Beyond ‘Nova Nation: Blockbuster deals mix up NHL at trade deadline



Kaitlin Santanna

Opening night, draft day, the night Lord Stanley’s Cup is awarded, the NHL trade deadline. These four events constitute the unofficial NHL holidays for hockey players and fans alike. The latter of these celebrations took place on Feb. 26 and proved to be one of the most exciting deadlines in history. The NHL trade deadline, the last day of the season for trading players, saw the movement of 45 players in 25 trades. Some teams were buyers in hopes of improving their team for the playoffs, while others were sellers, accepting they were not going to make the postseason and looking instead to improve their team for the future. Below are the four biggest deals of the day, along with reactions to the deals and how the major teams involved in the day are fairing now.

Capital Additions

The Washington Capitals put up the first big deal of the day and ended up making three good additions to their team before the day was out.

Deal 1: Caps got goalie Christobal Huet from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a second-round draft pick in 2009.

Deal 2: Washington received forward Sergei Fedorov from Columbus for prospect Ted Ruth.

Deal 3: Caps sent Matt Pettinger to the Vancouver Canucks for forward Matt Cooke.

The Reaction: The Capitals are contenders for the winner on trade day with General Manager George McPhee making great additions to his team, fully proving Washington is serious about being a playoff team this season. The Huet trade was one of the most talked about throughout the day, if not the most surprising. The Caps had two solid goaltenders, including Olaf Kolzig, who has made Washington his home for his entire 17-year career.

With the trade, the Canadiens fully put the future of their organization on 20-year-old goalie Carey Price, who so far has been shouldering the load well. The Habs have risen in the standings since the trade deadline and are currently fighting for top spot in the Eastern Conference.

The trades proved to be beneficial for the Capitals as well, at least until last weekend. They found a veteran forward to go on the second line and now have two top-notch goalies. Before suffering two heartbreaking one-goal losses Saturday and Sunday, the Caps had won four of their last five since the deadline, including a 10-2 thrashing against the Boston Bruins. Washington needs a bit of luck on its side to break into the postseason, but anyone who knows Capitals’ Head Coach Bruce Boudreau knows that his teams never give up easily. Seeing how the bottom three playoff spots in the East shape up is going to be entertaining to watch in the season’s closing weeks.

Star Trade

The Deal: Tampa Bay sent away Brad Richards and goalie Johan Holmqvist to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Jeff Halpern, Jussi Jokinen, Mike Smith and a fourth-round pick in 2009.

The Reaction: This blockbuster deal between the Lightning and the Stars was one of the most talked about on deadline day. With Tampa in the basement of the conference standings and undergoing a change in ownership, it asked one of its three star forwards to waive the no-trade clause. Richards agreed and parted ways with the team that he won the Stanley Cup with in 2004 to join one of this season’s top Cup contenders.

The Stars hold the same second-place position in the Western Conference that they had before the deadline, but with their new additions, the Stars have become one of the best teams in the league.

Tampa remains in the bottom of the Eastern Conference but picked up a great goaltender in Smith, along with two seasoned forwards. Goalies have a hard life in Tampa under constant scrutiny by Head Coach John Tortorella, but Smith will hopefully give the Lightning something to cheer about for the remainder of the season.

The Battle for Hossa

The Deal: Pittsburgh Penguins acquired forwards Pascal Dupuis and Marian Hossa from the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for prospect Angelo Esposito and forwards Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen, along with a 2008 first-round pick.

The Reaction: The name on everyone’s lips throughout the day was Hossa. It was widely known that the All-Star forward would not be staying in Atlanta. As the 3 p.m. deadline approached and no final deal was even rumored, Hossa’s future seemed uncertain. However, at 2:58 p.m., the last major deal came across the airwaves.

The Penguins seemed to be selling their soul, or at least their prospects, to get the most discussed prize of the day. At first glance, this trade looked to be a bit lopsided, with Atlanta getting the better end of the deal. Armstrong and Christensen were both among Pittsburgh’s top nine forwards. This sentiment was further solidified by the fact that Hossa has played less than 10 minutes with his new team – the forward suffered a knee injury in his debut with the Pens and has yet to return.

Although first reactions gave the upper hand to Atlanta, the Penguins have proved to be the real winners. Since the trade deadline, the Penguins have kept their fourth-place standing in the Eastern Conference, mere points behind the New Jersey Devils. If Pittsburgh can overtake the Devils, they will clinch the Atlantic Division and be among the top two teams in the East.

Heading West

The Deal: Buffalo Sabres send defenseman Brian Campbell and a seventh-round pick in the 2008 draft to San Jose for forward Steve Bernier and a first-round pick in the 2008 draft.

The Reaction: Campbell was raised in the Buffalo system, so this trade was an emotional one for the blue-liner. The inability for the Sabres to negotiate a deal with Campbell led the way for the deal. While originally shocked by the deal, Campbell seems to be fitting in well out west. All the Sharks have done since the deadline is go 10-0 and seriously challenge the talented Stars for the top spot in the always-challenging Pacific Division.

The Sabres, meanwhile, are on the outside looking in on the playoff race in the East, sitting in ninth place and in the race to battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference.