NHL trades begin after midnight on deadline day
Blame Vegas and an ever-tightening playoff race for turning the NHL's trade deadline day into mostly a dud.
With teams jockeying to stay in contention and eager to preserve their protected lists to brace for the NHL expansion draft in June, there were only a few notable deals completed before the deadline struck Wednesday afternoon.
Officially, the NHL said, there were 18 trades completed involving 33 players, the lowest totals since April 2013, when 17 deals were made involving 30 players. Even so, quantity didn't equate to quality on Wednesday, with 17 of the players dealt having been placed on waivers at one point this season.
And of the 18 deals completed, only 12 involved NHL players. The others were limited to minor leaguers.
''Obviously, everybody is looking at expansion,'' Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said. ''It's a unique year, a different year. And expansion did weigh into a lot of teams' decisions.''
Sakic was at least one of the GMs able to move a name player.
The Avalanche traded veteran forward Jarome Iginla to the Los Angeles Kings for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft. The only other notable move involved the Detroit Red Wings, who traded veteran forward Thomas Vanek to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Dylan McIlrath and a conditional third-round pick in June.
It was a big step up in the standings for both Iginla and Vanek, who are suddenly playing for teams in the playoff hunt.
Iginla was playing for Colorado, which has a league-worst 37 points. Now the 12-time 30-goal-scorer joins a Kings team that, with 66 points, is a point behind St. Louis for the Western Conference's final wild-card spot.
Vanek is an 11-time 20-goal-scorer who joins Jaromir Jagr and the Panthers, whose 68 points are tied with the New York Islanders and one behind eighth-place Toronto.
''Thomas is a proven scorer in this league who will add some offensive savvy and experience to our young group of forwards,'' Panthers president of hockey operations Dale Tallon said.
The Red Wings are 15th in the East and shedding talent while in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1990. Their 25-season playoff run is the longest active streak in North America's professional sports. Earlier in the day, Detroit dealt gritty forward Steve Ott to Montreal.
Veteran defenseman Mark Streit changed teams twice and stayed in Pennsylvania. First, Streit was traded by Philadelphia to Tampa Bay for forward Valtteri Filppula and two conditional draft picks. Then the Lightning dealt Streit to Pittsburgh for a 2018 fourth-round pick. The Boston Bruins acquired forward Drew Stafford from Winnipeg.
More notable was the list of players staying put, including Arizona's Shane Doan and Radim Vrbata, Buffalo's defensive tandem of Dmitry Kulikov and Cody Franson, and Avalanche forwards Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog.
It wasn't for a lack of trying, Sabres general manager Tim Murray said.
''I couldn't make a trade,'' Murray said, noting he made numerous attempts to deal Kulikov and Franson, both of whom are in the final years of their contracts. ''Am I disappointed? Of course I'm disappointed.''
Murray said the Vegas Golden Knights played a role ahead of their first season next fall.
In being limited to protecting only eight players, teams placed an emphasis on keeping youngsters because they don't have to be exposed in the expansion draft. One strategy: Exposing aging, high-priced players in hopes they're selected by Vegas.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said the expansion draft in June and a stagnant salary cap are reasons teams are turning to younger players and draft picks, making it more difficult to make trades.
''Everybody understands, no matter where you are in the standings the importance of youth moving through your system,'' Holland said. ''It's all factored into all of our thinking at the trade deadline. It's going to factor into the expansion draft and it's going to factor into the thinking once the expansion draft is over at the June entry draft. It's the league, and it's ever evolving.''
The Golden Knights officially opened for business on Wednesday when the final installment of owner Bill Foley's $500 million expansion payment was cleared. Vegas can begin making trades for draft picks and unsigned prospects and sign free agents whose college or European league seasons are over.
The Canadiens were relatively busy, beefing up their Atlantic Division team by acquiring checking-line veteran Dwight King from Los Angeles. This continued a trend for Montreal to add toughness to a team that's 4-2 since Claude Julien replaced Michel Therrien as coach.
The Canadiens also added defensemen Jordie Benn and Brandon Davidson. In exchange, they dealt draft picks, unhappy defenseman Greg Pateryn and forward David Desharnais as part of its makeover.
In a deal struck just after midnight, the defending Western Conference-champion San Jose Sharks acquired winger Jannik Hansen from Vancouver in exchange for prospect Nikolay Goldobin and a conditional fourth-round pick that becomes a first-rounder if they win the Stanley Cup.
AP Hockey Writers Stephen Whyno and Larry Lage, and sports writers Schuyler Dixon, Josh Dubow, Pat Graham, Joedy McCreary contributed to this story.