NHL trade deadline: We're one month away!
The NHL’s trade deadline is exactly one month from today. Where did the season go?
And yet, a month is still a lot of time to determine this year’s buyers and sellers.
As of today, there are many teams with legitimate playoff chances, making it a short sellers’ list. In addition, some buyers need to wait until the last possible moment so their rental pickups don’t count as much against the salary cap.
Factor in both those issues, and that’s why there still isn’t a lot going on one month out.
“There hasn’t been much real talk,” Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon told ESPN.com this week. “Teams are saying ‘We’ll talk later, we’ll talk later.’ But that’s fine.”
“Most of us have players that we would make available even right now for a trade, either because they’re underperforming and/or overpaid,” Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier told us this week. “But it’s impossible right now to get an agreement on values. We’re all hoping that we’re going to be able to just charge a cost without taking anything back, and that’s not reality. So I think, yes, we’re all sitting around to the last day or two again [before the trade deadline].”
It’s been a frustrating time over the past month for several GMs who are trying to shake things up.
“There’s been lots of talk going on, but it’s hard to jar anything loose right now,” Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson said this week.
The two clubs in Ontario have also burned up the phone lines without success. But you’d better believe the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs will try to be busy between now and Feb. 28. The playoffs are a long shot at best.
“I’m open for business, yes, you can get that word out if you want,” Sens GM Bryan Murray told us, his sense of humor still intact.
“We now know where we are,” Murray added in a serious tone, referring to the team’s 13th-place standing in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star break, 15 points out of the last playoff spot. “As disappointed as we may be, we have to do something to rectify it.”
Prefacing a question by saying I assumed the likes of All-Star youngster Erik Karlsson and top center Jason Spezza (no-movement clause) weren’t going anywhere, I asked him how many untouchables he had.
“Yes, there’s a couple of guys we wouldn’t move,” Murray said. “Certainly Alfie [captain Daniel Alfredsson] is another one we wouldn’t move. I talked to [owner] Eugene [Melnyk] about that. We’re not doing anything there. But other than that, we’re open to many things.”
The most obvious movable name is veteran blueliner Chris Phillips, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. He’s a perfect rental for a contender, a smart player who would help any good team. There are so many clubs looking for help along the blue line, including San Jose, Chicago, Montreal and Boston, among others.
The Maple Leafs had been hoping to pull off some sort of trade to bring in a big center, or at least a big forward, but it hasn’t happened. So now what?
“We’ve been trying to add since well before Christmas without any success,” Leafs GM Brian Burke told ESPN.com this week. “We have cap room and budget room, but we haven’t been able to get anything done to upgrade our team. So now we’re going to look at whatever opportunities present themselves leading up to the deadline, including younger players.”
I’m reading between the lines here, but my guess is the Leafs are now finally ready to accept draft picks or prospects in trades after trying so hard to make a more traditional hockey deal. Still, it’s not a bad thing for Toronto to clear out some cap space ahead of July 1. They’ll need to outbid the New York Rangers, among other teams, for the services of Brad Richards (if he hasn’t re-signed with Dallas before then).
Toronto’s most coveted rental player would be veteran defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who is a UFA on July 1. At some point soon, the Kaberle camp will likely have to make a decision. They’ll need to inform the Leafs whether they’d be willing to waive the defenseman’s no-trade clause and, if so, provide the Leafs with a list of teams. In the end, they may choose not to waive it and just ride out the final weeks of his career in Toronto. Burke, always respectful of players with no-trade clauses, will not ask Kaberle to waive it.