By Mike Miccoli
I have a love/hate relationship with the NHL Trade Deadline. As a fan of the game, it’s exciting to see players move to different teams to help win a city a championship. After the deadline, most NHL teams are set for the home stretch of the season leading up to the playoffs. You know who is going to be a contender and you know who is going to be looking forward to game number 82.
But you know, the deadline sucks for the players. It really sucks.
Imagine not knowing where you could be going at any given time. Imagine having to relocate your entire life elsewhere, join another team, some for just a few months, and proceed to be the new guy in the locker room. As much as fans enjoy the deadline, the players, I’m sure, absolute despise it. Mediums where fans, media and even other players can weigh in such as Twitter, message boards and talk radio only make matters worse.
This is part of the reason why I hate the trade deadline.
I played NHL video games on my Playstation consoles growing up and frequently wasted time solely in the franchise mode. I made trades, signed free agents and was able to build a team that you could only see in video games. Literally.
The NHL trade deadline is a lot like that. Everyone thinks that they’re general managers of their favorite NHL team, able to make any moves possible, no matter how grandiose, to improve the standing of their club. Put everyone together, and that’s a lot of fans speaking for a lot of different teams.
Here in Boston, we’ve heard plenty of deals that would put Rick Nash in black and yellow by the week’s end. In reality, that’s not likely to happen. In fact, what is likely to happen might not happen at all and the best part of this is that nobody knows for sure.
Ah, the NHL trade deadline—the annual event where everybody goes absolutely crazy usually for absolutely nothing.
Below, I’ve joined the madness. Though I’ve tried my best not to predict trades, landing spots or a Ouija board to tell who Rick Nash will be traded to and for (more on that soon!), I was able to come up with eight predictions for what might happen in the final seven days before the trade deadline.
1. Rick Nash will not be traded.
This one’s easy. As long as Blue Jackets’ GM Scott Howson demands the world for Nash, he won’t get it. Plus, there are way too many variables in play here. First off, Howson needs to tread very carefully, since no matter what happens, this move will dictate the future of his job. Nash is the face of the Blue Jackets franchise. Move him, and you better have a good return to show your stakeholders that your team can win again, and soon. Columbus has been in a rebuilding mode for quite some time and while the few teams on Nash’s wish list could bring back a fruitful bounty for the Blue Jackets, it wouldn’t mean success any time soon.
Nash’s $7.8 million cap hit for the next six years becomes a big determent for teams, too. For most clubs, Nash becomes the highest paid player and may present a kink for future budgeting. Maybe it’s just me but if I’m a rival general manager, chancing forced chemistry while giving up on the future of a club and any type of smart cap budgeting for the next six years for a $7.8 million player who has never eclipsed 79 points in his nine-year career just isn’t worth it. But maybe that’s just me.
2. Jeff Carter, however, will be.
Jeff Carter is a different story. With the price of Nash turning some GMs away, they may be drawn to Carter instead. Plus, this could be the type of move that could salvage Howson’s time with Columbus depending on what he’s able to bring back. There are two caveats here: Carter’s contract status and Carter’s attitude. Whichever team acquires Carter’s services will also acquire his ten-year contract that pays him $5.2 million annually. Not ideal, but not a deal-breaker either. The contract could be managed on a team who is trying to be successful and happens to have a lower payroll.
Carter is in the midst of his worst statistical season of his career. He’s also hasn’t been shy about being absolutely miserable in Columbus, which may or may not be effecting his production. GMs know what Carter is capable of, but also know what type of baggage he comes with. At a time where teams are desperate for scoring to succeed in the postseason, it’s the type of move that seems to always find a way to be made. Remember, all Carter really needs is a change of scenery–it just happens to be for the next ten years.
3. Last month’s biggest ‘supposed’ sellers, won’t be sellers at all.
Remember the fire sale that was supposed to happen this week with the Anaheim Ducks? It was when general manager Bob Murray made it known that virtually everyone was available sans Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne. The claim came more than a month ago when Anaheim was 10-21-6, a good 19 points out of the postseason picture. Since then, the Ducks have gone 15-3-4 and are just five points out of 8th place in a Western Conference race that could actually be anyone’s to win.
So what happened? The Ducks got better—much better. In trying to do their best 2010-11 New Jersey Devils impersonation, Anaheim has a chance to actually make the playoffs after being all but ruled out at the beginning of the year. Now? I wouldn’t be so sure Murray is in a rush to get rid of the same players he deemed available earlier. While Anaheim might not be buyers per say, we won’t get to see the fire sale that everyone was expecting. And thank goodness. I can only imagine what the rumor mill would look like if Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan were added to it.
