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March 3, 2017 | 12:30pm ET
Down the stretch they come

LOS ANGELES, CA -- So when exactly did the NHL Trade Deadline become the NBA Trade Deadline? With few exceptions, NHL General Managers lacked creativity and the testicular fortitude to make bold moves and thusly turned a deadline into a bumline.

With most using the crutch of the impending expansion draft to justify their inertia, only two teams stepped and made moves that could be game changers. If you’re a fan of the other 28 franchises, management will ask you to have patience until the 31-member clubs reconvene in Chicago in mid-June for some cocktails and more deals.

But if you a fan right now in places like Montreal, Los Angeles and Anaheim, you have every right to ask the question of your team -- why didn’t you do more? Because if the team who is clearly the best this season can pull off the most impactful trade of the season, then there’s no excuse for others to follow suite.

It’s called going ALL IN.

Whether he wins or loses, Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan stepped up to the plate and delivered a round tripper, adding Kevin Shattenkirk to the deepest roster in the League. With a team already the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup and likely to be the first overall seed, MacLellan chose not to stand pat. Mindful of all the playoffs stinkers the franchise delivered, he moved decisively to capture the top prize on the board of players made available for trade.

Halfway across America, Chuck Fletcher bolstered his forward wall by grabbing Martin Hanzal and Ryan White from the Arizona Coyotes. Fletcher recognizes that one path to a Stanley Cup is down the middle and although solid at center with a revitalized Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu and the underrated Eric Haula in the pivot, he grabbed the best available center in Hanzal and White who has already provided value as a bottom six grinder.

Mirroring Dean Lombardi strategy of strength down the middle, a stud defenseman (Ryan Suter) and a stellar goalie (Devan Dubnyk) and knowing the path undoubtedly will go through the United Center, Fletcher took the plunge and mortgaged some future for assets that can help them win now.

As for the brethren, the lack of decisiveness of managers that are either on the outside looking in for the post season or are in a playoff spot but have holes in the depth chart is frankly stunning. No boldness, no outside-the-box thinking just repetitive quotes about the inability to do a “hockey trade” or my personal favorite “protecting our assets with an eye towards the expansion draft.”

If you root for a team whose GM is more concerned about losing a fourth defenseman in the offseason than making his team better now, you might want to think about that season ticket renewal that has hit your inbox. The expansion excuse is just that -- a crutch to use for lack of decisiveness. If I was a GM and truly felt the draft had major implications – there’s a simple solution.

Ring up George McPhee in the desert and say, “George, I need (Player X) next season, here’s a (Y) round pick in June not to select him.” That type of deal would expand your protected list (you could now go 7F/4D/1G or 5F/4D/1G) so the threat of losing a player like Josh Manson goes away and the ability to bring in a scoring forward is enhanced.

Are there exceptions to the rule? Of course there are and I’m sure you could cite a few off the top of your head, but that’s not the point. With their teams both struggling to produce offense and resembling nowhere near what a contender looks like, both Lombardi and Bob Murray added a bottom-six winger.

In Anaheim, the route traveled was to pull in one during a career year, this year Patrick Eaves, last year Jamie McGinn, and allow that gaping hole on the left wing alongside Ryan Getzlaf to remain unfilled. Lombardi also went a road once traveled, believing that a veteran in likely his final NHL season can rekindle some magic on the shores of the Pacific.

Unwilling to break up his solid defense, Lombardi added to it with the addition of Ben Bishop, a smart move reminiscent of deadline days past, and took a flyer on Jarome Iginla. Could he have gone into the market and wheeled either Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez in a, ugh, “hockey trade”? Absolutely, but he chose to stay the course and ask the players who have been off the form all season to step up. I have no quarrel with that ask, but by adding Iginla (a note on him later) you’re certainly not going all in.

With a salary cap that looks to the staying flat at $ 73 million next season and the lack of creativity the trade marketplace this time, I think we’re looking at a game of “Hedge Your Bets” for the next season’s trade deadline. Maybe McPhee can take his buddies on a casino tour at the start of next season and get some high rollers to educate them on the term “All In”.

