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NHL teams busy at trade deadline

Kings add more draft picks in a deal that sends Norstrom to the Stars. Ducks get forward May, but Sharks acquire the biggest name in Guerin.

February 28, 2007|Chris Foster and Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writers

The wheeling and dealing altered the landscape in the NHL Western Conference considerably Tuesday, with the Kings taking a leading role and the Ducks as bit players.

The Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings made moves that bolster their lineups, with the Kings lending a hand by sending veteran defenseman Mattias Norstrom to the Stars before Tuesday's noon trade deadline.

The Ducks, meanwhile, added only a minor piece, acquiring rugged forward Brad May to a lineup that already leads the NHL in penalty minutes.

"First and foremost, I'm not a big trade deadline guy," Ducks General Manager Brian Burke said. "That's not when I think you do your most productive team building. The trade deadline is where more GMs lose their sanity than all of the other days of the year combined."

Still, the Ducks watched conference rivals get stronger.

Postseason posturing in the Western Conference began Feb. 15 -- when the Nashville Predators outbid others, including the Ducks, for Philadelphia Flyers forward Peter Forsberg -- and continued through Tuesday afternoon.

The Sharks acquired forward Bill Guerin, a veteran goal scorer, from the St. Louis Blues, just days after getting Craig Rivet, a solid defenseman.

The Stars added Norstrom to their blue line after picking up forward Ladislav Nagy from the Phoenix Coyotes two weeks ago. And the Red Wings took a chance on forward Todd Bertuzzi, who was limited to seven games with the Florida Panthers this season because of back surgery and is at least two weeks from being ready to play.

The Ducks, meanwhile, settled for May, who had just returned to the Colorado Avalanche lineup after off-season shoulder surgery.

"I didn't like the prices," Burke said. "Am I concerned that these teams might have added some beef? Yes, I'm concerned."

But, he reiterated, "the deals didn't make sense to me."

Others took the plunge while juggling salary cap numbers, including the Stars, who took on Norstrom's $4.25-million salary for next season.

The 25 trade-deadline deals matched the record set last season, and involved 44 players, two shy of last season's record. The Edmonton Oilers seemed to opt out of the playoff race by trading Ryan Smyth to the New York Islanders after failing to reach terms with the standout forward.

The Pittsburgh Penguins got tougher too, acquiring enforcer Georges Laraque from the Phoenix Coyotes and gritty forward Gary Roberts from the Panthers.

But the price teams pay in draft picks and prospects has gone up.

"The business has changed," Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said. "It used to be you built through the draft and guys weren't free agents until they were 32. Now you have a window of opportunity. You might only have key guys for one or two years. You see a chance, you grab it."

Dallas did that in taking Norstrom. The Kings were willing to part with their popular 35-year-old captain in order to strengthen their rebuilding project now underway. The Stars also picked up Kings' prospect Konstantin Pushkarev along with a third-round and a fourth-round draft pick in 2007.

"It's a tough, tough day after 11 years with the organization," Norstrom said. "It happens in a hurry. You can't ever prepare for this, just deal with it. I just wish we would have enjoyed more team success here, where we went deep into the playoffs."

In return, the Kings received Dallas defenseman Jaroslav Modry, a former King who is an unrestricted free agent after the season, a first-round draft pick in 2008, a second-round pick in 2007 and third-round pick in 2007 from Dallas. Tuesday's trade, which eases the Kings' salary-cap concerns for next season, included the rights to defenseman Johan Fransson.

The Kings have collected seven draft picks while giving up only two since Jan. 29 in trades involving Norstrom, Craig Conroy and Brent Sopel.

The Ducks also wanted Norstrom, though Burke said, "I don't feel [Lombardi] ever intended to deal with us. I'm inclined to deal with him."

The Ducks came up short in efforts to acquire Forsberg and the Blues' Keith Tkachuk, who was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers on Sunday.

The Stars trail the Ducks by five points in the Pacific Division, the Sharks trail Anaheim by seven, while Nashville and Detroit lead the conference.

"Just look at the Western Conference after today," Norstrom said. "It's going to be a tough playoff battle."

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