Commentary

Which deadline deals will have most impact?

Updated: February 27, 2008, 11:11 AM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

So, the smoke is finally clearing on the NHL's annual day of shelf-stocking and dream-building.

Winners? Losers? Here's a look at the top deals:


Hossa
• Atlanta trades Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis to Pittsburgh for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, prospect Angelo Esposito and a 2008 first-round draft pick

This went right down to the deadline. Instead of Hossa being in Montreal, as many believed, the talented winger ended up in Pittsburgh, where it's assumed he'll play alongside Sidney Crosby when the star returns from a high ankle sprain.

This is the kind of deal that can be a career maker or breaker for Hossa and Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero, who gave up an awful lot to secure a player who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Hossa's reputation, deserved or not, is he hasn't risen to the challenge in the playoffs (35 points in 55 career playoff games and a minus-9). Hossa now joins a potent lineup with two of the top centers in the league in Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and he will have to produce.

The nice thing for coach Michel Therrien is Hossa is a terrific two-way player, so production shouldn't be an issue. When Bob Hartley was coaching in Atlanta, he always likened Hossa to Joe Sakic, a player he could count on in all three zones (offensive, defensive, neutral). This deal will look a lot better for Pittsburgh if it has a long playoff run and Shero can sign Hossa to a long-term deal. Hossa can also expect a much bigger payday if he can light it up in the postseason.

The Penguins, who also added defenseman Hal Gill from Toronto, have addressed a couple of concerns in terms of penalty killing and a scoring winger for Crosby, and will wake up Wednesday as good as any team in the Eastern Conference.

As for Atlanta GM Don Waddell, he pulled off a strong deal in difficult circumstances. He may not have received the positional players he wanted for Hossa (there were rumors he was looking at Chris Higgins in Montreal, Jonathan Cheechoo in San Jose or Valtteri Filppula in Detroit), but Christensen will get a chance to showcase significant skill in Atlanta and Armstrong is tough as nails. At one point, Esposito looked like he might be in the top two or three of the 2007 draft, but his stock fell. He remains a talented prospect who will get a chance to make the Thrashers' squad next fall.

Impact-o-meter: 9.5 | Complete trade details


Richards
Tampa Bay sends Brad Richards and Johan Holmqvist to Dallas for Jussi Jokinen, Jeff Halpern, Mike Smith and a 2009 fourth-round pick

This is the kind of deal that, at the end of the playoffs, we may look at and say, "This was the deal that brought the Stanley Cup back to Dallas."

And a year from now, we may look at this deal and say, "This is the deal that made the Tampa Bay Lightning contenders again."

Richards is obviously the best player in this multiplayer trade. He'll instantly help an already impressive Dallas team with his terrific two-way play and will almost certainly play with more talented players on a regular basis than he did in Tampa the past two seasons. Dallas, traditionally a defense-first squad, has opened things up this season and ranked seventh in goals per game heading into Tuesday's action. Richards will add to that without having to do it all. And come playoff time, Richards will prove his worth by killing penalties, taking faceoffs and contributing on the power play. Against teams like Anaheim, San Jose and Detroit, the Stars are now their equals.

On the other end of this trade, Mike Smith is the key. The Lightning failed to secure top-notch goaltending since they won the Stanley Cup in 2004. And while Tampa GM Jay Feaster will be scouring the free-agent lists for a No. 1 this summer (does the name Cristobal Huet ring a bell?), Smith was playing well enough that he may have pushed Marty Turco out of the No. 1 job in Dallas. Turco has re-established himself as one of the game's top netminders, but Smith has a lot of upside. He is 12-9-0 with a 2.46 GAA and .906 save percentage. He will no doubt get an early start at impressing Feaster and coach John Tortorella. Jokinen gives the Bolts some scoring depth (and shootout prowess) and Halpern is a gritty player who can fill in on the third/fourth lines and add some penalty-killing time.

Impact-o-meter: 9.0 | Complete trade details


Campbell
Buffalo sends Brian Campbell and a 2008 seventh-round pick to San Jose for Steve Bernier and a 2008 first-round pick.

