Slow Deadline Day Means NHL Is Healthy

26 February 2011: Ryan Kesler

On the one hand, yesterday’s trade deadline was a bit of a letdown in that there weren’t any huge and/or exciting deals.

But maybe there’s a silver lining to the lack of big deals. Like how the lack of big trades was the result of so many teams being in playoff contention.

There were very few teams that needed to have a fire sale, sacrificing its present talent for prospects.

A few days ago, The Wall Street Journal had a piece on how the NBA is becoming a two-tier league, with stars flocking to a handful to teams.

The NHL is nothing like that. There are very few truly awful teams, and even a team like the Devils, currently in 13th place in the east, seems like they might very well make a run at a playoff spot.

So while a slow deadline day is always kind of a bummer, it really is a sign of the NHL’s overall health. The league has achieved parity and while that doesn’t always make for exciting games, it gives the fans plenty to root for over the course of a very long season.

But it also means GMs can no longer wait for deadline day to roll around to improve their teams. A lot of the bigger, more important deals were made before deadline day. Boston knew they couldn’t risk not being able to get Tomas Kaberle at the deadline. Nashville didn’t want to risk losing Mike Fisher to another team in a deadline frenzy that might have pushed his price up. So they moved quickly and early. I suspect that will be the trend in future deadlines and we’ll continue to see less and less jaw-dropping trades on deadline day proper.

Having said that, there were a few interesting situations yesterday:

  • What is Florida’s plan for all of that cap space? Obviously, cap flexibility is great, but who exactly do they think is going to be a free agent in the off-season? GM Dale Tallon has to know very few stars make it to free agency anymore.
  • Dallas really didn’t want to trade Brad Richards did they? Why did GM Joe Nieuwendyk even say Richards was available? I guess on the offhand chance the Rangers were willing to give away all of the best parts of their team for a rental?
  • I’m glad the Kings got Dustin Penner from Edmonton. The Kings are always rumored to be in on so many deals and the moves never materialize. I was starting to get nervous Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi had really, really bad cell reception.
  • How awkward would it have been if the Devils hadn’t had been able to trade Jason Arnott? How do you say you’re willing to be traded to a Cup contender and then not get traded? And why stop at demanding the trade to a contender? Why not demand a trade to the Cup winner?