Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The NHL trade deadline was supposed to become less active in the salary cap era, but a quick glance at the moves made over the last few days clearly shows that's not the case.
A total of 20 moves involving 38 players came down before Wednesday's deadline and that was after 10 trades went through on Tuesday.
More than the action, however, this year's deadline was marked by the big-name players who were dealt. Guys like Martin St. Louis, Ryan Callahan, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller, Tim Thomas, Roberto Luongo and Marian Gaborik gave this year's trade market both quality and quantity.
Of course, the true winners and losers of any trade deadline are measured by the teams who make it to the playoffs and do serious damage once they get there. So it likely won't be until the Stanley Cup Finals end in June that we get a true gauge on what was gained and lost in the days leading up to March 5, 2014.
For now, anyway, here's the biggest winners and losers from a memorable deadline:
New York Rangers/Tampa Bay Lightning
Rumors of St. Louis leaving Tampa Bay had been steadily building heading into Wednesday, but that didn't make it any less surprising when he was actually dealt to the New York Rangers for Callahan. It was a shock not only because St. Louis had become an institution in Tampa, but also because this deal involved the captains of two teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended at the time of the trade. In the end, it seemed like both teams did what was best for them considering the difficult situation.
For the Rangers, it made complete sense because they obviously had major reservations about committing to Callahan on a long-term basis for the type of money he wanted. Even though the former Rangers captain reportedly backed off his asking price in the days leading up to the deadline, it's telling that a deal couldn't be hammered out between the two sides. One report suggested the Rangers and Callahan were only about $200,000 a year apart in their negotiations when the inclusion of a no-trade clause became a sticking point. In this era when NTCs are handed out like candy, the fact that New York wouldn't give one to Callahan says the Rangers and general manager Glen Sather weren't forced to trade their captain. They simply evaluated the situation and determined keeping him wasn't worth the price.
For his part, Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman made the best of a bad situation. He probably would've liked to keep St. Louis in the fold, but his former captain asked for a trade after originally being snubbed by Yzerman for Team Canada and the relationship between the two men deteriorated beyond repair. The fact that St. Louis was only willing to waive his NTC to go to the Rangers had seemingly painted Yzerman into a corner, but the GM still flipped St. Louis for Callahan, an impending free agent, as well as a first-round pick in 2015 and a conditional second-rounder in 2014.
To say the least, it's going to be interesting to keep track of how both teams fare down the stretch. With no regular-season meetings left between the clubs in 2013-14, here's to hoping the clubs get to square off in the playoffs to determine the real winner of this fascinating trade.
Want to quickly understand why the Habs are considered winners? Look at what the Los Angeles Kings gave up to acquire Marian Gaborik and check it against the price paid by Montreal to land Thomas Vanek and it doesn't even seem fair. Gaborik was once a great scorer and it's not impossible to think the oft- injured but speedy winger can regain his previous form in L.A. But the Kings not only surrendered a player from their NHL roster -- forward Matt Frattin -- but gave up a second-round selection and a conditional third-round pick. That is a ton to give up for a player down on his luck.
Vanek, meanwhile, is a sniper at the top of his game and he only cost the Canadiens forward prospect Sebastien Collberg. The Habs also would have to give up a second-round pick, but only if they make the playoffs this spring. Someone call 911 because Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin flat-out robbed Isles GM Garth Snow.
New York Islanders
Back in 2003, radio personality Chris Russo of "Mike and the Mad Dog" fame asked Mike Milbury, then the GM of the Islanders, how he still had a job with the club. Things were bad in '03 for the Isles and they aren't much better presently, so maybe Russo could ask the same question of Snow.
After giving up Matt Moulson and two draft picks -- a conditional first- rounder in 2014 and a second-round selection in 2015 -- to acquire Vanek, Snow received way too little in return for the Austrian winger. The Isles tried their best to convince Vanek to sign an extension, but the pending free agent wanted nothing to do with the franchise. If Snow would've realized that fact before the Olympic break, he may have been able to get a boatload in return for Vanek instead of the pittance he received from the Habs minutes before the deadline.
The Canucks finally found a taker for Luongo, shipping the goaltender and his enormous contract to the Florida Panthers for young netminder Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias. Of course, Vancouver also will cover a portion of Luongo's salary going forward, but that is becoming standard practice in the NHL when a team wants to get rid of a highly-paid player who they believe has outgrown his usefulness.
However, the real crime made by GM Mike Gillis was not committed when he traded Luongo on Tuesday, it came a day later when he was unable to deal centerman Ryan Kesler. Gillis reportedly had numerous offers for Kesler, but couldn't find one to his liking. Now the slumping Canucks, who have lost 10 of their last 11 games, are stuck trying to make the playoffs without their No. 1 goaltender, instead of doing the sensible thing and trying to take a step back and reload for next season and beyond.
Trading away Luongo while keeping Kesler seem to be the moves of a GM who has completely lost his handle on where his team is at and where it needs to go. Like Snow, Gillis may be forced to ply his trade elsewhere in the very near future.