The first trade wind blew through the streets of Minnesota just after lunchtime Thursday. It was the Buffalo Sabres and their desire to acquire Calgary defenseman Robyn Regehr that gave NHL folks something to chew on other than their sandwiches.
The report was merely an appetizer to what followed.
The Philadelphia Flyers remodeled (blew up?) their team, trading the captain and alternate captain to make room for a long-desired franchise goaltender. In the process, Los Angeles and Columbus energized their organizations with world-class players.
Once all of the league's general managers get under the same roof today for the first round of the 2011 entry draft, even those blockbuster moves might seem like finger foods. The gathering in the Twin Cities could be a smorgasbord of deals.
The Sabres could be involved in the transactions. They reportedly were attempting to acquire Regehr, who was asked by Calgary to waive his no-movement clause to come to Buffalo, according to TSN. The 6-foot-3, 226-pound stay-at-home defenseman would fill one of the Sabres' biggest needs.
Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier refused to comment. Regehr said he needed time to decide, with a source saying the 31-year-old called at least one former teammate who has played in Buffalo.
"There is lots of talk right now, nothing concrete yet," Regehr told the Calgary Sun. "That's all I can say. I'm looking at my options."
Regehr, who has spent his 11-year career with the Flames, has two seasons remaining on a contract that has an annual salary cap hit of $4.02 million. The dependable blue-liner has played at least 75 games in eight of the last nine seasons. He spent three of those seasons alongside Buffalo blue-liner Jordan Leopold, forming a solid pairing.
The longer Regehr waited, though, the more likely it was another team could prepare an offer. It was unclear what the Sabres were willing to give up, though it was presumed to be prospects and draft picks.
The Sabres pick 16th in tonight's opening round, and they are willing to move the selection. In another rumor, it's possible they could be moving their minor-league affiliate. The much-discussed reunion with Rochester might be announced today.
The team that knocked the parent club out of the playoffs will look wildly different next time the puck drops. The Flyers, who eliminated Buffalo in the first round before losing to Boston, completed back-to-back deals that certainly had a "wow" factor.
First, Philly sent alternate captain Jeff Carter to Columbus in exchange for forward Jakub Voracek and the Blue Jackets' first- and third-round draft picks. Before the ink was dry, the Flyers shipped captain Mike Richards to Los Angeles for forwards Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a second-round draft pick.
The Flyers weren't finished, agreeing to a nine-year, $51 million contract with former Phoenix netminder Ilya Bryzgalov. The Flyers used three goalies during their series with the Sabres.
"We're a different team, and I really like the way it's structured right now," Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told reporters. "When you make a commitment to go out and sign and acquire a goalie, when in your view that's an upper-echelon goalie, you know you're going to have to pay him."
The Kings needed scoring help, and they got it with Richards, who is three years into a 12-year, $69 million contract.
"We felt at this stage of the franchise it was time to make a significant move for an impact player," Kings GM Dean Lombardi said. "Mike Richards is not only one of the top players in the league, he's also universally recognized as one of the finer leaders in the game and one of its elite competitors.
"Additionally, given that he's only 26 years old and he's on a long-term contract, he fits our plan now and for the long-term future."
Richards and Carter are good friends off the ice, a party relationship that attracted gossip and created a rift with Philadelphia media. On the ice, though, Carter is a gifted playmaker who is expected to feed scoring winger Rick Nash. Carter is set to start an 11-year, $58 million deal.
"Anytime a franchise acquires a player of this status it energizes the franchise," Columbus GM Scott Howson said. "Now we have two elite forwards, and we'll try to keep building from there."