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Years ago, when general managers were riverboat gamblers and not conservative preservationists, the NHL trade deadline was worthy of the hype. It has since turned into a Hallmark holiday, a day lacking in substance but worth noting because enough people are buying the sales pitch.

Last week, the trade deadline again failed to justify the attention. The Penguins made the most significant push in recent weeks in an effort to win the Stanley Cup. Most teams made obvious moves or low-risk swaps with the idea they could get marginally better this year or build toward next season.

Leading into the final hours before the 3 p.m. Wednesday, hockey fans were left refreshing their computers and seeing blockbusters like Rob Flick for Maxim Sauve, Scott Hannan for a conditional seventh-round draft pick and Jerred Smithson for a conditional fourth-round pick.

Talk about a yawner.

The salary cap was largely responsible for a slow deadline day. Roberto Luongo is a goalie who would help most teams, but with a $5.33 million cap hit on a deal that runs through 2021-22, he wasn’t leaving Vancouver. Thomas Vanek counts for $7.1 million, too steep for teams worried about managing payroll next season under a lower cap.

Several players who were moved provided a predictable surge, however. Ryane Clowe, shipped from the Sharks for three draft picks, had two goals and set up another in his debut with the Rangers. Clowe hadn’t scored all season for San Jose. Defenseman John Moore, acquired from Columbus, also scored for the Blueshirts in his debut.

Ben Bishop, traded from Ottawa to Tampa Bay for Canisius College product Cory Conacher, had 45 saves in a 5-0 win in his first game with the Lightning. Jaromir Jagr, the 41-year-old known in his younger years as the best player in the world, scored the only goal for the Bruins in their win over the Devils.

Here are some winners and losers:

Winners

Pittsburgh: It’s not all Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, folks. Ray Shero is one of the best general managers in the league because of his vision and creativity. He’s also proactive and disregards sentiment when making decisions. He created cap room last summer by trading Jordan Staal. He used the extra space going into the deadline when he added Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray. After Crosby was injured, he added another forward in Jussi Jokinen without selling the farm.

St. Louis: Jay Bouwmeester was a bust in Calgary. It didn’t mean he was a bad player so much as a bad fit for that franchise. He can still log big minutes and still has the booming shot that can help the Blues. Jordan Leopold had a rough season in Buffalo, but a change in scenery and better players around him could help his game.

Minnesota: Jason Pominville was expensive, but he should fit into their short-term plans and could be a long-term answer. Pominville can provide a boost offensively, but he also does the little things often overlooked. He’ll help on the power play and penalty kill, he’s rarely out of position, durable and experienced in big games.

Boston: Jagr already has helped the Bruins get over the fact that they lost Iginla to the Penguins. Boston is built for another playoff run, but its power play (25th) hasn’t been much better than Buffalo (30th) despite the disparity in talent. Jagr has scored six of his 15 goals this season on the PP. The rest of the Bruins had only 14.

Columbus: The Blue Jackets, two points out of seventh going into the weekend, climbed the standings after firing Scott Howson. New GM Jarmo Kekalainen grabbed star winger Marian Gaborik from the Rangers. He was far better than Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett or Moore. The Jackets also added prospects Steven Delisle and Blake Parlett.

Losers

Buffalo: GM Darcy Regier deserves credit for getting the most he could for Pominville, but the Sabres are far worse in the grand scheme. They were only a few players away from being a solid playoff team when Terry Pegula purchased the franchise. They could be a dozen players away before next season.

Calgary: See above. The Flames added two first-round picks for Iginla and Bouwmeester, but they’re going in the wrong direction. It’s a bad sign for GM Jay Feaster, who will need to make the playoffs next season or be shown the door. Miikka Kiprusoff is leaning toward retirement.

Philadelphia: It couldn’t have been easy for GM Paul Holmgren to acquire backup Steve Mason from Columbus after sending Sergei Bobrovsky to the Blue Jackets last season. Bobrovsky could be a candidate for the Vezina Trophy. The Flyers continue having problems in goal. They wanted Bishop, but he landed in Tampa.

