Brad Richards stayed put after the trade deadline. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
You hear it from NHL general managers all the time: "If you want to make a deal at the deadline, be prepared to overpay." Or, "There are more bad deals made at the deadline than good ones."
But, for the first time in recent memory, 2011 appears to be the exception. What happened here? Why was there so much restraint?
In conversations last night with several executives and agents, two theories emerged.
FLEXIBILITY IS KING
Trivia question: Since Feb. 17, when Eric Brewer was dealt from St. Louis to Tampa, how many traded players had more than one year remaining on their contracts?
The answer is two: one is Kevin Shattenkirk, who will still be on his entry-level deal. The other is Rostislav Klesla. This is no coincidence, as the CBA is up after next season.
Now, we have seen contract extensions given to Justin Williams, Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Seabrook and Matt Hendricks (Andrew Ladd is expected to follow). Teams are making it very clear that if they're going into the unknown, they'd prefer to do it with the players they know.
Some teams willing to add salary made it clear they expected to benefit from their largesse. That's why Florida received an ECHL player for Dennis Wideman and Toronto's potential deal for John-Michael Liles fell apart. The Maple Leafs asked Colorado for a decent draft pick as a thank you for taking that contract, but were rebuffed.
And one executive (not from Toronto) thought the Leafs were right to ask.
"Teams are going to have to realize that it's different now," he said. "If someone is willing to take your high-priced mistake, you're going to have to give up a good draft pick. It's not like the pre-cap days, where you got rid of the money and also got the great pick."
With so many teams close to the cap or their own owner-mandated budgets, letting players walk in exchange for free space will become more prevalent. That's why I totally understand Joe Nieuwendyk's decision not to trade Brad Richards without hitting an absolute grand slam.
First of all, the Dallas GM still wants to sign Richards. But, if he doesn't, the Stars get $7.8 million US to play with. And, on a team that can't spend money without shedding an equal amount, that's huge.SECURITY EQUALS SAFETY
An agent brought this up last night: How many NHL GMs are seriously in danger of being fired?
You know what, it's a great point.
It's been a long time since league-wide job security appeared this strong. Four managers of out-of-playoff teams (as of Tuesday morning's standings) recently received contract extensions or votes-of-confidence: Atlanta's Rick Dudley, Buffalo's Darcy Regier, Anaheim's Bob Murray and Colorado's Greg Sherman.
In the East, the only general manager with a questionable future is Ottawa's Bryan Murray. And, he sure looked like a guy with a plan as he remodelled the Senators. Owner Eugene Melnyk was researching candidates weeks ago, but no one would be surprised now if Murray was retained.
In the West, you've got one interim (Jay Feaster in Calgary) who looks like he'll keep the job. Maybe a bad playoff result could shake someone, but these guys look pretty comfortable right now.
That prevents reckless trades by both buyers and sellers. If you feel safe, you don't make the crazy deal that may get you into the playoffs, but strips your future. Or, you don't sell off a good player (Ales Hemsky, anyone?) unless you feel you get market value.30 THOUGHTS1.
Other teams said Nieuwendyk asked for four pieces (some combination of NHL-ready players, prospects and high draft picks) in exchange for Richards. While the player was never specifically asked to waive, no question the GM knew who it made sense to deal with. That said, Nieuwendyk set the bar very high because he didn't really want to make a trade. He wants to take a shot at the playoffs and a re-sign.2
. If you're the Rangers, you say: "OK. If we want Richards and if he wants us, we'll wait till July 1. That way it only costs us money." If it works, Cablevision can bring in an armoured truck to pay Richards, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire.3.
Another GM who really swung for the fences was Edmonton's Steve Tambellini. He refused to back off a steep price for Ales Hemsky. It's common knowledge he asked L.A. for Brayden Schenn, and was rejected. He asked Columbus for Ryan Johansen, a non-starter for the Blue Jackets. Similar hardballs were thrown at Pittsburgh (which was willing to include Alex Goligoski before his own trade) and Nashville. Biggest problem for Tambellini? Teams were wary of paying that price for a guy who's missed 77 games over the past two seasons. A healthy year helps Hemsky's value.4
. Several other execs thought the Dustin Penner trade was fair. Colten Teubert is exactly what Edmonton needs: a nasty, edgy brute. He'll never be a huge point producer, but does have it in him to become a shutdown guy. When you've had 21 first- or second-round picks since 2003 (Kings), you can take this kind of a risk.5.
Wonder if it will help the Oilers' reputation among players that they did Penner a favour by sending him where his wife is (recently married, she is an LA-based actress). Ottawa did something similar for Mike Fisher, and it was widely praised. HNIC's
Glenn Healy and Mike Milbury think this is irrelevant, but I'm curious.
Saw Sheldon Souray last week when the AHL's Hershey Bears came to Toronto. Walked out of Ricoh Coliseum after the game and he was on the bus, pretty much alone. Souray is not innocent in all of this, giving the Oilers reason to get annoyed at him. And I realize many of you aren't sympathetic to a guy making millions. But, any time anyone is doing anything simply for the money, it's kind of sad.7.
Mike Gillis is right when he says the Canucks have a special kind of chemistry, which is why I was surprised he traded for Maxim Lapierre, who was a flashpoint in Montreal. Yes, Alain Vigneault kept him under control in junior. But, what's even more important is that several Western opponents praised the Lapierre/Higgins acquisitions, saying that was exactly what Vancouver needed.8.
