The Cup's still up for grabs

SCOTT MORRISON -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:29 AM ET

Twenty-five trades, involving 45 players and dozens of draft picks later and are we really any closer to knowing who will win the Stanley Cup this June?

Other than that the team most likely will come from the Western Conference, probably not.

A prohibitive favourite simply doesn't exist. Especially now that injuries and changes elsewhere have allowed the pack to finally see the tail lights of the front-running Detroit Red Wings, who helped themselves on trade deadline day by adding defenceman Brad Stuart.

But you could still make a reasonable case for Detroit, Dallas, Anaheim and San Jose as all having a very legitimate chance of winning the big prize. You could argue that an improved Calgary team, which stood pat at the deadline, could surprise.

But none of that is new.

Dallas significantly improved its chances and reinforced its hopes by adding centre Brad Richards, a proven playoff player, without inflicting much damage to the existing roster.

Anaheim, the defending champion, added some depth at the deadline, but the Ducks' big acquisitions were the earlier returns of Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne, along with the additions of Mathieu Schneider and Todd Bertuzzi in the summer. Since the return of Niedermayer and Selanne, the Ducks have been mighty again, looking very much like their championship selves.

San Jose needed some fleet feet on the blue line and found them in Brian Campbell, who provides the Sharks with a dimension that was lacking and will perhaps be the kick they need to be consistently good.

But none of those teams, not even Dallas with the addition of Richards, for the moment has separated itself from the pack, not the way Detroit was for most of the season. Even then, few were considering a coronation.

On the flip, we suppose, you could argue that no one did anything to screw things up, either.

In the Eastern Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins made the biggest splash by rallying late on deadline day to take Ottawa and Montreal out at the knees and acquire winger Marian Hossa from Atlanta, along with useful forward Pascal Dupuis. The cost was steep, but so, too, may be the return.

The thinking is that Hossa is suitably gifted to play alongside Sidney Crosby when he returns. And with Evgeni Malkin having established his credentials, the Penguins will have two lines like no other, especially in the East.

So they really made a statement, but there still are worries that even with the addition of Hal Gill they may not have enough defensively and that the goaltending still has to stand the test of spring. So they are clearly a favourite, but not a runaway favourite, meaning if the season ended today and they lost to Montreal in the first round, no one would be shocked.

New Jersey, which has been playing well and has moved to the top of the conference, wanted a defenceman and got one, Bryce Salvador. But the secret to the Devils' success remains firmly stationed between the pipes.

Ottawa, which added character and toughness in Martin Lapointe on Tuesday, along with Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore a few weeks ago, didn't find another defenceman with NHL experience or a top six forward.

YOUNGSTERS

The Montreal Canadiens have put the weight of the world on two youngsters in net. They otherwise stood pat with a roster that has performed well. They refused the temptation to damage the future for a quick fix. So if the goaltending is good, hope remains.

Otherwise, the East is what it is. Maybe the New York Rangers will find themselves. Maybe not. And, really, virtually any of the eight teams that make the playoffs in the East could win a round or three without the Cinderella tag being dusted off.

Beyond that, it remains that the crystal ball isn't clearer in terms of predicting which teams will emerge from either conference, although it remains the ultimate winner will undoubtedly be from the West.

Take that to Vegas.


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