The NHL's general managers convene in Toronto on Wednesday for a day of meetings. There will be discussion about goaltender's equipment, shootouts and diving. But, there will also be trade talk. Vancouver, for example, is bringing its scouting staff to "The Centre of the Universe" in conjunction with this event.
Many GMs believe the trade deadline is inflationary and that it's better to make your moves earlier. Several teams have tried, including the Canucks (looking for centres), Philadelphia (defencemen), Rangers (a defenceman and depth forwards) and Nashville (offence).
But it's very hard to get things done.
Common complaints: "The prices are outrageous" or "teams we think are a match aren't selling."
Why? two factors:
Look at the standings
As you read this blog, the deadline is 16 days away. One year ago, at this same point, five Eastern Conference teams were at least seven points out of a playoff berth. But that was during an 82-game season, not the lockout-compressed 48. This year, there are just two that far back -- Buffalo and Florida
But who else in the East is giving up on the season? Tampa's struggled, for sure. Rangers and Flyers? No way. Washington? Not until it's impossible. Islanders? They're two points out.
The West was very tight at this time in 2012, with only three teams more than two points out of the picture. Today, there is just one club that couldn't be in eighth place with a two-game winning streak. That is Colorado, which is six out.
The Avalanche? "Who knows what they'll do?" one GM laughed, knowing how quiet that organization tends to be.
What that does is create a scarcity of available players. There appears to be no clarity on Jarome Iginla's situation as of yet. Some teams will wait to see if he becomes a rental possibility.
Right now, teams believe they are chasing the same guys. On Hotstove, we mentioned
Ryane Clowe, Derek Roy and Brenden Morrow (who, as of Saturday, had not been asked to waive his no-trade). Some other examples likely would be Robyn Regehr and Nate Thompson, who a few teams seem to like.
Those five players have something in common: they're unrestricted free agents. There's a reason for that.
Does anyone want to take on salary?
The salary cap for next season is set: $64.3 million US. Spend a few minutes on Capgeek and you'll see there aren't many teams with a boatload of flexibility.
Those with the most room have just 10 or 12 players under contract. New Jersey, with 15, still must try to re-sign Patrik Elias and David Clarkson. What it all means is that if you're going to add a guy who's under contract for 2013-14, it's going to a difference-maker. That, or you're getting a deal so good you can't turn it down.
Teams get two compliance buyouts. (Remember: Montreal and the Rangers have already used one.) Unless given some kind of spectacular incentive, you're not taking anyone headed down that road.
This affects a Brandon Dubinsky. If he was a UFA, it would be easy for Columbus to extract at least a first-round draft pick for this ferocious competitor. But he has two years left at a hit of $4.2 million. That makes it harder with the cap going down almost 10 per cent.
Florida is another affected team. The Panthers are ready to tear it down and rebuild with an excellent base of talented youth. But a lot of those they want to move still have term.
Knowing the Rangers need defencemen, Filip Kuba makes some sense. He played well under John Tortorella, with 68 points in two Tampa seasons. He's tight with Marian Gaborik. But Kuba is owed $4 million next season and New York can't do that (even before you factor in his no-move).
The one reason I could see a team trying this kind of move is that it worked for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Last year, the Kings acquired Mike Richards (eight years remaining) and Jeff Carter (nine).
But everyone knew the cap was going up at the time.
Let's see if the market loosens up when everyone's face-to-face.
1. Here's where it sounds like things stand on Corey Perry: I think the Ducks tested the market for him. But teams were not willing to give fair value for the 2011 Hart Trophy winner unless they knew Perry would commit to them beyond this season. I think that increased Anaheim's resolve to keep him. I am putting myself out there a bit, but it wouldn't come as a shock if he ends up staying long term. [Editor's Note: Shortly after this story was posted, the Ducks announced Perry had agreed to an eight-year contract extension reportedly worth $69 million US.]
