The trade deadline was widely anticipated to be a relatively underwhelming affair, given the perceived lack of high-profile players in play.
For the most part, the last day on which playoff-bound teams could bolster their rosters for the spring tournament played out that way, with most of the players who changed addresses being of the spare part/depth variety.
However, history shows that some of the subtle deals made at the deadline are the ones that end up being key components of an eventual Stanley Cup run. The Chicago Blackhawks' picking up Michal Handzus in 2013 comes to mind.
From my perspective, the Detroit Red Wings are the team that made the subtle March moves that could have the biggest June payoff, proof positive of why Detroit continues to defy the downward pull of NHL competitive gravity under general manager Ken Holland.
By landing 36-year-old forward Erik Cole from the Dallas Stars, Holland brings in a veteran player with Stanley Cup final experience who is not only looking for another shot at a championship, but for another contract this summer. Despite his age, Cole can still skate -- he has been one of the Stars’ most consistent forwards this season -- and he attacks the net in a way that will complement one of the better teams in the League at directing pucks to that area.
Additionally, plucking defenseman Marek Zidlicky from the New Jersey Devils gives the Wings a veteran blueliner who can still handle 20 minutes a night and is only three seasons removed from the Devils’ own run to the Cup final in 2012.
While these moves lack the pizzazz of some of the marquee trades made on deadline day, they have the potential to have the biggest impact in both the Wings' top offensive and defensive groups.
With the Eastern Conference playoff race looking like a wide-open affair, Detroit added a legitimate top-nine power winger who can score and a serviceable top-four defenseman. Adding pop in these two areas at this time of year is usually a fairly expensive proposition, yet Detroit managed to do so at the cost of just two draft picks and two B-level prospects.
While it is true that the conditional future return to the Devils -- currently a 2016 third-round pick -- goes up if the Red Wings make it to the Stanley Cup final, that is a price increase that Detroit is praying it will have to pay.
Moves like this, in which Holland improves his team now without significantly impacting his ability to get better in the future, are one of the main reasons Detroit has been an annual participant in the NHL postseason tournament for longer than Wings standout forward Tomas Tatar has been on planet Earth.