The 2014 NHL Trade Deadline is fast approaching, and what kind of a hockey blogger would I be if I didn’t take a moment to opine? After returning from a quick trip to the ER for a rotator cuff injury (suffered whilst patting myself on the back for using “opine”…wait – I also used “whilst!” There goes the other rotator cuff. It’s okay; I’m a hockey blogger, so I’ll type through the pain), here are a few quick thoughts on pre-deadline what ifs and why nots:
The Lesser of Two Evils?
I read recently that the Phoenix Coyotes, in a bid to improve their offensive output, have “kicked the tires” on both Ray Whitney and Matt Moulson. Dallas and Phoenix both have 64 points and 24 games remaining, with the Stars holding a razor-thin 24-23 lead in the first tie-breaker, non-Shootout wins. If you’re Stars GM Jim Nill, do you trade Whitney to Phoenix to stop them from trading for the younger Matt Moulson, who has much greater offensive upside at this point in time? In other words, do you help a rival with whom you’re battling for a playoff spot a little, to keep said rival from helping themselves a lot? Also, what do you ask for in return? Were I GM Jim, I’d offer Whitney and defenseman Trevor Daley for Keith Yandle, and wait for a counter-offer.
Selling the Rangers’ Soul?
Of course, I’m talking about the trade rumors swirling around Blueshirts team captain Ryan Callahan and stalwart d-man Dan Girardi. Both are pending UFAs, and Conventional Wisdom says both will be moved at the deadline if Glen Sather can’t re-sign them by that time. Much as it pains me to say this, I think Cally has to give some on his contract demands, or he’s gone. A seven- or eight-year deal is a significant risk for a player with Callahan’s rambunctious, injury-prone game. Any team signing him to a long-term deal will pay a premium for intangibles – leadership and a gutsy, leave-it-all-on-the-ice style of play – and those intangibles are meaningless when the player who possesses them is on Injured Reserve.
While the loss of Callahan would create a huge leadership/grit void in New York, losing Dan Girardi could be downright disastrous. The defensive yin to Ryan McDonagh’s offensive yang, Girardi is a critical half of the Blueshirts’ top d-pair, logging almost 24 tough minutes a game. If he goes, who’s going to fill his skates? Does Kevin Klein suddenly start playing an extra 8:30 each night? Does Anton Stralman pick up the slack? The truth is, while the Rangers’ top six defensemen are solid, the organization currently lacks depth. The loss of Dan Girardi would open a hole on the blueline which could not be filled this season, thus ensuring an early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring.
What If Sellers Didn’t Sell…Or Even Became Buyers?
Back in September, I proposed scrapping the NHL Draft Lottery in favor of a Draft Tournament. While I still think it’s a great idea, I now see the Law of Unintended Consequences kicking in: If the bottom four teams played an end-of-season tournament to decide who ends up with picks 1-4 in the upcoming draft, would those cellar-dwellers be motivated to hang on to pending UFAs, or even try to improve their rosters, in the hope of winning the first pick in the draft? Put in 2013-14 season terms, would Buffalo keep Matt Moulson, Steve Ott and/or Ryan Miller, in effect trading those players (losing them to free agency this summer) for a shot at the top pick? Would Calgary decide not to deal Mike Cammalleri, or would the asking price just go up? My “expert” understanding of economics (I spent two semesters in college as an ECON major) tells me that a Draft Tournament could create both a decrease in the supply of players available at the deadline AND an increase in demand, while also putting even more pressure on the in-between clubs (those well above the bottom four, but for whom a playoff seed is a long shot) to move their assets. In short, a Draft Tourney could cause a significant shift in the Trade Deadline dynamic, taking General Managers and fans alike to an all-new stress level each spring. I love it. Make it so, Mr. Bettman!
Follow Matt Pryor on Twitter: @BigTex1926