Swap meet

As always, NHL trading deadline day is one of the most fun days of the season, and this year's event proved to be no different.

There were 25 deadline-day deals involving 45 players, and a large part of them can be overlooked. The Chicago Blackhawks shipping Tuomo Ruutu to the Carolina Hurricanes for Andrew Ladd in swap of former top-10 picks who've yet to live up to their potential? That's one.

The Colorado Avalanche getting defenseman Adam Foote from the Columbus Blue Jackets for pair of draft picks? That, coming on the heels of the Avs bringing back Peter Forsberg led Denver Post sports copy chief Angela Clemmons to assure me they're building a championship team ... in 1999.

But here's three deals from Tuesday that I wanted to focus on.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins acquire forwards Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis from the Atlanta Thrashers for forwards Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, 2007 first-round pick Angelo Esposito and a future first-round pick.

DID PITTSBURGH WIN OUT?: Durable. High-scoring. Will continue to play as a complimentary player instead of as the go-to guy. What's not to like?

The question is what's happened to Hossa this season. Tallying 26 goals and 56 points isn't a bad season by any means, but a year ago, he had career highs with 43 goals and 57 assists. And before we all anoint Pittsburgh as the next Stanley Cup champions, remember Hossa had one assist in four playoff games last year following his 100-point season.

Still, if he's re-energized by playing with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins have to be a favorite to get to the Stanley Cup finals.

Pittsburgh will be Dupuis' fourth team since the start of last season. Led Atlanta with three short-handed goals this season.

DID ATLANTA WIN OUT?: In the short term ... meh. There was no way the Thrashers were going to sign Hossa before July 1 when he could hit the free-agent market, but you'd have thought they could have gotten more for him.

Armstrong is big - 6-foot-2 - but hasn't had more than 16 goals or 40 points in a season. Has a nose for the net in big situations, though, with eight career game-winning goals in 181 games.

Christensen's strength is in shootouts, where he has 14 career goals, tying him for second-most all time.

Esposito is a prospect, currently fourth in scoring with 55 points in 48 games with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, but has seen his production go down each season since 2005-06.

2. Dallas Stars get center Brad Richards and goaltender Johan Holmqvist from the Tampa Bay Lightning for goaltender Mike Smith, forwards Jussi Jokinen and Steve Halpern and a future fourth-round draft pick.

DID DALLAS WIN OUT?: No. They made out like bandits.

He's a Conn Smythe Trophy winner averaging 72 points a season coming into 2007-08. His 51 points this year places him third on the Stars. Is in the second year of a 5-year, $39 million deal - not an issue for owner Tom Hicks.

Richards clearly was one the top offensive players available. With the Stars looking to overtake the Detroit Red Wings and get the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and home ice advantage throughout, this was exactly the kind of deal co-GMs Brett Hull and Les Jackson needed to make.

Richards can be a difference maker, and now that he's no longer playing for Tampa Bay taskmaster John Tortorella, it may allow him to breathe again.

Holmqvist will sit and learn as Marty Turco's backup.

DID TAMPA BAY WIN OUT?: Since Nikolai Khabibulin and John Grahame helped the Lightning win the Stanley Cup in 2004, they've not had a true top-flight netminder - Sean Burke? Brian Eklund? Gerald Coleman? Marc Denis? Karri Ramo? Holmqvist?

Smith is just 25 and has plenty of potential. Since joining Dallas last season as a backup to Turco, Smith has gone 24-14-2 with a 2.34 GAA and five shutouts. With the Lightning just 12 points out the final Eastern Conference playoff spot heading into play on Tuesday, Smith could help them escape with some wins.

Tortorella is getting someone who is almost automatic in shootouts with Jokinen, whose 17 goals are tied with Slava Kozlov for the most. Halpern hasn't scored 20 goals in a season since 2000-01.

3. Washington Capitals acquire goaltender Cristobal Huet from the Montreal Canadiens for a second-round draft pick.

DID WASHINGTON WIN OUT?: The Capitals have Olaf Kolzig's heir apparent - provided they re-sign Huet, who will be an unrestricted free agent in July. Huet, though, may be counted on to help get Washington into the playoffs this season.

The Caps haven't been to the postseason since 2003, and likely will end that skid only by winning the Southeast Division.

A late bloomer, Huet has seen his wins total rise each season since breaking in with the Los Angeles Kings in 2002-03. He head to the Caps with a record of 21-12-6 with a 2.55 GAA and two shutouts.

DID MONTREAL WIN OUT?: With Huet gone, the goaltending chores fall to former first-round pick Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak.

With a playoff berth and conference crown possible, general manager Bob Gainey must be really sure about what he has now.

The 20-year-old Price, selected fifth overall in 2005, has battled some inconsistency recently. Against the New York Rangers on Feb. 19, he gave up three goals in less than 14 minutes before being replaced by Huet. Montreal rallied from a 5-0 deficit to win 6-5 in a shootout, but coach Guy Carbonneau will not have the luxury for now of a veteran to spell Price if needed.

Halak will turn 23 in May, and thrived as backup to Huet last season going 10-6-0 with a 2.89 GAA and two shutouts.

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