The Western Conference isn't a two-horse race between the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings.
Instead, trade deadline day showed the Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks are ready to challenge for the Western Conference title and for the Stanley Cup. The Stars acquired defenseman Kris Russell from the Calgary Flames, while the Ducks got winger Jamie McGinn from the Buffalo Sabres and winger Brandon Pirri from the Florida Panthers in preparation for the playoffs.
Dallas gave up defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka, a conditional second-round pick and a prospect but got better in the West by picking up Russell.
"Our focus was on the back end, seeing what was out there," general manager Jim Nill said on a conference call. "It gives (coach Lindy Ruff) lots of different options. Kris can play high minutes. ... He's got great endurance."
Russell and the Stars are going to need endurance to get out of the Central Division, where the Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues are real threats.
Here are five other things we learned at the NHL trade deadline:
THE CAP MATTERS: General managers pointed to the uncertain salary-cap situation as a reason for the slow deadline day. "A lot of teams not only are they up or near the salary cap, but even looking in the future and the uncertainty of where the cap is going, the current contracts of all who have been committed — general managers are just more cautious," Don Maloney of the Arizona Coyotes said. Blame the Canadian dollar, which has hurt league revenue.
CANADA DRY: There's always next year, Canada. All seven Canadian teams are on track to miss the playoffs, but the Vancouver Canucks didn't trade defenseman Dan Hamhuis and the Toronto Maple Leafs didn't trade Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau before the deadline. "It wasn't from a lack of trying," Vancouver GM Jim Benning said. "The market this year, there wasn't a lot of buyers in the marketplace."
HOME ON THE RANGE: The New York Rangers seem far more imposing than before they acquired center Eric Staal from the Carolina Hurricanes. When Rick Nash gets back from injury, he and Staal make the Rangers a force in the Eastern Conference that even the NHL-leading Washington Capitals should be concerned about.
DROUIN'S GOT VALUE: Just because the Tampa Bay Lightning didn't trade Jonathan Drouin doesn't mean they won't cash in on him. The soon-to-be-21-year-old winger could have brought GM Steve Yzerman some immediate help, but he can also circle back at the draft and restock the Lightning for the next few years.
AVALANCHE ARE IN IT: Colorado is going to make the Minnesota Wild earn the final playoff spot in the West after getting winger Mikkel Boedker from the Arizona Coyotes and defenseman Eric Gelinas from the New Jersey Devils. Add Boedker to the group led by Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, and the Avalanche are ready to make a run.