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March 2, 2007
  

Deadline Day Lives up to Expectations
TFP's Editor-in-Chief David Pagnotta explains why Tuesday's trade deadline was one of the busiest in recent memory.
 

(TORONTO, ON) -- When trade deadline day began, it was relatively quiet in the eyes of the public. As fans huddled around their computers and television sets to hear the latest buzz and catch the latest trade, beat writers, reporters, analysis and insiders sought out information on a potential move.

Unfortunately, for the hardcore hockey fan, there wasn't much to report by 11am ET. Sure, there were a few of moves made (Gary Roberts to Pittsburgh, Martin Biron to Philly and Ty Conklin to Buffalo), but fans were desperate for more.

As our team of correspondents and beat writers dissected every rumor that floated our way, it certainly wasn't a calm day at TFP HQ. With emails pouring in and my cell phone surgically implanted to my right ear, it was far from a dull day.

Teams were talking, deals were being consummated and I had already gone through a half pack of RedBull -- and it was only 11:05am (I can't wait to see my phone bill).

No, Tuesday's trade deadline didn't disappoint. In fact, it came with a few surprises.

Granted, the only major move by 2pm ET saw the San Jose Sharks acquire Bill Guerin from the St. Louis Blues for far less than Keith Tkachuk demanded from the Atlanta Thrashers two days prior.

 

But that was before Todd Bertuzzi, Yanic Perreault, Mattias Norstrom and Ryan Smyth (still sounds weird) were dealt to playoff contenders.

Personally, I found this year's deadline to be the busiest I've covered in seven years. Between a record-tying 25 trades that involved 44 players, and all the potentials deals that could have occurred if some teams dropped their asking price or others decided to pay up.

General Managers were desperately trying to address their needs before 3pm hit and the majority of them were successful. There was plenty of action and tones of possibilities circling around the National Hockey League on Tuesday.

"It was very busy because everything was left to the last minute," said Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier. "With the salary cap, teams were trying to [wait as long as possible] before making a move."

The Sabres made a few moves on Tuesday, dealing goalie Martin Biron and forward Jiri Novotny, and obtaining center Dainius Zubrus and netminder Ty Conklin, much to his surprise.

"I heard [about the trade] around 8:30 [Tuesday] morning sitting around eating breakfast," Conklin said.

"I wasn't really expecting anything. Regardless of whether you're expecting anything or not, there's going to be some shock... and there certainly was. But, that's quickly followed up by a lot of excitement."

As we continued to work the phones, anticipating more deals to be announced after the clock hit three in the afternoon (a trade could be completed at 2pm but it takes hours before it's gone through the league's approval process), I received a phone call from New York that nearly knocked me off my chair.

"Umm, Dave... You ready for this?" asked the gentleman on the other line. "Ryan Smyth is an Islander."

In by far the biggest shocker of the day, Smyth was shipped to Long Island, following contract negotiations between Smyth's agent, Don Meehan, and Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe that broke down.

According to Meehan, the two sides were talking up until 2:40pm. When nothing materialized, Lowe was forced to pull the trigger and send the lifetime Oiler to the New York Islanders.

Smyth, who is on pace for a career-high 42 goals, played 770 games with the Oilers over 12 seasons and is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He was believed to be looking for a five-year, $28.5 million contract that would have paid him an average of $5.7 million a season. The Oilers countered with a five-year deal (figures not known, but believed to be around $5 million per season) that included a no-trade clause.

"This is not what my family and I had in store," Smyth said Wednesday when he met with the media at the Edmonton International Airport. "This city is like home to me and my family. We've been here for 12 years. I never thought I'd come to this day.

"I've got to turn the page and get a new chapter in my life and the Islanders have given me that opportunity, and I thank them for this. I'm going to go there and do my best to make the playoffs and win that Cup so I can bring it down here to Edmonton. That's where my heart is."

For the record, Lowe knew what he was doing. While some GMs claim they had no idea the gritty forward was available, Lowe contacted a handful of teams he felt would have coughed up the biggest return.

The Islanders, who gave up top prospects Ryan O'Marra and Robert Nilsson and a 2007 first-round pick for Smyth, hit a home run on deadline day and the days leading up to it. As they battle for a playoff spot, the Isles have added Smyth, who will play on a line with Alexei Yashin and Jason Blake, winger Richard Zednik (acquired from Washington) and defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron (also acquired from Edmonton).

The San Jose Sharks (who also acquired defenseman Craig Rivet from Montreal on Sunday) and Detroit Red Wings (who added Kyle Calder in a three-way deal from Chicago via Philadelphia) also upped their chances at capturing Lord Stanley's Cup with their respective acquisitions of Guerin and Bertuzzi.

Guerin gives the Sharks one of the most dangerous lines in hockey, playing alongside Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo, and one of the deepest forward units in the league.

Among the losers of the deadline, the Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes stick out like a sore thumb. Edmonton killed its shot at a playoff birth as soon as Smyth left, and if the Hurricanes can't find a way to win, it will mark the first time in NHL history that the two previous Cup finalists miss the playoffs the following year.

With the trade deadline, and the hysteria that goes with it, now behind us, our attention turns to the playoff race and free agency.

We can all relax... for now.
 


David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine and covers the Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL for TheFourthPeriod.com. He is also a contributing writer for NBCSports.com.
 

 

 

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