NHL's trade season starts with a seven-player bang
The trade deadline in the NHL isn't until March 3, but the approaching 15-day Olympic break is changing everything for teams looking to make deals.
With a roster freeze in effect from Feb. 12-28 there are going to be clubs looking to get a jump on improving themselves with trades before then, which the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks proved Sunday.
It was Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke shaking up a bad roster in a big way, completing trades with Calgary and Anaheim that brought to Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf and goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
In a seven-player blockbuster, the Maple Leafs sent defenseman Ian White and forwards Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers to Calgary in exchange for Phaneuf, forward Fredrik Sjostrom and defenseman Keith Aulie.
But Burke and the Maple Leafs weren't finished for the day, shipping goalie Vesa Toskala and center Jason Blake to Anaheim for Giguere.
"We're still open for business," Burke later told a packed news conference in Toronto. "We're not done."
It was no secret Calgary GM Darryl Sutter was looking to shake up his faltering club as well being in a search of more offense.
When the Blackhawks played in Calgary last week, Sutter was off on a four-city scouting trip. While he denied he was looking to move the disappointing Phaneuf, anyone who knows Sutter was convinced it was all a smoke screen.
"Dion is a pretty good player, but we got some pretty good players in return," Sutter told reporters in Calgary.
In the case of the Flames, who needed a jolt now in their desperate battle for a playoff spot, it might have been too late to pull the trigger on a trade at the March 3 deadline.
When Hawks GM Stan Bowman spoke to reporters recently, he sounded as if he would prefer to wait until the deadline to make a trade for salary-cap purposes.
Bowman was unsure at that time how many teams would be looking to make a trade before the Feb. 12 roster freeze. When the freeze ends there will only be three days until the actual trade deadline.
"It's unique," Bowman said. "Normally you don't have a two-week break where there's nothing happening, so there's going to be a lot of talk. The focus will on the Olympics, but for most teams it's going to be on those couple days after the Olympics when you can make moves."
Coach Joel Quenneville is giving the Hawks a well-deserved, two-day break from the rink after they went 5-3 on their 15-day road trip. They won't practice again until Tuesday ahead of their return to the United Center on Wednesday against St. Louis.
Despite Saturday's 4-2 loss at Carolina it was a terrific trip for the Hawks, who in those eight games away from home stretched their hold on first place in the Central Division over Nashville from 7 to 15 points.
"We'll get back and get excited about our next little segment of games," Quenneville said.
The Hawks have six games left before the Olympic break, four of them at home.
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