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Busy holiday

The new trade deadline looked a lot like the old one

Posted: Friday March 10, 2006 10:22AM; Updated: Friday March 10, 2006 1:50PM
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Sergei Samsonov should benefit from the fast ice in Edmonton.
Sergei Samsonov should benefit from the fast ice in Edmonton.
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford, who stole a march on the NHL before the Olympics when he landed center Doug Weight, stole March by obtaining Mark Recchi at a new trading deadline that looked suspiciously like the old one.

There were 40 days left between Deadline Day -- a.k.a. Canada's winter holiday -- and the end of the regular season instead of the usual 26, and about 20 games left in the schedule rather than 12 or 13. Coupled with a salary cap, the earlier deadline was supposed to temper some enthusiasm for wanton deal-making, a welcome change that would give general managers reason to pause.

They did pause ... long enough to take some Advil for Blackberry Thumb, and then they went about business as usual. There were a record 25 trades (involving 40 players) made between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

While the integrity of the NHL surely benefited from an earlier deadline -- those last-minute airlifts and remakes and salary dumps were unseemly in a sport that emphasizes team chemistry -- obviously the new deadline failed miserably at behavior modification.

The principal commodities were depth defensemen, who rotated among teams in a dizzy kaleidoscope, and some intriguing goalie switches. One of only a handful of real-NHL-player-for-real-NHL-player deals occurred the previous Wednesday evening, when the Montreal Canadiens exiled José Théodore to Colorado for David Aebischer, a deal that was surprising only because a) Montreal GM Bob Gainey found a team to swallow $10 million or so in salary for the next two seasons whole, and b) Théodore had been taking a victory lap around the NHL since winning the Hart and Vezina Trophies in 2002, making him a liability in the market.

Thursday was mostly about frenetic juggling, a nip there (Vancouver unburdened Buffalo of its third goalie, Mika Noronen) and a tuck there (Sandis Ozolinsh makes the New York Rangers' power play even more threatening), except for three teams: Carolina, Edmonton and Ottawa.