10:49 PM CST, March 5, 2014
The prevailing winds shifted within the NHL when the high-spending, short-term-thinking New York Rangers declined to overpay winger Ryan Callahan or give him the leverage of a no-trade clause and traded him to Tampa Bay for 38-year-old Martin St. Louis.
What should have been an exciting seller's market, with many teams fighting for playoff spots as Wednesday's trade deadline arrived, was relatively ho-hum. Twenty trades were completed that involved 38 players but most moves were for depth or salary-cap purposes.
Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi, whose acquisition of three-time 40-goal scorer Marian Gaborik from Columbus ranked as the splashiest along with the Callahan-St. Louis deal and Montreal's trade for productive winger Thomas Vanek, inadvertently furnished a likely explanation for the prevalence of low-key deals.
Asked about his contract negotiations with defenseman Matt Greene, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer, Lombardi said he was told the salary cap, initially projected to rise to about $71 million next season, will be significantly lower because of the recent weakness of the Canadian dollar. Lombardi said he verified that through the league. The drop will affect whether he can keep Greene, Willie Mitchell and Trevor Lewis, and it undoubtedly affected deadline-day decisions around the league.
"We found out, to our chagrin and surprise the other day, we had been told the cap was going to be $71 [million] and now with the Canadian dollar having tanked, that the cap could be as low as $68 [million]. That's a huge swing," Lombardi said. "So that's more of the talks with our three guys, Mitchell, Lewis and Greene, who we'd all like to bring back. That's more of a hindrance than anything we acquired today. "
To get Gaborik under the current limit, Lombardi persuaded the Blue Jackets to retain half of Gaborik's salary the rest of this season. He also, reluctantly, demoted forward Linden Vey to Manchester (N.H.) of the American Hockey League.
The trade makes sense for the goal-challenged Kings. If Gaborik is fit and is allowed some freedom within the team's disciplined defensive system, he can bring speed and game-breaking ability. But Lombardi said Gaborik will have to adjust his game.
"It's buying into the way this team performs," Lombardi said. "Not changing your game but knowing you have to do those little things and then go do what that God-given gift you have that very few people have."
The Canadiens did well to get rent-a-player Vanek from the New York Islanders for prospect Sebastian Collberg and a conditional second-round pick in the June draft. Minnesota should gain from acquiring winger Matt Moulson and hard-nosed Cody McCormick from rebuilding Buffalo for Torrey Mitchell and a second-round pick in June.
Otherwise, some prominent players expected to be traded stayed put. The Vancouver Canucks kept center Ryan Kesler despite approaches from the Ducks, Pittsburgh Penguins and other. Flames forward Michael Cammalleri stayed with Calgary, and goaltender Martin Brodeur remained with the New Jersey Devils.
In the active goalie derby, Jaroslav Halak — acquired by Buffalo from St. Louis last week — went to Washington with a 2015 third-round pick for Michal Neuvirth and Rostislav Klesla, Florida sent Tim Thomas to Dallas for Dan Ellis, and Calgary dealt Reto Berra to Colorado for a second-round pick in June.
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