The Tampa Bay Lightning's holy trinity from its 2004 Stanley Cup run has been broken up, to the benefit of the Stanley Cup-contending Dallas Stars.
With a financial squeeze coming on the Gulf Coast with new ownership, the last-place Lightning split Brad Richards from Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, and shipped him to the Stars.
Richards, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2004, goes west with goaltender Johan Holmqvist, with the Lightning getting Mike Smith, whom they hope is the long-awaited replacement for their 2004 champion stopper, Nikolai Khabibulin. Smith has been obscured on the Stars by Marty Turco, while Tampa also gets shootout specialist Jussi Jokinen, forward Jeff Halpern and a fourth-round pick.
"The writing was on the wall in Tampa," Richards said. "For whatever reason, there was (instability). I don't want to be in a situation like that."
Richards, 27, waived his no-trade clause to exit. The Lightning have more than $20 million US tied up in the big three, $7.8 million in Richards alone, and just signed defenceman Dan Boyle to a huge contract.
Defenceman Brian Campbell, who has done his share of damage to the Maple Leafs in the Northeast Division the past few years, went from the Buffalo Sabres to another Western team with Cup aspirations, the San Jose Sharks. The cost was forward Steve Bernier and a first-round pick, San Jose having acquired an extra one last year when they traded Vesa Toskala to the Leafs.
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was careful to pick his spot with an impact deal, determined to sign the 28-year-old Campbell before he fetches around $6 million as a free agent next summer. Buffalo's Darcy Regier, meanwhile, avoided another embarrassment of losing a key unrestricted player, after Daniel Briere, Chris Drury and Jay McKee all departed for nothing in recent years.
"We don't view anybody as a rental player," Wilson said. "We were pretty open about what our needs were (on defence). If we hadn't backed that up, I'm not sure it would have necessarily been a good thing."
The Colorado Avalanche didn't talk Rob Blake out of leaving Los Angeles, but did get the other half of the defence tandem from their 2001 Stanley Cup victory by reacquiring Adam Foote from the Columbus Blue Jackets. They gave up a conditional first-rounder and fourth-rounder, based on whether the soon-to-be-unrestricted Foote stays in Denver another year or two.
Ruslan Salei, a long-time Anaheim Duck who was out of sorts with the Florida Panthers, went back as far west as Colorado, in a trade for defenceman Karlis Skrastins and a third-rounder.
The 25 trades involving 45 players yesterday tied the record for deadline-day transactions and was one player short of a record. Only one Eastern Conference club, the Boston Bruins, made no moves in the final 48 hours, while Canadian entries Edmonton and Calgary were the only silent clubs in the West yesterday. The Flames hung on to veteran sniper Alex Tanguay, while the Oilers, already losing a first-rounder to Anaheim, decided to keep their young talent.
While Mats Sundin stayed in Toronto, two Matts, Cooke and Pettinger, changed addresses in Vancouver and Washington respectively. The Ducks cornered the market on goalies named Jean-Sebastien, getting Aubin from the Los Angeles Kings to join incumbent Giguere. Washington also powered up by getting 38-year-old Sergei Fedorov from the Blue Jackets to tutor NHL leading scorer Alex Ovechkin.
Former first round forwards Tuomo Ruutu and Andrew Ladd flipped between Chicago and Carolina.