NHL TRADE DEADLINE: A GUESSING GAME

Being a credentialed member of the MSM means having access to information, sources and decision-makers leading up to the annual NHL trade deadline.

As the batting average of most MSM outlets historically shows, there’s a quantum leap between access and actually uncovering accurate information about who is talking to whom about player trades. We make weather people seem like Nostradamus. We’re as good at predicting the future as Miss Cleo. There are lots of reasons for that.

General managers seldom show their cards to even the most trusted reporters while potential deals are in the works. Unless they owe a scribe a favour, and that does happen, what’s in it for them? They lie through their teeth, or mislead by omission, even if they do take your calls or you corner them in the rink.

While countless deals are at least casually discussed and pro scouts dispatched as part of due diligence — look, Team A has had so-and-so at three straight games watching Team B — only a minute percentage end up resulting in a trade. A righteous scoop about mutual interest the first week of February often turns to nothingness by the deadline.

Outside a handful of really plugged in people, how many reporters put in the necessary hours working the phones with GMs, agents and scouts? How many beat writers work their GMs and hockey-ops people every chance they get? Some do. Many don’t.

Add it up and you get what we have now with three weeks to go before the February 28 trade deadline — a lot of rumours based on hunches, guesswork, speculation and information from "unnamed sources." A lot of stuff gets thrown against the wall, but very little sticks. All of it, these days, gets "Tweeted" and passed on immediately.

How much of it ever pans out?

PASS IT ON

Even at my most plugged in on the beat with the Edmonton Oilers, I ended up with a whole bunch of nothing way more often than I nailed a trade ahead of time. I’m not talking about making an educated guess that turns out, which happened now and then, but knowing for certain a trade would be done. Rare as a skinny sportswriter.

Phone your GM. Phone the GM you think he’s talking to. Talk to the agents. Talk to the players. Work the scouts in the press box and media lounge home and away. Call reporters in the other cities. Eyeball the seating charts in rinks on the road. On and on. Trade rumour websites? There were none. Just as well.

It’s not the worst way to make a living, but I can count on one hand the deals I pegged — Sergei Samsonov and Jaroslav Spacek come to mind (does half the Erik Cole to Carolina deal count?). It’s a helluva lot of work and a helluva lot of fun a lot of the time, but the return on hours spent? Minimal.

How many scribes and websites forego the legwork and opt to, ahem, borrow the real dope provided by the plugged in few? How many pass along the information somebody else has uncovered as their own or simply regurgitate it? The legit and the bogus is all readily available in a blizzard of Tweets and texts as the deadline nears.

PLUGGED IN

The guys with real information and real sources, we know. At the top of the list, there’s Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie at TSN. Ryan Rishaug gives fans of the Oilers an inside track. Nick Kypreos at Sportsnet gets his share. There’s Pierre LeBrun at ESPN.

As for beat writers with individual teams, fans here are lucky Jim Matheson at The Journal digs as diligently now as he did when you had to find a news stand in whatever town you were in to grab a hard copy and read up on what was going on. Internet? Twitter? No. There’s Mike Russo in Minneapolis. Iain MacIntyre in Vancouver. Kevin Paul Dupont in Boston. Not a complete list, but the guys in-the-know I read.

Even for the few at the centre of the information heap, getting it right more often than not gets sketchy as the trade deadline approaches. In terms of having a real handle on what will happen between now and the deadline, most of the rest of us might as well be blogging from the bush in northern Manitoba or reading tea leaves.

Like Glen Sather and Kevin Lowe before him, Steve Tambellini is proving access to information and to the people who make the decisions can be overrated at times. The NHL trade deadline is one them.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Ender

    David S wrote:

    I have a real hard time with people who still think Khabby could be traded, as if there’s any market for an underperforming, injury prone, aging goalie with a boat anchor contract and a looming jail sentence.

    Please people. Think about it.

    Fixed that for you.
    😉

    speeds wrote:

    I am also at a loss as to why Souray hasn’t been recalled if they are willing to lose him on re-entry – the way they are handling him makes some sort of sense under the assumption that EDM doesn’t want the dead cap space this and next year, but if they are looking to save money and are willing to have that dead cap space I can’t figure out why they wouldn’t have placed him on re-entry waivers 3 months ago.

    Exactly what I was thinking. David S comes up with the only explanation that makes any sense – that the Oilers are trying to squeeze an extra drop of juice out of this lemon – but even that doesn’t seem like the Oilers are thinking with both brain cells.

    Let’s say they make a deal like Davie-boy suggests, where there’s maybe a fifth-round pick to Edmonton if the Rangers get Souray off waivers. And let’s say that it’s so transparent that even casual fans following a blog in Edmonton can figure it out. In case that’s not enough, Tambellini goes to the press and says he’s definitely not putting Souray on recall until he has a deal in place.

    So Souray goes on recall. And Loophole-Lou, being no dummy, plucks Souray for half-price and then turns around and says to the Rangers “You won’t believe this, but I heard you were in the market for a defenseman and I just happened to stumble across the sort of guy you need. For a seventh-round pick, he’s yours.” Lamoriello (or any other GM in the bottom 19 with half a brain) gets a really good shot at something for nothing and the only risk they take is possibly having to carry Souray for half his contract. Salary cap plays a small part here, but there are a lot of teams that could find a couple million in spare cap-room before the deadline if they needed to. I see very little chance that Edmonton gets anything at all other than half of Souray’s baggage for the next year-and-a-half.

