Will This Year’s NHL Trade Deadline Be A Dud?

Since the imposition of the NHL salary cap back in 2005, there’s been dire predictions it would have an adverse impact upon player movement on trade deadline day.

In recent years there’s been a lament from some analysts and pundits the NHL Trade Deadline has become a bust, claiming parity and the salary cap have conspired to limit “real” trades, especially blockbuster deals involving star players. Critics claim deals are too one-sided now, in which a team is selling off a pending free agent start it cannot or will not re-sign to the highest bidder.

This year, of course, the predictions are more dire, largely due to the lack of significant trades over the course of this lockout-shortened season.

NHL general managers admit there’s been plenty of trade discussion, but with so many teams remaining in playoff contention, deals are difficult to find.

It’s creating speculation this year’s trade deadline could be a dull one, with few – if any- notable deals.

Undoubtedly the shortened NHL season is having an impact upon the standings, and in turn the trade market, but is there any justification to the suggestion nothing of consequence will take place on deadline day? Has league parity and the salary cap all but eliminated blockbuster trades on deadline day?

Perhaps the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season can offer some clues as to what we can expect for this season’s deadline.

(Note: Hat tip to NHL Trade Tracker)

The biggest deals from January to the end of March 1995 saw the Philadelphia Flyers ship Mark Recchi and a third round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for John LeClair, Eric Desjardins and Gilbert Dionne; the LA Kings dealing Charlie Huddy, Robb Stauber and Alexei Zhitnik to the Buffalo Sabres for Phillipe Boucher, Grant Fuhr and Denis Tsygurov; and the NY Rangers acquiring Pat Verbeek from the Hartford Whalers for Glen Featherstone, Michael Stewart and two draft picks.

In the days leading up to the April 7,1995 trade deadline, the Canadiens traded Kirk Muller, Mathieu Schneider and Craig Darby to the NY Islanders for Pierre Turgeon and Vladimir Malakhov, while the Chicago Blackhawks brought back Denis Savard from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a three-season last hurrah.

Deadline day saw nineteen trades occur, none of which were “blockbusters”. The only notable players moved were Russ Courtnall, Ed Olczyk, Tie Domi, a young Martin Straka and an ageing Petr Svoboda

From late-January to early April 1995, there was considerably more trade activity compared to this season, but there was also no salary cap back then, and less parity among teams.

To see if there’s been any significant difference in trade deadline moves since the imposition of the salary cap and the increased parity among teams, let’s review all the trade deadlines going back to the final four seasons before the cap, and the subsequent seasons since its implementation in 2005.

2000-01: March 13, 2001. Number of trades – 18.

Biggest moves: The Phoenix Coyotes ship Keith Tkachuk to the St. Louis Blues for Michal Handzus, Ladislav Nagy and two draft picks. There was also a four-player swap between the Canadiens and Washington Capitals, in which the Habs shipped Trevor Linden, Dainius Zubrus and a draft pick to the Caps for Jan Bulis, Richard Zednik and a draft pick.

Other notable deals: The Columbus Blue Jackets stole Ray Whitney from the Florida Panthers for Kevyn Adams and a couple of draft picks. The Blues also landed Cory Stillman from the Calgary Flames for Craig Conroy.

2001-02: March 19, 2002. Number of Trades – 17.

Biggest moves: a four-player deal in which  the Dallas Stars trade Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner to the New Jersey Devils for Jason Arnott, Randy McKay and a draft pick.

Other notable deals: The Blue Jackets shipping Lyle Odelein to the Chicago Blackhawks for Jaroslav Spacek, the Flyers acquiring a fading Adam Oates from the Capitals for picks and prospects, and the Rangers acquiring Tom Poti and Rem Murray from the Edmonton Oilers for Mike York and a draft pick.

2002-03: March 11, 2003. Number of Trades – 24.

Biggest moves: The Edmonton Oilers acquired Brad Isbister and Raffi Torres from the NY Islanders for Janne Niinimaa and draft picks, and peddled Anson Carter and Ales Pisa to the Rangers for Cory Cross and Radek Dvorak.

Other notable deals: The Maple Leafs acquire ageing stars Doug Gilmour and Phil Housley from Montreal and Chicago respectively; the Blues pry Chris Osgood and a draft pick from the Islanders, along with Valeri Bure from Florida for blueliner Mike Van Ryn; the Red Wings acquire Mathieu Schneider from the LA Kings for a package including future super pest Sean Avery; forward Marc Bergevin (future Montreal Canadiens GM) went from Pittsburgh to Tampa Bay for Brian Holzinger.

2003-04: March 9, 2004. Number of Trades – 20. Not one which saw a significant number of stars on the move.

Biggest move: Ron Francis dealt to the Maple Leafs by the Carolina Hurricanes for a fifth round pick.

Other notable moves: The Boston Bruins acquire Brad Boyes for Jeff Jillson from the San Jose Sharks, who then flipped Jillson to the Sabres for Curtis Brown and Andy Delmore; The Vancouver Canucks landed Martin Rucinsky from the Rangers for R.J. Umberger and Martin Grenier, and acquired Marc Bergevin from Pittsburgh. So, now we have the answer to the trivia question, “Which current NHL GM was dealt on consecutive trade deadlines by the same team?”

