The trade deadline is basically a holiday in the hockey world. Everyone stops what they are doing to see which teams are going to pull off a blockbuster before the deadline passes – whether it happens two minutes or two weeks before the official deadline. This year’s trade deadline, however, is shaping up to be a disappointment.
At this time of year, teams at the top of the standings are always looking to round out their roster for a push for the Stanley Cup. Most of time, general managers are just trying to patch holes with depth and/or experience. Sometimes, general managers try to make the big trade; a good example is when Ilya Kovalchuk (2010) and Peter Forsberg (2007) were dealt to New Jersey and Nashville, respectively.
Even though those trades rarely work out in the end, there’s usually at least one star player, rental or not, dealt at the deadline. But as we sit two weeks away from the trade deadline, it doesn’t feel like teams are going to or willing to make that big splash.
Blue Jackets forward Jeff Carter is the one difference-making player that is “available.” Yet, his attitude (reluctant to show up in Columbus after being traded) and contract (10 more years) are two major turnoffs for rival GM’s. Whether another team rolls the dice and pulls the trigger on a blockbuster to land Carter is anyone’s guess. Beyond Carter, though, the trade block looks bleak. Why? Parity.
As of now, there are three teams that are legitimately out of the playoff race – Columbus, Edmonton and Carolina. (Anaheim was in that group, but is making a last-ditch effort at making an improbable run at a playoff spot.) Everyone else feels like they are in the race and won’t be willing to trade away key pieces that could help them down the stretch.
What isn’t helping the trade market is that those three teams are re-signing players that were expected to be targets at the deadline. Sought-after defenseman Tim Gleason re-upped with Carolina (Tuomo Ruutu could be next), while veterans Vinny Prospal and Andy Sutton have re-signed in Columbus and Edmonton, respectively.
Not only are the basement teams re-signing their trade bait, but they have a high price tag on other tradable assets as well. Carolina GM Jim Rutherford is asking for a first-round pick and top prospect in return for Ruutu, a forward that has had two 50-point seasons in eight up and down NHL seasons. He’s a solid player, sure; but who would be willing to part with two quality assets for two months of Ruutu?
So if Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson doesn’t get what he wants for Carter, and Ruutu re-signs with the Hurricanes, what’s left to be had?
We already know Nashville’s Ryan Suter and New Jersey’s Zach Parise are staying put, while Anaheim would be crazy to trade one of their big three. Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky, a free agent-to-be, is one of the more attractive players on the market, and yet has his fair share of red flags. Dallas’ Brenden Morrow, under contract through 2013, has been rumored to be available, but would GM Joe Nieuwendyk trade his captain if the Stars are still in playoff contention two weeks from now?
Veteran forwards like Ryan Smyth and Jason Blake, and experienced defensemen like Hal Gill and Pavel Kubina, will surely garner interest, but aren’t players that will keep people’s interest on deadline day while counting down the hours, minutes and seconds to the 3 p.m. deadline on Feb. 27.
There are a couple situations that would make this trade deadline a little more interesting. One is if Anaheim went cold in the next two weeks and Teemu Selanne became open to a trade. Another is if Washington decided to shake things up and trade Alexander Semin, whose contract runs up at the end of this year.
The trade deadline is always a fun and exciting time of the NHL season. Perhaps with the lowered expectations for this year’s deadline, there will be some trades that catch everyone by surprise. But the way this month is shaping up, the 2012 trade deadline will be more like the trade dud-line.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.