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Any time you hear "Brendan Witt" and "sweepstakes" in the same sentence you know, with all due respect to Mr. Witt, you're not talking a red-letter day in the history of the NHL's trade deadline swap meet.
Not that there weren't deals made. In fact, a record 25 trades were made between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Thursday. The 40 players dealt ranks as the second-highest single-day player movement in the history of the trade deadline.
|Deadline deals over the years|
|2005-06||March 9, 2006||25||40|
|2003-04||March 9, 2004||20||32|
|2002-03||March 11, 2003||24||46|
|2001-02||March 19, 2002||17||35|
|2000-01||March 13, 2001||17||31|
|1999-00||March 14, 2000||12||23|
|1998-99||March 23, 1999||21||30|
|1997-98||March 24, 1998||19||38|
|1996-97||March 18, 1997||18||35|
|1995-96||March 20, 1996||13||21|
|1994-95||April 7, 1995||19||32|
|1993-94||March 21, 1994||18||35|
|1992-93||March 22, 1993||9||14|
|1991-92||March 10, 1992||11||22|
|1990-91||March 5, 1991||14||33|
But on a day that saw no fewer than 18 defensemen trade uniforms, the 2006 trade deadline will be remembered for the depth and role players that were on the move and the superstars that stayed at home. And that's not such a bad thing, really.
In the old NHL you could predict what was going to transpire at the trade deadline days in advance. There were only a handful of big-market, big-payroll teams that could engage the aging stars or potential unrestricted free agents that small-market teams and teams outside the playoff bubble couldn't afford to keep.
Nary a superstar traded hands Thursday. Was there a Hall of Famer among the group? Not one that immediately comes to mind unlike other trade festivals, which have included names like Ray Bourque, Brian Leetch, Doug Gilmour, Phil Housley, Tom Barrasso, Dave Andreychuk and so on.
Instead, this first trade deadline in the new NHL was all about GMs making moves that might not have been the stuff of headlines in mid-March but moves they hope will pay dividends on some steamy playoff night in late May or early June. In other words, real hockey stuff, the kinds of deals that between now and Stanley Cup time will separate the men from the boys.
Herein, a look at the Day of the Defenseman.
Budaj, a rookie, has started 15 games this season; while he has given up two goals or less in 10 of those starts, he has yet to face the pressure of a playoff run. Even though Budaj did emerge as the starter for Slovakia in the Olympics, going 2-1, that is an entirely different dynamic than what he will face as the interim starter for the Avalanche.
Kolesnik, the presumed backup, saw his first NHL action this season and has started just seven games.
There are various reports about when Theodore might return to action, but it certainly won't be much before the end of the month, at the earliest, and Lacroix was talking about Theodore's availability for the playoffs. But that's assuming the Avalanche will be in the playoffs.
After their date Thursday with Chicago, the Avalanche appeared comfortably ensconced in fifth place in the Western Conference with 78 points. But a closer look reveals the Avs' position is by no means secure. The three teams directly behind Colorado all have at least one game in hand -- and should Los Angeles, Edmonton and Vancouver win those games, two of the three would leapfrog the Avalanche. Then there's ninth-place Anaheim, which, entering Friday, had four games in hand and was eight points in arrears of the Avalanche.
In the end it might not matter so much if Theodore can get his groove back but whether he'll have to wait until next season to prove it.
Roloson has proved he can put up big-time numbers in the past, and he's got something to prove now that the Oilers have attached their Stanley Cup wagon to him. It says here the Oilers won't regret this move.
After a preemptive strike last month to acquire highly coveted center Doug Weight essentially for a bag of pucks and two broken sticks, Rutherford then moved decisively Thursday to bring in veteran forward Mark Recchi to fill the void left by Erik Cole, who may be gone for the season with a cracked vertebra. It cost Rutherford a couple of prospects in Niklas Nordgren and Krys Kolanos, but the return could be a trip to the Eastern Conference finals -- and perhaps further. Recchi's addition will also help the team's push to finish first overall, an achievement that was crucial to Tampa's Cup run in 2004. People talk about acquiring veteran leadership at this time of year and it all sounds like white noise after a while. But Recchi is that kind of player.
Likewise, by moving Jamie Lundmark, Denis Gauthier and Sean O'Donnell, the Coyotes appear to be looking ahead, although they also got good value for these assets.
By trading Samsonov to the Oilers, the Bruins are at least holding the white flag, if not waving it.
But more often than not the trades have little bearing on playoff success. Bob Hartley recalls coaching in Colorado when stars like Theo Fleury, Darius Kasparaitis, Rob Blake, Andreychuk and Bourque arrived during his tenure. The team won one Stanley Cup, in 2001, a year after Bourque arrived and after the departure of most of those other big-name additions.
"A hockey team is like a puzzle," Hartley said. "You just have to hope they'll fit in at the right spot."
One player who stands out in this round peg, square hole category for Hartley is U.S. Olympian Brian Rolston, now a mainstay with the Minnesota Wild.
"I remember we got Brian Rolston. We tried everything, and I love Brian Rolston," said Hartley, who used the forward with the big shot with everyone including Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. "But it just didn't work."
Scott Burnside is an NHL writer for ESPN.com.