Bruins, Leafs eased back at deadline

Well, it certainly wasn't for a lack of trying on the part of Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli.

When you talk to other teams around the league, what they say is that nobody was on the phone more than Chiarelli in the two weeks leading up to Monday's deadline, trying all he could to get the pieces he was looking for.

The toughest pill was probably finishing runner-up to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Antoine Vermette sweepstakes. But Chiarelli also tried on Erik Cole, Chris Stewart and Curtis Glencross, among others.

He even talked to the Anaheim Ducks about Devante Smith-Pelly last week, but saw the rival Montreal Canadiens get him instead because they had the piece the Ducks were looking for in a young, skilled winger (Jiri Sekac).

Chiarelli did acquire Brett Connolly, a first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010 who might yet blossom into a nice top-six forward for the B's, which is more of a long-term play at this point and not as much of a playoff-impact piece for this season. It's a hockey deal, though, one that could pay off. Other GMs around the league were surprised Connolly was moved, because they were unaware he was even available.

I got a text from a Western Conference general manager around 3:30 a.m. ET Monday saying, "Was Brett Connolly really traded?"

Now, just what kind of player Connolly becomes remains to be seen, but it's certainly worth a gamble.

Chiarelli and Lightning GM Steve Yzerman quietly worked on that deal for a few weeks, contingent on the Lightning making the other trade they made (defenseman Braydon Coburn from the Philadelphia Flyers) in terms of getting defensive help.

Chiarelli also added veteran fourth-liner Maxime Talbot from the Colorado Avalanche, the kind of guy who plays his best hockey in the spring, although in the grand scheme of things, obviously not a big impact player.

At the end of the day, most Bruins fans wanted more than Connolly and Talbot. They wanted a higher-impact forward for the playoffs or some help on defense.

What Chiarelli didn't do was what some people might have done in his spot. Knowing that his job is potentially on the line, he didn't make a selfish move just for job preservation, which would have been to trade a first-round pick in order to force a trade completion. That was the cost to get Vermette, and with the Bruins sitting just above the danger zone for a playoff spot, they can't go all-in like the Blackhawks did. It made sense for the Blackhawks to spend that first-round pick. It did not for the Bruins. Chiarelli put the team's interests ahead of his. I give him a lot of credit for that.

How the Stewart trade went down
Speaking of the Bruins, no team pursued Chris Stewart over the course of the season more, but in the end, the pending UFA winger was sent to the Minnesota Wild instead.

He went for a second-round pick in 2017, and the Buffalo Sabres have to pay 50 percent of his remaining salary, no less. Not exactly the deal that Sabres GM Tim Murray had in mind. But it's the one he more or less had in back pocket as his late-day, go-to play if he could not get something better.

His pal Chuck Fletcher had called in the morning and said that if Murray couldn't get done what he wanted, that the Wild GM was willing to make that deal for a second-round pick in 2017. Fletcher had actually tried to trade for Stewart way back last summer, but at the time the price was too high. Did Murray overplay his hand on Stewart? Yes, he did, but that happens, the deadline is not a science. A team could have easily got desperate and paid up Monday, but it didn't happen.

A source told ESPN.com that on Saturday the Bruins offered the Sabres two second-round picks in exchange for Stewart, goalie Michal Neuvirth and depth forward Brian Flynn. Obviously that deal wasn't accepted, the Sabres wanting a specific prospect that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli just didn't want to give up, feeling it was too high a price to pay.

Once Boston moved on Connolly overnight Sunday with the cost being two-second picks going to the Lightning, the bigger-package deal with the Sabres was off the table.

But even as far back as on the eve of the season, back in early October, the Bruins are believed to have offered Ryan Spooner and a second-round pick for Stewart. Murray decided to wait for a better offer. And again, the Sabres GM could very well have got that better offer in other years, it just didn't play out that way this time.

In the end, Stewart was a cheap acquisition for Fletcher, who has had a remarkable trade season, saving his year by spending a third-round pick for goalie Devan Dubnyk, getting winger Sean Bergenheim for another third and then Stewart for a second-round pick that's three drafts away.


Leafs' big moves will wait until June
The overhaul of the Toronto Maple Leafs has begun, but the guts of it will wait until the offseason, when the likes of Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul will likely be moved.

There was very little chance Kessel would move before Monday's trade deadline; there were a few inquiries over the past few weeks but nothing that serious. The plan all along for Leafs management on the team's highest-paid player was to conduct a bigger auction in June, when more teams can get involved.

And, really, that was the case with Phaneuf, too, although the phone calls came in a little more readily on him in the last few days before the deadline, including, of course, a well-publicized chat with the Detroit Red Wings.

The reality is once Detroit and Toronto really laid their cards on the table, both front offices realized they were talking about a completely different deal.

The Red Wings would have wanted the Leafs to eat part of Phaneuf's $7 million-a-year salary, and the parts coming back weren't going to be Grade A stuff. The Leafs wanted a high-end return, and I'm not real sure just how much they would have wanted to eat of the Phaneuf salary.

As one source involved in the talks told ESPN.com, once both sides realized they were talking about a completely different deal than what the other side had in mind, it was time to move on.

And the Wings did, making an excellent deal for pending unrestricted free agent Marek Zidlicky instead, paying a modest price of a conditional third-round pick. Now, the fact that Zidlicky had a full no-move clause (and thus limited the New Jersey Devils' trade options severely) also helped keep that price modest. (The Wings tried on the Edmonton Oilers' Jeff Petry as well, but the weekend price on him was too high, so the Wings moved on. It's believed the Canadiens got Petry for less on Monday -- a second-round pick and a conditional fifth -- than what the Oilers were asking for over the weekend.)

Toronto got action on Lupul as well, but the moving parts in those trade conversations didn't line up as the day went on Monday; the Leafs will move him this offseason instead.

I know there are Leaf fans who would have liked the shelves wiped clean on Monday, but it's important for the Leafs to make the best deal possible, not just make the deals as quickly as possible. Believe me, there's more coming in June.