NHL Trade Deadline: Feelin’ the Pressure?
WARNING: The following contains speculation, analysis and opinion and may not be suitable for some viewers. Viewer Discretion Advised
There’s been 38 trades since the start of the season, but all those are not really “Deadline Deals”. Early season moves are often more about moving surplus roster players or contracts to teams that need to fill positions or are better able to absorb the contracts. These moves typically are not about adding something to improve your team, but moving out the deadwood.
So what is a “Deadline Deal”? And what more should we expect before the deadline?
Deadline deals tends to involve a couple common characteristics. One of the trading partners is a playoff contender looking to add to their current roster, while typically the other has decided this isn’t the year. The contending team is willing to add higher priced veterans at the cost of losing young potential or draft picks.
While most of the time the job of an NHL GM is making sure salaries aren’t out whack, at the deadline contending teams will add high-priced free agents knowing the hit will only last a couple months, because the playoff are free.
Of course there are situations where two teams, fighting to make the playoffs, have complimentary strengths and weaknesses and end up with talent going both ways, but these are rare.
This season, I’m marking the first “Deadline Deal” as being the Canadiens-Islanders swap on December 28th. With injuries mounting on the Habs backline and the perreniallly-out-of-it-by-Christmas Isles finding younger, cheaper options, James Wisniewski was shipped to Montreal for draft picks; The quintessential deadline deal.
All deals from then on, and up to the February 28th deadline, can be considered deadline deals. The one caveat is that there are bound to be some trades that seem rather insignificant, but are of made necessary, either due to salary considerations, roster space or the acquisition of specific assets, to complete a deadline deal. We’ call these second degree deadline deals.
But this season has seen the deadline activity go haywire. While there are typically some teams that decide to get a headstart and makes deals early (a la Habs-Isles), it seems almost everyone is trying to get their homework done early.
From Feb. 14 – 21 there was 13 trades including 22 players and 15 picks or prospects. What has been equally surprising is the fact that there has been young players on the move: Alex Goligoski (25); James Neal (23); Kevin Shattenkirk (22); Chris Stewart (23); Erik Johnson (22); and whispers that Zach Bogosian (20) is on the block.
The Washington Capitals have been put on notice by the rest of the Eastern Conference challengers, specifically Philadephia, Pittsburgh and Boston, who have all added pieces in the past few weeks. The Caps could add soemthing at any position, but goaltending and defense has traditionally been their achilles heel. They have improved their goals allowed considerably, but could still use some experience and consistency in net. and surprisingly their offense has fallen to the bottom thrid of the league, although Ovechkin has show signs of breaking out of late. Possible Targets: G Tomas Vokoun, FLA; F Ales Hemsky;
F Alex Kovalev; F Andrew Brunette.
The Montreal Canadiens, despite making a few moves already, could still make some noise. They’ve addressed some of the injury concerns on defence, but it never hurts to have more depth going into the playoffs. The priority will likely be adding some more scoring and possibly some toughness/grit/sandpaper/somethingthatcanbetreatedwithGoldBond. The Habs currently sitting in a playoff spot with a little breathing room, but it is precarious. A mild slump, or another team’s hot streak, could have them on the outside looking in. Possible Targets: F Ales Hemsky; F Chris Neil, OTT; D Chris Phillips
The Los Angeles Kings are another sitting in a precarious position. Considered to many to be the next young club to contend due to the talented young core they have developed, the Kings are in the midst of one of the craziest playoff races ever. Two points currently seperates fifth from eleventh in the Western Conference. Despite being a young team, the Kings will need to make the playoffs this year to show they are still tredning up. Missing the postseason would be a big step backwards for GM Dean Lombadi and staff. The benefit of being so young means the Kings have considerably more cap space to play with than the teams they are competing with. They’d love to use that to add a top six scoring threat, but it will cost them some of the great youth. Possible Targets: F Brad Richards, DAL; F Ales Hemsky, EDM; F Milan Michalek, OTT;
F Alex Kovalev; OTT; F Stephen Weiss, FLA.
Of course there will be many other teams in the mix, and I’m sure we’ll see some surprises before Feb. 28th, but I think the teams above are feeling a lot of pressure.
Who do you think is going to be the big mover between now and the deadline? If you hear anything let me know.