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Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Bouwmeester, Pronger, Smyth ... the deals that didn't happen on deadline day


Jay Bouwmeester, Chris Pronger, Ryan Smyth, Keith Tkachuk, Tomas Kaberle, Ian Laperriere and Chris Neil were traded many times on various Web sites and chat rooms over the last few weeks. Just not when it actually mattered.

Wednesday's NHL trade deadline was just as newsworthy for the players who didn't move as for those who did find new homes.

And that's because several playoff-bound teams did not want to give up young assets in this uncertain NHL economic landscape. Prospects and draft picks might be the most important assets right now as teams try to figure out what's going to happen with the salary cap over the next few years.

There was perhaps no more telling sign of that than the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings' standing pat on a day where they traditionally dominate the headlines.

Sure, Wings GM Ken Holland dabbled in a few forays for a gritty forward, including a phone call to Ottawa for Neil, but in the end, he chose to hold on to his draft picks and prospects … something he had predicted he would do in an e-mail to us the day before the deadline.

And he wasn't the only GM of a Cup contender not to pull the trigger.

"Just because you didn't do anything doesn't mean that you didn't do the right thing," Washington Capitals GM George McPhee said after the trade deadline came and went without his making a deal.

McPhee confirmed he had some talks with the Coyotes on defenseman Derek Morris and earlier this week with Anaheim on Pronger, but decided against paying the price in both cases.

Pronger would have cost young stud blueliner Karl Alzner and a few other top prospects -- simply too high a price for the Caps.

"I'm just not interested in giving up a young player for a rental," McPhee said of not dealing for Morris, who ended up with the New York Rangers.

And besides, the Caps are gambling that the return of Brian Pothier (concussion) at some point before the end of the regular season will be their big blue-line addition. Caps fans won't be happy McPhee didn't pull a deal, but in a few years, when Alzner is an All-Star and goalie Simeon Varlamov is winning 40 games for Washington, those same fans will be happy they weren't dealt.

How the fans in South Florida will feel in a few months is another matter.

Keeping Bouwmeester instead of getting whatever assets were available from Philadelphia or Vancouver might be a tough pill to swallow come July 1, when the 25-year-old blueliner is expected to walk away. But we give Panthers GM Jacques Martin big-time credit for making a gutsy decision with the clock ticking away toward 3 p.m. ET. Let's keep the big boy, he said, and let's go win some playoffs games.

For a franchise possibly heading to its first playoff foray in eight seasons, it felt like the right decision.

"It was a tough decision, but we like our team and we felt in the end it was the best decision for where we are at right now," Martin told ESPN.com. "We feel we're solid on defense."

But, yes, he almost did deal Bouwmeester.

"It came close, it came very close," he told us in an interview we conducted in French. "But in the end, this is the scenario that made the most sense for us."

We believe if Martin accepted his best offer Wednesday, Bouwmeester would be a Philadelphia Flyer, although neither Martin nor Philly GM Paul Holmgren would confirm that.

What Holmgren did tell us is, whatever he was trying to do, in the end, he didn't want to destroy too much of his team to do get it done. Aside from replacing Scottie Upshall or Daniel Carcillo, the Flyers didn't do a whole lot despite being very much in talks for both Bouwmeester and Morris.

"We tried not to do too much because we really like our team," Holmgren told ESPN.com "We're happy with what happened today. We like our players."

Pronger also didn't move, which isn't terribly surprising. Ducks GM Bob Murray was not going to move him unless he got a massively tempting offer. He never got it, despite talks with Washington, St. Louis and Boston, among other teams. Murray can get more teams involved in trade talks at the June draft in Montreal, and that's what he'll do.

In Colorado, Smyth and several other Avalanche players also did not move. From Laperriere to Ruslan Salei to Darcy Tucker to John-Michael Liles and Milan Hejduk and Scott Hannan, many an Avalanche player spent time in the rumor mill, but in the end, only Jordan Leopold moved Wednesday.

"At this time of the year, there are a lot of rumors that come out, and usually most of them have no foundation," Avs GM Francois Giguere told ESPN.com. "If I would have followed through on all the rumors, then three quarters of the team would have been gone."

Still, just because only one player moved, that doesn't mean Giguere didn't try to trade others. But it was clear that moving players with long-term contracts wasn't an easy thing to do this year with this economic climate.

"This year, I thought these things were a bit more complicated," Giguere said. "When teams are talking about moving players with term, they felt that the asset value should be greatly reduced because of that fact. I think that's why you saw very little activity with players who had term left on their contracts."

Captain Canada was the most intriguing Colorado name in trade gossip, but Giguere never did approach him about waiving his no-movement clause, which should not be confused with Giguere not receiving calls on Smyth from other teams, because we believe he did. Still, nothing made enough sense to call up Smyth and his agent, Don Meehan, and talk shop.

"Without commenting on specific players, the only thing I will say is that none of our guys who have no-trade clauses we asked to waive it," Giguere said. "We never got to serious enough places with those guys where that was contemplated."

Laperriere is slated to be a UFA July 1, which is why many believed he would be moved, but Giguere held onto the popular Colorado player. He's hoping to sign him before July 1.

"Even though we don't have an agreement yet, I think both parties would like to find a solution to keep Ian within the organization," the Avs GM said. "I felt it was important to give ourselves a few more months to see if we can come to a meeting of the minds."

Tkachuk also stayed put, as the Blues made a difficult decision to keep the veteran winger, a UFA July 1, with the team four points out of a playoff spot in the West.

"We had opportunities to move Keith, but we still believe we're in a playoff run," Blues president John Davidson told ESPN.com. "And to be frank, we felt it was important for us in terms of the integrity of the dressing room. These guys have been through a lot this year together and Keith has been a part of that. They deserve, as a group, to have a shot at this.

"We did have a lot of talks about Keith, particularly with teams in the East, but in the end opted the best decision was the status quo."

A source told ESPN.com that the Bruins aggressively pursued the Massachusetts native, but Davidson denied a report that a deal somehow fell through at the last minute.

"There was never a deal made," Davidson said.

Sens GM Bryan Murray still has Neil on his hands, somewhat surprisingly. The rugged winger, UFA July 1, remains far apart on a deal, but Murray didn't like what he was offered and didn't move him.

"I didn't get offered what I felt was fair compensation for him," Murray told ESPN.com.

Murray would not tell us, but we believe Western Conference powerhouses Detroit and San Jose were the teams most interested in Neil. The Wings, because of cap room, would have needed to send a player back to Ottawa, which we doubt interested the Sens for financial reasons, while the Sharks likely didn't want to give up the kind of draft pick Ottawa wanted. And besides, San Jose picked up its toughness in Travis Moen, anyway. Veteran defenseman Brendan Witt, who has two more years on his contract, attracted several phone calls, but the Islanders opted to keep him.

"We signed him last summer [to a three-year deal] for a reason," Isles GM Garth Snow told ESPN.com. "We like Brendan Witt. He's a fearless leader, a big part of our room."

Finally, Kaberle, who has two more years on his deal at a nice $4.25 million salary, was never really in play, Leafs GM Brian Burke told us.

Check in again at the NHL draft in June, when some of these guys will finally move. Maybe.