2004-05: No trade deadline, thanks to a season-killing lockout, which resulted in the implementation of the salary cap system.

Looking back on the last four trade deadlines in the pre-salary cap era, a number of the notable moves were player for player. However, the only real “blockbuster” deals involving superstar talent was Tkachuk to the Blues in 2001 and the four-play swap which saw Nieuwendyk and Langenbrunner dealt to the Devils in 2002.

2005-06: March 9, 2006. Number of Trades – 24. This was the first trade deadline under the new salary cap system, so there was anticipation over the amount of potential trade activity, as well as what kind of trades we’d see.

Biggest moves: Mark Recchi dealt to the Hurricanes by the Penguins for a couple of minor leaguers and a draft pick, while the Edmonton Oilers landed Sergei Samsonov from the Bruins in exchange for Marty Reasoner, Yan Stastny and a second round pick which became Milan Lucic.

Other notable deals: Brendan Witt going from the Capitals to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Kris Beech and a first round draft pick which became goalie Semyon Varlamov. The other deals of the day involved depth players being exchanged for each other or for draft picks and prospects.

2006-07: February 27, 2007. Number of Trades – 25. Business was much better at this deadline.

Biggest moves: The Sharks acquire Bill Guerin from the Blues for a package which involved a first round pick that became David Perron, the Islanders landed Ryan Smyth from the Oilers for a package of picks and prospects which never panned out, and the Panthers shipped Todd Bertuzzi to the Red Wings for Shawn Matthias and draft picks.

Other notable included: The Stars shipped Johan Fransson and Jaroslav Modry to the Kings for Mattias Norstrom and a package of picks and a prospect; the Bruins dealt Brad Boyes to the Blues for Dennis Wideman; the Penguins acquired an ageing Gary Roberts,  and future TSN analyst Aaron Ward was shipped to the Bruins by the Rangers for Paul Mara.

2007-08: February 26, 2008. Number of Trades – 25. Trade deadline day 2008 was the best of the salary cap era to date, and in my opinion, the best since the media began serious coverage of deadline day since the late-1990s.

Biggest moves: Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis shipped by the Atlanta Thrashers to the Penguins for Erik Christensen, Colby Armstrong, picks and a prospect; Brad Richards and Johan Holmqvist dealt by the Lightning to the Stars for Mike Smith, Jeff Halpern, Jussi Jokinen and a draft pick; Brian Campbell dealt by the Sabres to the Sharks for Steve Bernier and a first round pick which became Tyler Ennis.

Other notable deals: The Capitals only gave up a second round pick for goalie Cristobal Huet in the day’s biggest “WTF?” moment, plus gave up a prospect to the Blue Jackets for a fading Sergei Fedorov and dealt Matt Pettinger to Vancouver for Matt Cooke. The Blackhawks swapped Tuomo Ruutu with the Hurricanes for Andrew Ladd, and the Avalanche parted with some picks to bring back Adam Foote from the Blue Jackets. The Red Wings acquired Brad Stuart from the Kings for a couple of draft picks; the Penguins landed Hal Gill from Toronto for a couple of picks; The Devils landed future captain Bryce Salvador from the Blues, parting with enforcer Cam Janssen.

The following move is notable, but for a different, heart-breaking reason: The Panthers dealt Ruslan Salei to the Avalanche for Karlis Skrastins. Just over the three years later,  they would perish in the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv plane crash.

2008-09: March 4, 2009. Number of Trades – 22. While this one lacked the pizzazz of the previous year, there were still some notable names on the move.

Biggest moves: The Penguins acquired Bill Guerin from the Islanders for a conditional pick; Mark Recchi traded to the Boston Bruins by the Lightning for prospects; the Flames ship Matt Lombardi, Brandon Prust and a first rounder to the Coyotes for Olli Jokinen; and the Kings trade Patrick O’Sullivan to the Hurricanes for Justin Williams, who then flip O’Sullivan to the Oilers to bring back Erik Cole.

Other notable moves: The Flames acquired Jordan Leopold from the Avalanche for prospects and a draft pick; the Coyotes acquire Scottie Upshall and a draft pick from the Flyers for Dan Carcillo, the Rangers ship a couple of draft picks to the Leafs for Nik Antropov, and traded Nigel Dawes, Petr Prucha and Dmitri Kalinin to the Coyotes for Derek Morris; the Blue Jackets traded Pascal LeClaire to the Ottawa Senators for Antoine Vermette.

2009-10: March 3, 2010. Number of Trades: 30. The most deals in one trade deadline, but without any major stars on the move.

Biggest moves: The Ducks acquire Lubomir Visnovsky from the Oilers for Ryan Whitney and a sixth rounder; The Bruins steal Dennis Seidenberg from the Panthers for two prospects and a pick.

