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Deadline deals often amount to little Add to ...

dshoalts@globeandmail.com

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Darcy Regier agrees with his peers that this year's NHL trade deadline will be a busy one because many teams are still in contention for the playoffs, but he still thinks it's much ado about almost nothing.

"There will be a lot of players shifting teams," the Buffalo Sabres general manager said yesterday. "Unfortunately, as indicated by the past, most of the trades will not amount to much.

"I'm not suggesting the players involved will not have value. But the impact of most of the trades is not nearly as big as the hype."

Nevertheless, Regier, who is looking for a defenceman who can move the puck (gee, who isn't?), will still be poking around in the player market with his fellow GMs. But, he says, he never looks at deadline deals as a short-term fix for a playoff run.

"I don't put a lot of value in the rental market because I don't see the sense in giving up assets for someone who will become an unrestricted free agent in a few months," he said. "You've got to get someone who will help you beyond this year."

Regier thinks the hype sprang from the relatively few deals that helped bring a team the Stanley Cup, going back to what is credited as the first deadline deal of the modern era - centre Butch Goring to the New York Islanders from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis. Goring played a key role in the first of four consecutive Cups for the Islanders.

But for every Goring trade, there are several dozen Bates Battaglia-for-Radim Vrbata (2003) deals. However, the rare home runs are enough to keep most GMs coming to the plate.

Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford, who is one of the few sellers, says the final two days before the deadline tomorrow could be busy. Rutherford, who was once traded on deadline day himself when he was an NHL goaltender (going from the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Los Angeles Kings for a fifth-round draft pick in 1981), is auctioning off forwards Ray Whitney and Scott Walker and defencemen Joe Corvo, Aaron Ward and Andrew Alberts.

Both Regier and Rutherford say this year's prices will be high because there are not many few sellers.

"It'll be very busy," Rutherford said. "There are a lot of teams with a chance to win the Cup and in the [salary cap]system, anybody who gets in the playoffs can win. Plus, there are teams fighting to get in the playoffs, so I suspect it will be pretty active."

There was only one trade involving NHL players yesterday, in the first full day after the Olympic roster freeze ended, as many GMs were travelling home from Vancouver. Jordan Leopold, 29, an ordinary defenceman, was sent by the Florida Panthers to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a second-round pick in this year's entry draft.

That was cheaper than the price the Flames paid for Leopold a year ago, sending a minor-league defenceman plus defenceman Ryan Wilson and a second-round pick to the Colorado Avalanche for Leopold.

Then again, the Flames sent Leopold and a third-round pick to the Panthers for the rights to star defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, who signed a long-term contract with them. That left the Panthers, who held off trading Bouwmeester at last year's deadline in hopes of making the playoffs and convincing him not to test the free-agent market, with a net return of a second- and third-round pick.

It is for those reasons, Regier says, that GMs should take the long view when it comes to the trade deadline.

"You have to get someone who will help you beyond this year," he said. "I don't feel obligated to make a move just for the sake of making a move. We have some kids in the American Hockey League who are almost ready to come up and they could help us as much as anyone we could trade for."

Regier could be accused of trying out the rental market last year when he sent his second-round pick in the 2009 entry draft to the Leafs for centre Dominic Moore, who later bolted as a free agent. But Regier got a second-round pick back the same day in a four-team trade that sent underachieving veteran Ales Kotalik to the Edmonton Oilers.

"I look at that trade as Kotalik for Moore," Regier said. "If I couldn't frame that trade like that I wouldn't have made it."

 

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