The NHL’s holiday “trade freeze” goes into effect at midnight on Dec. 19 and going until Dec. 27.
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Ordinarily, this would be a time of year when there would be a stirring of trade activity, but as this season’s freeze approaches, there’s been nothing of note so far this week to report.
Not that there aren’t some NHL clubs shopping around for help for their struggling rosters as several general managers are certainly in the market.
Ottawa Senators GM Brian Murray has been seeking a physical defenseman and a scoring forward since October, but so far hasn’t found anything to his liking, recently telling the local media other teams are only interested in exchanging expensive, aging players for promising youngsters.
St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong was reportedly interested in Senators veteran winger Alex Kovalev. Having lost forwards T.J. Oshie, Andy McDonald and David Perron to injury, Armstrong was considering trade options to bolster his offense but any interest he had in Kovalev appeared merely cursory given the winger’s age, declining production and $5 million salary.
The struggling goaltending of the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning fueled rumors they could seek help between the pipes, speculation that was heightened by the return of Evgeni Nabokov from Russia’s KHL.
Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau, however, dismissed that possibility, telling the Washington media his team isn’t seeking another goaltender, while Lightning GM Steve Yzerman sounded non-committal about pursuing Nabokov.
The New Jersey Devils have needed help throughout their floundering lineup this season, but GM Lou Lamoriello hasn’t had any success finding a deal to halt his team’s tailspin. The fact he’s pressed against the salary cap doesn’t help matters.
Same goes for Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman, who recently admitted he’d like to bolster his team’s depth on defense and at center, but he lacks the cap space to do so. Of course, the salary cap was the reason Bowman lacks depth at those positions this season as he was forced to move eight players from his championship roster last summer to become cap compliant.
Adding a skilled puck-moving defenseman is high on the “to-do” list of the respective GMs of the San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets, but sadly there’s currently none available.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been in the market for scoring depth for weeks, but GM Brian Burke imposed his own holiday trade freeze commencing Dec. 9, so don’t expect any deals by the Leafs leading up to Dec. 19.
A rumor in last Sunday’s Ottawa Sun claimed the New York Islanders were concerned over the development of young star John Tavares and could seek a veteran scoring forward as his linemate. Quite frankly, there aren’t many of those to be had and any with “no-trade” or “no-movement” clauses won’t waive them to go to a directionless franchise like the Islanders.
The lack of significant player movement leading up to the holidays this season isn’t surprising as there’s simply too many teams with too little cap space able to make deals at this point in the schedule.
Those clubs that did make trades earlier this season for the most part negotiated swaps which were nearly “dollar-for-dollar” and as most general managers will admit, trades that can both fit under a salary cap and have a positive impact upon a roster are few and far between.
Forget about any blockbuster deals involving big-name players. The last time such a move occurred early in the season was five years ago when the Boston Bruins shipped Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks.
Deals this season involving “name” talent won’t occur until the weeks leading up to the Feb. 28 trade deadline, and as usual will involve non-playoff clubs shipping out impending free agents they either can’t or won’t re-sign to playoff contenders.
Unfortunately for most of the aforementioned teams, by that point it’ll be too late to find a deal that could help them make this season’s playoffs, meaning by that point they’ll switch from buyers into sellers.
Any trades that occur between now and Dec. 19 are likely to be those that address minor roster issues and certainly won’t involve marquee talent.