A general manager will inevitably have one of two feelings come over him after he has dispensed a player: regret or relief. While there is a grey area in between, it is usually reserved for prospects who couldn’t cut it or veterans who were slowed down by their increasing age.
Debating the signing of the season is a permanent feature of the hockey world. Dollar signs are revealed, the excitement of a new addition surrounds the organization and the act of being a consumer is widely approved. All of this may overshadow the painful departures; players that were moved elsewhere, got on with their lives and are agonizingly missed by their former teammates.
Less than halfway into the campaign, there are already a few clubs who are grieving over the ones that simply got away last summer.
Henrik Tallinder – Buffalo to New Jersey
Predictable he may have been, but that was the beauty of Tallinder’s game, as he minimized his errors. Discarding him damaged the Buffalo Sabres in multiple forms. Being someone who played his share of games with one club, the players and especially the goaltender understood the defenseman’s tendencies. The sight of Mike Weber's errant pass to Nathan Horton earlier this month or the miscommunication between a pair of rearguards highlights how useful Tallinder was. Darcy Regier forfeited another commodity because of contract disputes and it has hurt. Nobody understands this more than Tyler Myers, who treated him as a tutor and without him now, he is lost in a sophomore slump.
Toni Lydman – Buffalo to Anaheim
Another example of Regier’s poor judgement, Lydman was the second half of the most experienced defensemen within the team. Almost a carbon copy of Tallinder because of his similar shutdown intentions, the Finn offers a hint of extra mobility and offense. In Anaheim, the 33-year-old has 13 points and a pleasant plus-18 rating. Such stability is sorely lacking on the Buffalo backline and the other issue is, in the steady but unexceptional Jordan Leopold and the capable but injured Shaone Morrisonn, the replacements for Lydman and Tallinder look inferior to the two.
Anton Volchenkov – Ottawa to New Jersey
Blocking shots with an obvious passion, Volchenkov’s positioning and anticipation are exact nine times out of ten. Minus him, the Ottawa Senators have conceded goals aplenty and the acquisition of Sergei Gonchar has not exactly bolstered the offense. Given his compliance of keeping opponents honest with heavy checks and his spirit, it is hard to envision the Senators being as susceptible to goals against with him at the heart of the defense. It is not as if Volchenkov has risen to the occasion in New Jersey, but then again, who has?
Dustin Byfuglien – Chicago to Atlanta
With the Chicago management’s backs against the wall because of salary cap consequences, they did not hold much power in retaining Byfuglien last summer. That does not mean they are not lamenting over what else the bulking forward and/or defenseman could have provided them after his playoff heroics. Illustrating this point is how he has led the Atlanta Thrashers into a race with the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning for supremacy in the Southeast Division, receiving numerous Norris Trophy nods from the public. Although the Blackhawks are likely to reach the postseason for the third straight year, they are nowhere near as powerful as they once were when Byfuglien and others represented their strength in numbers.
Andrew Ladd – Chicago to Atlanta
Speaking of those others, Ladd has accepted added responsibilities and became the new captain of the Thrashers in November. Camouflaged by Chicago’s stars, he is showing off his leadership qualities because of ample opportunity, as Byfuglien and he are the top producers for their new squad. A comfortable all-around player, the former first round draft pick won a Stanley Cup with each of the organizations he formerly represented – Carolina and Chicago. All of Atlanta is soliciting for Ladd to go three-for-three.
Prices can block a person's sight of the grand scale of things, dissuading them from a contract renewal. While it may be unavoidable – depending on the elements – it does little to ease the pain. Sometimes, a general manager does not realize what they had or the importance of it, until it is gone.