NHL teams make a flurry of deals before deadline

Martin St. Louis told Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman more than once he wanted to play for another team.

The reigning NHL scoring leader got his wish – hours before the league’s trade deadline – in one of 20 trades that involved 38 players Wednesday.

Tampa Bay dealt its unhappy captain to the New York Rangers for their rugged captain, Ryan Callahan.

”Are we better? I don’t know,” Yzerman acknowledged at a news conference. ”We’re different.”

St. Louis, who ranks among league leaders this season, should help the Rangers’ chances of finishing among the top three in the Metropolitan Division to avoid falling into the Eastern Conference’s wild-card logjam.

Callahan joins a Lightning team that hopes his grit and soon having star Steven Stamkos in the lineup for the first time since he broke his right leg in November will help them be in the Atlantic Division’s top three when the regular season ends April 13.

Here’s a look at five other trade-deadline observations as teams made moves – or chose not to – in an attempt to get in a better position for the playoffs in the hopes of hoisting the Stanley Cup in three months.

GOALIE GO-ROUND: The Central Division-leading St. Louis Blues made a big splash Friday, acquiring goaltender Ryan Miller, to perhaps improve enough to at least reach the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2001. The Sabres acquired goalie Jaroslav Halak as part of the deal and dealt him four days later to the Washington Capitals, who hope he can help them close the regular season well enough to earn a spot in the playoffs. The Florida Panthers are almost mathematically out of the playoff race, but they’re putting Roberto Luongo back in their net for the future after giving up on him in the past. After lots of talk about the possibility, the Vancouver Canucks finally decided to part ways with Luongo. ”When I was least expecting it, something happened,” Luongo said at a news conference in South Florida. To make room for Luongo, the Panthers traded goalie Tim Thomas to Dallas. Minnesota also acquired goalie Ilya Bryzgalov from Edmonton. ”A lot of goalies changed hands,” Sabres general manager Tim Murray said. ”That’s surprising this late in the year that so many teams would feel they would need to make a change at that position. I haven’t seen that before.”

MONTREAL’S MANEUVER: Some teams stayed out of the fray for big names because they didn’t want to pay a steep price for a player, especially one with an expiring contract. The Montreal Canadiens, meanwhile, made what seems to be a shrewd move. The Canadiens acquired high-scoring forward Thomas Vanek from the New York Islanders for a prospect, second-round pick and conditional fifth-round selection. Vanek, who becomes Montreal’s leading scorer, has 53 points this season and 541 in his nine-year career, which was spent in Buffalo until he was traded to the Islanders early this season.

COMING HOME: The banged-up Detroit Red Wings, who are without four players who could play center, brought David Legwand back to play next to his hometown of Grosse Pointe, Mich., as they cling to hopes of playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 23rd straight time. If Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss and Darren Helm were healthy enough to play for the Red Wings, they wouldn’t have needed to make a deal with Nashville for the 33-year-old Legwand. Zetterberg, though, will miss the remainder of the regular season with a back ailment. Datsyuk is going to rest for a few weeks in the hope that heals his left knee. Weiss has a lingering groin injury. Helm might be out indefinitely with a concussion.

MOULSON ON THE MOVE: Matt Moulson will play for his third team when he suits up for Minnesota. He started his fifth season with the Islanders and was traded Oct. 27 to Buffalo with draft picks for Vanek. The forward with 17 goals, 38 points and an expiring contract was dealt again on Wednesday along with center Cody McCormick to the Wild for a pair of second-round picks and fourth-line forward Torrey Mitchell. ”I think the rumors out there had me traded about 300 times by the time I got into Buffalo,” Moulson said.

STANDING PAT: The defending champion Chicago Blackhawks didn’t budge from their plan to stay away from talks about possibly adding a high-profile player when the Blues made a big move to add Miller. Instead, Chicago is choosing to chase a third Stanley Cup in five seasons with players they have on their loaded roster. ”You have to be aware of what your competitors do, but can’t simply react just because one team does one thing,” Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. The New Jersey Devils decided to keep Martin Brodeur, the NHL’s winningest goaltender, and the Canucks chose not to part ways with talented center Ryan Kesler after there was much speculation that both players would get moved.

AP Sports Writers John Wawrow in Buffalo, N.Y.; Dave Campbell in St. Paul, Minn.; and Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.

Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/larrylage