A grand total of 17 trades were made on April 3rd, most of them happening close to the noon (Western) deadline, making it utterly pointless for TSN Tradecentre to start at 8 AM and making it even more pointless for me to wake up at 5 AM Pacific to run a livechat for Pass it to Bulis. If you thought Archi Zuber and Kyle Smith had it tough with their trade deadline drinking game, I was mainlining Beaver Buzz after 3 hours of sleep and taking care of a 16-month-old child at the same time. You punks in the East have it easy.
Ah, the hard knock life of a blogger.
The biggest criticisms on trade deadline day are frequently reserved for the teams that do nothing. Since I was running a Canucks-centric trade deadline chat, I saw a lot of frustration when the deadline came and went without a single trade for the Canucks, particularly with Roberto Luongo still sitting on the bench with a $5.3 million cap hit. But the Canucks didn’t really do nothing. The Derek Roy trade may not have happened on trade deadline day, but it was still a deadline deal.
So let’s extend things back to March 22nd, when the New Jersey Devils acquired Matt D’Agostini from the St. Louis Blues. That essentially gives us a two-week window of “trade deadline” trades. Things really kicked off in earnest when Pittsburgh traded Joe Morrow for Brendan Morrow and had me secretly hoping they were bringing Ethan Moreau out of retirement simultaneously.
There were 37 trades made during the 2 weeks leading up to the deadline. So which teams did the least? Six teams made just one trade: the Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Vancouver Canucks. Two teams, however, did absolutely nothing — the New York Islanders and Winnipeg Jets — and they’re both in very similar situations.
Both the Islanders and the Jets are on the bubble of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, both with very similar records. The Jets are currently in 3rd place by virtue of leading the execrable Southeast Division with an 18-18-2 record, while the Islanders are currently in 9th place with one more point than the Jets at 18-16-3.
The Jets have the Washington Capitals breathing down their necks, just 2 points back and with 2 games in hand. They also have a minus-22 goal differential and just lost Nik Antropov to a lower body injury for two weeks, so they’re in a tough spot. If things go badly for the Jets over the remainder of the season, they won’t just miss the playoffs — they’ll be near the bottom of the conference.
Now, the Jets did technically make one move at the trade deadline, but it wasn’t actually a trade. They picked up Mike Santorelli, a not-particularly-good depth centre with one decent offensive season to his credit, off waivers from the Florida Panthers. My policy on that is simple: it’s not a trade, so it doesn’t count.
Things aren’t quite as bleak for the Islanders, as they’re tied with their New York Metropolitan neighbours, the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, with 39 points. They’re still in for a tough slog down the stretch to make the playoffs, with both the Rangers and Devils making moves at the deadline, though you could argue that trading away Gaborik has made the Rangers worse rather than better.
What the Islanders and Jets have in common is that they are both caught in limbo between being buyers and sellers. Both teams had (and have) needs that they could have filled at the trade deadline, but spending assets for the types of players that are normally available at the deadline — pending UFAs — doesn’t make much sense for a team that might not make the playoffs. Both teams are exceeding expectations by even being in their current positions, so there isn’t much pressure for them to win now, making it a lot easier to stand pat instead of loading up for a playoff run.
At the same time, neither team is even close to being a Cup contender at this point and have pending UFAs on the roster that they could have traded to acquire draft picks or prospects instead of losing them for nothing in the off-season. The Jets, in particular, have a shallow prospect pool and could have really used the draft picks that Nik Antropov, Kyle Wellwood, Ron Hainsey, and Antti Miettinen could have netted them.
Trading away useful players for draft picks while in a position to make the playoffs, however, is a tough sell to fanbases that have gone without playoff hockey for far too long: 2007 for Long Island and 1996 for Winnipeg.
So neither team made a move and both will attempt to make the playoffs with their current rosters. And, if they finish just outside the playoffs, you have to wonder if doing nothing at the trade deadline was the right move.