The initial reaction following any NHL trade deadline is to assign winners and losers. This year, the Los Angeles Kings were deemed the day's biggest winner by acquiring Dustin Penner from Edmonton.
The Boston Bruins made their moves ahead of the deadline, adding Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley to bolster their lineup. And non-traditional deadline moves between St. Louis and Colorado, and Dallas and Pittsburgh saw big names change cities.
But sometimes the best move is the one that doesn't make a huge splash — or doesn't get made at all. Here are three deadline decisions that will prove to be wise moves by the respective team's general managers.
1. Pierre Gauthier Not Panicking
Want pressure? Try being the GM of the league's most storied franchise. Pierre Gauthier hasn't had it easy this year. The Canadiens defense has been dismantled by injuries, starting with Andrei Markov and most recently Jaroslav Spacek. Throw in Josh Gorges, and you have some major blueline problems.
Gauthier tried to patch some holes earlier in the season and prior to the deadline, adding James Wisniewski, Paul Mara and Brent Sopel, but did not succumb to the pressure to add another defender to help the team this season. While the Habs still sit in sixth in the Eastern Conference, Gauthier surely knows that sacrificing his team in the long term to try and do a quick fix for what appears to be a lost season (at least as far as winning the Stanley Cup is concerned) wasn't the right decision.
That may not thrill Canadiens fans now, but they'll be happy Gauthier didn't sacrifice tomorrow for the sake of today.
2. Jim Rutherford Keeps Going Green
Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford must hear the snickers every time he reacquires a player, but it looks like he might have made another deadline win by bringing 37-year-old Cory Stillman back to Raleigh. Is he the same player that helped Carolina win the 2006 Stanley Cup? Of course not. But he's exactly what the doctor ordered for the Hurricanes and, more specifically, captain Eric Staal.
Since the departure of Ray Whitney this past offseason, Carolina has lacked a pass-first forward — the only real prior attempt was trying Patrick O'Sullivan to start the season, and that failed — that could help Staal fill the nets on the Canes’ top line. Since Staal and linemate Erik Cole are more than capable of providing the speed needed to help defensively, Stillman's below-average speed shouldn't be an issue, and his cerebral offensive instincts are a perfect fit on the left side of the top line for the stretch run.
Throw in his power play abilities, and the Canes added a vital piece while only giving up an injured fourth liner (Ryan Carter) and a fifth round pick. The early results are good: Stillman has two goals and an assist in three games since the trade, and Carolina has won two.
3. Steve Tambellini Outsmarts Kings
It seems Kings GM Dean Lombardi has been tryingto make a big splash since the summer, when he was one of two teams in the hunt for Ilya Kovalchuk. While he smartly didn't up his offer for Kovalchuk and let him instead skate to New Jersey on a $100 million deal, his acquisition of Penner seemed like a PR move instead of an attempt to make his team better.
For one, how many power forwards do the Kings need? Ryan Smyth and Dustin Brown weren't enough? Lombardi's need was at center, and he instead added another winger who costs $4.25 million against the cap next season. With Drew Doughty due a new contract and Jack Johnson's new deal kicking in, the Kings will be hard-pressed to fill that need this offseason as well.
Steve Tambellini, on the other hand, rid himself of Penner's contract and added a first round pick, another conditional pick in 2012 and former first-rounder Colten Teubert. Teubert's future is uncertain — the Kings were reportedly ready to part with him last season at the deadline in a package to get Ray Whitney (who allegedly used his no trade clause to block the deal) from Carolina — but the Oilers continue to form their rebuild with youth and picks.
Lombardi, once upon a time, was doing the same. But his acquisition of Penner came across as desperate.