Am curious to hear how close Gillis thinks Manitoba goalie Eddie Lack is to being NHL-ready.9.
Shane Doan surpassed Teppo Numminen as his franchise's all-time games played leader. During the lockout, the Coyotes' trainers/equipment staff lost their medical insurance. Doan heard about it, got in touch with Human Resources, and quietly paid for it. It was years before they found out. That's class.
This is going to be a wild summer in Florida. If the cap goes up, Dale Tallon might need to spend $30 million US just to get to the floor. Tallon will be helped by three things: the money (obviously), his own reputation in rebuilding the Blackhawks and the decision to keep Stephen Weiss and David Booth. Good players will want to play with other good players. He's also in great position to take advantage of teams needing to drop high-level talent for budgetary reasons.
The biggest key, though, might be bonuses. Tallon, if he chooses, could stack his roster with kids, over-35 veterans or guys coming off lengthy injuries (Andrei Markov, just to give an example -- but don't claim I'm saying there's truth to it). Therefore, you can be at the salary floor even though actual cash payout is much less. The Islanders have done this (credit to Hockey Night in Canada's
Scott Morrison for pointing out this idea). 12.
The biggest worries for Florida: it's not a good free-agent year, and what if they can't get anyone to go there? That's when you really get into trouble, because you're giving out big contracts to guys you're not sure about. That's what happened to Souray and Shawn Horcoff in Edmonton, and why Montreal decided to take a chance with Scott Gomez.13.
When Terry Pegula decided to help build the Penn State men's and women's hockey programs, he initially pledged $20 million. Upon selling his company, East Resources, for $4.7 billion, he called back and offered $100 million. They settled on $88 million. Yeah, I think the Sabres will be okay.
Pegula's said all the right things over the past week, but as the team starts a seven-game, 11-day road trip, he's going to begin Stage 1 of a dressing room remodelling. New carpet, paint, etc. Little things like that go a long way. 15.
Don't want to make a big deal about Lindy Ruff, who clearly despises being asked about his future. Just curious to see how long he goes without signing whatever contract Pegula throws at him.
By the way, Buffalo isn't the only team about to beef up its scouting. Bob Murray is planning to upgrade his team's department, and the Ducks already have a good reputation.17.
Murray didn't interview Cam Fowler at the NHL combine, but snared the Rookie-of-the-Year contender when the defenceman fell to 12th in the draft. Murray didn't need to talk to Fowler, because he'd coached him in minor hockey. Nice steal. 18.
Brendan Bell, who played 101 games with Toronto, Phoenix and Ottawa, is looking to catch on with an NHL team. Bell is finishing up with Biel in the Swiss league, hoping someone will give him a late-season look.19.
Before Switzerland, Bell signed with Avangard Omsk of the KHL, registering two assists in one game. But, as can happen in Russia (and this franchise in particular), he was asked to sign something in Russian. He admits he should have refused, but the next thing he knew, the club was claiming he'd signed his own release form and they didn't owe him any money. If that league wants to be taken seriously, this stuff must stop.20.
There were a lot of rumours, but I don't think Toronto is willing to deal Nazem Kadri -- yet. 21.
You heard Brian Burke say he's not going to overpay for 60 games of Clarke Macarthur. Sounds like there is a lot of common ground between the two sides, though. However, what's really important is that the organization realizes top-line players cost money and won't allow anyone's demands to take away from what they've budgeted for those players.
If you didn't see the Inside Hockey on the Canucks' sleep research, it is here
. The company they deal with is called Fatigue Science, and it wants to work with the NHL on improving travel for officials. It believes there is real room to ease the fatigue factor on the zebras.23.
Been a tough year for Chris Phillips, but a couple of other NHL coaches say that with different structure, he can bounce back.
Phoenix targeted Rostislav Klesla because it needed a physical defenceman against the Pacific Division's power forwards -- Thornton, Morrow, Getzlaf, and now Penner. You need the big guys on your blue-line. 25.
Washington was very wise to make deals that didn't rob them of their future. Can't help but look at that roster and think the Capitals are one or two years away from really being ready. By then, Carlson/Alzner will mature into a terrific two-way duo and one of those goalies will grab a stranglehold in net.
Think Montreal wanted to deal Andrei Kostitsyn, but not just give him away. Offers weren't great.
Always interested when Carolina GM Jim Rutherford trades for a defenceman, because he believes they need a few years to mature. Derek Joslin looks very promising. I'll bet, though, he wasn't happy about losing Brett Carson on waivers.28.
There is some real surprise that Colorado has decided to regard last year as, basically, a fluke. People who know that situation much better than I do say the decision to trade Chris Stewart, followed by the vote of confidence in Joe Sacco, was a message to players that the coach is going nowhere. 29.
Mentioned it a little last week, but heard a lot of this afterwards: "Stewart? A power forward with a right-handed shot? Wish I knew he was available."
Tweeted yesterday about the fact our CBC producers were the ones who called Sergei Samsonov to let him know he'd be traded. It's really unfortunate, but it happens frequently. First time was at the 1999 deadline. Heard Jason Smith was traded from Toronto to Edmonton. I told my producers at The Score, who called back in a panic to say he had no idea. He didn't find out for hours. I'm going to find the 2006 headliner I did on Brendan Witt at the deadline and post it. That was really uncomfortable, and made me realize how tough the deadline can be.
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