Bottom line: Buffalo GM Darcy Regier was damned either way with Brian Campbell. After watching core players Jay McKee, J.P. Dumont, Mike Grier, Daniel Briere and Chris Drury leave town without getting anything back in return, Regier had to make sure he got something for Campbell. The problem for Regier is the move may cost the Sabres a playoff position. They began Tuesday tied for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

Bernier, the 16th overall pick in 2003, is a promising forward who got lost a little amid the Sharks' deep offensive lineup. When first called up during the 2005-06 season, Bernier notched 14 goals in 39 games. He'll get plenty of chances to contribute in Buffalo.

But the real crux of this deal is whether Campbell can help stabilize a San Jose blue line that has been crying out for a puck-moving defenseman with decent physicality like Campbell, who is tied for sixth among defensemen with 43 points. Campbell will also provide instant relief for a Sharks power play that ranks 20th in the NHL. Whether the Sharks sign Campbell long-term or not, their immediate need is to get past the first round, and Campbell may help them do that. For the job security of coach Ron Wilson and GM Doug Wilson, he'd better.

Impact-o-meter: 8.5 | Complete trade details


Huet
Montreal sends Cristobal Huet to Washington for a second-round draft pick

This is one of three deals Washington GM George McPhee made that will give the Caps every opportunity to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2003. As much as Olaf Kolzig has been a long-standing rock for the Caps, Huet gives Washington a sizable upgrade at a crucial juncture of the season.

Washington was five points back of Carolina with two games in hand in the Southeast Division hunt and was just five points out of eighth in the East. If Huet, who had some wobbles in Montreal but was still 21-12-6, can string together strong outings, the Caps will be playoff-bound.

The big question: What was GM Bob Gainey thinking handing over the starter's reins to rookie Carey Price? No question, Price has the potential to be an elite NHL netminder. His maturation from junior star to AHL miracle worker to NHL netminder has been meteoric. But he's still a 20-year-old who has never played in a single NHL playoff game. Before Tuesday's game, he played just 26 NHL games. For a Montreal team that has legitimate designs on an East championship, that is a tremendous amount of faith to put in someone so young. With all due respect to new backup Jaroslav Halak, there's not much of a safety net in a town that is notoriously unforgiving come playoff time. If the Habs flame out early, Gainey will be thrown under the Montreal media bus despite his iconic status in the city.

Impact-o-meter: 8.0 | Complete trade details


Foote
Columbus sends Adam Foote to Colorado for conditional draft picks

For a long time, it looked like Columbus GM Scott Howson was going to give Foote a contract extension and include him in the team's future plans. That didn't happen, and Foote instead waived his no-trade clause to return to the team with whom he won two Stanley Cups. Foote joins the strange retro movement in Denver that began Monday, when the Avs signed Peter Forsberg to a one-year deal. Sakic, another member of that Avs old-timer's club, just returned from a lengthy injury. Too bad Patrick Roy's tied up with his junior club in Quebec City or else the band would really be back together.

Foote played better of late in Columbus and, along with Ruslan Salei (acquired from Florida for Karlis Skrastins and a pick), will give the Avs more toughness along the blue line.

In Columbus, the Foote deal, along with the trade of Sergei Fedorov to Washington, signals the white flag on the Blue Jackets' long-shot bid to make the playoffs this season. Which is fine. This is a team that isn't quite there yet and can stand to stockpile as many draft picks and prospects as possible. With Foote and Fedorov off the books, Howson is expected to be very active in the offseason. Whether that means unrestricted free agents or offer sheets to restricted free agents, Howson will then prove his mettle as an NHL GM.

Impact-o-meter: 6.5 | Complete trade details


Fedorov
Columbus sends Sergei Fedorov to Washington for Ted Ruth

This deal might have more pizzazz if it was Fedorov for Babe Ruth, but we digress. This is another interesting acquisition for McPhee, who pulled a couple of rabbits out of his hat Tuesday (Huet and scrappy Matt Cooke from Vancouver being the other). Fedorov is long removed from his days as a Hart Trophy winner, but he still skates beautifully and should fit in nicely with coach Bruce Boudreau's up-tempo, attack-the-puck style.

