For those of you hoping for some major fireworks at the trade deadline this year, don’t hold your breath.
With the 2013 NHL trade deadline about a week and a half away, teams are hesitant to designate themselves as “sellers” because of how quickly the standings can change thanks to tight point races in each conference. In the Western Conference, the 12th place Nashville Predators trail the 8th place San Jose Sharks by just two points. The Eastern Conference is slightly more open, but not much. The 10th seed Washington Capitals are three points out of a playoff spot, while the 14th place Philadelphia Flyers are just five points back.
At this point in the game, Florida, Calgary and Colorado seem to be the only teams that could be considered non-contenders, and even then a short winning streak could put any of those teams back in contention.
So how does that impact the trade deadline? Well, the fact that playoff spots are far from secured, and considering the fact that the Los Angeles Kings entered the playoffs last season as an 8th seed and ended up winning the Stanley Cup, many teams are reluctant to sell their assets because they are still in contention. And, as the Kings proved last season, once you make the playoffs anything can happen.
That equates to fewer players being available at the deadline for teams to trade for. It also means that those players who could potentially be available, like Iginla or Jaromir Jagr, could end up going for a high price if bidding wars break out.
The Calgary Flames are a prime example. The team has flirted for years with the playoffs, but they’ve never made the moves necessary to become a legitimate contender. Many believe that this could be the year that the Flames decide to unload some of their assets and go into rebuilding mode. And the biggest bargaining chip they have is Jarome Iginla, who has scored 30 or more goals in each of his past 11 seasons. But what would the asking price be for a player of Iginla’s caliber?
Plainly put, the asking price would be high. A prospect? A high draft pick? How about both? But teams are reluctant to make those moves and compromise their own futures for the sake of winning now—especially with the log jams in each conference and the uncertainty of teams even making the playoffs.
Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland basically stated as much recently when he said that he will only make a move if his team is playing well leading up to the deadline.
“We got to win some games first,” Holland said. “You don’t want to throw a lot of assets at something (if) you’re not sure you’re going to (make) the playoffs. So we need to win some games.”
Nashville Predators GM David Poile echoed Holland’s thoughts in regard to his team’s stance at the deadline.
“Our team and so many other teams don’t know where they are right now,” Poile said. “Four or five wins in a row takes you in a very positive direction, and conversely if you went in a tailspin and lost four or five games, it would be very difficult for us or any other team to make the playoffs.”
Parity around the league has created uncertainty at the trade deadline, making teams reluctant to part with players and/or prospects when there is such a high degree of uncertainty that you will even make the playoffs. Many teams around the league will look at the Kings last year as reason enough to avoid making significant moves because they still have a legitimate chance without making that big trade. Others, like every year, will look to land that big fish that will hopefully put their team over the top en route to a Stanley Cup.
With roughly six games to go for each team before the deadline, a lot can still happen and these next few games will definitely help teams determine whether they take a buyer or seller stance. Trades will undoubtedly happen before the deadline as teams try to address their needs or plug holes in their lineups, but don’t be surprised if blockbuster trades don’t happen like in year’s past. The standings are just too tight and many teams appear to be unwilling to make drastic moves with so much uncertainty happening around the league.