NHL fans: it’s time to get serious. With All-Star weekend now behind us, the most enjoyable of stresses now falls upon us – trade deadline. This year’s deadline promises to be one of the greatest impacts in recent years.
This season, like any other, has had its fair share of trade rumours. What’s changed is their probability: recent years have shown teams focusing more on building their team up from the bottom, choosing youth over highlight-reel players. The odds of all-star players changing teams were low, and each season at trade deadline it would be unlikely to see more than three top players change locations.
Not this year.
Most teams in the league have gone on record and made it very clear that they’re in the market for a top player. Teams have all the youngsters they need and all-stars to place among them are now the hot commodity.
What makes the rumours more probable this season is that teams aren’t being shy about admitting what they’re in need of. It’s no secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs want a ‘power forward’ or that the Philadelphia Flyers want a ‘top six defenseman’. The Tampa Bay Lightning are aggressively searching for a starting goaltender and the Buffalo Sabres are looking for, well, anything.
And teams aren’t just being open about what they want – they’re also making it perfectly clear about what they’re willing to offer in return. Bob Murray, the general manager of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, has said the team is willing to give up anyone except for Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. The Edmonton Oilers have offered up forward Ales Hemsky to prospective teams. A team looking for a defenseman need not look farther than Nashville, where the Predators are expected to deal either Shea Weber or Ryan Suter. Maybe both. And Buffalo appears to be willing to get rid of, well, anyone.
The end of the season will see many of the all-star contracts come to an end as well, and teams will be looking to take advantage of this. They will attempt to gain other players for the remainder of the season rather than potentially receive nothing and have their player walk at the end of the season.
The recent concussion discussion also adds to the probability. Teams are going to be wary when it comes to signing high-profile players to long-term deals because there can never be a health guarantee. But long-term is what all players look for. Any team willing to make a multi-year deal has an even bigger advantage.
That said, future deadlines should continue to be exciting as every year a large pool of short-term contracts will be ending.
The NHL trade deadline is February 27.