Welcome to the second annual edition of NHLfaketrades.net, our imaginary website in which we helpfully conjure up trade possibilities for NHL general managers who need an assist to get the pieces moving in advance of the actual trading deadline, 12 days from now.
A little background for all the newcomers here: Last year, we had a great deal of fun making up trade rumours. The germ of the idea came during a chat with an NHL GM about trade rumors and how, in the weeks before the trading deadline, he needed to set aside time almost every day to put out fires, created by the trade chatter on the Internet.
I laughed and told him that the problem for everybody in the industry, mainstream media and the larger blogging world, was that if a rumour had even a whiff of plausibility, it would be difficult to dismiss without at least making a check. And thus, it became a never-ending circle. You hear a name, you check it out and then you hear something else and it just keeps going round and round. Every year, some player rockets to the top of the charts – Rick Nash last year, Jarome Iginla this year. I concluded by issuing him a challenge: Name me any two NHL teams and I would conjure up a trade rumour between them that was so reasonable and made so much sense that a) you’d think it came from a primary source; and b) nobody could dismiss it out of hand, without first thinking ‘hmmmm.’
The best part of the story is what happened next: Not 72 hours later, one of the imaginary trade rumours – Pavel Kubina from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Philadelphia Flyers – actually came true. But I was happier with one that ended up being wrong, but didn’t miss the mark by match. We suggested that the Kings, with their depth on defence, should move Jack Johnson to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for James Van Riemsdyk. The Kings did actually trade Johnson, not to Philly, but to Columbus and got, not Van Riemsdyk, but another ex-Flyer forward Jeff Carter, in exchange. And later in the summer, the Flyers did trade Van Riemsdyk to Toronto and got, not Johnson in exchange, but another young defenceman who plays a physical style, Luke Schenn, in the deal.
Close right? The names might have been different, but the commodities that teams were seeking were not all that difficult to pinpoint. That’s what makes unbridled rumor-mongering so much fun. It is easy to identify what teams need at any given moment in their development – and almost as easy to anticipate where they’re looking for that help. The hard part is for two GMs to get together and pull the trigger on the deal, because so much is riding on every transaction and more often than not, being too aggressive to remake your team at the trading deadline can backfire on a team in a meaningful way.
The Nashville Predators represent the object lesson here. Last season, they were – as general manager David Poile put it – all in. They had a pending unrestricted free agent, Ryan Suter, than in hindsight they should have moved at the deadline. But they kept him because the team was playing well and the West looked wide open. They added – Alexander Radulov from the KHL, Andrei Kostitsyn and Hal Gill from Montreal – and they sent a signal, to the team and to the NHL, that they were in it to win it. It all looked good (except for maybe that niggling suspicion that they were moving away from their identity as the Little Team That Could) until it all blew up in their faces, Radulov and Kostitsyn being suspended for a playoff game against the Phoenix Coyotes for a curfew violation and all that good will and chemistry that they’d painstakingly worked so hard to develop gone – up in a puff of smoke. And this year, the Suter-less Predators have not been able to regain that identity and all the players that were bit parts elsewhere but suddenly became valuable useful players in Nashville, well, they look like bit parts again.