Each year the trade deadline in the NHL comes and goes, there aren’t a lot of changes and people are left scratching their heads. Are these general managers so risk averse that they don’t want to make major trades?
A few trades involving Patrick Eaves, Tomas Jurco, Martin Hanzal and Ben Bishop have taken place already, but they don’t inspire much drama.
Let’s diagnose what to expect with this trade deadline and why it might be underwhelming.
Viva Las Vegas
The elephant in every general manager’s office is the expansion draft that is looming large. Understandably, the unknown of what a new team might do is going to leave these normally decisive individuals in a tizzy.
No one wants to acquire an asset then have to give it up shortly after in the expansion draft. It will take long-term planning and trades involving secondary players like Jurco and Eaves.
They are low-risk, high-reward options who are unlikely to be selected or signed by the Vegas Golden Knights this summer. It’s going to cause other general managers to hold on to their own pieces and play with the hand they have been dealt.
While the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets would love to add a piece to hopefully push their team over the top, they aren’t going to change their nucleus for the unknown.
Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post spoke with Capitals’ GM Brian MacLellan about the market. He said that not a lot of “hockey trades” were being discussed. It looks like a potential rental market.
If you’re Doug Armstrong, general manager of the St. Louis Blues, you have to be disappointed with the way the market is playing out. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues’ defenseman, is one of the biggest fishes in the pond.
He is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Blues have a real chance of losing him. The Blues should be fine given their team’s depth and prospect pipeline, but losing him for nothing may be general manager suicide.
Where is someone like Shattenkirk supposed to go given he would need to be immediately protected by his new team? Most teams have their top-four defensive spots filled. The New York Rangers are reportedly interested, but they hold this leverage in the scenario. Why not hold out and wait until the summer to sign him?
The expansion draft is throwing a wrench into front office plans but is it really that big of a deal?
Jurco and Eaves aren’t bad players by any stretch. Jurco was acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks for a third-round pick. Eaves was acquired for a conditional second-round pick. They just don’t change the course of your season in a dramatic way.
The market is dictating fairly high draft picks for players this year and it is an odd development. It just means an over payment may be necessary to get your rental. Accruing assets elsewhere is the smart move to make. Fringe value may be in vogue.
The draft after the first round is also being profiled as “weak.” That won’t inspire fan bases who are just inches away from seeing their team win the Stanley Cup.
As it is many times in the NHL with so many good teams, it becomes a death by a thousand cuts situation. Why allow yourself to lack depth when so many more options are out there for what basically amounts to unfulfilled promise in a second or third-round draft pick? Fill in where there are weaknesses so that you don’t have an excuse at the ready in case you bow out early. The tiny moves start adding up.
The Chicago Blackhawks may have Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on their team, but year after year they are able to find a rotating door of forwards who fit their team. It may seem hard to do consistently but after doing it over and over again to the tune of multiple Stanley Cups, it is a strategy other front offices should employ.
Excuses will fly around due to this expansion draft, but in reality, there are pieces to be had. Is your team willing to take a risk?