The first NHL trading deadline overshadowed by salary-cap restrictions was the busiest ever, producing a record 25 trades in the six hours before Thursday's noon PST cutoff.
But quantity did not equal quality, as the day primarily produced moves by contenders who addressed a specific need or clubs that have conceded the season. Forty players were traded, second only to the 46 traded on deadline day in 2003. And as always, defensemen were hot commodities: 14 trades involved defensemen, moving 19 of them to new teams.
The late flurry surprised Mighty Duck General Manager Brian Burke, who had expected movement to be limited by salary-cap issues: "I'd say that was a pretty poor prediction," said Burke, who made four trades that got him a defenseman and a winger. "There were maybe not the big names that have moved in the past, but there was a lot of activity."
He attributed the lack of movement among marquee players to their high price tags.
"The sticker shock started, for me, last week," he said. "The first big volley was Edmonton acquiring a guy who's going to be an unrestricted free agent [Dwayne Roloson, on Wednesday] and he goes for a first-round pick and a conditional pick. So right away you knew you were going to have to pay a higher price than historically you might have."
The biggest winner appeared to be the league-leading Carolina Hurricanes, who acquired reliable right wing Mark Recchi from the Pittsburgh Penguins for, essentially, two warm bodies and a second-round draft pick in 2007. Recchi, who through Wednesday had 24 goals and 57 points in 63 games, replenishes the scoring potential the Hurricanes lost when winger Erik Cole suffered a serious neck injury last week.
General Manager Jim Rutherford, who snared Doug Weight from St. Louis in late January, said that if he hadn't landed Recchi, "we would not have made a deal.... Mark's record speaks for itself, especially at the playoff level. He's won championships and been through those wars before. Once you get to the playoffs it's important to have guys like that, who understand the ups and downs."
Recchi, 38, said he waived his no-trade clause because he liked the Hurricanes' competitiveness.
"I'm not trying to go in and be the savior," he said. "To be the little piece that can get them over the top, that's what I'm looking for."
The Vancouver Canucks, wounded by injuries to their top three defensemen, found three steady if less-than-speedy replacements by acquiring Keith Carney from the Ducks, Sean Brown from New Jersey and Eric Weinrich from St. Louis for draft picks and marginal players. They also got a backup to Alex Auld when they acquired Mika Noronen from the goaltending-rich Buffalo Sabres for a second-round pick in this year's draft.
As rumored, the Nashville Predators acquired solid defenseman Brendan Witt from Washington for center Kris Beech and a first-round pick in this year's draft. Minnesota, out of the top eight in the West, traded rugged defenseman Willie Mitchell and a 2007 second-round pick to Dallas for defensemen Martin Skoula and Shawn Belle. Phoenix, also out of the West playoff picture, sent physical defenseman Denis Gauthier to Philadelphia for left wing Josh Gratton and two draft picks.
Besides trading Recchi, the Penguins sent defenseman Cory Cross to Detroit for a fourth-round pick in 2007. Chicago, another non-playoff team, traded center Jim Dowd to Colorado for a fourth-round draft pick and defenseman Todd Simpson to Montreal for a sixth-round pick.