Twenty questions, some not-so-easy answers

Twenty questions in the aftermath of the NHL trading deadline:

Q: What stinks worse than unwashed laundry at the end of a road trip to Prince George, Kamloops, Chilliwack and Kelowna?

A: Ryan Smyth's trade to the Islanders, and not only because 102-year-old Lilian Hosking, whose answered birthday wish when she turned 101 was to run her hand through Smyth's mullet, gave it a thumbs-down to the Edmonton Journal.

There is no crying in hockey, whether it is from a 102-year-old woman or a 31-year-old winger. The Oilers at least, theoretically, still are within striking distance of a playoff spot, but this was a white flag. So, following Mark Messier's night, there's not much use showing up at Rexall Place.

Plus, the two sides -- the Oilers and Smyth, in the person of his agent, Don Meehan -- were very close financially, but couldn't close a multiyear deal. In this new era, with the cap limiting the maximum a player can earn to 20 percent of the available payroll and with absolute individual ruthlessness making it tougher to build a winning cast around the highest-paid players, it's ridiculous that a compromise couldn't be reached. And that's a pox on both houses. GM Kevin Lowe reacted petulantly by trading Smyth.

Furthermore, Smyth's love for Edmonton rings hollow if he couldn't step in and tell Meehan: "OK, you've done a good job getting these numbers on the table, but now let's get it done." The hometown discount, which already had been an issue in previous Smyth contracts, doesn't even have to be a financial concession, but an acknowledgment that satisfaction is priceless.

And if Smyth gets over his disappointment and re-signs with the Oilers this offseason, it will raise the question of whether this was preordained and all this drama was an act. More likely, it was a case of Lowe calling Smyth/Meehan's bluff and putting the onus on them in the offseason ("How bad do you want to come back?").

Q: What division was strengthened the most?

A: Pacific, hands down. Bill Guerin, whether playing with buddy Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau, bolsters the Sharks. The Kings' bizarre and inexplicable serving up of warrior, heart-and-soul defenseman Mattias Norstrom to the Stars was the most underplayed move on deadline day.

Q: Speaking of which, if it's a Stars-Predators conference final, who will The Dixie Chicks (Texas natives and Nashville regulars) be rooting for?

A: Regardless, my guess is Natalie Maines will say she's ashamed of the loser.

Q: Why did "Slap Shot 2" take so long to make and why was it so awful?

A: This has nothing to do with the trading deadline, but as I continue to try to emulate Dickie Dunn and capture the spirit of the thing, I ask that every day.

Q: Do lawsuits make strange bedfellows?

A: They no longer are co-defendants in the latest incarnation of Steve Moore's lawsuit, but Anaheim GM Brian Burke's acquisition of Brad May from Colorado was, well, curious at best. May is a good guy who does great things in the community, any community where he's playing, but adding him for grit and toughness at this point makes no sense. His surgically repaired shoulder has him under orders not to fight, and now he might be good for nothing but ill-advised penalties. Plus, I'm wondering if anyone has asked Teemu Selanne, by far the most openly disgusted of Colorado's players on March 8, 2004, what he thinks of the acquisition.

Q: Will the bad karma (see 2006 Canadian Olympic team, 2005-06 Canucks and 2006-07 Panthers) follow a certain power forward to Detroit?

A: Probably not. That's a good character team that can't be contaminated. But maybe after the first round, I'll have to change this answer.

Q: How over-the-hill must Jeremy Roenick be if the Coyotes couldn't unload him, too?

A: So over-the-hill, he got the message and all but announced his imminent retirement.

Q: See, isn't the cap working? (That one suggested by an e-mailer who signed only his initials.)

A: Yes, G.B., it is, as many of the elements involved in the deadline deals again showed. It remains more effective, and certainly more straightforward, than the ridiculous NFL system, which is based on nonguaranteed contracts, and the NBA cap. But there were deals that at least made me wonder if some of the dealing involved "favors" to help clear cap room for teams that needed to stay under the ceiling; and it is becoming clearer the biggest risk to the integrity of the cap is the possible manipulation of the long-term injury list. (Personally, I wouldn't be shocked if the Devils tried to put Bruce Driver on LTI.)

Q: Wouldn't Herschel Walker have made a good power forward?

A: Of course he would have. And if he were available as Thrashers GM Don Waddell was trying to save his job, Atlanta would have traded 27 draft choices for Walker, too. (Just like the Vikings did in making the Cowboys' Jimmy Johnson a great pro coach.)

Q: Were the phone lines out of order in the Senators' offices?

A: Oh, that's right, sorry. They got Oleg Saprykin.

Q: Might Peter Forsberg return to Philadelphia?

A: Maybe, because he's been there long enough to hear the argument that many locals prefer Jim's to Geno's (order in English only, please) and Pat's. But I'm in the minority: I think he's going to come around to choosing between re-signing with the Predators, if he's healthy enough and they want him, or going home to Sweden … and staying there.

Q: How did those fellows "sources," "speculation" and "rumors" do in predicting NHL trades? (i.e., "Sources say …" or "Speculation has it that …" or "According to rumors …")

A: They were about 3-for-2,743, but that won't prevent the same thing from happening next season.

Q: Will the third time be the charm for Yanic Perreault in Toronto?

A: Naw. Actually, this is included in my list because Sportswriting 101 says a variation of the term "third time is the charm" must be used at every opportunity, along with "what a difference a year makes" and "Sharks take bite out of …"

Q: How come nobody wanted Jose Theodore?

A: There are at least 6 million reasons, due in 2007-08. Plus, Colorado's acquisition of him threatens to go down in infamy. No, it doesn't reach Barry Pederson territory, but it has accelerated Colorado's slide because it has limited the Avalanche's ability to maneuver and overcome mistakes in the cap age.

Q: Why don't we just start calling a "no-trade clause" what it really is -- a "right-of-veto" clause?

A: We can, unless Gary Roberts, who has only 25 teams to go, says we can't.

Q: Can Anson Carter help save the Hurricanes from going from Stanley Cup champs to missing the playoffs altogether?

A: Sure, as long as he doesn't get lost on the way to the players' lot at the RBC Center and eat too much at the tailgates.

Q: Wasn't Jussi Markkanen available?

A: Suppose not, since the Sabres settled on Ty Conklin as Ryan Miller's cheap backup after the cap-clearing move of sending Martin Biron to the Flyers.

Q: The most significant trade that sailed under the radar?

A: The Sharks indeed traded one of their goalies, except it wasn't Evgeni Nabokov or Vesa Toskala. Instead, they sent Nolan Schaefer, the former Providence College Friar who has played well when the Sharks called him up during injury sieges, to the Penguins for a seventh-round draft choice. Though Schaefer immediately was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he will be challenging Marc-Andre Fleury for the No. 1 job by next season, if not sooner.

Q: Why doesn't a team that's going to miss the playoffs acquire an elite free-agent-to-be from another nonplayoff team, with the express purpose of getting him to town, buttering him up and selling the organization … and then convince him to sign a new deal with that team? In other words, recruit him?

A: Got me. It could backfire if the player is mad to go from one nonplayoff team to another, but what have you got to lose?

Q: When deals were reported to the NHL office for confirmation, did league functionaries ask the rental customers if they wanted the additional collision and liability insurance at the bargain price of $3,284.94 per day?

A: They were asked to initial in the circles to confirm their choices.

Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He is the author of "Third Down and a War to Go" and "Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming."