Tuesday, March 26, 2013
What to Expect at the NHL Trade Deadline
If this were a normal NHL season, teams would be just under halfway done with the season at the 30-some game marker. In this context, much of the furor — positive or negative — would be negated. For example, the Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals, and Buffalo Sabres overcame hideous starts to battle back around .500. In fact, if you looked at the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin, subtract out the first two weeks of the season (equivalent to preseason games) and they'd actually be doing quite well thanks to an adjustment period under new coach Adam Oates.
But the reality of the situation is that there's simply not a lot of time to assess things normally. The standings are what they are, and the trade deadline is just about a week away. Forward-thinking GMs will probably resist giant rebuild projects because of this reduced sample size. However, the truth is plain as day: you simply can't stop the turning of the calendar — players age and contracts expire.
So with the trade deadline fast approaching and still many teams within striking distance of a playoff spot, GMs have to keep one eye on the race and one on the future. A move like the Dallas Stars made with captain Brendan Morrow makes sense. The Stars aren't considered a Cup contender, but they're hanging around. At the same time, Morrow is a UFA, and theoretically, he can be brought back if the price and fit are right.
With that in mind, it seems like the going rate for support soon-to-be UFAs is quite high. Look at the heady price Pittsburgh paid for an aging, slow No. 4 defenseman in Douglas Murray. While there may yet be a few blockbuster moves , it will take a lot for teams to get rid of top players if they're still sniffing a playoff spot. Because of that, it makes sense that trade activity will focus on second-tier players, though the possibility of a blockbuster move is still on the radar — the price just has to be right.
Considering those circumstances, let's take a look at some of the higher-profile names out there. These players can make a difference on new teams, and some are impending UFAs while some are not. Some of these players have no-movement clauses, but as we've seen in the past, if you want to move an asset, there are certainly ways to get that done.
Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames — Will the long-time Calgary captain approve a move in the final year of his contract? Iginla's best days are behind him, but the rugged power forward can still be an elite difference maker in the rough-and-tumble playoffs.
Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks — A puck-moving defenseman is probably the hardest role to fulfill for any squad. And while Boyle isn't the same player he was five years ago, he's still a crafty minute-muncher capable of running a power play or delivering an outlet pass. There aren't a lot of players available with his skills and he's still signed through next season, which means the going rate for him will have to be high.
Mike Ribiero, Washington Capitals — During Washington's awful start, Ribiero was generally their best player night in and night out. Though the Caps have found some measure of consistency under Adam Oates now, Ribiero is still a free agent after this year, which means that his playmaking skills will be in demand.
Jaromir Jagr, Dallas Stars — It was weird enough seeing Jagr in a Stars jersey, but now the future Hall of Famer may be on the move again. He's done well for himself in Dallas, which means his skills will certainly solicit interest in the hours leading up to the trade deadline. As a support player, Jagr was credited with making the difference for Philadelphia's Claude Giroux; can he do the same for a Cup contender this season?
Brad Boyes, New York Islanders — Signed on the cheap, Boyes has had a year of redemption with the Islanders. He may never return to his days as a 40-goal scorer (yes, he really did that), but there's still plenty of offensive life left in Boyes. With no contract for next year, Boyes is the perfect top-six complementary player.
Jay Bouwmeester, Calgary Flames — Things haven't worked out for Bouwmeester in Calgary, but the blue-liner is only 25, which means that in the right situation he could still live up to his potential. With a $6.68 million cap hit, it's a hard contract to swallow but the new CBA allows for trading of up to 50% of the salary, opening up flexibility for a move.