4. The Bruins will add a bottom-six forward–not a star player.
The Bruins need to add something. Desperately. When the times were good in Boston, it was an upgrade on the blue-line and the departure of Joe Corvo. Now that the Bruins have been shut out in four of their last nine games, it’s a forward. With the list of available offensive stars seemingly slim and the price to acquire increasingly rising, the B’s would be wise to not trade-in their future to add a piece for success now. Instead, the B’s should add a depth forward rather than overpaying for a dynamic scorer turned rental.
If you look at GM Peter Chiarelli’s history at the trade deadline, you’ll see that he has never swung any major deals. There’s a reason for that. After offering extensions to most of the free agents that were apart of the Stanley Cup victory last season, it would be a smart assumption that Chiarelli is more concerned with chemistry over stardom—and that’s perfectly fine. The Bruins added depth last year before their “blockbuster” trade that landed Tomas Kaberle and look how that worked out: Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly, two ultimate depth guys, continue to be important to the team while Kaberle has played on two different clubs since.
5. The most active team at the deadline won’t be the Hurricanes.
The Carolina Hurricanes are another team that many thought would be active by the trade deadline. When Tuomo Ruutu was diagnosed to miss the next three weeks because of an upper body injury, one of the best available forwards became bound to the Hurricanes. Even before this, GM Paul Rutherford was reported to be in talks with Ruutu regarding an extension. It’s not the first time Rutherford made one of his trade chips untouchable.
Earlier in the season, Rutherford extended soon-to-be free agent Tim Gleason, a defenseman who many thought would have been shipped elsewhere by the trade deadline. It’s a pattern that we’ve seen before with Rutherford when often, some of his most valuable pieces end up getting extended. It even happened prior to the July 1 free agency frenzy when he locked up pending UFAs, Jussi Jokinen and Joni Pitkanen. The Hurricanes may make a move or two, but they won’t be the most active team come Monday.
6. No prominent, backup goaltender (Rask, Schneider, Bernier, Harding) will be moved.
In my estimation, there are four backup goaltenders in the NHL that could land themselves a starting job in the 2012-13 season. Interestingly enough, three of the four—Josh Harding, Tuukka Rask and Cory Schneider—are due new contracts by seasons’ end. This may lead to some trade chatter that would give their current general managers ample ammunition to go out and grab a big name player but really, none of these guys—Kings’ backup Jonathan Bernier included—are going anywhere this week. Next season, however, is a different situation.
Let’s bring back the Rick Nash situation. Three of these teams, Boston, Los Angeles and Vancouver, are all playoff contenders who could use a strong power forward to lead them down the stretch. Any offer would have to start with one of these goalies in order to remedy Columbus’ continual goaltender deficiencies. For each of these teams, that would put them shorthanded a strong backup goalie that they would use down the stretch, as they got ready for the playoffs. By trading away one of these important cogs, the teams would be hurting themselves, taking away a vital part of the team by relying on their starting goaltender to play even more. For teams like the Bruins and the Canucks especially, this would be a huge blow midseason. Who said a backup goalie wasn’t important?
7. The total number of trades on February 27 will be less than 25.
Last year, there were only 16 trades on the day of the deadline. Chalk it up to the surge that happened a week before that saw some pretty major trades shake up the league. In 2009-10, there were 30 trades after a somewhat quiet two weeks prior. Though in the 09-10 season, the biggest trades came a month prior.
It’s been slow for trades this season, maybe because of the high prices. General managers around the NHL have noticed that the asking price for many players, some rentals, are a bit high. This could mean more trades on deadline day or transactions, as we get closer. Still, the number might be somewhere in between on the NHL trade deadline day this year.
8. The biggest acquisition at the deadline will not play a major role with his new team.
This is how it goes every single year. The biggest name to be traded rarely becomes the sole reason of success for his new team. Last year, the Boston Bruins acquired one of the “bigger” names out on the market, Tomas Kaberle. Sure, they ended up winning the Cup, but Kaberle’s contributions, equated with what was given up to acquire the defenseman (a small fortune), fell short of expectations.
Two years ago, the biggest names were guys like Raffi Torres, Alexei Ponkarovski and Denis Grebeshkov (how weird was the 2009-10 season?)—three players who did nothing of note for their new team. Before the deadline, bigger names like Ilya Kovalchuk, Dion Phaneuf and Olli Jokinen changed cities. Again, not enough. Want to know what the Chicago Blackhawks did around the deadline? They acquired Nick Boynton and two minor-league players.
It’s rare for a team to get that one all-star player who changes the course of history for a team, leading them to success. I guess that’s what makes the trade deadline fun–there really isn’t a winner or loser.
That comes in June.