Rethinking the NHL trade deadline

Every NHL trading deadline differs from the one before and last year, the overriding theme was how many of the most important deals were done weeks or even a month before TSN assembled their multiple panels and began the nine hours of chatter and analysis.

That, obviously, isn’t happening this time around. Just about every general manager tells you the same thing – it’s quiet, eerily quiet, and it’s pretty clear why.

So often in the past, teams that have fallen by the wayside would move assets to contenders in exchange for help down the road. Well, look at the also-rans this year. Do the Edmonton Oilers need more draft choices? Does Columbus? And over in the East, the New York Islanders are sick of losing, the Toronto Maple Leafs are sick of losing, the Florida Panthers are sick of losing and while the Winnipeg Jets can buy time because all that previous losing was done in Atlanta, they’re sick of losing too.

The Montreal Canadiens can’t believe what’s happening with this slip-sliding-away season and still haven’t come to grips with the fact that they could be a lottery team if the corner doesn’t get turned in a hurry. The Tampa Bay Lightning are probably where they should have been a year ago, still in the relatively early stages of a rebuild that was masked by one of those fluke playoff runs that every team hits now and again.

And yet, no single team, no matter how forlorn their position, is putting the definitive ‘for sale’ sign up on the front lawn just yet – and if a couple eventually do, they will do so far closer to the Feb. 27 deadline; and only then if they can get tangible defined assets in return.

The new hard currency at the deadline isn’t draft choices – unless they’re No. 1s, preferably in the top 15 – but prospects already in the pipeline, the Jake Gardiners of the world, the player who came to the Maple Leafs last year as a relative unknown semi-throw-in, in the Joffrey Lupul-for-Francois Beauchemin deal, but was closer to being NHL-ready than many casual observers imagined.

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