by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

(Don’t forget that TGS provides a daily NHL Top Choice for $10, available on our home page!)

There are trade deadlines in sport...and then there’s the NHL trade deadline, which in some years has exceeded the number of deals in all of the other major sports combined. For many hockey enthusiasts, Monday was one of the big days of the year, just after opening night and the beginning of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s because it was trade deadline day, with most of the contending teams actively seeking to strengthen themselves for the upcoming run at the Cup. There has been activity for the past few weeks, however, with significant moves taking place as long ago as January.

Following is a quick update on the contending teams, what they were and weren’t looking for, and what they could or couldn’t accomplish by the 3 PM (EST) deadline on Monday, with accompanying letter grades...

EASTERN CONFERENCE: New York Rangers...Coach John Torotella should have had few concerns with his team flying on top of the conference standings by a hefty 7 points. Tortorella was giving the usual lip-service to adding defense but sources claim the Rangers were looking to bolster their attacking options and were a late addition to the Rick Nash sweepstakes with Columbus.

Moves...In the end, Tortorella was able to slightly improve defensive depth with the additions of John Scott from the Blackhawks and and Mike Vernace from the Panthers, but were not (nor could anyone else) able to pry Nash away from Blue Jackets. Grade: C

Boston Bruins...Most of last June’s Cup-winning roster is still in tact, although HC Claude Julien has recently become a bit exasperated with Boston’s back-and-forth pattern. The Bruins were the league’s hottest team from November thru January but have cooled since. Injuries to center/winger Rich Peverley and winger Nathan Horton, however, are causes for concern since neither could be guaranteed to be ready for the playoffs.

Moves...The Bruins needed some short-term bolstering on their frontline and pulled the trigger at the last minute to acquire veteran Brian Rolston from the Islanders, whom they could have added for nothing on waivers over the weekend, suggesting they might have had their eyes elsewhere (Nash) and moved for Rolston only as a last resort. But the savvy 39-year-old Rolston could prove a useful addition, and his 70 games of Stanley Cup experience figure to come in handy. Grade: B-

Pittsburgh Penguins...Coach Dan Bylsma has kept the Penguins relevant even with Sidney Crosby having missed the majority of the season, with Evgeni Malkin emerging as a legit MVP candidate. Crosby’s potential for return at any time suggested the Pens were less likely to make a big move at the deadline and simply look to add some depth around the edges...and hope Crosby gets back into the lineup soon.

Moves...The Pens stayed quiet and made no moves of consequence. Grade: incomplete

New Jersey Devils...The Devils have been a surprise contender this season for coach Peter DeBoer, although some observers keep waiting for the bottom to fall out at the Pru Center, pointing out that the team was walking a thin line with a goal differential almost level. The Devils were looking to add some offensive reinforcements at the deadline; defensively, it wasn’t as much a case of weakness as it was the blueline generating so little offense. In goal, DeBoer seemed comfy enough to ride veteran Martin Brodeur, although some suggest he’s past his sell-by date.

Moves...The Devils addressed those defensive concerns by sending a collection of prospects to Minnesota for Marek Zedlicky, a puck-moving, offensive-minded defender who had worn out his welcome with coach Mike Yeo in St. Paul. A fresh start in Newark might be just the ticket for Zedlicky, who appears to be a very useful addition. Late in January, New Jersey added some offense when acquiring forward Alexei Ponikarovsky from the Hurricanes. In the end, however, we’ll see if the decision to stick with Brodeur and not pursue any upgrades in the net was a wise move. Grade: A-

Philadelphia Flyers...Unlike the Penguins with Crosby (who could return at some point this season), the Flyers know that their best player, defenseman Chris Pronger, wont be back this term. Adding some defense was thus a prime concern, as were the age-old problems in goal, especially with Ilya Bryzgalov in such erratic form since his offseason arrival from Phoenix, and holdover Sergie Bobrovsky not much better. The sanity of coach Peter LaViolette and the Flyer fans who recall Bernie Parent cannot take much more of this mediocrity between the pipes.

Moves...Adding badly needed depth defensively, the Flyers did the best they could, getting Niklas Grossman out of Dallas and Pavel Kubina from Tampa Bay to strengthen the blueline. Neither has the commanding presence of the majestic Pronger, but it’s a start. No reinforcements were added in goal, however, which means that LaViolette is back to crossing his fingers that either Bryzgalov or Bobrovsky steps up heading into the playoffs. Grade: B

WESTERN CONFERENCE: Vancouver Canucks...Despite the Red Wings’ record 23-game home win streak (broken last week by the Canucks, by the way), Vancouver, and not Detroit, was leading the West at deadline day. No crying needs at Rogers Arena other than perhaps adding some obligatory depth on defense, which every contender could use.

