Want to trade?

BARRY MACDONALD -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

That not-so-subtle groan you heard this week emanating from General Motors Place happened to coincide with a trade involving a certain Northwest Division rival of your Vancouver Canucks.

The Calgary Flames, not embracing the last-minute shopping policy that many teams will use leading up to the Feb. 27th trade deadline, went after and got one that got away. Craig Conroy, who left the Flames as a free agent following their Stanley Cup run in 2004, returned to Calgary for Jamie Lundmark and a couple of draft picks.

Pretty heady move by Calgary, knowing the underachieving Conroy would be snapped up at some point between now and the end of this month. The Flames are getting a player they know, a player with a reputation as one of those "good in the room" guys, even if he hasn't been that good on the ice of late. Calgary was willing to look past his sorry offensive totals with the Kings, and weren't willing to concede his tank was near empty. Conroy was a vital piece of the Flames' puzzle during that memorable spring of '04, a guy that Jarome Iginla urged management to reacquire last summer after his first season in L.A. Better late than never for Iggy.

So now that the Flames have made a move, how do their Northwest Division, and Western Conference rivals react?

The message is pretty clear. Snooze, and you might lose. While a number of teams will dangle their bait up until the last minute, hoping to get some sucker club to overpay, the Flames have shown it doesn't hurt to be proactive.

There are only so many available chips, and what Dave Nonis and his fellow executives around the league have to figure out, is when to ante up.

It is a high-stakes, high-profile poker game. Nonis has so much to consider, and so many questions to ask before pulling the trigger on a deal. Is the player I am getting worth the money? Does he fit under the cap? Is he 100 per cent healthy? Is he a "fit" in the room? How will his salary impact players already with the Canucks who have been more productive but are being paid less? What should I give up? Is that prospect really more of a suspect? Or is he the next Cam Neely? How will giving up this guy impact the chemistry on that line? And so on. And as Nonis ponder the answers, there are another 15-20 clubs quite possibly interested in the same commodity he is.

The trade deadline is less than four weeks away, and Nonis will receive all sorts of suggestions - free of charge I might add - that he should go get this guy or that guy. It is, quite simply, easier said than done. Dave Nonis understands his mandate as the general manager of this Canuck organization. Give Alain Vigneault the best players to work with, within the limitations of the salary cap structure. Players with as much ability as money can buy, with a character as well. It really is this simple - if Nonis can make a deal with that will improve this organization, without mortgaging the future, he will make it. If not, don't be disappointed once the deadline comes and goes.


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