It was only in the final minutes that David Poile completed a counter-clockwise journey through the weeks that led to the NHL trade deadline.
The Nashville Predators general manager estimated that it took 15 phone calls with the Buffalo Sabres on Monday alone before they agreed on compensation for center Paul Guastad. The last of four deals executed by the team in preparation for the playoffs ws finished just before the 2 p.m. (CST) deadline and was a direct reaction to the one last Friday that sent veteran Jerred Smithson to Florida for a draft pick.
Earlier Monday, the Predators acquired forward Andrei Kostitsyn from the Montreal Canadiens, the same team that traded them defenseman Hal Gill on Feb. 17.
“That was done in reverse order,” Poile said. “We put ourselves in a tough position [by trading Smithson], and we knew we wanted to fill that position with Paul Gaustad. Obviously, it didn’t happen until the last moment, so we really sweated that one out.
“So that was a calculated move that we did get done at the 11th hour.”
Nashville gave up its first-round pick in this year’s draft to get Gaustad and a 2013 fourth-round selection from the Sabres. For Kostitsyn, the older brother of Sergei Kostitsyn, the Predators gave up two 2013 draft picks, one in the second round and one in the conditional fifth-round choice it had gotten from the Canadiens in the Gill deal.
Gaustad, Gill and Kostitsyn all will be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.
“I think the most important part for them and for us,” Poile said. “By winning, I think everything will take care of itself. If we don’t win it won’t be as big a factor. So we’ll give it some time.”
Gaustad, 30, is a 6-foot-5, 212-pound center who has spent his entire seven-year career with the Sabres. He has 71 goals and 110 assists in 479 career appearances and has played 65 games or more in five of his six full seasons.
Six times in his last eight games he has won more than 60 percent of his faceoffs, and he leads all Sabres forwards with an average of 2:52 of shorthanded ice time per game.
“Paul Gaustad is a playoff-type of player,” Poile said. “He’s big. He’s strong He’s good on the faceoffs. He’s a guy who can move up and down the lineup. He’s a guy you’ll probably see on the ice in the last minutes of games for faceoffs.”
Kostitsyn, 27, has 99 career goals and 210 points in 379 games, all with Montreal where he previously played alongside his brother for three seasons. He has 12 goals and 12 assists in 53 appearances this season.
His best offensive season was 2007-08, when he had 26 goals, 27 assists and a plus-15 rating.
“He’s been a little bit inconsistent in his career and maybe a little bit inconsistent this year, but if he plays his ‘A’ game, the guy’s a real talent,” Poile said. “But we have to get him to play his ‘A’ game.”
Beginning with Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena), the Predators were alone in fifth place in the Western Conference with 79 points, six ahead of their nearest pursuer (Chicago) and four behind fourth place St. Louis.
Kostitsyn and Gaustad were expected to be with the team for Tuesday’s game at Carolina (6 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee), the first of a stretch in which 10 of 14 are on the road.
“We’ve put ourselves in a real good position here, in the playoff race,” Poile said. “And I think these two trades have certainly given us a chance to play with the big boys this year. We’re done. I’d say we’re real happy. We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish.
“Each one of these players has a role and can add to what I think is already a good team. I think we’ve done a lot. We’ve done as much, if not more, than anybody else.”
And they finished just in the nick of time.