Moves...Not any upgrades of significance save perhaps for renting forward Samuel Pahlsson from Columbus, a former Cup winner with the Ducks in 2007. Liberated from the league’s worst team to a title contender, perhaps Pahlsson becomes invigorated, but he only ahd two goals this term for the Blue Jackets. He might have some use in the postseason as a veteran third-line center who can win some faceoffs, but it’s only a short-term rental. Grade: C

Detroit Red Wings...Despite the aforementioned record home win streak, the Wings have yet to shake the Blues or the Predators in the Central Division, but coach Mike Babcock knows he has a team that is constructed to win the Cup, so few upgrades were necessary once GK Jimmy Howard returned from his broken finger (backup Joey McDonald was also excellent in relief).

Moves...Nobody was looking for the Wings to do much, but they might have made a slight defensive upgrade covering two different deals, shipping disappointing defender Mike Commodore, a onetime Cup winner with Carolina in 2006, to Tampa Bay but bringing in puck-moving defenseman Kyle Quincey in yet another deal with old friend Steve Yzerman with the Lightning, who were moving players in bunches. Quincey looks to be more useful than Commodore in the short run so thus might be a small benefit to the Wings. Grade: B-

San Jose Sharks...GM Doug Wilson has never been afraid to make a move and the Sharks are always ready to deal at the deadline as they look to erase their perennial bridesmaid status. Having said that, Wilson was not overly eager to tamper with the salary structure of the roster as currently configured and was more eager to add depth if possible.

Moves...Wilson was still moderately active, swinging a 5-player deal involving all forwards with the Avalanche; some believe the Sharks got the better in the short-term in the trade by adding a solid penalty killer in Daniel Winnik and a good skater in T.J. Galiardi, though both are potential free agents in the offseason. In the end the Avs might get the better of this deal by adding Jamie McGinn from San Jose (if Colorado can retain him, that is), but San Jose is living in the moment. Wilson also added extra frontline depth when bringing in Dominic Moore from Yzerman’s Tampa Bay. The Sharks were rumored to be a potential player in the Nash sweepstakes, but like others came up empty in that pursuit. Winnik, Galiardi, and Moore, however, could be very useful short-term rentals. Grade: B

Nashville Predators...The most important moves by GM David Polle and coach Barry Trotz would be any that tempt potential FA defensive star Ryan Suter from leaving Music City in the offseason. That and adding any extra goal scorers, long an Achilles heel for the Preds.

Moves...Polle was able to extract defenseman Hal Gill out of Montreal on a short-term rental to provide a potential sidekick for Suter, but might have made a bigger splash by heisting winger Andrei Kostitsyn out of the Bell Centre in the final minutes before the deadline. Andrei is thus reunited with brother Sergei at Bridgestone Arena after the brothers played together in Montreal between 2007-10, and gives the Preds their own answer to the Sedins in Vancouver. Then the Preds added another forward, Paul Gaustad, from Buffalo, a potential free agent who cost Nashville a number one draft pick. But Gaustad provides size and a presence in the middle that could come in handy in a long playoff series. Yes, the Preds are going for it this season. Grade: A

St. Louis Blues...One of the best stories of the season to date, the Blues have rallied from a slow start after switching coaches in the first month of the campaign, enlisting veteran Ken Hitchcock, who won the Cup thirteen years ago in Dallas. St. Louis has since chased Detroit and Nashville in the Central while posting a home mark at the Scottrade Center only eclipsed by what the Wings have been doing at Joe Louis Arena. Nonetheless, the Blues were looking to add some scoring help at the deadline with winger Jamie Langenbrunner out with a broken foot and center Alex Steen suffering from Sidney Crosby-like concussion symptoms that have kept him sidelined since late December.

Moves...The Blues stood firm and did little except sending G Ben Bishop, buried in the minors, to the Senators for a 2nd round draft pick in 2013. If anything, however, this reinforces St. Louis’ commitment to the goalie pair of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, who have been a spectacularly effective 1-2 combo in goal this term. Rather than tamper with the current positive chemistry, the Blues stayed quiet otherwise, obviously crossing their fingers that Steen becomes available soon. Grade: C

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