The Russian forward, who initiated the NHL trade deadline day proceedings when dealt from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Arizona Coyotes early Monday morning, was the only story until a traffic jam of deals closer to the 3 p.m. ET deadline.
Instead, it was secondary players like Kris Russell (Calgary to Dallas), Jamie McGinn (Buffalo to Anaheim), Mikkel Boedker (Arizona to Colorado) and Montreal’s Devante Pelly-Smith (to New Jersey for Stefan Matteau) who found new homes.
General managers called this deadline different. The uncertainty of next season’s salary cap played a big part. It is expected to stay the same or may even decline. Too many contenders had salary cap problems, and that left the sellers without trading partners.
The market also was tight. Teams wanted to hold onto their draft picks. Draft picks and young players are strong currency in the NHL these days. There weren’t many first- or second-round picks going out the door like in past years.
“In my opinion it’s a direct result of the financial landscape right now,” Flames GM Brad Treliving said. “There is some unknown about the [salary] cap, picks are becoming that much more valuable, prospects are that much more valuable in that they can play in your lineup at a lesser value.
For Russell, the Flames did well to obtain Finnish defenceman Jyrki Jokipakka, Edmonton Oil Kings centre Brett Pollock, and a 2016 conditional second-round draft pick. That pick could become a first-round selection if Dallas advances to the West final and Russell plays in at least half of the team’s games in the first two rounds.
Meanwhile in Vancouver, the fan base is furious at Canucks GM Jim Benning for being unable to find a temporary address for Hamhuis. The veteran defenceman, eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, also has taken heat for not widening the list of teams he would accept a trade to.
A deal never was close with the Blackhawks and instead they decided to acquire left wing Andrew Ladd last Thursday. Benning stated the Stars chose Russell over Hamhuis and Hamhuis would not accept a trade to an Eastern Conference team like the Boston Bruins for family reasons.
On the Drouin front, Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman remarked there were concerns from other teams about Drouin’s lack of recent playing time. He requested a trade after he was assigned to the Syracuse Crunch and then left the AHL team after a game on Jan. 18. Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray, however, admitted he tried to make a deal for Drouin, but the price was too high.
The teams that got a jump on the competition fared well. The Anaheim Ducks have been golden since acquiring David Perron last month. The Senators have been better with the addition of Dion Phaneuf. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets did well in a selling role. So did the Blackhawks with the acquisitions of Ladd, Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann last week and the New York Rangers with Eric Staal on Sunday and not waiting until Monday.
Which brings us back to the day’s leadoff man, Sergei Plotnikov. The 25-year-old forward didn’t exhibit much in his 32 games with the Penguins. He had only two assists, but he did help Russia win gold and silver medals at the 2014 and 2015 World Championships, respectively.
And he was the only story on this trade deadline day for a long time.