By Steve Keating
TORONTO (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Kings made the most noise on a quiet NHL trade deadline day and positioned themselves for a Stanley Cup run by acquiring forward Dustin Penner in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.
With many teams content to stand pat or tweak their rosters for the playoffs, only 16 trades involving 35 players were made, down from last year's hectic deadline day that produced a record 31 trades involving 55 players.
The Kings, tipped to be among the most active teams on what was to be a wild day of wheeling and dealing, waited until the final minutes before the deadline to pull the trigger on the biggest deal of the day, acquiring Penner from the Oilers for prospect Colten Teubert, a 2011 first-round draft pick and a 2012 conditional second-round pick.
The Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks confirmed their Stanley Cup ambitions, each bolstering their rosters with a pair of trades while the Florida Panthers staged a fire sale unloading assets for prospects in four separate transactions.
Several major trades in the days leading up to the deadline robbed the day of much of its usual thunder.
But the tight standings, particularly in the Western conference where three points separate the fifth and 11th place, guaranteed there would be some action as teams jockey for a top eight finish and a playoff spot.
Sitting in fifth and believing they are on the cusp of being Cup contenders, the Kings surrendered part of their future to land Penner, a burly power forward who has 21 goals and 18 assists for the Oilers this season.
"It's timing when to start moving picks and prospects," said Kings general manager Dean Lombardi. "I just felt there was a little more urgency with what the players had done to get us to this point.
"I just felt they deserved it."
The Capitals added to key pieces, sending prospect Jake Hauswirth and a third-round draft pick to Florida for puck-moving defenseman Dennis Wideman, who will provide some cover for the injured Mike Green.
Washington then grabbed experience center Jason Arnott, a seasoned playoff veteran, from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for David Steckel.
The Canucks, sitting at the top of the West, added some scoring and grit to their lineup acquiring forward Christopher Higgins (11 goals, 12 assists) from the Panthers for defenseman Evan Oberg and abrasive forward Maxim Lapierre (five goals, six assists) from Anaheim Ducks for forward Joel Perrault.
The Panthers were busy early, pulling the trigger on the day's first two trades.
The day began with Atlanta Thrashers landing forward Radek Dvorak and a fifth-round draft pick from the Panthers for forwards Niclas Bergfors and Patrick Rissmiller.
Despite still being in contention for a playoff spot, the Panthers moves signaled the team had thrown in the towel and entered full rebuilding mode.
Atlanta, four points out of a playoff spot in the East, got Dvorak, an NHL veteran who has played in 1,105 games and scored 215 goals in 14 seasons, for Bergfors, a 23-year-old Swede and former first-round pick with 11 goals this season.
Columbus added some scoring to their lineup for a playoff push by landing forward Scottie Upshall (16 goals) and defenseman Sami Lepisto from the Phoenix Coyotes for Czech defenseman Rostislav Klesla, the last remaining original Blue Jacket and fourth overall pick in the 2000 draft.
(Editing by Frank Pingue; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)