by Arthur Dent, Phoenix Chronicle -- The Phoenix Coyotes today announced that goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and forward Paul Kariya had been dealt to the St. Louis Blues for goaltender Mike Dunham and forward Rod Brind'Amour. The deal represented the end of an era in Phoenix. For years, the names Tkachuk, Roenick, and Khabibulin were synonymous with the Phoenix Coyotes. This trio formed the backbone of a franchise that consistently made the playoffs, but made early playoff exits just as consistently. Even the additions of Tony Amonte, and his subsequent replacement Kariya, were insufficient to get Phoenix into the second round. Meanwhile, the burden of the superstars' salaries was taking its toll, and this season the normally conservative Coyotes' management took drastic action. First Jeremy Roenick was shipped to Columbus for a package of young players. That was soon followed by a trade with the Islanders that sent Tkachuk and defenceman Teppo Numminen to Long Island for another package of young players and draft picks. The new additions have performed admirably, with Ales Kotalik and Marcus Nillson chipping in offensively to take some of the load off Kariya, the lone offensive star remaining, and the team sits just four points out of the final Western Conference playoff spot. But Kariya's salary remained a huge burden for the franchise, and a further move was inevitable. The departure of Khabibulin was a mild surprise, although sources claimed that Phoenix management had grown frustrated with the goaltender's inconsistent play and poor attitude. "He clearly wasn't happy with the team's new direction, and it's showed. A couple of weeks ago, the guy let [Chris] Pronger score from center ice two seconds off the opening faceoff," noted one source. "Dunham's fired up by the way St. Louis treated him and has something to prove -- that's just what this team needs." Assistant GM Jim Bauch was more diplomatic in his comments at today's press conference: "Nik was a key component of this franchise and gave the fans here a lot of great memories. We're sorry to see either him or Paul go, and we wish them both luck in St. Louis. But we feel very comfortable with Mike Dunham taking over between the pipes, and Brind'Amour gives us a physical presence on the first line that we've missed since Keith left." Bauch insisted that the Coyotes are not giving up on the 2003-04 season. "In each of the deals we've made this year, and particularly in this one, we got back players who could help us right now as well as down the road. This is a team that can make the playoffs this year, and I think we might surprise some people. And we feel good about our future with guys like Kotalik, Kolanos, King, Nillson, Matthew Biron, and now Dobben." Did the Coyotes' precarious financial position force this deal? "Obviously we needed to move some salary, most likely Paul's -- that hasn't exactly been a secret. But we waited to find a deal we liked, and one that would fulfill our committment to our fans to ice a competitive team right now. This was it." Are the Coyotes done dealing? "Maybe -- and maybe not."