    Edit: This is wrong. After re-reading the CBA, it wouldn’t work. Explanation below in #66.

    So back to what speeds said: If the Oilers were willing to carry that baggage, why wait until now? Why not recall him back in September when there might still have been some interest in him at half-price? The cap-hit didn’t matter this year and next year would have ended up the same way anyway. I was pretty sure the whole thing was an object lesson from Katz and the Oilers. If that is true, it makes no sense for Tambellini to pull out now. The entire situation seems to indicate that someone somewhere didn’t really think this through.

    • I’m not sure how waivers work. Is it first offer to the post sort of thing? If so, a pre-arranged deal with some back-room add-ons could be made so that New York’s response to pick up Souray comes immediately following the offer’s public notice, thus preventing anyone else from having a real chance.

      • Ender

        Nope. He’s on waivers for 24 hours. At the end of that time, lowest team in the standings with a claim wins the prize. Rangers have very little shot unless they trade for him, and far better for them to trade afterward with the team that picks him up when Edmonton is already stuck with half-his remaining contract no one else wants him for half-price.

        • DimebagDave

          Not sure if it’s the same situation with Souray as it was for Nabokov or the other two players that were signed from the KHL or europe, but the teams that signed them were not able to trade them this season. So not sure if say Calgary plucked him off the wire that they would be able to trade him to Rangers for a pick.

          • Ender

            You’re right,DbD, and I was just editing my post to that effect. I just re-read the CBA. Section 13.20 (b) says that in order to trade him this season, you have to first put him back on waivers. Meaning that if the Rangers wanted him, they could just pluck him at that time without giving the lower-placed team anything in return. In theory, though, his new team can flip him for a profit as soon as the playoffs are over, ie. before the draft.

            Really, then, the danger is that a team below the Rangers in the standings actually wants Souray to play for them for $2.25M for the next year-and-a-half. I still thik that’s pretty possible, but it’s not the easy-exploit I referred to earlier.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          The Oilers have never put Sheldon on re-entries before, this would be the first time teams would have a shot at him for half price, correct?.

          Sather makes a deal with a team who will put in the claim on him. I see the Oilers getting diddly squat for Souray. The team who claims him and moves him to the Rangers in the off season will get something. A motivated Souray at half price with only one year to go on his deal is probably worth a third rounder?

          • Ender

            I whoopsed and corrected my statement above. Teams lower than the Rangers can take him, but they can’t flip him for a profit until the off-season. If they want to ditch him before then, he goes back on waivers, still at half-price.

          • Rogue

            No, Souray has never hit Re-entry waivers. He was waived once in the summer and then again in training camp I believe.
            The reason why there was no re-call in between the two is because the first one transpired in the summer making it safe to do so with out the worry of re entry.

          • BarryS

            Highly unlikely anyone will claim Souray, even at 2.5 mil a year or whatever. Big risk for lower place team (read poorer/cheaper)to keep him on NHL roster for this year and next given his recent injury history. Slats cares nothing for expense, it seems, so likely to claim him after next payday when Tambo recalls him. Even if Slats (or whoever) wavers him again, no way Oilers reclaim him.

          • ClosetGM

            I think that you would be surprised as to who may put in a claim. True he does have injury issues but at 2.5, there is value for a team who is lookiing for the big shot on the power play. When healthy, he is a tough SOB to play against.
            The Oilers will never bring him back in if he hit waivers with another team.

  • IceDragoon

    A significant trade from Tams seems rather unlikely at the best of times . Staying course of youth thru draft seems to indicate Oilers will lean toward drafting defence this next draft . Larson and Musil appear to be within range and possible additions this next draft, and probably makes the most sense in a cap world and rebuild .

    Current core of defence seems to be Whitney , Gilbert with Smid quite possibly . The rest might be all replaceable in rebuild around the likes of Marincin , Larson , Musil and possibly Plante, Petry and or Peckham .

    Core of forwards seems to be around Hall, Eberle , Paiijarvi , and Gagner .

    Penner and or Hemsky might be better as trade bait for a big significant centerman at this stage .

    Significant others are still on roster that can be used for other needed components to my perceived core going down the road with Tams at the helm .Tams doesn’t appear to be much of a wheeler dealer type to be honest .

  • Rogue

    Regarding all the Souray talk, does he have to get recalled by the Oilers before they can trade him or can the team that trades for him do the recall?

    If the Oilers don’t have to recall him prior to any potential trade then another scenario could be the Rangers trading for Souray then letting him stay in the AHL until the regular season is over and the waiver situation becomes a non issue heading into the playoffs.

    Obviously even if my assumptions are correct it’s still a long shot but at the same time any Souray trade would be primarily about the playoffs so it fits there and if NY is the team being discussed then is it really that offside to picture Sather doing a solid for Lowe and helping clear the deck on Souray all together?

    • D-Man

      Hemsky for Bogosian… Good deal for both teams worth considering..

      Gilbert for Wheeler?? Why?? That one doesn’t make any sense for Boston… Why pay $2.0 million more for Gilbert??

      We don’t want Jason Spezza who’s overpaid and underperforming either… I’d rather draft a potential number 1 center than take one who’s on a decline.

      I’d love to see Marty back here… Couldn’t we get him though as a UFA??