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Inside the NHL | Helene Elliott ON THE NHL

Carter a Quality Find for Kings

March 09, 2004|Helene Elliott

As today's noon PST trade deadline approaches, the market looks to be the bargain bin of a department store the night before Christmas: The merchandise has been thoroughly picked over, but a few items remain that aren't too damaged, fit well enough, and can be had at a decent price.

Every NHL team has made a trade since Feb. 4, resulting in 40 deals that involved 78 players, plus draft picks. Nine of those deals were made Monday. The Kings, trying to hold off the Blues and fortify an offense that most nights is fueled by 20 Ian Laperrieres and Eric Belangers, made the biggest deal Monday when they acquired winger Anson Carter from Washington. The price was moderate -- Jared Aulin, a once-prized prospect whose stock fell when he injured his shoulder and the organization developed some depth.

Sources said the Kings were interested in the New York Rangers' Martin Rucinsky, but General Manager Glen Sather wanted too much in return. And King General Manager Dave Taylor was smart enough not to sit idle and hope that Martin Straka, who has recently recovered from knee surgery, hits stride soon.

"When it came down to it, for the price and players available, Anson made a lot of sense," Taylor said. "He has good size, he can kill penalties, he can play the power play. He's a big body to handle around the net, and he has had success in the Western Conference before."

Thanks to salary-dumping sprees by the Rangers and Capitals, most of the usual deadline-day intrigue is gone. However, the NHL's uncertain labor situation will lead to some moves today, as teams divest big contracts before the collective bargaining agreement ends Sept. 15 and a new system is adopted.

There's precedent for active pre-Doomsday dealing. With a lockout on the horizon in 1994, teams made 18 trades that involved 35 players, both records at the time. The deadline-day numbers the year before were nine trades involving 14 players. The 1994 totals weren't surpassed until deadline day of 1998, when 19 trades were made involving 38 players. The record for deadline-day deals was set last year, when 24 trades were made involving 46 players.

Who's Going Where?

The Mighty Ducks figure to be active. But unlike a year ago, when they acquired Rob Niedermayer and Steve Thomas for their run to the Stanley Cup finals, they'll be sellers.

Toronto has inquired about goalie Martin Gerber, projecting him as insurance against Ed Belfour's chronic back woes, and might make a pitch for rugged defenseman Ruslan Salei. Dallas has limited interested in winger Petr Sykora, with prospects or picks the likely return. That would allow the Ducks, who have a pile of money committed to Sergei Fedorov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, to gain financial flexibility under a new labor deal.

Washington scratched goalie Olaf Kolzig and winger Mike Grier from its lineup Monday supposedly because of illness but probably more to spare them injury before trading them today. Colorado liked Kolzig but not the $12.75 million he's due the next two years. Defenseman Brendan Witt probably will follow them out the Capitals' revolving door. After trading Matthew Barnaby to Colorado on Monday, the Rangers' last moves will be trading Ruchinsky and defenseman Boris Mironov.

The phone call that Buffalo's Miroslav Satan mimicked receiving after he scored a goal on Saturday should come today. Rumors say he'll go to the Islanders or -- pundits get ready -- the Devils. Carolina's Sean Hill said he'd waive his no-trade clause to go to a contender, and he'd be a passable sixth defenseman. Teammate Jeff O'Neill would have been dealt but suffered a recent shoulder injury.

Some last-minute deals pay off big. A day before the 1980 deadline the Islanders made a trade with the Kings for Butch Goring, who led them to the first of four straight championships. A day before the deadline in 1991 the Penguins plundered Hartford for Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson, who became leaders on their consecutive Cup winners. The Rangers acquired Stephane Matteau, Glenn Anderson and Craig MacTavish in 1994, and all contributed to their Cup triumph. The Red Wings' acquisition of Larry Murphy in 1997 stabilized their defense and helped them win for the first time since 1955.

"You don't win the trade deadline unless you win the Cup," Maple Leaf General Manager John Ferguson Jr. said. And he's right.

Costs of Labor Pains

Economic and labor issues have dominated every club's planning and will influence most trades today. That preoccupation costs the NHL in ways that aren't obvious, according to Canadien President Pierre Boivin.

"When an organization spends most of its waking time minimizing losses and finding ways to survive, you're not creating enterprise value. You're not investing in the sport," he said during last week's Octagon World Congress of Sports in Newport Beach.

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