THERE were many transactions, but how many of the players who've just changed clubs represent big deals?

Not many. Brendon Goddard clearly is an A-grader who might make a significant difference to his new club.

Brian Lake, too, has been an elite player. Hawthorn's gamble on Lake's body and mind was worthwhile. A healthy, focused Lake would not be outmarked in a contest seven times by Kurt Tippett as Ryan Schoenmakers was in the preliminary final.

Sharrod Wellingham, a B-grader with capacity for improvement, is certainly a more than handy acquisition for the Eagles.

After that trio, how many of those traded or acquired can shape the premiership? One could argue that Collingwood's free agent duo of Quinten Lynch and Clinton Young are nice role players who fill the gaps at minimal cost (none in draft terms); certainly, the opinion of many rivals was that the Magpies had been the most adroit manager of the new system. They traded Chris Dawes and Wellingham out for first-round picks, improving the sustainability of their talented list, while replacing them with cheaper free agents.

Tippett was a player of consequence in this trading period, though not in the way he, Adelaide, Sydney or the AFL would have liked. The timing is poor for the Crows - the league has just introduced free agency and does not want the new system corrupted by shonky deals. The AFL is unlikely to be lenient on player or club.

One unfortunate fact that the trades and free agency exposed was the difficulty weaker teams and clubs have in persuading players to join them, and the premium that those clubs pay. Port Adelaide, for instance, has given Angus Monfries four years on about $1.5 million. Had he stayed at Essendon, he would be on a two-year deal for far less. Most clubs reckon the Demons paid ''overs'' for Dawes.

And it was not surprising that Mitch Brown was so keen to become a Saint; not only would he have slotted in at full-back, Brown was to be given more than $400,000 a year over the next four years. He isn't in West Coast's best team.

Conversely, the Hawks have purchased an admittedly declining Lake for what is believed to be less than $650,000 over two years. There is not a ''price'' for loyalty, but a price for success. The AFL must watch the free agency market closely.

The new, liberalised system saw 35 players change clubs, a massive increase on last year's 17. The vast majority, of course, were the unwanted minnows. Carlton, normally a predator, chose not to participate in the recycling of fringe players on the grounds that it only wanted players such as Travis Cloke who could have a major impact.

The Demons were the most frenetic traders, losing five players with experience and gaining four. Clearly, they have taken the view that they need a high turnover to achieve some cultural change. But their future hinges not on the discarded Shannon Byrnes, Cam Pedersen, David Rodan or even Dawes, but whether Jesse Hogan (a 17-year-old taken for pick 3) and father-son Jack Viney turn out to be guns. They also have to nail pick 4 - the same one that yielded Cale Morton five years ago. Yesterday, he was traded for pick 88. Another failed first-rounder Jordan Gysberts (pick 11 in 2009) joined the throng in the mass garage sale. That's called deflation. Melbourne, more than any other club, cannot afford those type of draft blunders this year.