Wild signing level-headed

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

Minnesota Wild 1, New York Rangers 0.

When it came to yesterday afternoon's player transactions, that was the final score.

Once the NHL's 3 p.m. trade deadline arrives today, we all may look back and see the Wild as one of the big winners for sticking to the old adage that sometimes the best trade is the one you don't make.

By locking up goalie Niklas Backstrom to a four-year, $24-million US deal instead of shipping him out, general manager Doug Risebrough accomplished two things.

First, he can't be accused of letting a pending free agent just walk away, as was the case in the past.

Second, he has secured one of the NHL's top goaltenders long term to an average salary that, while not cheap, still is less than the $6.75 million being paid out to Nikolai Khabibulin by the Chicago Blackhawks this season.

On the other hand, by officially claiming Sean Avery yesterday, the Rangers are bringing back a guy who their coach, John Tortorella, suggest should be kicked out of the league. Tortorella made those comments while working for TSN earlier this season.

Tortorella was singing a slightly different, more politically correct, tune yesterday.

"When he's concentrating on playing under a team concept, he's an effective player. That's what we're looking for," Tortorella said.

If Avery plays by the rules of the no-nonsense Tortorella, the experiment might work. If he doesn't, it could blow up in the face of general manager Glen Sather.

If Avery does deserve another chance, can he realistically get one from Tortorella?

The Rangers and Dallas Stars will split the remainder of the four-year, $15-million deal Avery signed with the Stars last summer. He is expected to be in the Rangers lineup tomorrow against the New York Islanders.

MESSAGE LOUD AND CLEAR!

The Maple Leafs' Nik Antropov was held out of action last night, as was Mark Recchi the Tampa Bay Lightning. Is there any better indication that efforts are being made to move you? ... The Buffalo Sabres reportedly were getting closer to an extension with Tim Connolly. For the past week, those close to the team indicated that Connolly would be moved if an agreement was not reached ... Knowing their days likely were over in Phoenix and Long Island respectively for a while now, Derek Morris and Bill Guerin certainly became experts at the waiting game ... The Philadelphia Flyers have been furiously attempting to clear cap space to fit in Jay Bouwmeester. Must be the new math.

THUMBS UP

Sometimes making moves prior to the deadline can be shrewd. Credit Montreal Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey with acting quickly to pick up Mathieu Schneider. With the Habs power play sputtering since the departure of Mark Streit, Schneider was the perfect fit to fill the hole. Some might think that surrendering a second- and third-round pick as part of the package is a heavy price, but the Habs seem willing to overpay in order to make a deep playoff run.

Lou Lamoriello, meanwhile, is the king of making the subtle pickup. On the surface, the acquisition of Niclas Havelid Wednesday might not appear to be a big deal. In reality, he's a nice under-the-radar veteran who augments New Jersey's No-Name defence.

THUMBS DOWN

Then again, sometimes making a move prior to the deadline can be a real headscratcher.

Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray insists his team will be sellers. If so, why give away a precious first-round pick as part of the deal that also sent Dean McAmmond to the Islanders for Chris Campoli and Mike Comrie? Curious.

OLD TIME HOCKEY

Few deals bring back memories of the days when a trade not only involved players, but benefited both teams at the same time. The trade that sent Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi to Pittsburgh for defenceman Ryan Whitney last week is one of them.


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