Eight simple truths from NHL deadline day

Updated: February 28, 2007, 1:02 PM ET
By E.J. Hradek | ESPN The Magazine

The true beauty of the NHL's trade deadline is watching the darkness, caused by weeks of wild rumors, give way to the bright light of the truth. The actual trades reveal that truth. The trades tell you what a team really thinks about some of its players. In an instant, an untouchable prospect can become a player who just wasn't going to make it. If a team thinks it can win, and a lot of them do this season, general managers will hand out valuable draft picks like free ice cream on a hot summer day.

With each trade deadline (did you know there was just one trade deadline deal involving one player in 1983?), we learn something about the league and its clubs. Here are eight things I took out of Tuesday's swap meet:

Kevin Lowe
AP PHOTO/CP, Jimmy JeongOilers fans might not like the Ryan Smyth trade, but Hradek believes Kevin Lowe did what the GM thought was best for the team.

1. Draft picks matter
Many clubs believe the 2008 draft class is deeper and stronger than this year's crop. St. Louis, Los Angeles and Phoenix were among those teams adding 2008 draft picks to their deadline deals. You'll notice those management groups feel pretty secure in their positions. If they didn't, they wouldn't be trading for picks that won't be used for another 16 months.

2. No Blues in St. Louis
Blues president John Davidson and GM Larry Pleau drive a hard bargain. The duo did a nice job of getting multiple assets for departing vets Keith Tkachuk and Bill Guerin. They picked up a bushel of draft picks, but getting the picks is the easy part. Making smart use of those assets is where things get a little dicey. The Blues also made a nice little deal by acquiring forward Brad Boyes from the Bruins for defenseman Dennis Wideman.

3. Don't make Jagr mad
It doesn't pay to cross Jaromir Jagr in New York. During a Feb. 3 game at Tampa Bay, defenseman Aaron Ward got into a somewhat heated give-and-take with Jagr. The spat became a public matter in recent days. On Tuesday, Ward was traded to the Bruins for their own overpaid D-man, Paul Mara. The lesson is simple: Don't fight with your superstar teammate.

4. Islanders make up ...
Islanders GM Garth Snow and the club's operations staff have guts. They traded Robert Nilsson (2003 first-round pick), Ryan O'Marra (2005 first-round selection) and a 2007 first-round pick for Oilers icon Ryan Smyth. Why is it gutsy? If the Islanders don't re-sign Smyth, he can leave via free agency on July 1. If that happens, Snow & Co. are left with nothing but a memory of Smyth's short Island vacation. But if they can re-sign him, the Isles will have a new and improved identity. That's why the team believed it was worth the risk.

4a. ... for their bad drafting
The Smyth deal revealed another truth: The Isles knew they blew it when they opted for Nilsson over Zach Parise in the 2003 draft. Parise, whose dad (J.P.) was an Islander in the 1970s, was a no-brainer pick. Of course, the crosstown rival Rangers also foolishly passed on Parise, taking Dartmouth winger Hugh Jessiman. Where's Hugh? He's back in the AHL after a lengthy stint in the ECHL. Jessiman tallied his second AHL goal on Saturday. Where's Parise? He was drafted by the Devils and has 49 points in 63 games as part of a solid second line with the club.

5. Kevin Lowe has guts
Oilers GM Kevin Lowe has guts, too. If you watched him play, you already knew that. Lowe risked local ridicule by dealing Smyth, a fan favorite tabbed "Captain Canada" for his many appearances in international competitions. Like it or not, Lowe did what he thought was right for his team.

6. Yes, even Lou makes mistakes
The cap-challenged Devils can (eventually) admit a mistake. The club finally, and wisely, gave up on its 2000 first-round pick, David Hale, who was dealt with a fifth-round pick to the Flames. The Devils have done quite well in the draft. They don't miss too often. They did miss on Hale, who was selected with the 22nd overall pick. In taking Hale, the Devils left defensemen Niklas Kronwall (29th), Lubomir Visnovsky (118th) and John-Michael Liles (159th) on the board.

7. What's the goal in Buffalo?
The Sabres' Cup dreams will rest on the shoulders of goalie Ryan Miller. That statement has more truth after GM Darcy Regier sent solid backup stopper Martin Biron to the Flyers as a way to open up cap room for the acquisition of center Dainius Zubrus. Long-suffering Buffalo fans don't want to think about what happens if Miller suffers an injury or goes cold. Inexpensive journeyman Ty Conklin isn't a suitable backup for a true Cup contender. The cap, however, forces GMs to make such tough decisions. Regier, who might be concerned about the health of forward Chris Drury, made his choice.

8. Brian Burke is stubborn
The Ducks GM is stubborn. Sometimes, that's a good thing. Burke was a player in a couple of separate trade negotiations, but he refused to trade any of his young studs (Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry or prospect Bobby Ryan) for a short-term fix. But the Ducks' road to the Cup finals got a lot tougher after the Predators, Red Wings, Stars, Sharks and Flames made significant acquisitions. In the end, only one team will come out of the West, which means most of these deadline dealers will be disappointed. If Burke's team falls within that group, at least he won't have to fret about giving away players he wanted to keep.

E.J. Hradek covers hockey for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at ej.hradek@espnmag.com. Also, click here to send E.J. a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.