Some things we heard at the trade deadline

On the Kings moves:

We were the first to give you the news on Ben Bishop coming to Los Angeles Sunday afternoon:

A wise and better move by Lombardi and the first on the chessboard that day in the hopes of propping up his inconsistent team.

Bishop, playing for his next contract, has played well down the stretch and with Los Angeles’ confidence in Peter Budaj receding with each goal he surrendered, it’s a “net” gain.

One point that hasn’t been discussed is the goalie rotation down the stretch -- current wisdom says the two netminders (assuming both healthy) will split the duties. But what would happen if Bishop outplayed Quick down the stretch? Let’s say Bishop goes 7-2 and Quick goes 4-5 and the team faces a play-in Game 82 in Anaheim? Do you choose the hot goalie who’s walking out the door on July 1 or the goalie who won you two Cups, has a Conn Smythe Award, and six seasons left on a contract that pays him almost $6 million per?

Next up, Iginla: this year’s vintage of a veteran taking a final victory lap hoping to raise the Cup. Last year, Vinny Lecavalier was summoned from Philadelphia press box purgatory to help the stretch drive run.

When Lombardi chose to move a long-time Darryl Sutter favorite Dwight King (our crew nicknamed him Teacher’s Pet) to Montreal, it created the cash and the roster spot for Iginla. On King, it appears that the bite to his game that once was had softened and there was no interest to extend his contract at season end.

We’ve learned that Iginla was third on their target list heading into the trade deadline – Patrick Sharp was their first choice, but when a hip issue surfaced (and kudos to Jim Nill for being forthcoming) he fell out of consideration. They lost the Thomas Vanek horse race, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as a Vanek-Sutter marriage would have been tenuous. Refusing to move either Muzzin or Martinez (for now) for a winger with more term, money and skill, they chose Plan C.

Iginla will bring a mixed bag to the Kings. In speaking to a Denver source Wednesday night that has watched him throughout his tenure, there is no question Iginla’s competitive fire still burns hot. He will give 110% every shift and his attitude has not been affected by the last two seasons of awful hockey in Colorado. On the ice, he still possesses a rocket of a shot and if he’s teed up at the dot in the faceoff circle on the powerplay a la Alex Ovechkin to prop up their 23rd ranked powerplay.

What he’s likely not to give you are quality top-six minutes -- at this stage, he’s a powerplay specialist and to ask him to consistently skate with Anze Kopitar is likely too much of an ask. I believe his first few games in a Kings sweater will give him some extra juice, but Sutter must be judicious with his minutes to get the best of his game.

NOT RADIO, NOT RADIO

I’ve had the privilege to appear on the NHL Network a couple of times over the past week and the good fortune of joining the great EJ Hradek and Steve Mears for my NHL Now debut.

It’s been fun to work with these true pros and been put into a role that I never imagined I’d be qualified for. Here’s my Thursday appearance for those interested:

AND FINALLY...

Words will not do this justice, but we’ll attempt to add to praise that’s not needed. I attended the Bob Miller press conference announcing him stepping away from the microphone after 44 years as the Kings play-by-play man.

I wrote a feature on Bob and his play-by-play partner Jim Fox a few years ago, and though one sentence cannot take the measure of this man, it’s always stuck in my head when I describe his presence.

If you walked into the press room at Staples Center blindfolded and went to the table with the loudest laughter, you can bet that Bob Miller would be sitting at that table. As humble as he is generous with his time, the terms “Hall of Famer” and “Living Legend” only start describe what this man means to the Kings organization and importantly, their fan base.

While there was some sadness in the room when Bob made things official, the better news is that he appears to be in good health and towards that end he plans to broadcast the final two Kings regular season games.

From a selfish standpoint, I hope he remains around the barn on 11th and Figueroa, telling his tales and bringing light to all that cross his path.

Dennis Bernstein is the Senior Writer for The Fourth Period. Be sure to follow him on Twitter.

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