To accurately describe the winners and losers coming out of Tuesday's trade deadline, you have to slot them into two sub-categories: teams in playoff contention, and teams building for future seasons. The former will be ultimately judged over the course of the next three months; the latter won't see their plans bear fruit for years to come.
With that in mind, here's a rundown of which teams did the best, and worst, during the league's final swap shop session.
Philadelphia: Although Paul Holmgren is the Flyers' interim GM, he went a long ways in the last few weeks toward taking the interim tag off his official title. Beside the much-lauded Peter Forsberg deal (which landed him top blueline prospect Ryan Parent, Scottie Upshall and two high draft picks this summer) Holmgren acquired a front-line goalie (Martin Biron) and added two more developing defensemen (Braydon Coburn, Lasse Kukkonen) to the Flyers' youth movement. Suddenly, Philly isn't at all far away from pulling a Penguins-like turnaround in the next couple years.
St. Louis: Give the Blues' two-headed management monster (John Davidson and Larry Pleau) a ton of credit. First, they saw a panicky GM in Atlanta's Don Waddell and swindled him on the Keith Tkachuk deal; then, they added two extra first-round picks this summer; and finally, they robbed the Bruins for Brad Boyes. They also re-signed some key components (Eric Brewer, Manny Legace, Jamal Mayers) and have a solid core to build around. When Erik Johnson gets there next year, they'll be within spitting distance of the Red Wings and Predators, not to mention the post-season.
Dallas: Very quietly, Doug Armstrong has assembled a blueline corps with few equals. The addition of Mattias Norstrom from Los Angeles won't make many headlines outside of Dallas, but if Marty Turco holds up his end of the deal in the playoffs, the Stars will be one of the toughest defensive squads in the post-season.
Buffalo: Darcy Regier waited far too long in unloading Martin Biron and the pickup of Ty Conklin makes no sense to anyone who watched the Oilers last season. But Buffalo is a winner because, other than Ryan Smyth, Danius Zubrus was the top forward pickup for an Eastern Conference team at the deadline and he's a perfect fit for the speedy Sabres.
Pittsburgh: The knock on the Penguins this year was they were a little too young to seriously challenge for a Stanley Cup this season. But with veteran Gary Roberts, Joel Kwiatkowski and Georges Laraque on board, the knock has stopped. I still don't think they'll win two playoff rounds, but a good run by the Pens will be good for the league and for Pittsburgh.
San Jose: Odds are Bill Guerin will likely bolt back to the Blues this summer. For now, though, he improves - by a whole lot - an offense that should be better than it's been. And since the Canadiens weren't moving Sheldon Souray, Craig Rivet is an acceptable alternative. The Sharks had holes and filled them, without having to move either of their two goalies (one of whom will almost certainly be dealt in the off-season). And they've got to be considered along with Dallas, Nashville, and Detroit as frontrunners to win the Western Conference.
Washington: After a good start to the season, the Capitals' improvement stalled noticeably. They did well in acquiring Jiri Novotny from Buffalo in the Zubrus deal and also will have extra first and second round picks this summer. George McPhee is obviously rebuilding using the Nashville model (where patience is everything) and very soon, with a little spending on complementary pieces, the Caps will be where the Penguins are now.
New York Islanders: This endorsement comes with a giant caveat: if Smyth re-signs, the biggest blockbuster of deadline day is well worth it. And if he doesn't (although I'm sure a 15-year contract would change his mind), it was way too big a price to pay. That said, I think Richard Zednik has more left in the tank than people give him credit for.
Montreal: Canadiens GM Bob Gainey should've done with Souray exactly what Kevin Lowe did with Smyth Â– got as much as he could for a player who'll be too pricey for him come summer. Josh Gorges is a pretty decent return for Rivet Â– who had fallen into Guy Carbonneau's doghouse Â– but on a team that isn't anyone's idea of a Cup favorite, building for the future should've been the main focus.
Edmonton: Yes, I just praised Lowe for dealing Smyth before he walked away for nothing. However, Lowe could've had Smyth's name on a contract last summer, yet chose to spend money on the likes of Peter Sykora and Fernando Pisani. Neither of those two are Mr. Oiler Â– and any deal involving either one wouldn't have wounded Edmonton fans quite as deeply as Smyth's departure has. Lowe has only himself to blame for the heat he'll take until next fall.
Columbus: Contrast what the Flyers did with the Blue Jackets and you wonder just how much time Doug MacLean has left in Columbus. MacLean gave away Anson Carter and couldn't give away Bryan Berard, who isn't a favorite of coach Ken Hitchcock. It's clear the problems with this franchise didn't begin and end with Gerard Gallant.
Boston: You'd think the Bruins learned their lesson when they dealt away Andrew Raycroft after one bad season. But there they were again, giving up on Boyes in return for Dennis Wideman, who most people project only as high as a No. 3 or 4 defenseman. I don't know what else to say anymore about this franchise, other than the obligatory and dismissive Â‘sigh'.
Colorado: Avs GM Francois Giguere oversees a ship that's been taking on water well before Jose Theodore was introduced to Paris Hilton. Call me crazy, but I don't think Giguere bringing in Scott Parker and Michael Wall is going to radically reverse the trend.
Atlanta: Never been a Keith Tkachuk fan. Never been an Alexei Zhitnik fan. Been a big Don Waddell fan, but in the event the Thrashers fail to make a deep playoff run, I may have no choice but to cheer him on with whomever his new employer winds up being.
New York Rangers: Dear Glen Sather: there's a reason why Paul Mara is on his fifth NHL team in eight seasons. Even if Aaron Ward and Jaromir Jagr got along like Tim Hardaway and Rosie O'Don1nell, that's no reason to take on another quarter-million in salary cap space next season. Paging Mark MessierÂ…
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