2. When Roy and Morrow were mentioned on Hotstove, the reaction was, "Yes, but you forgot another guy in Dallas who is somewhat important." What are the Stars' plans for Jaromir Jagr? Last season, he wore down by April but teams don't think that will be a problem in the shortened year.
3. One UFA-to-be not going anywhere is Alex Semin. Jim Rutherford (not the source of any anonymous quotes in this blog) says the plan is for a re-sign.
4. One guy whose situation may have changed in Florida: Shawn Matthias. He's started to play very well at a difficult time for the organization.
5. The biggest concern about Clowe is not that he hasn't scored this season. It's if he's more injured than we realize. The winger left Saturday's loss to Los Angeles with a shoulder injury -- which may have confirmed potential suitors' fears. They're nervous about it.
6. The Sharks are in a tough spot. Other GMs say Doug Wilson, who is a big-time tire-kicker, is difficult to pin down. Sometimes he wants to re-shape his group (but don't even ask about Logan Couture), other times he's more conservative. Here's why: they've missed the playoffs once in 14 seasons. That resulted in 3,000 fewer season-ticket renewals, something they have never forgotten. It can really spook a franchise.
7. The other guy who is very difficult to read: Darcy Regier. He is extremely cautious even by NHL standards; never does anything without intensely thinking it through. He's said some interesting stuff over the past week, telling reporters, "I'm not in a blowing-up mindset." Earlier, he told WGR radio that Ryan Getzlaf's new contract made some of his guys (Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville) look more financially attractive.
8. It's a bit of a guess, but here's what all of that might mean: Regier's not going to napalm his organization. But, he's willing to trade one of them if it nets a significant return. Can't see him doing all three -- especially the disgustingly talented Vanek, unless the Sabres don't believe they can re-sign him.
9. Toronto: the Maple Leafs will not make a move that in any way jeopardizes playoff chances. "They are going for it," another GM said. It's tough, though, for Toronto to take on any salary until Perry's future is known. If he hits the market, they'll be involved. They can't destroy their flexibility.
10. Boy, do teams love what Matt Read is doing right now, coming back to help the Flyers even though he is clearly in pain. Talk about gaining respect. If Philly does any business with Calgary, know that Flames assistant GM John Weisbrod has chased Read for years.
11. Kimmo Timonen was 23-years-old in 1998 when David Poile went up to him at the world championships and said, "I think you can play in the NHL." The defenceman himself wasn't so sure. Poile was right. Monday night, Timonen will play game number 1,000. His teammates and opponents see his body is betraying him, but recognize how he's trying compete despite it. Highly, highly respected.
12. When the Coyotes signed Oliver Ekman-Larsson, GM Don Maloney made an interesting comment. The team got really serious after Calgary's offer sheet for Ryan O'Reilly, because it didn't want to be vulnerable. Defencemen are hard to find. That shifted focus to St. Louis, which has a new ownership group and must deal with two talented restricted free agents, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk.
13. Blues GM Doug Armstrong said Sunday he isn't worried about it: "You sign bad contracts when you sign contracts out of fear. We have stable ownership. We'll match any offer sheet...We will get them signed at contracts everyone is comfortable with." Armstrong added that "we've yet to see an offer sheet work with top-end players." Shattenkirk also has arbitration rights, which would eliminate the possibility of an offer sheet. (Armstrong is also not the source of any anonymous quotes.)
14. The Blues have some big-time choices to make with RFAs, including Chris Stewart and Patrik Berglund. "With RFAs, you have time. There's no sense in creating conflict," Armstrong said. "Our fans have seen enough of the business side, let's see competition take over -- have a good year and worry about it at the proper time."
15. Similar: A few rival execs said they understood why Montreal gave David Desharnais a four-year, $14-million extension. "Centres are so hard to come by," one said.
16. St. Louis did worry about its goaltending, which is why the call went to Jake Allen after a late-game collapse in Los Angeles. Armstrong said he and vice president of hockey operations Dave Taylor made the decision because "we could see games getting away from us and we had to get back to where we were the most stable." That was with Allen in goal before he was previously sent down. "In an 82-game season, you can allow ebbs and flows. Here, we were on the cusp on melting back to .500. The move was more of a reflection on the importance of immediately gaining points."