Other notable moves: Coyotes trade a conditional pick to the Bruins for Derek Morris, and ship Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter to the Avalanche for Wojtek Wolski; a fading Fredrik Modin is moved by the Blue Jackets to the Kings; Clarke MacArthur is dealt by the Sabres to the Thrashers for draft picks; Raffi Torres is traded by the Blue Jackets to the Sabres; Mathieu Schneider is traded by the Canucks to the Coyotes for a minor league and a draft picks; Aaron Ward is dealt by the Hurricanes to the Ducks, answering the trivia question, “Which current TSN analyst was moved on two trade deadlines?”

2010-11: February 28, 2011. Number of trades: 16. The second-fewest moves made in years, prompting some observers to wonder if the long-awaited negative impact of the salary cap on deadline deals had finally arrived. The real reason, however, was the unusually high number of trades involving “name” talent well before deadline day.

Unquestionably, the salary cap had adversely affected the trade market throughout a season in previous years. This one, however, was an exception.Notables like Mike Fisher, Tomas Kaberle, James Neal, Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart, Joffrey Lupul, Blake Wheeler, Jamie Langenbrunner, Dwayne Roloson and James Wisniewski were moved between the end of December leading up to mid-February. As a result of the higher-than-normal trade activity over this period, there weren’t many notable stars left to be moved come deadline day, making it the most anti-climatic in years.

Biggest moves: The Oilers trade Dustin Penner to the Kings for prospect Colten Teubert, a first and a conditional third.

Other notable moves: The Coyotes ship Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto to the Blue Jackets for Rostislav Klesla and Dane Byers; The Capitals dealt Dave Steckel and a pick to the Devils for Jason Arnott, and acquired Dennis Wideman from the Panthers for a pick and a prospect.

2011-12: February 27, 2012. Number of trades: 15: The fewest moves of the deadlines we’ve analyzed,  stoking the opinion the salary cap was having an adverse effect upon deadline day.

For the second straight year, the reality was higher-than-usual trade activity between early January and mid-February, in which Mike Cammalleri, Jeff Carter, Jack Johnson and Hal Gill were dealt well before deadline day. The biggest name being shopped was then-Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash, but the Jackets didn’t find any offers to their liking at the time, and held off until late-July before finally trading him.

Still, as with the previous deadline, this one was anti-climatic.

Biggest moves: The Oilers shipped Tom Gilbert to the Minnesota Wild for Nick Schultz; the Canucks dealt Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer to the Sabres for Zach Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani.

Other notable deals: The Bruins ship two prospects to the Islanders for Brian Rolston and Mike Mottau; The Blackhawks trade two picks to the Winnipeg Jets for Johnny Oduya; The Predators acquire Andrei Kostitsyn from the Canadiens for a couple of picks; The Sharks traded Jamie McGinn and two minor leaguers to the Avalanche for T.J. Galiardi, Daniel Winnik and a pick.

**********

It’s apparent deadline day activity is governed by how many teams are buyers, how many are sellers, the caliber of the available players, the asking prices, and of course salary cap space moving forward. That being said, it’s also apparent the salary cap has had little, if any, adverse impact upon trade deadline activity.

In every year but the recent two, we could count on some notable stars being moved on trade deadline day. Only in 2011 and 2012 did that trend change, with most notable players moved out days or weeks before the deadline. Whether that’s indicative of a change of thinking among NHL general managers, or of the plight of a few teams at a certain period of time, remains to be seen. That trend has yet to emerge heading toward this year’s deadline.

Parity, the shortened season and a declining salary cap for next season are obvious factors in this year’s trade deadline. That doesn’t mean, however, they’ll have any adverse effect upon future deadlines.

Next season, we’ll return to a full 82-game schedule, and the salary cap for 2014-15 will almost certainly increase, perhaps as high as $70 million. That could result in a substantial increase next season both in trade activity throughout the season, and on deadline day.

One is tempted to suggest the lower number of potential UFA stars also has an impact, but looking back at the final years of the pre-salary cap era, when there were supposedly more potential free agents available, the number of them being moved was no greater than those in the current salary cap era.

My best guess regarding this year’s deadline is the bubble teams will wait as long as possible before deciding if they’ll  go into sell mode, hoping as much to improve their playoff hopes as well as the trade value of those players they wish to move.

It won’t result in an orgy of trades, but I doubt we’ll see it be as much a dud as some seem to think it could be.

2 Comments

  1. As much as it pains me to say it, Brian Burke has a point regarding trades at the trade deadline as buyers do tend to overpay on that day. For that reason, most trades involving the bigger names will be finalized beforehand.

    The risk for potential sellers is that should no one choose to overpay for a star (see Rick Nash 2012 deadline), the team is stuck spinning their wheels for the rest of the season. If that star should happen to be a UFA at the end of the season, and if the selling team sets too high of a price on trade deadline day, any potential buyer should try to lowball an offer in the last moments knowing that the selling team will almost definitely lose that player for nothing in free agency.

  2. Media media media.
    That’s what trade deadline day is, and the only ones who suffer are the media guys who push it so hard, then have 24 hours of covering aging 2nd liners being traded for third round picks.