monday, the Sabres didn't do anything to seriously hurt those long-shot chances, while also greatly improving its future prospects. Buffalo landing a first-round pick for checking-line center Paul Gaustad was the steal of the day. Gaustad is a good faceoff man and adds a bit of a physical presence despite his failure to immediately stand up from Miller when he was on the ice at the time of Lucic's hit, but it's simply amazing that a player with 7-10-17 totals in 56 games due to be an unrestricted free agent after the season is the only guy on Monday who netted a first-rounder in return. The Sabres also got the better of the Cody Hodgson–Zack Kassian swap in terms of pure skill and point potential, though Kassian does fill a huge need for some legitimate toughness in Vancouver.
Loser – Carolina Hurricanes
While Buffalo cashed in on Paul Gaustad, the Hurricanes ended the day stuck holding on to soon-to-be unrestricted free agent defensemen Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek. Both should have netted picks or prospects for the Hurricanes, who are mired in 14th in the East and going nowhere this season. This comes after Carolina arguably overpaid to retain Tuomo Ruutu and Tim Gleason. It would be one thing to keep the team together if this season's struggles were an aberration, but Carolina is about to miss the playoffs for the third straight year and has made the postseason just once since winning the Cup in 2006. The Hurricanes should be rebuilding for the future with a thorough overall, but instead they continue to spin their wheels.
Winner – Samuel Pahlsson
Not a bad day for the one-time Bruin, who goes from a dysfunctional Blue Jackets team with the fewest points in the league to a Canucks squad on pace for another Presidents' Trophy. Pahlsson has Cup experience, having hoisted hockey's top prize with Anaheim in 2007, and should help Vancouver in the postseason as a checking-line center with some skill.
Loser – Steven Kampfer
The young defenseman went in the opposite direction, leaving a team fresh off a championship and in contention for a repeat to join a Minnesota organization in freefall. The Wild have won just eight of their last 33 games after starting 20-7-3, dropping from first place in the West just before Christmas to 12th. Kampfer came up three games short of getting his name engraved on the Cup last year with the Bruins, and could have a very long wait before getting such a chance in Minnesota. He does have a better chance of getting back to the NHL with the Wild though after being sent down to Providence and bypassed on the last round of call-ups by Andrew Bodnarchuk.
Winner – David Poile
The only GM in Nashville's history had a pretty good week. First, he got a contract extension to remain the Predators' only front-office boss through 2014-15, then he added some key pieces to shore up his club's biggest weakness. Poile overpaid for Paul Gaustad by giving up a first-rounder, but adding Gaustad and Andrei Kostitsyn gives Nashville much-needed depth up front after already strengthening a strong defensive corps with Cup-winning veteran Hal Gill. The Predators have a chance to make a deep run this spring, but the window won't be open long with star defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea Weber up for new contracts this summer. It will be difficult to retain both, making this postseason crucial for Nashville, and Poile improved his club on a day when impact forward help was difficult to acquire.
Loser – Brian Burke
The Leafs' GM didn't make a significant deal at the deadline despite his club's freefall out of playoff position. Toronto has lost four straight and is just 1-7-1 over its last nine games, dropping to 10th in the East and putting its quest for the club's first playoff berth since 2004 in serious doubt. Burke opted not to address his team's issues in goal or make any other additions outside of a swap of prospects, sending towering young defenseman Keith Aulie to Tampa Bay for forward Carter Ashton. To make matters worse, Burke then acted like a petulant child threatening to take his ball and go home when he announced that he would consider avoiding deadline deals completely in the future because of the rumors circulating around his team. "It’s to the point where I’m debating whether I do what I do around Christmas … starting our own trade freeze 10 days before," Burke said. "That’s how distracting it is."
Winner – Providence Bruins
The Bruins didn't add anyone ticketed to play in the AHL in their deals on Monday, but the big-league depth they did add allow Boston to return Carter Camper, Max Sauve and Andrew Bodnarchuk to Providence. Those players won't see that as a good thing, but it's definitely a boon for Providence. The Baby B's get back their leading scorer (Camper, 38 points) and talented forward Sauve, as well as a solid veteran on the blue line in Bodnarchuk as they try to end a two-year postseason drought. Providence also got back leading goal-scorer Josh Hennessy (15 goals) on Sunday, and currently sits in third place in the AHL's Atlantic Division, but is just two points ahead of fifth-place Portland, with Worcester in between.
Loser – Columbus Blue Jackets
The biggest name available at the deadline didn't move at all. Rick Nash remains stuck in Columbus despite his desire to leave the floundering Blue Jackets. But just in case that didn't make things awkward enough for the final six weeks of the season, Columbus GM Scott Howson had to fan the flames further by revealing publicly that it was Nash who asked out and requested the trade. Think things couldn't get uglier for a team with the worst record in the NHL? Think again. Things will be very tense in Columbus until the Blue Jackets can pursue a trade again this summer, and there's no guarantee Howson, if he's still in charge, will find a suitable offer then either.
Winner – Fans of drama in D.C.
The struggling Capitals didn't make any moves to try to reverse that trend (3-5-1 in their last nine), but on the surface that wouldn't be all bad. After all, Washington has been very active at recent deadlines without any tangible benefits in the postseason and this year rental prices were particularly high. But there were a couple pieces that should have been moved for the sake of team harmony. Defenseman Roman Hamrlik remains despite publicly questioning coach Dale Hunter last week. When Hamrlik was reportedly benched for taking a bad penalty, he noted, "You should ask him about the penalties because when he played I think he make lots of penalties himself," said Hamrlik of Hunter, who is second all-time in NHL history with 3,565 PIMs. Mike Knuble has also been unhappy about being a healthy scratch of late. Though he's not the type to make an issue of it, seeing a respected veteran like Knuble treated like that is certainly not going to help a potentially poisonous locker-room atmosphere in the Capital.
Loser – Fans of deadline drama
The NHL trade deadline has been turned into an unofficial holiday for hockey fans, particularly north of the border. The days and weeks of anticipation and hype weren't rewarded this season though, with just 16 deals going down. That matches last year's total as the lowest number of deadline trades since 2000 and it was barely half of the total of 31 deals involving 55 players just two years ago. Increased parity thanks to the extra points awarded for overtime and shootout losers, the heightened value of draft picks in the cap system and more activity ahead of the deadline (13 deals involving 26 players and 17 picks between Feb. 16-27) have combined to take a lot of the excitement out of the trade deadline.
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