The trade deadline is one of the most overhyped days on the NHL calendar, but, since I’m a sucker for manufactured drama, I’ll be up bright and early in the morning to watch all of the non-action live. Or perhaps I just enjoy watching the TSN crew desperately clawing for something to report for hours upon hours until finally James Duthie snaps, steals Darren Dreger’s phone and starts frantically dialling numbers to ensure the outside world hasn’t ceased to exist.
My favourite part of watching the trade deadline is seeing three different desks full of analysts breathlessly breaking down a trade involving a depth defenceman, a career AHL-er, and a draft pick because it’s the only trade that has happened in the last four hours.
This time around, the trade deadline looks like it’s going to be even more dull than normal. Here are 5 reasons why:
1 | The lockout-shortened 48-game season
When I looked at what a 48-game season would have meant for last season, it turned out that there weren’t many major differences. For the most part, the teams that made the playoffs in the full 82-game season also would have made the playoffs in a shortened 48-game season, with a couple teams on the bubble switching places. The biggest difference was in how tightly clustered the points became.
The last place team in the Western Conference, the Colorado Avalanche, are just 6 points out of the playoffs. Any team in the West could go on a winning streak and end up a playoff team at this point. Things in the East are a little more spread out, as it’s fair to say that the Panthers, Capitals, and Sabres are done, but even the Capitals are just 7 points back with 19 games to be played. If they string a few wins together before the deadline, will they want to trade, say, their leading scorer, Mike Ribeiro? Not likely.
Last season’s last place team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, finished 30 points out of the playoffs. The 12th place team in the Western Conference, the Minnesota Wild, were 14 points out of playoff position, and the 12th place team in the East, the Carolina Hurricanes, were 10 points out.
Point being, plenty of teams knew that they weren’t going to make the playoffs going into the trade deadline and it still turned out to be a complete snoozefest, with the biggest name, Rick Nash, staying in Columbus until the off-season. Here are some other names thrown around prior to the deadline: Steve Ott, Mikhail Grabovski, Derek Roy, and Dustin Brown. What do those players have in common? None of them got traded by the deadline.
This time around, very few teams are going to consider themselves sellers, as so many teams will be convinced that they can make the playoffs if they just put together a couple wins in a row.
2 | The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup
This is why my previous point is such a problem. The Kings made the playoffs as an 8th seed, then went on to smash through their opposition enroute to the Stanley Cup. This is the story that all the teams on the playoff bubble will be telling themselves: just get into the post-season, squeak in as an 8th seed, and then go on a run all the way to the Cup. Unfortunately for them, it’s an extremely misguided notion. The teams that squeak into the playoffs this season are unlikely to be anywhere near as good as the Kings.
Everyone seems to have learned the wrong lesson from the Kings. For instance, from this Ian Mendes column on why we should expect a quiet trade deadline:
If the Los Angeles Kings taught us anything last season, it was that a team can squeak into the playoffs as the eighth seed and make some serious noise.
No, if the Los Angeles Kings taught us anything, it’s that they were nowhere near as bad as their record indicated, particularly after hiring Darryl Sutter and trading for Jeff Carter. And that’s the other issue. Teams that find themselves outside the playoffs as the trade deadline approaches might think that they should be buyers, aiming to find their own Jeff Carter in the trade market that puts them over the top.
The fact is that the Kings were a good team during the regular season, regularly dominating possession and out-shooting their opponents. They had no business being the 8th seed in the West and, with a few bounces going their way, would have finished first place in the Pacific Division. They finished the season just 2 points behind the Phoenix Coyotes for the division lead.
So now, even teams that have long odds to even get to 8th place will think it’s worth going for it, even though it’s incredibly likely that if they do beat the odds and make the playoffs, they’ll get slaughtered in the first round. And, if they trade a bunch of draft picks to rent a player at the deadline, they’ll have nothing to show for it but a couple more games at home.
3 | Injuries Galore
The Florida Panthers are the one team that is really and truly out of the playoffs. There’s basically no questioning it at this point. Thus, they should be sellers heading into the trade deadline and, considering they’re pretty much the only ones, they can demand a hefty price for some of their players, like Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg.
What’s that? They have both had surgery and are done for the season? Oh. No matter, the Panthers have some good depth guys that people will be interested in, like Mike Weaver, a really steady defensive defenceman. Out 4-5 weeks with a lower body injury? Well then, there’s Sean Bergenheim, who was really good for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs a couple years ago. Oh, he got injured before the lockout, then aggravated it playing in Europe and hasn’t even played with the Panthers. Oh.
Well…uh…hey, what about Jose Theodore? Surely someone will be interested in a steady veteran goalie to backup their starter or step in if necessary and he’s a UFA next season. So you’re saying he has a groin injury and is on the injured reserve? Well then.
Geez, do the Panthers have anyone left to trade?
4 | No Trade Clauses and No Movement Clauses
These clauses are really popular amongst high-end players, who are the type of players that make a trade deadline exciting. With Corey Perry re-signing in Anaheim, Jarome Iginla becomes the biggest name on the market. Guess what his contract has? A No Movement Clause.
Roberto Luongo has been rumoured to be on the move for months. One of the hang-ups is his No Trade Clause. Marian Gaborik? NTC. Mike Ribeiro? Limited NTC. Brenden Morrow? NTC. Jay Bouwmeester? NTC.
That’s not to say that none of those players will get traded, but the clauses on their contracts present a potential stumbling block, particularly for teams that are in the playoff mix. Even if there is a deal in place, these players could exercise their No Trade Clauses to stay put. Does Iginla want to be a rental player for a Cup run or would he rather stick with the Flames, who are just 6 points out of the playoffs, then move on in free agency?
5 | Some of the supposedly available players make no sense
Dan Boyle’s name has been thrown around a lot in trade rumours lately, but does it make any sense whatsoever for the Sharks to trade him? The Sharks are currently in 8th place in the Western Conference and are good enough to finish higher in the standings. Boyle leads the Sharks in ice time, quarterbacks the powerplay, and is their top-scoring defenceman. Why in the world would they trade him?
Marian Gaborik’s name is out there, but I’m having trouble figuring out why. He’s not having his best season, but he still has 17 points in 29 games. Besides, the Rangers are tied for 7th in the East and have to feel confident that they can reel in some of the teams ahead of them. Do they actually want to trade away a potential gamebreaker in Gaborik heading into the playoffs?
What about Derek Roy and Brenden Morrow, who are important players for the Dallas Stars, who are just 3 points back in the playoff race in the West, with a game in hand on the two teams in front of them. Do the Stars actually want to trade them while making a push for the playoffs?
I’ve even seen Keith Yandle’s name mentioned. I don’t even know how to explain how ridiculous the idea of Yandle getting traded out of Phoenix seems to me.
Sure, there are a few big names that do make sense, like Iginla, Luongo, and Bouwmeester, but some of the names being tossed around sound more like hype than substance.
The biggest trade at last year’s trade deadline came out of left field, as the Canucks and Sabres swapped high-end forward prospects Cody Hodgson and Zack Kassian. It’s entirely possible that with so many teams in the mix for the playoffs, they’ll all go into “buyer” mode and start making hockey trades, trading players from where they have depth for players where they lack it.
Who knows, we could be in for an incredibly exciting trade deadline, with big name players flying left and right. Just don’t count on it.