Pierre Lacroix, the former Colorado Avalanche general manager who pulled off some great trades in his time, once told me about the "fever" that kind of takes over GMs when the NHL trade deadline gets closer.
To paraphrase: You start talking yourself into things you might not have been so sure about before. When other teams start making moves, you start to think you have to keep up. The fever to make a deal, any deal, starts to take hold. You don't want to sit out on the action. You have to keep a check on your impulses sometimes, otherwise you might be too rash.
When the St. Louis Blues pulled off a blockbuster deal for Ryan Miller and Steve Ott on Friday night, it escalated what is turning into one of the best trade deadline periods in many years. Wednesday, the actual deadline day, was supposed to be the storm, Tuesday the calm before it. Instead, Bob Murray, the GM of the Anaheim Ducks, made it a very busy day for NHL reporters, as did a few others.
Per NHL.com's Curtis Zupke, Anaheim traded left wing Dustin Penner to Washington for a fourth-round pick in 2014 and goalie Viktor Fasth to Edmonton for a fifth-round pick in 2014. The Ducks then gave up a conditional 2014 fourth-round pick to get injured-but-soon-to-return veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas from Dallas. After those moves, Anaheim still had about $11.1 million in cap room, per CapGeek.com.
That leaves plenty of room to afford another pricey player still on the open market. Maybe two. Whether that player winds up being Thomas Vanek, Ryan Kesler, Paul Stastny, Marian Gaborik or someone else was still yet to be decided at press time. But it doesn't take a degree from Harvard to see that Anaheim has rearranged the furniture nicely to make a nice new addition.
The Ducks, clearly, are going for it all this year.
Lacroix used to make those kinds of deals a lot (Ray Bourque, Rob Blake and Theo Fleury all came to Colorado at or near the deadline, and his heist of Patrick Roy from Montreal was a deadline deal of another kind). He has two Stanley Cup rings to show for it, although the franchise later paid a price when all those stars got old or moved on for greener pastures, leaving the team short on young replacement talent.
Thing is, Murray hasn't really even given up that much yet. A conditional third- or fourth-rounder for Robidas? While Robidas is 37 and still working his way back from a broken leg, a couple of Western Conference management officials I spoke with were unhappy the Ducks acquired him for so little. Robidas had a no-trade clause and might have vetoed deals to teams that might have offered more. Still, those teams would have liked to have bargained more for a really smart, veteran D-man that Robidas is.
Fasth has been hurt most of the year, too, but Murray landed a decent return for him from Edmonton, and just unloading the mercurial Penner, a pending unrestricted free agent, for any decent draft pick should be considered a win. Now, we'll see who his big buy is.
Should Anaheim gamble with young prospects and/or picks to acquire Thomas Vanek?
If Murray gives up a lot to get Vanek, he may still regret it. The former Buffalo Sabres captain really hurt his reputation with reports of his partying at the Olympics, and he didn't exactly lift the New York Islanders to new heights after coming over from the Sabres earlier this season.
But there's no question he's a talent. Many of the things being said about Vanek now were said about Jeff Carter a couple of years ago—that he was selfish and a little lazy. Carter has since helped the Los Angeles Kings to a Stanley Cup and another trip to the Western Conference Final, plus a gold medal with Canada.
The Kings reportedly dropped out of the Vanek sweepstakes Tuesday night, per Jon Rosen of LAKingsInsider.com:
Vanek very unlikely to head to #LAKings.— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) March 4, 2014
That only increased the odds Vanek will wind up with the other Southern California team. Many other top contending teams don't have the cap room to add a guy like Vanek, and teams on the rise such as Colorado don't want to add a pending UFA rental at the expense of prospects and/or picks.
In all likelihood, the old Avalanche would have been in on Vanek or Miller. Lacroix loved a good Riverboat Gamble. Now it's Anaheim and St. Louis making the all-or-nothing bets.
Can we just start the playoffs now?
Adrian Dater has covered the NHL for 19 years with The Denver Post. Follow him on Twitter @Adater