Three weeks ago, when all the sports networks started promoting their NHL trade deadline coverage, there were big names to dangle like Corey Perry and Jarome Iginla – players who could shift the fortunes of a contending team in a big hurry.
But then Perry re-signed with the Anaheim Ducks and Iginla was controversially traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins late Wednesday night. Along with two earlier deals by Pittsburgh in which former Dallas Stars' defenceman Brenden Morrow and San Jose Sharks' hard-rock defenceman Douglas Murray landed with the Penguins, there suddenly aren't a lot of big fish left in the pond.
The most attractive target might now be the Sharks' Ryane Clowe, a big-bodied winger who has dealt with injury issues all year and has yet to score a goal. But for a team such as the Boston Bruins, who thought they had a deal in place for Iginla at noon on Wednesday but were ultimately left standing at the altar, Clowe might be an attractive alternative.
"There are players out there and we're in on players," Bruins' general manager Peter Chiarelli said at a news conference Thursday, where he didn't try to hide his disappointment at missing out on Iginla. "That was a good player, a real good player, but there are always other players."
As a GM, Chiarelli said the complication at this year's deadline is a league-wide concern over the drop in next year's salary cap – from a prorated $70-million to $64.3-million. A player such as Iginla, on an expiring contract, becomes more attractive because there are no salary-cap implications beyond July. However, the list of players who fit that category is shrinking fast, with Perry, Anaheim teammate Ryan Getzlaf and Carolina Hurricanes' high-scoring winger Alex Semin all recently signing new contracts, which took them off the market.
"It makes rentals a little more valuable this year for a certain group of teams, including ours," Chiarelli explained. "So you have to be a little creative and you have to open up your decision-making process to more things."
The value that the Flames received from Pittsburgh – two mid-range college prospects, plus a 2013 first-round draft choice that could be as low as 30th overall – isn't considered a great haul for a player of Iginla's stature, even as a rental.
Part of the problem was the Penguins' awareness that Iginla wanted to play for them. As a result, they were able to get a deal done by making a comparatively low-ball offer.
It remains to be seen if any team will need to pay a deadline premium in the current climate, even though the buyers outnumber the sellers by a significant margin, thanks to the tight playoff races.
Flames' general manager Jay Feaster acknowledged that he remains open for business and if the right offers come along, he is prepared to move more than just Iginla. The No.1 target on the Flames' available list would likely be defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, who can play high minutes every night and has shown an offensive flair that was absent in his first three years with the Flames. However, Bouwmeester has a year left on his contract, so he would be more desirable for a team such as the Detroit Red Wings, who have far more salary-cap room next year than does Boston and some others. Calgary has lesser pieces available, too – defencemen Cory Sarich and Anton Babchuk.
Other players who may attract interest before Wednesday's deadline include Edmonton Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney, New York Rangers forward Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Penner, Buffalo Sabres' defencemen Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold, Washington Capitals centre Mike Ribiero, Dallas Stars forwards Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr and New York Islanders forward Brad Boyes.