Carolina: The Hurricanes had a great start and were 15-9-1 on March 12 before going on a 1-8-1 tailspin going into the deadline. Carolina desperately needed a move to help shake them back into order. Instead, it added small depth defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron and sent Jokinen packing. No wonder they lost, 5-0, the following night.

Edmonton: With a young crop of talent in position to make a playoff push, management failed to join the rush. Smithson had two goals and six points in 51 games over two years in Florida. That was the big move for a ninth-place team that hadn’t been in the postseason since losing in the Cup finals in 2005-06? Really?

Devils coaches take hits

The Devils’ biggest hits lately have been against the coaching staff. Scott Stevens, who rattled a few bones back in the day, found out how it felt to be in the receiving end.

Anton Volchenkov accidentally plowed over head coach Pete DeBoer during a workout last week that left the Devils – and thankfully not DeBoer – in stitches.

“I can see Volchy stepping up on me,” DeBoer said. “I don’t know if anybody is [dumb] enough to purposely hit Scott Stevens.

Stevens was standing in for defenseman Marek Zidlicky when Mark Fayne knocked him to the ice a few days later. Neither coach was injured.

“Right away I’m apologizing,” Fayne said. “ ‘Can I get you anything?’ I don’t care how old he is or how long he’s been out. That’s still not a challenge I’m willing to take.”

Sabres still paying Pommer

One detail Regier failed to mention, and in fairness wasn’t asked about, was whether the Sabres would be picking up a portion of Pominville’s contract after he was traded to the Wild. In fact, Buffalo is taking part of the hit.

The Sabres agreed to pay about $225,000 on Pominville’s deal this season to keep the Wild under the salary cap. Buffalo will pick up $900,000 next season, the final year of his contract.

“Hey, we recognize that we paid a price,” Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said. “But as a franchise we’ve spent a lot of time accumulating assets and trading for draft picks, and I think it’s a positive sign that as a franchise we’re now trading prospects and picks to acquire players. Typically that means you’re moving in the right direction.”

Canucks, Leafs can’t agree

The Canucks spoke with the Leafs numerous times about Luongo, but talks fell apart at the last minute when Vancouver refused to pay part of the goaltender’s salary. Toronto was offering a package that included Ben Scrivens going to Vanouver.

It made for an interesting situation involving Canucks GM Mike Gillis and Leafs GM Dave Nonis. Nonis managed the Canucks when he was fired in 2008, and some wondered if Gillis was behind the firing. Gillis and Brian Burke had discussions about Luongo, but that ended when Burke was fired early in the season.

His replacement: Nonis.

Gillis still hopes to trade Luongo before next season. Luongo can’t exit quickly enough and regrets signing the long-term deal. However, Gillis made it clear by keeping the veteran goalie that he’s not giving him away.

Quotable

Leopold after being traded from Buffalo to St. Louis: “There were some distractions in the locker room I was in previously; it’s like the grim reaper was around. These guys are upbeat, they’re excited to play, and they’re ready to go.”

Around the boards

• Bishop’s 45-save performance in his first game with the Lightning was a career-high and tied for the most ever by a Tampa Bay goalie in a shutout. Bishop matched the team mark set by former Sabres netminder Daren Puppa, who had 45 stops for the Bolts against the Kings on Nov. 27, 1995.

• The Penguins scoffed at a radio report out of Philadelphia that suggested Crosby suffered another concussion and was out for the year. Crosby had surgery to insert a plate near his mouth but is expected back before the playoffs. His jaw was not wired shut, which was assumed after Brooks Orpik’s shot was deflected and nailed him in the face.

• Taylor Hall’s hat trick in the first 7:53 against Vancouver last weekend was the fastest three goals in Oilers’ history and broke Wayne Gretzky’s record by five minutes.

Hall came back with a goal and four assists against Calgary. He and linemates Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle combined for 32 points during a five-game winning streak.

email: bgleason@buffnews.com