Hockey fans always approach the NHL trade deadline hoping for exhilaration but end up with several hours of inertia. High prices scare away otherwise thirsty general managers. The rumors of what could happen are ultimately more entertaining than what actually does.
That’s a shame, because a great deadline can lead to great things. It can clear the decks for a rebuild. It can rearrange a salary cap in preparation for a productive summer. Or it can catapult a Stanley Cup contender over the hump to a title: Look no further than last season, when the additions of Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow gave the Tampa Bay Lightning their dominant checking line en route to the bubble Cup win.
It’s quiet right now in the NHL, both in actual deals and in chatter among the GMs.
“Some of the teams that might have rentals, they still may. But they’re still close enough to the playoffs that they’re not raising the white flag,” one general manager told me recently.
There are other forces at play, too, like the fact that over half the league is feeling the pinch of the flat salary cap. Plus, there are the quarantine issues at the Canadian border. Let’s also remember the tentacled shadow looming over the entire season, as teams consider how any move impacts the Seattle expansion draft count.
But this unprecedented season could also foster more activity: One general manager I spoke to theorized that the divisional playoff format — in which teams play against divisional opponents until the “final four” of the third round — could encourage teams to shoot their shot more than if they were destined to meet a conference power in an early round.
Trade deadline pressure abounds. Here are six NHL teams that absolutely have to get it right this season.