Maybe it's the slumping economy, but whatever the reason, the majority of NHL general managers were not the profligate spenders they have been at past trade deadlines. That could explain why Islanders general manager Garth Snow traded captain Bill Guerin to Pittsburgh yesterday for a conditional fifth-round pick that could become a third-rounder.
"As the weekend and [deadline day] unfolded," Snow said, "that was the best deal."
The Islanders received Tampa Bay's fifth-round pick from the Penguins. If Pittsburgh makes the playoffs, the Islanders get the Pens' fourth-round pick, and if they win a round and Guerin plays 50 percent of the games, they get Pittsburgh's third-round pick.
The weekend soap opera leading to the deal extended nearly five days from the time the Islanders pulled Guerin off the ice after warm-ups before the Buffalo game Saturday night at the Coliseum to just before 2 p.m. yesterday when Snow pulled the trigger.
"I did not know it would be Pittsburgh," Guerin told Newsday last night. "I thought it was another team. It was hard because I was in limbo.
"With everything that happened, I'm glad to be in Pittsburgh. I had a great experience on Long Island, but this is business, the ugly side."
Snow took issue with Guerin's notion there was a done deal by Saturday's game. "There was no deal," he said. "I spoke with Bill's agent and with Bill himself. The risk of injury was something we wanted to avoid."
Once burned, twice shy. At midseason, some teams inquired about the availability of center Doug Weight. But he suffered a knee injury that took him off the market.
Salary-cap problems made it difficult for a number of teams to make deals, which is why several put established veterans on waivers before the deadline. Even the Penguins sent former Isle Miro Satan to the AHL yesterday after he cleared waivers. If nothing else, Snow's decision to pull Guerin from the lineup sent a clear signal to the rest of the league about his availability, leading to yesterday's trade.
Because the last-place Islanders figured to be sellers at the deadline, some might have expected them to sell off veterans in wholesale fashion. But Snow set price tags on various players and stuck to them.
"We weren't just going to go in and have a fire sale," Snow said. Hinting at the possibility of bringing back next season unrestricted free agents, such as Weight and Andy Hilbert, the GM added, "If we identify a free agent as someone we might re-sign, we'll take that road."
Guerin led the Islanders with 23 goals last season, and he has a team-high 16 this season. But it was apparent he and coach Scott Gordon did not see eye to eye on the youth movement. However, Snow said the injury factor is the primary reason for the Islanders' last-place standing and indicated it would be difficult for him to bid goodbye to the captain.
"He was a great leader," Snow said of Guerin. "It's a tough part of the job when you have to do a move like this with a player who's a close friend."