Since the advent of the Salary Cap in 2005, the National Hockey League’s trade deadline has become a lot less important than it used to be.
Of course, up here in the Great White North it still commands an entire day of television. In Canada, we have three national sports networks (As my wife, an American, once said, “Just because you have three sports networks in Canada doesn’t mean any of them are any good.”), and on Trade Deadline Day, it’s a feeding frenzy. The all-day TV spectaculars start at 8 a.m. and go all day until the final trade is announced. For almost a day, it’s been difficult to watch.
Last year, for instance, the biggest deal on a day in which there were only 16 trades, total, was either Johnny Oduya going from Winnipeg to Chicago or Andrei Kostitsyn moving from Montreal to Nashville.
It would have been laughable if it hadn’t been so painful. Watching three large groups of highly-paid, smart guys – and I’m not being facetious – all sitting around big tables on a well-lit TV set, looking at each other and wishing, hoping, even praying that somebody, well anybody that somebody has heard of, before, gets traded from East Motown, Mich., to Mini Apple, Minn.
Now, let’s be fair: The NHL’s Trade Deadline Day should be exciting. It should be the day that good teams get significantly better and set themselves up for a long playoff run and bad teams load up on prospects so that, one day, they can be good teams. It should be the day when there is non-stop wheeling and dealing.
And it used to be. In 2003, there were 24 deals on Deadline Day and there were some huge deals: Dougie Gilmour was traded back to Toronto; Phil Housley went from Chicago to Toronto; Wayne Primeau, Bates Battaglia, Anson Carter, Marc Bergevin, Brad May, Chris Osgood, Dean McAmmond, Steve Thomas, Valeri Bure, Janne Niinimaa, Bryan Smolinski, Radim Vrbata, Rob Niedermayer and Radek Dvorak were all traded.
There was something to talk about. Chicago made four deals. Calgary was involved in three. The Leafs were involved in three. March 11, 2003 was a day a panel of experts could get their tall foreheads around.
This year, the two biggest trades have probably already been made. Dallas sent Brenden Morrow to Pittsburgh and Calgary sent Jarome Iginla to Pittsburgh and draft picks and prospects went in the other direction.
However, because we don’t want to see the smartest guys in Canada – and on the NHL network in the U.S. – have to stumble around in the dark for 12 hours on Wednesday, let’s throw some potential deals out there. Just for fun…
1. GM Don Maloney says the 13th-place Phoenix Coyotes have “no untouchables.” That means Keith Yandle and Shane Doan are up for grabs. Yandle would help a team like Minnesota or Anaheim that really wants to take a run at the Cup. Doan ($4,550,000) is being paid way too much for an aging non-scorer who has 11 goals and 21 points in his team’s first 35 games. However, he will become an unrestricted free agent so for about $1.2 million you could rent Doan for the stretch run.
2. The San Jose Sharks have reportedly asked Ryane Clowe to waive his no-trade clause. He’s a 29-year-old leftwinger that hasn’t scored a goal yet this year. Anybody need a 6-foot-2, 225-pound scoreless third liner who makes $4 million a year? I’ll bet somebody does.
3. The Vancouver Canucks want to trade Roberto Luongo. They have wanted to trade Roberto Luongo for a year-and-a-half. Whatever.
4. The Washington Capitals have hinted that Mike Ribeiro could be on the block. He’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year and he currently makes $5,000,000. At 33, Ribeiro still has some value on a year-to-year basis and while his agent probably feels differently, he’s not really a long-term commitment for anybody. With the Caps 11th in the East at 16-17-1, GM George McPhee has until Wednesday to break up the band or let it ride.
5. Ryan Miller is still in the news. Rogers SportsNet’s Nick Kypreos “reported” weeks ago that “Miller’s days in Buffalo were numbered.” Why that might be true is anybody’s guess. Miller is the only bright light on a team that is 13-16-6, 12th in the East. Goaltending is not easy to come by. Granted Vancouver has Cory Schneider so perhaps Luongo is expendable, but Vancouver hasn’t been in any rush to get Bobby-Lu out of town. If you look around the league, good, consistent goaltending is a luxury few teams have (Minnesota, Montreal, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh). Here in Winnipeg, folks love Ondrej Pavelec, but overall, he’s the 33rd best goalie in the league on a night-to-night basis. I’ve seen the mess in Tampa. I’ve watched the bigger mess in Carolina. Miller is still in the Top 25 in save percentage and he’s played 30 games. The alternative in Buffalo is Jhonas Enroth who has shown that he’d have trouble stopping a basketball on most nights. OK, Miller is 32, but he is not Buffalo’s biggest problem, nor is he the guy you want to deal until you have somebody who at least looks as if he can do better. If you have a proven goaltender, trading him is not easy, nor necessarily intelligent. Just ask Mike Gillis out on the coast.
6. Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland will probably make a deal by Wednesday, because that’s what he does. Of course, the only deal he made last year was to send Mike Commodore to Tampa for a seventh-round draft pick.
Our national sports networks might better serve the public if they schedule shorter trade deadline programs on a daily basis starting today. If any of these trade rumors come to fruition, it’s likely they will happen well before Wednesday’s deadline.
Just as Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow were dealt in the week before hockey’s witching hour, most big, rent-a-player deals are done before some poor GM’s back is against the wall.