Note: I originally wrote this piece for SportsHaze.com, but technical difficulties have prevented it from posting there. Due to the soon-to-be-dated nature of the piece, I am posting it here instead.
Usually, blockbuster deals do not come over a week before the trade deadline. But Saturday, the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche engaged in one of the biggest trades in recent years, shifting a future first-round pick and three former top picks, including Erik Johnson, who went the first overall in the 2006 draft.
One day earlier, the Blues traded away Eric Brewer, the fifth overall pick in 1997, to the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was the player they got in a trade for Chris Pronger (three teams ago for the gap-toothed future Hall of Fame goon), their next great blueliner.
Since in return they got only a third-round pick and the right to Brock Beukeboom, the Blues are either clearing cap space for another move or have decided not to upgrade for an unlikely run. They may only be two games out of the playoffs, but there are five teams in their way and getting past even the first round seems far-fetched.
Both of those deals feature defencemen, and that position is the theme of the trades so far, as seven of the nine transpiring over three days (Feb. 17-19) involved someone on the blueline.
While a couple of these were not impact players, most were: Paul Mara going to the Montreal Canadiens would normally constitute a significant move but was dwarfed by trades involving big names like Ian White and the Tomas Kaberle trade years in the making.
Added to Brewer and Johnson/Kevin Shattenkirk above, that is four trades involving big-name defencemen in two days! Francois Beauchemin also went from Toronto back to Anaheim.
Of course, not all trades involved defencemen. The Predators scored a major victory in getting one of the league's better two-way centres from Ottawa in exchange for a second-round pick. It also serves as a great marketing tool for them, with Mike Fisher's wife, country music star Carry Underwood, calling Nashville home.
The Philadelphia Flyers added a player who beat them in last year's Stanley Cup Finals, Kris Versteeg, to help them in their run. Versteeg is a third-line forward who can score and is great on the penalty kill but also young enough to be in the Philly lineup for years--a good thing since they gave up a first- and third-round pick to Toronto for him. This solidifies the Flyers as having the best forwards in the Eastern Conference, if not the game.
With the upgrades to the Flyers, Bruins, Sharks, Lightning and Predators, all of whom already hold one of the league's 10-best records, we should expect more moves from teams chasing them in the final week before the trade deadline.
With 13 teams legitimately in the playoff hunt in the West and 10-13 in the East, this should be one of the most active trading months in NHL history.