The Olympic roster freeze deadline, which many NHL followers (including myself) expected to be an early trade deadline, was a dud. The biggest moves of the week saw the NY Islanders ship pending free agents Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Peter Regin to the Chicago Blackhawks for a fourth-round draft pick, while the Montreal Canadiens dealt Raphael Diaz to the Vancouver Canucks for checking-line center Dale Wiese.
A popular theory for the lack of activity suggests teams preferred to wait until the March 5 trade deadline to make significant deals, especially with a number of clubs involved in tight races for playoff berths. That certainly played a role, but the lowered salary cap is the real reason for the limited activity, not just leading up to the Olympic roster freeze but throughout this season.
That’s led to some anticipation there might not be much player movement in the ten days from the end of the Olympic break leading up to the March 5 trade deadline. While that’s possible I believe there will be some activity. The biggest question is how many of the star players who’ve been bandied about in the rumor mill might actually move.
Seeing names like Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Callahan in rumor headlines certainly stirs up excitement. However, the combination of high asking prices by their current clubs and the reduced salary cap could result in those players being too expensive to move by the deadline. That could force their respective clubs to significantly reduce what they’re seeking in return in order to move them by March 5.
What we will likely instead see is lesser lights – Edmonton’s Sam Gagner, Buffalo’s Matt Moulson, NY Islanders’ Andrew MacDonald, Calgary’s Mike Cammalleri – becoming the biggest names dealt by the trade deadline. Indeed, the movement of second- and third-tier talent has become more commonplace in recent years.
Even then it’ll depend upon the asking prices. If the aforementioned players are the most likely to move, their teams could either demand more than they’re worth or try to stir up a bidding war in hopes of increasing the return. That could limit how many of these players are actually traded by the deadline.
It’s also possible that, like the past couple of trade deadlines, most of the activity will come within the final couple of hours leading up to the 3 pm ET deadline on March 5. That means hours and hours of talking heads on TSN and Sportsnet forced to fill time evaluating the potential trade value of secondary talent.
To sum up, there will be some trade activity in the final days leading up to the trade deadline. Don’t be surprised, however, if the deals don’t involve many stars.