Last week's trade of Jason Arnott was a mixed bag for the New Jersey Devils.
On the one hand, the organization traded a veteran with strong ties to the club. Remember, Arnott scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal during the 2000 championship, bringing New Jersey its second championship. He helped form the famous "A-Line", one of the most dangerous offensive lines in Devils history. Arnott recorded 215 points with the Devils in his four-plus seasons wearing the red and black.
But the second go-around never produced the magic of the first. And, in the end, Arnott became a necessary trade piece for a team looking to shed cap space.
When Arnott was re-acquired by the Devils in June, fans immediately thought of that Cup-winning goal. Flashes of the old days, when Arnott and Elias sensed each other on the ice, danced before everyone's eyes. Several people (including myself) believed the two linemates would find that chemistry again. Arnott would slide into the second-line center role, produce big goals and help the re-tooled Devils escape the first round.
None of those images materialized. Arnott scored his share of goals, but never really found the connection with Elias. Their line produced at times, but it was never enough. As the Devils continued piling up losses, Arnott disappeared more and more. He became just another Devil struggling on a floundering team.
Coach Jacques Lemaire's presence didn't help bolster Arnott's confidence. The veteran lost his spot to Elias, and watched as a new second line of Brian Rolston, Dainius Zubrus and Elias became a legitimate scoring threat. Arnott found himself on the third and fourth lines, routinely sandwiched by rookies and grinders. It wasn't the best position to flourish offensively. While he performed admirably, Arnott clearly wasn't happy.
Then the trade winds started blowing, and Arnott wanted to sail away.
After the Devils traded former captain Jamie Langenbrunner to the Dallas Stars, all sights turned to Arnott's situation. The veteran center didn't hide his desire to play for a contender. He felt his career was short and deserved the opportunity to play for a Cup-worthy team. Even as the Devils began and sustained their amazing run, Arnott continued to weigh his options and state his case for leaving. In the end, he got his chance.
Rather than whine and complain, Devils fans took the move in stride. Lou Lamoriello got a steal, securing a second-round pick and David Steckel for Arnott. With the NHL purging the Devils in fines this summer, the pick will help bolster a depleted draft stock. Steckel, one of the best face-off specialists in the NHL, already proved his ability during 5-on-5 and special teams play. And while Arnott has helped the Washington Capitals, Devils fans are already forgetting his second stint in New Jersey.
In the grand scheme of things, this trade won't be a foundation-shaker for the Devils. It was an above-average move for Lamoriello and company. Steckel's cap hit is a bit high, but he presents an upgrade over other centers and allows the Devils to further develop Adam Henrique and other prospects.
It also removed a player from the locker room who wasn't completely on board with the team. Like Langenbrunner, Arnott wasn't completely buying into this locker room. He wasn't a malcontent or a cancer, but the lack of faith in the team could submarine their effort. Removing Arnott removed the last shred of doubt from the locker room. Now the team presents a united front, and everyone in the locker room is firmly entrenched in a playoff race.
While Arnott got his wish, the Devils have hummed along without him. It's left several fans uttering the question Arnott who? The answer, it seems, isn't important anymore.