Trade deadline has NHL buzzing

One of the most intriguing days on the NHL schedule comes tomorrow with the 3 pm trade deadline. Who’s staying and who’s going and where is a topic of conversation all year, but never more so than now. All the major sports outlets in Canada carry daylong coverage and while there’s some fear that the flurry of trades earlier this month might make Monday anticlimactic, there are still teams who want to load up for the playoffs and others who want to offload potential UFAs and begin or continue their rebuilding.

Fans’ appetites for clues to what might go down in advance seems to have no limit, even if they devour information that is largely false — like that on the discredited Hockeybuzz.com, which one blog surveyed for a year and discovered was inaccurate over 97 percent of the time, plagiarized material and took credit for breaking trade news others had broken, among other things. But fans can’t seem to get enough of rumours regardless of the source or accuracy.

(And for more on Hockeybuzz.com, you can read Adrian Dater’s story on SI.com)

Even those with good and reliable sources on potential player movement are rarely privy to the inner workings of any team’s hockey department, and even if they can pinpoint a player who might be moved, they don’t know which players might be coming back in return and how all that might be factored into teams’ salary caps, and how that might impact a potential deal.

In any case, GMs and scouts must be ultra careful not to make their trade targets public for fear tampering charges and for fear of losing the confidentiality that works best in these situations. They spend most their time going over scouting reports, watching video, assessing their team’s and everyone else’s needs and strengths and drawing up a list of targets, then talking with other GMs to see where they might have a match. They don’t want that hard work compromised.

So that’s why this has become such a big day. because it confirms or
refutes all the rumours leading up to it.

That’s not to say that some speculation and intelligent guessing isn’t justified. Take the Senators, for example: Everyone in hockey knows they want to unload players and begin remaking their team, and identifying those most likely to leave isn’t hard. Teams with specific needs are not impossible to figure out either. So no one was surprised when they started shipping guys out a few weeks ago beginning with Mike Fisher’s trade to Nashville (which suited his country music star wife and the Predators) and continuing through Alex Kovalev’s move back to the banged-up Penguins on Thursday.

Similarly, Panthersr GM Dale Tallon made no secret of his desire to rebuild the club, and he got a little head start on Thursday dispatching Cory Stillman back to Carolina and yesterday sending Bryan McCabe to the Rangers, who had no veterans on their defense corps.

And it’s no secret that a few teams are eyeing Brad Richards. But anyone who tells you they know for certain what is going to happen to Richards is only guessing, especially because it seems Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk doesn’t know himself and won’t until he evaluates the offers and discusses them with Richards, a pending UFA with a no-trade clause and a concussion.

Chuck Gormley in the Philly area Camden Courier-Post was one of those guessing today when he listed “10 best bets for changes in address.” At the top of his list (and the bottom of the story), he’s got Richards and says the possible suitors include the Capitals, Canadiens, Bruins.  Most of the recent talk about Richards has centered on two teams Gormley didn’t
mention, the Rangers and Kings. Maybe he’s right, but the teams Gormley suggested all seem unlikely to be in the Richards auction because of a variety of factors, including the centres currently on their roster, their lack of cap space, and what they be able might offer in return. 

Now, as much as some Habs fans might want to hypothetically see GM Pierre Gauthier move Scott Gomez’s contract in exchange for Richards, would Gauthier really make that trade without knowing in advance if Richards will sign a deal with the Habs — not to
mention whether he can play again this year? No GM is going to give away an asset for potentially nothing. And would Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk want to make that deal, taking on more salary than he’d be surrendering for a team that has ownership problems? Similarly, why would the B’s GM Peter Chiarelli move either of his top two centres, David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron, to
Dallas for Richards for potentially nothing?

For the record, Gormley’s other nine best bets to move are Florida’s Tomas Vokoun (with supposed interest from Red Wings, Capitals, Sharks), Edmonton’s Dustin Penner (Gormley lists the Habs as possible suitors for him along with the Capitals and Stars), Florida’s Stephen Weiss (Capitals, Flames, Wild), Ottawa’s Chris Phillips (Capitals, Sharks, Flyers), Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky (Capitals, Canadiens, Wild), McCabe (who is already gone to Rangers, Gormley listed them as a suitors along with the Predators and Coyotess ), Toronto’s Clarke MacArthur (Hurricanes, Wild, Coyotes), Colorado’s Milan Hejduk (Rangers, Hurricanes, Flames) and Ottawa’s Chris Neil (Lightning, Coyotes, Kings).

There are a few more trade deadline rumour stories to be found in the papers and websites today: Bruce Garrioch in The Ottawa Sun, Pierre LeBrun on ESPN.com and Eric Francis of The Calgary Sun.

By Monday afternoon, we’ll all know how right Gormley and everyone else was.

 

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