It'll help if Fedorov gets to play a bit with Alexander Ovechkin; but even if he plays with Alexander Semin and Tomas Fleischmann on the team's second line, it should give the Caps two decent attacking units. Taking pressure off Ovechkin will be key in making the playoffs and sticking around for awhile. Ruth, a defenseman, is another prospect Howson can throw on the pile. The 46th overall pick in last summer's draft, Ruth has three points in 31 games for Notre Dame.

Impact-o-meter: 6.0 | Complete trade details


Hill
Toronto sends Hal Gill to Pittsburgh for a 2008 second-round pick and 2009 fifth-round pick

One of the obvious lessons Shero learned from his team's five-game first-round loss to Ottawa last spring was his defense wasn't ready to compete at an elite level. The Pens' blue-line corps has matured this season (the team ranks a respectable 10th in goals allowed per game), but adding the long reach of 6-foot-7 veteran defender Hal Gill will only give Therrien more options. As GMs are fond of saying, you can never have too much defense come playoff time. Gill was on the taxi squad for the U.S. Olympic team in Torino and was a steadying force on a very ordinary Toronto club. The price was steep -- especially the second-round pick -- but Shero made moves he thinks will yield a trip to at least the conference finals, if not beyond. As for the Leafs, given the refusal of core players to waive their no-trade clauses, the Gill deal stands as reason for celebration for interim GM Cliff Fletcher.

Impact-o-meter: 5.5 | Complete trade details


Backman
St. Louis sends Christian Backman to the New York Rangers for a 2008 fourth-round pick

There was much anticipation about what the Rangers might do on deadline day, especially as it related to their much-maligned blue line. There was talk of Dan Boyle coming over (he signed a six-year contract extension with Tampa on Monday night). John-Michael Liles' name popped up, as did Rob Blake's. The name you didn't hear was Backman, a former first-round pick of the St. Louis Blues. Backman (10 points in 45 games) was a victim of the numbers crunch in St. Louis, where they have a plethora of defensemen, even after sending Bryce Salvador to New Jersey.

While capable enough, Backman isn't going to give much of a boost to the Rangers' power play, which ranked 19th heading into play Tuesday, or generate a lot of offense with breakout passes from the Rangers' zone. If, however, he can play the 19:22 a night he's been averaging in St. Louis, then maybe that will be enough. Maybe.

Impact-o-meter: 4.0 | Complete trade details


Ruutu
Chicago sends Tuomo Ruutu to Carolina for Andrew Ladd

This is an interesting deal in the sense that there seems to be little statistically to separate these two players. Ruutu had 21 points in 60 games for the Blackhawks, while Ladd collected 18 points in 43 games for the Hurricanes. Both are high draft picks who have never produced at the level expected of them. Ladd, 22, was the fourth overall pick in 2004 and has never become more than a third/fourth line player with Carolina.

Ruutu, meanwhile, was the ninth overall pick in 2001. The 25-year-old has been plagued by injuries throughout his career and has never put up the offensive numbers his skill set suggested he should. Chicago GM Dale Tallon grew tired of waiting for Ruutu to deliver on that promise (and he's already got Martin Havlat to wonder about every day) and got a younger player in Ladd, who will grow up with an exciting group of young players now assembled in Chicago. Ruutu stands as a second reclamation project this season for Carolina GM Jim Rutherford, who did a nice job claiming Sergei Samsonov off waivers. With the departure of Cory Stillman to Ottawa and the season-ending injury to Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina could use another weapon up front as it fights to hang on to first place in the Southeast.

Impact-o-meter: 4.0 | Complete trade details


Simon
The Islanders send Chris Simon to Minnesota for a sixth-round pick

This is our favorite trade of the day. With Derek Boogaard and Todd Fedoruk already entrenched in Minnesota, we're wondering if coach Jacques Lemaire will form a Mensa Line with the three brutes. With Sean "I didn't know it was a banned substance" Hill in the lineup, Minnesota has become the home of second and/or last chances for wayward NHL players. The bottom line is, a team plagued by inconsistency of late did nothing to address that problem. They will, however, scare the bejeebers out of opponents, which is something.

Impact-o-meter: 0.5 | Complete trade details

Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.