Former Toronto Maple Leaf general manager Brian Burke used to say that the NHL trading deadline was the one day a year when his peers lost their collective minds – and history shows he is right. And the peculiar limitations of a 48-game season may even make it worse. In a full 82-game schedule, the cream eventually rises to the top and early-season sensations generally have time to find their (lower) level. But in a 48-game push, all of a sudden, a whole lot of unexpected contenders, from the Maple Leafs and the injury-riddled Ottawa Senators, to the perennial sad sacks in Long Island and Columbus, think they’ve got a shot this year. So it makes for a seller’s market and realistically, any team such as Calgary or Buffalo that isn’t trying to extort high returns for their available players isn’t doing the job properly.
This is the opposite of the Boxing Day clearance sale. This is the night before Christmas and anxious shoppers are willing to do whatever it takes to get the right presents under the tree so there’s a happily-ever moment on Christmas Day. The bills show up in January, of course, and there’s always lots of time for after-the-fact buyers’ remorse.
So let’s help out here and find some new homes for NHL players – and begin with the defending champion Kings, who didn’t do much in the off-season to shore up for their title defence.
The Kings have been linked to Calgary and the Iginla availability and will make an inquiry, if they haven’t already. Kings coach Darryl Sutter has a history with Iginla and would love to add him to the mix. Sutter believes the team has been weak on the wings ever since he’s arrived and Iginla would shore them up there. Iginla, you’d have to think, would be rejuvenated by a move and the chance to play for a Stanley Cup contender. But the trading deadline isn’t just about wishing and hoping, it is about a realistic fit and realistically, the Kings need more help on defence than they do up front – which is why the No. 1 player on GM Dean Lombardi’s wish list should be another ex-Sutter player, Robyn Regehr, currently with the Sabres.
Regehr played for Sutter on the 2004 Flames team that went to the Stanley Cup final and he represents a big physical body on defence, something the Kings have been lacking this year because of injuries to Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene, two big physical bodies on defence. Last year, Sutter used Mitchell and Greene as his No. 1 penalty killing pair. Most coaches try to divide a two-minute penalty into three 40-second intervals, and come back with the No. 1 unit for the first and final 40 seconds of any successful kill.
In the absence of Mitchell and Greene, Sutter has needed to use Drew Doughty in that situation, and it has affected Doughty’s points total this year – to be played so heavily in defensive situations (the Kings use Slava Voynov and Jake Muzzin as their No. 1 power-play pair). So getting a defensive defenceman would help and Regehr would be a much better fit in the more plodding Western Conference, where the Kings could face centres with size along the lines of Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim) and Joe Thornton (San Jose) in any Cup defence. And if Regehr is unavailable, Calgary has Jay Bouwmeester (a minute-muncher) and Cory Sarich (a physical defenceman) also potentially available. One of those three and/or Iginla could end up in L.A., and if it’s more than one, we’re talking blockbuster city.
Regehr’s teammate in Buffalo, Jordan Leopold, is also on an expiring contract and he was twice been traded at the deadline – in 2009 and 2010 – so he too could move again. Last summer, two players in the final years of their contracts, Mike Ribiero and Derek Roy, were both traded (by Dallas and Buffalo) respectively. Ribiero’s current team, the Washington Capitals, are close to falling out of playoff contention, while Roy’s team, the Stars, are right on the bubble. For any team seeking a temporary fix at No. 2 centre, either or both would fit the bill. Hello Vancouver! Beyond Roy, the Stars also have the poor man’s Iginla, Brendan Morrow, their long-time captain, likely in his final season with the team, and a possible addition in the Mark Recchi mode, a veteran player who really wants to win. And of course, the Stars have Jaromir Jagr, who can still bring it on the power play, on an expiring contract – and he’d be an intriguing fit on any team that needs scoring.