The trade deadline is over and as night falls the Leafs remain the same.
After predicting movement, after stating interest in a puck-moving defenceman or a top-flight centre, Brian Burke did not modify his roster with any additions today.
Just before the 3 p.m. deadline, John Mitchell was acquired by the Rangers for a seventh round pick in 2012. But aside from Mitchell – recently demoted to the Marlies and no longer a cherished piece on the chessboard – the Leafs were about as busy as a narcoleptic ice fisherman in July.
"It was an uneventful day for us and that's kind of how we thought it would go," said Burke at his press conference this afternoon. "We had some lines in the water. We worked on a bunch of things. But none of the price tags for the things we worked on made sense."
What does this mean? It means the team is four points outside of the promised land and while this is better than most expected at Christmas, it is still not good enough for Burke to deviate from his long-range blueprint.
In the context of an unorthodox rebuild, the price for short-term help was too high and the league-wide inventory was too low. So instead of acting in haste and making a mistake, Burke chose a prudent path: keep the existing group together while protecting the picks and prospects acquired over the previous three weeks of "heavy lifting."
As it turns out, he was shrewd to get the jump on today's non-event.
So the next stage of rebuilding will take place during the draft and when the free agent market begins this summer. The future looks bright. The present looks exactly the same. What this (slowly) improving but (still madly) inconsistent team achieves this season now depends entirely on the guys already wearing the skates: No reinforcements are on the way.
The Leafs were not alone in embracing the status quo.
On a day in which sports networks started at 8 a.m. with the breathless excitement of news outlets before a war – elaborate graphics, swish sets, rampant speculation, countdown clocks, multiple panels, experts pecking at BlackBerries and staring into their laptop screens with increasing desperation – the trade deadline quickly turned into a day of frantic inaction.
The most popular phrases included: "Still not a lot to report," "Nothing happening yet," "Waiting for something to happen," "It's remarkably slow," "Something could still happen," and eventually, "It seems like everything already happened before today!"
Adding to the surreal spectacle were a couple of Twitter hoaxes, repeated flashbacks to last year’s trades, the nightmare-inducing sight of vintage Gino Reda mugs, disingenuous anticipation and the Leafs' inexplicable decision to offer the hockey-loving world a "live boardroom feed."
Yes, despite the fact nothing was happening, Leaf fans were treated to a glimpse inside the underbelly of trade day maneuvering as a web camera apparently purchased on sale at Best Buy this weekend streamed surveillance-grade footage of front office execs sitting around a non-descript table in their casual Friday attire while checking email, sipping water and reading newspapers.
Combining the drab lighting of a hostage video with the urgency of a traffic cam and the thrill of a church bake sale, the live feed showed us just how utterly boring a hockey team can be at the corporate level.
By strange coincidence, Swiss Chalet launched a new digital channel today that shows chickens spinning on spits 24 hours a day. It had more sizzle than all of the trade deadline coverage across all media platforms combined. (I snapped the picture on the left this afternoon after changing channels in a desperate attempt to scrub the image of Gino's 'stache from my long-term memory.)
So it's over. The trade deadline is finally over.
A puck-moving defenceman would have been nice. A power forward even nicer. But after today, I'm just glad we can return focus to the games, regardless of what may or may not happen between now and April 9.
MAIN PHOTO: CANADIAN PRESS