Hockey world sees flurry of trades well before deadline

Marlow Weldon

Did I miss the memo that the National Hockey League had moved up the trading deadline?

For the first time in recent memory, some squads were jumping out the gates almost two weeks before the deadline, with Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs and Bryan Murray and his Ottawa Senators leading the way.

Burke, who’s never been one to shy away from pulling the trigger on a blockbuster, got everything going February 9th when he sent Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim, with Joffrey Lupul and highly regarded prospect Jake Gardiner heading east.

The Senators, who are fighting with Edmonton for last place in the overall standings, then got in on the action when they traded Mike Fisher to Nashville in exchange for a first round draft pick and a conditional draft pick (based on how far the Predators go in the playoffs).

It was the perfect deal for Fisher, who is married to Nashville superstar Carrie Underwood and it was also a good deal for Murray, who is now tasked with rebuilding the awful Senators.

Then it was Burke’s turn again, with former Ducks and Canucks GM sending former Red Deer Rebels Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia for a couple of draft picks, including a first rounder.

A couple of days later, Murray fired up the trade wire again, sending third liner Chris Kelly to Boston for a second round draft pick.

Murray wasn’t done there, sending Jarkko Ruutu to Anaheim and netminder Brian Elliot to Colorado, before Burke once again got in on the frenzy, sending blueliner Tomas Kaberle to Boston for a first round pick, a conditional pick and former Camrose Kodiak Joe Colborne.

The biggest pre-trade deadline day deal though came in the early morning hours this past Sunday.

While most of us were wiping the sleep from our eyes, or reaching desperately for our first cups of java, St.Louis GM Doug Armstrong and Colorado GM Greg Sherman were busy trading former first rounders.

Going to the Blues are Chris Stewart, who led the Avalanche with 38 goals last season, and blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk while the Av’s get back defenseman Erik Johnson and forward Jay McClement.

Johnson, who missed the entire 2008 season after suffering a knee injury while jumping out of a golf cart, had regressed a bit this year, but not enough for the Av’s to stay clear of the former first round pick, while Stewart, who missed over a month this season after breaking his hand in a fight, has also seen his numbers dip a bit in 2010-2011.

Both players should benefit from a change of scenery.

With the trade deadline still on the horizon, we should expect to see a couple more deals come down on Monday, and one of the teams that may get in on things is the Edmonton Oilers.

Both Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky have drawn interest from other GM’s around the league, and one would have to think that if players like Mike Fisher and Kris Versteeg can fetch a first round draft pick, the Oilers could get the same or more for Penner or Hemsky.

Not that I, as a diehard Oilers fan, want to see either 27 or 83 change teams, but I also want to see a winner in Edmonton, and getting back a first round pick for Penner or Hemsky would surely help expedite the process.

Either way, we should be in for quite the ride as prices go higher and GM’s desperate to push their teams over the hump look to add rentals.

If not, at least we get to listen to Pierre Maguire use a lot of words but say absolutely nothing for eight hours on TSN.

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