We are still over a month away from this year’s NHL trade deadline, but the hype is already building.
TSN’s Frank Seravalli has released the coveted trade bait board, highlighting the names most likely to be dealt, which usually signifies the beginning of rumour season around the insider community.
But there are some very good reasons to believe that this year’s deadline will be one of the quietest in recent memory.
Let’s start with just how tight everything’s been around the league. In the East, the difference between dead last and the final wild card spot? 4 points. The whole games in hand thing only makes it harder to figure out who can actually contend.
Will teams like Detroit swallow their pride and accept a losing season? Will perennial mediocre franchises like Carolina or New Jersey see this parity as an opportunity to try sneak in a playoff appearance? I could see that happening, but there are other factors that may stop teams like this from truly being able to go after a high-end trade target.
Out west it’s fairly similar, the Coyotes and Avalanche are miles behind and while they do have some nice pieces (Duchene, Landeskog, Barrie, Hanzal, Vrbata) those names pretty much all have huge price tags. Will teams be ready to “sell the farm” for someone who might walk in the off-season like Hanzal?
The other issue is the current asking prices. When there’s only two teams really selling, they can more or less ask whatever they want. Right now, asking prices are far higher than they should, and although they will come down before the deadline comes, will it be enough to interest a team like Montreal or Carolina?
The other road block facing every team is the looming expansion draft.
A team like Edmonton would be incredibly interested in a deal for Tyson Barrie but acquiring another d-man that needs to be protected will likely result in them losing a quality player. Other teams are facing similar problems.
The Ducks or Blue Jackets would love to add a forward, but then they may need to let an Andrew Cogliano, Jakob Silfverberg or Matt Calvert type player go as a result of the expansion draft.
Every year there are roadblocks to making a big trade mid-season, this year it just seems as though parity and the expansion draft could cause the in-season trade market to freeze up even more than in past years.
The time for big name deals will likely be right before the expansion draft in June, when teams have their plans set out and may have even began making conditional deals with George McPhee in Las Vegas.
There a lot unknown right now within the league, teams don’t know Vegas’ plan for the draft, they don’t know who’s going to be buying/selling, and they aren’t prepared to pay incredibly high asking prices.
There are far more questions than answers at this point, which leads me to believe there will be a lot of quiet airtime
on major networks when it finally comes to the big day on March 1st.