Only one team ever truly “wins” trade deadline day, and it’s the team that goes on to capture the Stanley Cup.
That’s what they say, anyway. It seems like a pretty simplistic way of looking at things, if we’re being honest, since all a GM can ever be realistically asked to do is to put his team in the best possible position to win. Nothing is ever guaranteed in life, and the idea that you’re retroactively wrong to have even tried unless everything works out perfectly seems a little fatalistic.
But either way, there is something special to be said for the GM who swings for the fences at the deadline and then sees it all pay off in a Stanley Cup parade a few months later. So today, let’s give the spotlight over to the few who’ve managed to pull it off. Here are the five best trade deadline week hauls by teams that went on to win the Stanley Cup that same season.
The Vancouver Canucks have unloaded 2013 first-rounder Hunter Shinkaruk in a deal that brings center Markus Granlund from rival Calgary. Shinkaruk grew up as a Flames fan, so he’s excited – but which team won this deal?
You might be surprised that there is absolutely nothing – nada, zippo, zilch – the NHL can do about a team tanking its season. There is not a single league by-law that mandates roster quality in any way, shape or form. And there is nothing the league can do to veto any trade if that deal is made within the confines of the salary cap.
“So if the Toronto Maple Leafs want to trade their three best players for a bag of pucks,” said one NHL GM, “as long as those pucks are standard size and the team is salary cap compliant, there’s nothing the league can do.”
There’s still one week remaining before the trade deadline, but the Maple Leafs are already getting their fire sale started. First, Toronto completed a deal to ship Shawn Matthias to the Colorado Avalanche, and now Maple Leafs fans can say goodbye to Roman Polak and Nick Spaling, as both have been dealt to the San Jose Sharks.
In the early hours of Monday morning, the Maple Leafs announced they’ve traded Polak and Spaling to the Sharks for second-round picks in 2017 and 2018, as well as veteran winger Raffi Torres.
Aside from the Maple Leafs bringing on Torres, nothing about the trade is too surprising. Toronto has plenty of expiring contracts, most of which are expected to be moved at or near the deadline. Both Polak and Spaling, like Matthias, are set to become unrestricted free agents at season’s end. Read more
The father of the Flint Firebirds top scorer this season said his son will not return next season if the Ontario League does not do something about Firebirds owner Rolf Nilsen. Michael Bitten, the father of Firebirds leading scorer Will Bitten, said his son would have probably left the team immediately, but has been advised by his agent to remain with the team for the rest of this season.
But Michael Bitten said there is “no way” his son will return to the Firebirds next season if Nilsen still owns the team. “If there are not changes there, my son will not go back, and I don’t think many others would as well,” Michael Bitten said. “It’s probably out of (OHL commissioner) David Branch’s control to a certain extent, but he must have the power to rectify it and I don’t know what that is. But surely they have to take this team away from that man. How can you go on long-term?”
With the trade deadline less than two weeks away and the rumor mill churning at full speed, hockey fans are dreaming of all the potential blockbusters that could be on the way.
Chances are, we won’t get any. The true blockbuster trade is a dying art in the NHL, as the salary cap, no-trade clauses and league-wide parity have rendered them all but obsolete. Instead, fans are left to look back fondly on past eras, when it wasn’t uncommon to see a future Hall of Famer or two swap teams in a jaw-dropping deal.
But while the superstars get all the attention, there’s another important piece that shows up in most major blockbusters, even if it usually passes by without much notice. It’s the throw-in – that depth player or backup goaltender who gets tossed into the deal to balance it out. He’s the guy who makes the trade work, the handful of spare change that evens out the ledger. And you may even get a glimpse of him, quietly cleaning out his locker in the background as the media crowds around the bigger names.
If the Tampa Bay Lightning are all in…they better be all in.
They made a resounding statement Monday when GM Steve Yzerman announced captain Steven Stamkos, hockey’s most talked-about free agent to be, would not be traded before the Feb. 29 deadline. Retaining ‘Stammer’ obviously buys the Bolts more time to negotiate a new long-term contract with their star – and to improve on the lowball offer they reportedly made, which would’ve paid Stamkos $8.5 million annually. To anyone believing Tampa still has a shot to retain him, Monday’s news is reason for hope.
More importantly, though, standing pat on Stamkos gives Tampa the best chance possible to compete for and win the Stanley Cup this June. Whatever great return Stamkos might have netted in a trade, it’s doubtful that package would’ve made the Bolts better in the short term. Stamkos allows the Lightning to be the best Lightning right this second. He’s like an unrestricted free agent rental they just acquired without surrendering assets.
The Toronto Marlies have a luxury not many, if any, teams in the American League enjoy. When the parent team is out of town, the Marlies have access to two ice surfaces in the same building. And they use them. At one point during practice, coach Sheldon Keefe splits the groups up, with one going to one rink for skill development, the other on another sheet working on systems.
And what exactly does that have to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs acquiring prospect Tobias Lindberg in the trade with the Ottawa Senators for Dion Phaneuf? Actually, quite a bit. Because how Lindberg develops under the watchful eye of Keefe will go a long way to determining how good he’ll be as an NHL player. And how good he’ll be as an NHL player will go a long way to ultimately deciding how well the Leafs did in the trade.