By Steve Keating
(Reuters) - The National Hockey League Deadline Day frenzy turned into Dud-line Day as the trade window closed on Monday with only a handful of mostly minor deals.
The day began with the spotlight on Columbus where the last place Blue Jackets were eager to consummate a blockbuster deal involving their All-Star forward Rick Nash.
The number one overall pick in the 2002 draft, Nash, a proven scorer and leader helping Canada to world championship (2007) and Olympic gold (2010) has the type of resume that causes coaches' pulses to quicken.
Several teams reportedly made pitches for the Blue Jackets captain but in the end the asking price was simply too rich, leaving Nash, who requested the trade, in Columbus until at least the offseason.
"We agreed to accommodate his request as long as we could get a deal that would provide us with a cornerstone pieces to help us compete for a Stanley Cup championship in the coming years," said Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson.
"It did not happen by 3 o'clock today. This is too important to our franchise and our fans to do a deal that is not in our best interest."
With all but five of the league's 30 teams within six points of a playoff spot, the compact standings seemed to paralyze the trade market with cautious general managers unwilling to throw in the towel on the 2011-12 season.
Two years ago, Deadline Day featured a record 31 trades but last year the number of deals dropped to a low of 16 while only 15 were completed on Monday, involving 31 players and 11 draft picks.
The lack of action left an army of television experts and analysts scrambling to fill airtime as Canada's all-sports networks dedicated an entire day's programming to what has become an unofficial holiday for hockey obsessed Canadians.
"(Deadline Day) is a made for television event," said Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster, who was not part of the deadline day action. "This day is so overhyped ... we have been doing things.
"It's OK to be emotional but the last thing you want to do is make deals and move players on the basis of emotion."
Nashville, one of the team's believed to be in hot pursuit of Nash, settled on pair of smaller deals by adding a couple of key pieces to set themselves up for a Stanley Cup run.
The Predators acquired big Russian winger Andrei Kostitsyn from the Montreal Canadiens for a second round pick in the 2013 draft and a conditional fifth round selection. They later sent a first round pick in 2012 to Buffalo for forward Paul Gaustad.
The deal with Montreal reunites Andrei with his brother Sergei, who was dealt to the Predators by the Canadiens last year and has rejuvenated his career in Nashville.
Nashville will be hoping for more of the same from Andrei, who has just 12 goals and 24 points in 53 games this season.
The biggest trade of day came at the buzzer, with league-leading Vancouver shipping skilled forward and rookie of the year candidate Cody Hodgson to the Sabres for promising but unproven Zack Kassian, a big, rugged power forward that will provide a physical presence the Canucks have lacked.
The Canucks also added checking forward Sami Pahlsson from the Blue Jackets for a pair of fourth round picks.
The day ended with a flurry of smaller deals in the final hour with teams content to tweak their lineups rather than going for the big splash.
Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman kept busy by swinging three deals for defenseman, acquiring veteran Mike Commodore from the Detroit Red Wings for a seventh round pick, Keith Aulie from Toronto for prospect Carter Ashton and Brian Lee from the Ottawa Senators for Matt Gilroy.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)