By Allan Muir, SI.com
One of the toughest tricks of this profession is the deadline day trade breakdown story.
It's really a no-win proposition. Everyone wants to talk about who got the better end of a deal, but at the same time, they realize that the winner -- if there is one -- won't become clear for months, maybe years. Best case scenario: The knee-jerk reactions provide plenty of fodder for fan banter.
Yet, here I am again, strangely compelled to talk about who made the savviest moves as the clock wound down. And really, why not? Last-minute reinforcements have been critical to the late runs, and early playoff success, of several clubs.
Here, then, is my ranking of the most impactful acquisitions (so far) of Deadline Day '08:
1A and B: Adam Foote (photo) and Ruslan Salei: The addition of these hard rock defenders didn't generate much of a splash on deadline day, but their physical presence clearly re-booted the battered Avs blueline. Both are eating up more than 20 minutes a night, and their calm, consistent performance has played a large role in the postseason success of Jose Theodore (Thursday night, notwithstanding). It was primarily the work of Foote and partner Kent Sauer that knocked the starch out of Minnesota's Marian Gaborik, limiting him to just one assist in their first round series.
2 Vaclav Prospal: Ask $52 million man Daniel Briere why he's now playing his best hockey of the season, and he'll point to the arrival of Prospal. Frustrated by the way he was used in Tampa, the crafty left winger found instant chemistry -- and consistent first line minutes -- with Briere in Philly. He's chipped in 23 points in 25 games, including three goals and nine points in the first round series against Washington.
3 Marian Hossa: His average of six shots per game in the first round illustrates the fast chemistry he's found with Sidney Crosby. His two-way game allows the Pens to separate Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and gives them the two most dangerous lines in the postseason. But his biggest impact may have been cerebral, rather than on the scoreboard. When Ray Shero dealt considerable treasure to acquire the impending free agent, the message was clear: Win now. The Pens are playing like they believe they can.
4. Sergei Fedorov: Perhaps inspired by his rescue from the sinking ship that was the Blue Jackets, the Fedorov who suited up for the Caps was a more aggressive and motivated asset than he'd been in years. He was an ideal replacement for the injured Michael Nylander, adding experience and defensive savvy to a young roster that was aching for veteran leadership.
5. Cristobal Huet: The clock has already struck midnight on Washington's season, but Cinderella wouldn't have made it to the ball in the first place were it not for the reliable play of Huet. He earned criticism for some shaky work in the first two games against the Flyers, but rebounded strongly to help the Caps stretch the series to overtime of the seventh game.
6. Hal Gill: Don't laugh. The defender whose legs appeared rooted into the ice on too many nights with the Leafs has rediscovered his game with the Pens. Credit coach Mike Therrien for slotting him into the proper role, and allowing him to stay within his comfort zone. His simple, physical approach has solidified both the third pairing and the penalty kill, but his best work may be ahead of him. He's been a Jagr-killer his entire career, and Gill's ability to contain the most dangerous Ranger could tilt the series in Pittsburgh's favor.
7 Brad Richards: Although he struggled to find his place in the Stars' lineup leading up to the playoffs, the biggest catch of deadline day appears to have chemistry with a pair of Swedish wingers: Loui Eriksson and Joel Lundqvist. The trio combined for 14 points against the Ducks, and gave the Stars three threatening lines. Still, you have to think he can be better. He'll have to be if Dallas is to get past San Jose.
8. Brian Campbell: Undeniably brilliant down the stretch, Campbell slid seamlessly into San Jose's roster, kickstarting the stalled engine that was the Sharks' transition game. But he's been an underachiever during the playoffs, making a number of questionable decision both with and without the puck. Hey, if he's ranked below Hal Gill, you know he's not meeting expectations.