17. Armstrong on Allen: "Quietly confident. Like a duck above choppy water. Smooth on top, paddling like hell underneath."
18. Two years ago, Philadelphia goalie coach Jeff Reese said that when Sergei Bobrovsky learned how to deal with North American angles, traffic and style, he was going to be a stud. Good call.
19. Lou Lamoriello, asked on Hockey Night in Canada Radio what he'd do if an agent tweeted that one of his players needed to be freed: "No comment."
20. Dallas Eakins on Jake Gardiner: "We've challenged him to not only be the best player on our team, but the best the player on the ice. He's accepted and embraced that challenge...When he goes back to the NHL, he must not be thinking, 'How am I going to survive these 12 minutes?' but 'I'm going to force them to play me 25 minutes.'"
21. Last week, Tim Leiweke was deposed at president and CEO of AEG, parent company of the Los Angeles Kings, the Galaxy, the Staples Centre, etc., etc. It's a massive conglomerate. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is looking for a new CEO. Is he interested? The belief is yes, but it's hard to quantify how serious it is and how MLSE compares to other offers he might be getting. Leiweke and Dean Lombardi didn't always see eye-to-eye, but they did find enough common ground to bring the franchise its first Stanley Cup since...1967.
22. All of a sudden, Edmonton is two points out of a playoff berth. Glenn Healy said on Hotstove that the Oilers want their young players to play in big games. He's right about that, and it's very possible the results over the next few weeks will change their plans for the deadline. For example, last week I was convinced Ryan Whitney was going elsewhere. Now, it's not as certain, because if they're in the chase, they need him. That will teach me to write in absolutes.
23. Jimmy Howard, on when the Red Wings started to improve: "We realized that if we were in trouble, it was okay to put the puck off the glass and make the safe play." Seriously, it's almost sacrilege to hear a Detroit player talk like this. For years, that would put you in Babcock Jail. Howard laughed: "We're a different group now."
24. The toughest thing about watching Pavel Datsyuk toy with Edmonton and Vancouver is that we may be coming to the end of it. He has one more year under contract and there is a feeling he enjoyed playing in Russia so much he will go back for good afterwards. Talk about a casualty of the lockout.
25. One scout on Ottawa
: "It's amazing how much they look like Detroit, the way they pressure the puck and support it." The Paul MacLean influence, of course.
26. Chris Phillips has four goals this year and the Senators are 4-0 in those games. His career high is eight (twice). He and Daniel Alfredsson talked about that last summer, how, at 35, Phillips should make it a goal to beat that. To help, Phillips changed the parameters of his stick. For example, he lowered the lie. He'd had the previous one for a long time. Good on him.
27. Olympics: sometime soon, possibly this week, the cost estimates will be finished for player insurance and travel to/from Sochi. These are the two big numbers, the final hurdles to a deal. The NHL and NHLPA expect the IOC and IIHF to pay these. While the momentum is moving nicely, this is where any hiccup will come. If this can be sorted out, all is good.
28. Shootouts: there is growing concern with how many games are being decided by what Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski refers to as "the skills competition." I don't think you'll see it go to 10 minutes as Ken Holland has suggested. But, I do think you'll see teams made to switch ends so that they have the "long change," as in the second period. That will make it tougher to defend in OT.
29. The other thing is the "look" of the shootout. It doesn't sound like too many people were angry at Kaspars Daugavins
, but more that they don't like that kind of "thing" is what is deciding playoff berths. Holland's idea may not fly because teams don't want longer games, but they don't want what's happening, either.
30. There is only one way to stop illegal goalie equipment. That's to fine/punish players and teams who are repeat offenders. Make it public, too. When late-game brawls were determined to be problem, everyone (players, coaches, teams) were made responsible. Maybe the same blueprint will work.
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