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Tension, excitement inside NHL dressing rooms with deadline approaching

Bill Guerin is watching on the sidelines. Sean Avery is waiting for a second chance. And Niclas Havelid is a New Jersey Devil.

It was the lull before the storm as the NHL continued to brace for Wednesday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.

Monday's first trade didn't arrive until the early evening when Atlanta dealt impending free-agent defenceman Havelid to New Jersey for prospects Anssi Salmela and Myles Stoesz.

It's the kind of trade that often happens at this time of year. Even though names like Jay Bouwmeester, Chris Pronger and Tomas Kaberle continue to surface in rumours, the reality is that fans will mostly have to settle for depth deals like Havelid-for-Salmela and Stoesz.

"Niclas Havelid is a veteran defenceman who brings a wealth of experience to our hockey team," Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said in a statement. "We look forward to Niclas joining our defensive corps."

It was otherwise fairly quiet.

A deal involving Guerin remained on hold even though the Islanders captain sat out for a second straight game. And the next step in Avery's return to the NHL came when the Dallas Stars placed him on re-entry waivers.

He's available to any of the league's other 29 teams for half of his remaining salary.

Most of the action on the trade front didn't go beyond talk. One team executive told The Canadian Press on Monday afternoon that he didn't sense anything was really getting very serious.

That hasn't kept players from getting on edge as tension builds in dressing rooms around the league.

"It's natural that there's going to be that kind of feel throughout the room," said Maple Leafs forward Dominic Moore.

There's anxiety for some players and simple excitement for others. And there's always the possibility it could end up being much ado about nothing.

There even seems to be a growing sentiment that the deadline could end up being a little slower than years past.

"I think that there might be quite a number of calls and discussions about players, but will there be a lot of movement? I think it's always overstated a little bit," said Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray. "There will be some players moved but I don't know if it'll be as many as will satisfy (the media)."

Naturally, a lot of the attention is driven by the uncertain nature of the day. With the hours and hours of live coverage, it's a little like reality television.

Many players will be among those who tune in Wednesday to see which guys are on the move - and, in some cases, to make sure it's not them. Others will mostly try and tune it out.

"I've been in this league 17 years and I've been through this day many times," said Habs forward Alex Kovalev. "When you're young, it's tough on you because you get used to one place and then you get traded and you have to get used to another place. But over the years, you see that it's something you can't control.

"If you get traded, you just have to go. You're lucky you still have your health and can still play hockey."

In the meantime, it's pretty much a waiting game.

Concern tends to be strongest around teams that sit on the playoff bubble. Players in those situations are just waiting for the ball to drop.

"You're really worried about yourself more than anything else," said Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. "Usually when (your team is doing) well, they don't want to change much of the chemistry of the team.

"So I think the pressure of maybe making changes is a little different than when you're in the seven, eight spot, even on the outside looking in. You're going in and sometimes GMs are trying to make a big bang to see if they can jolt the rest of the season."

The jolt doesn't always register.

History shows that the majority of deals made at the deadline tend not to have a huge affect on the outcome of the season. That ends up being a deterrent for some.

"I haven't seen very many trades that have ever really won a team the Stanley Cup, to be honest with you," said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. "But for some reason we seem to be the sport that hangs so much on the trade deadline. You don't see that in many sports."

And there is another side to all of the buildup and speculation.

Many of the players that will change teams in the coming days will end up having to leave loved ones behind.

"Trades are never fun," said Leafs forward Brad May. "I know it turns into a sport (at the deadline). It's exciting for all of us - we're all watching the rumours and reading the papers.

"But when it actually hits home and guys get traded, their wives and family and kids are left there to pick up the pieces."

Added Calgary Flames veteran Craig Conroy: "It's hard not to think about it. It's your life."

-

With files from Chris Yzerman in Ottawa, Bill Beacon in Ottawa and Donna Spencer in Calgary.

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