Boston and Pittsburgh added veteran presence and the offensively challenged New York Rangers some scoring punch, while many Stanley Cup contenders were quiet during an NHL trade deadline day devoid of any earth-shattering moves.
The league's top 10 U.S.-based teams — in the standings before action Wednesday — combined for nine deals, with New Jersey, Washington, Detroit, Chicago and Nashville failing to pull the trigger.
A couple of Canadian squads, Calgary and Ottawa, made the biggest splash, with the Flames acquiring centre Olli Jokinen from Phoenix and defenceman Jordan Leopold from Colorado.
The Ottawa Senators began the day picking up injured goaltender Pascal Leclaire from Columbus for forward Antoine Vermette and a 2009 draft pick.
But the list of those rumoured to be changing addresses was long: defencemen Jay Bouwmeester, Chris Pronger and Tomas Kaberle, forwards Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Keith Tkachuk, Jason Spezza, Marian Gaborik and Doug Weight, along with goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.
"It's a little bit of a different climate because we're not different than what's going on in the world, not knowing what's going to happen the year after next year," Flames general manager Darryl Sutter told reporters.
The market for players with more than one year of term left on their contract never materialized as teams brace for a potential drop in the salary cap next season and more likely in the 2010-11 campaign.
"I don't think you've seen any long-term deals move yet today," Sutter said. "Are there any with over one or two years remaining on contracts? Probably not."
"I think everyone's scared to death of the 2010-11 season," added Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke. "My sense is that teams — and I know I am — are scared to death of 2010-2011 as far as committing a lot of money to lock up guys."
1st round picks precious
Rangers GM Glen Sather, who added 26 goals and 58 points in separate deals for forward Nik Antropov (Toronto) and much sought-after blue-liner Derek Morris (Phoenix), believes clubs weren't anxious to surrender first-round draft picks. Only one was dealt away.
"They're hard to get," he said. "If you're going to try and keep your organization's head above water, you've got to be able to keep those first-rounders."
In all, 22 trades were made involving an NHL record 47 players with four 2009 second-round selections, four future second-rounders and one second-round pick in 2010 exchanging hands.
Teams also attacked the waiver wire, with no fewer than four players claimed Wednesday: goaltender Martin Gerber (Toronto), defenceman Erik Reitz (Toronto), centre Brendan Morrison (Dallas) and Craig Adams (Pittsburgh).
In some cases, standing pat was difficult.
"It becomes at times really difficult to resist the pressure to do things in the short term that are high risk and in the long term that are a total risk," said Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis. "As rumours and things begin to happen … it's hard to resist the urge to get involved all over the place. But we did."
The Eastern Conference-leading Bruins, rumoured to be in the hunt for Pronger and Morris, settled for the lesser-known Steve Montador. But GM Peter Chiarelli did add a Stanley Cup champion in 41-year-old right-winger Mark Recchi to complement his impressive core of young forwards.
Second-place New Jersey, which stood six points in arrears of Boston in the East entering play Wednesday, did its trading earlier in the week when GM Lou Lamoriello brought veteran rearguard Niclas Havelid aboard from Atlanta.
The recent return of sure-fire Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur from injury also could be considered a huge addition for the stretch drive.
Washington, Philadelphia and Montreal round out the top five teams in the East, but only the Flyers added bodies in the form of tough guy Daniel Carcillo (Phoenix) and defenceman Kyle McLaren (San Jose).
Penguins add experience
The eighth-place Penguins, who take a four-game winning streak into Thursday's game at Florida, added veteran Bill Guerin (36 points in 61 games with the Islanders this season) less than a week after fellow winger Chris Kunitz arrived in the Ryan Whitney deal.
Florida GM Jacques Martin elected to hang on to Bouwmeester — set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 — with his Panthers standing sixth in the East on deadline day.
In the West, San Jose added checking winger Travis Moen and depth defenceman Kent Huskins from Anaheim without giving up anything off its active roster. Philadelphia sent the Sharks a future sixth-round pick for McLaren.
Chicago, Columbus and Nashville sit among the top eight in the West. The Blue Jackets added Vermette and Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon filled a hole at centre with checker Samuel Pahlsson, while the Predators' David Poile stood pat.
There were two other notable deals:
- The Buffalo Sabres, who are knocking on the playoff door in the East, acquired goaltender Mikael Tellqvist from the Phoenix Coyotes for a fourth-round draft pick in 2010. The arrival of Tellqvist, who posted a .907 save percentage in 15 games this season, will help offset the loss of injured starter Ryan Miller (high-ankle sprain).
- Edmonton, which is clinging to a playoff spot, acquired winger Ales Kotalik (Buffalo) and Patrick O'Sullivan (Los Angeles) in separate deals for a 2009 second-round pick and rugged winger Erik Cole.
While shut out on deadline day, Canadiens GM Bob Gainey will have a chance to make a splash at the NHL draft, hosted by Montreal on June 26 and 27.