So whatever happened to the prediction that the floodgates would open as soon as the NHL lockout ended – and there’d be trades galore?
There were lots of people promoting the concept, including the man with the most tradable commodity, Canucks’ general manager Mike Gillis. Gillis’s job is to find a new home for goaltender Roberto Luongo and while he’s busy exploring his options, Gillis has been at it long enough to know nothing is gained from rushing into anything.
Someone on TV was screaming the other day that it was practically irresponsible for Gillis to dither any further on a Luongo deal because the Canucks were so thin down the middle, thanks to the Ryan Kesler injury, and they sure didn’t look like a Stanley Cup contender as a result.
Well, here’s a newsflash. The Stanley Cup isn’t decided in January – and if Gillis were to make a move simply to fill a short-term hole, that would represent the height of irresponsibility. Gillis’s job is to get a team in place that’s ready to push for the Stanley Cup playoffs, which start in May. By then, Kesler is expected to be back and ready to go.
It’d be a different story if Kesler’s recovery were so slow that he misses a significant chunk of the season. At this stage in Vancouver’s championship window, they need to take a good run at the Cup this year again. But there are no indications that at the moment, and in the meantime, the Canucks are like every team coming off a hurry-up, week-long training camp – more intent on seeing where they’re at, before they dip their toes into the trading water.
That – getting an accurate reading on their own strengths and weaknesses without even playing a single exhibition game - is the primary reason why, with a handful of minor exceptions, GMs have been slow off the mark on the trade front. It’s hard to know where you stand, before you’ve played even a single game, and it’s hard to know where you’ll be on the injury front a week in, given the fear that groin and other soft issue injuries could occur. The Calgary Flames’ Jarome Iginla sat out three days for precautionary reasons at the start of training camp and Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender Carey Price took Friday off, in the hopes that a minor groin tweak stays minor. Price, for now, thinks he’ll be good to go in the opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
So much of the focus has been on Gillis and when he’ll play the Luongo card, but there was also some unsubstantiated talk this week that Los Angeles could move back-up goaltender Jonathan Bernier soon. That speculation made so little sense, it’s hard to give it any credence. L.A.’s starter in goal, Jonathan Quick, last year’s playoff MVP, is recovering from off-season back surgery.
Don’t the Kings need to wait and see how Quick holds up to the rigours of the 48-game season before ditching their insurance policy in goal? Kings coach Darryl Sutter – who along with general manager Dean Lombardi all officially received contract extensions Friday morning – likes to ride a single goalie hard, and he will do so with Quick if Quick stays healthy. Since nobody seems interested in offering up anything of consequence for Bernier anyway, there’s little be gained – and lots to be lost – by moving such an asset. The Kings’ response - to do nothing and wait to see what happens – mirrors how an uneventful week on the NHL trade front unfolded.
Regular or short season, it takes two to tango. Maybe the dominoes start to fall more swiftly once teams get their rosters set later this afternoon. But until you can find that elusive combination - a willing buyer and a willing seller – it’ll continue to be a slow go on the trade front.