Non-trades bigger than trades

Thursday March 4th, 2010

Some random thoughts on the fly -- Toronto to Detroit, if I recall my itinerary -- on the record-setting, yawn-inducing 2010 NHL trade deadline:

• Without the "thunderclouds" as Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke put it -- no player with the stature of Jay Bouwmeester or Marian Hossa in play -- Dan Hamhuis, a top-four defenseman overshadowed in Nashville by Olympians Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, stayed with the Predators. Ray Whitney, a useful veteran forward with a no-trade clause, remained in Carolina. The only forwards on the move who can comfortably play in a top six are Wojtek Wolski (Colorado to Phoenix for the unmotivated Peter Mueller and former Hobey Baker-winner Kevin Porter) and Fredrik Modin (from Columbus to Los Angeles). Edmonton swapped offensive defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky for Anaheim's Ryan Whitney -- a pair of Olympians -- but Dennis Seidenberg was the one other top four defenseman to be traded, going from Florida to Boston. Seidenberg was effective for Carolina last spring when the surprising Hurricanes reached the Eastern Conference final.

• Calgary is now officially Toronto West. After the Dion Phaneuf mega-deal prior to the Olympics that included four Maple Leafs, Calgary general manager Darryl Sutter added Vesa Toskala, who took a quick detour to Anaheim last month, as his backup goalie. While Toskala is an upgrade over Curtis McElhinney -- expect Toskala to start maybe two games in place of Miikka Kiprusoff in the next six weeks -- he is one more player to come out of a franchise with no recent history of success. In baseball, you can never have enough pitching. In Cowtown, apparently you can never have enough Leafs.

• Boston GM Peter Chiarelli fixed a big off-season mistake by off-loading Derek Morris to Phoenix, one of the defenseman's former teams. The Bruins, who signed Morris because they were looking for an upgrade over Aaron Ward as Zdeno Chara's partner on the No. 1 pair, dumped Morris for a fourth-rounder in 2011. Morris earns $3.3 million this season, a one-year deal that helped put the Bruins in salary-cap jail. Morris is one of those vaguely disappointing players, a perpetual tease with a healthy dose of offensive skill. He is not unlike Jordan Leopold, a career underachiever acquired by Pittsburgh from Florida on Monday.

• The playoff teams that seemed to need goaltending -- Philadelphia, Washington and Chicago -- did not address those needs. With Ray Emery (hip) incapacitated for the season, Michael Leighton will have to carry the burden for a Flyers franchise that hasn't seemed to get its goaltending right since Ron Hextall was a pup. The Capitals will again ride the combination of Semyon Varlamov and veteran José Théodore while the Blackhawks will try to finesse four rounds out of veteran Cristobal Huet, who never has won one even although he did have a strong regular-season stretch run with Washington in 2008, and rookie Antti Niemi. If neither team wins the Stanley Cup, it will rue not having grabbed Dallas' Marty Turco (an unrestricted free agent July 1) or Florida's Tomas Vokoun, who looked like the only real difference-maker available, but the goalie carries a $6.3 million price tag for next season, a big hit for teams hugging the salary cap.

• Like Macy's swapping dry goods with Gimbel's, the Edmonton Oilers deigned to make a trade with the Calgary Flames, their bitter provincial rivals. Steve Staios, a third-pair defenseman, was the centerpiece. The Oilers are shedding salary -- Staios will earn $2.2 million in 2010-11 -- but it was shocking to see them deal with the hated Flames. The reason: Oilers GM Steve Tambellini, unlike Edmonton president Kevin Lowe, was never part of the insane Battles of Alberta. For Tambellini, there were no taboos.

• The Phoenix Coyotes, wards of the NHL, added five players. If the Coyotes win the Stanley Cup, will Commissioner Gary Bettman, who always congratulates the owners, congratulate himself?

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