Trade Deadline Day was a complete dud this year. And that's fine if the NHL doesn't mind that happening. But in such an event-driven league, perhaps it's time to make deadline day more of an event than it is.
Trade Deadline Day™ is slowly and painfully dying as a major event on the hockey calendar. If we needed anymore proof of that, this year’s dud provided it. When the players who didn’t get dealt are a bigger story than the ones who did, you know it’s been a rather underwhelming day.
There are a couple of reasons for that. One of them is that the smart GMs are getting their business done well in advance of deadline day now. The most significant deals were completed on the weekend, which indicates that GMs are getting smarter. They don’t want to cram for the final exam. GMs are much more savvy than they’ve ever been. Generally speaking, they don’t make panic moves anymore and as long as a guy like Stan Bowman is the standard-bearer for trades, there won’t be too many more of them made.
Another is that draft day has clearly usurped trade deadline day as a day for doing business for hockey departments. It’s clear those occupying front offices around the NHL have realized that the ground is much more fertile at that time of year. It’s a time when the season is over and the need to make a panic move is gone. It’s also a time when people running hockey teams can take a much broader and more reasoned approach to building their teams. It’s also much easier to justify making a trade when you know you have the player for at least a full season rather than a month down the stretch and the playoffs.
But most of all, it’s because everyone in hockey is assembled in the same place at the same time. It’s a lot easier to deal with another GM when all you have to do is walk across the draft floor or across the lobby bar at the hotel. (I once watched two GMs agree to a set of pre-season games over beers at a hotel bar in Europe in about 10 minutes and with one handshake. That same deal would have taken weeks if they’d left it to the phones and their underlings to do it.)
The NHL has to decide what it wants out of the trade deadline. If it indeed wants to create an enormous splash on the sporting landscape, it should probably re-think the way it has things structured at the moment. Everyone loves seeing trades and the buildup that leads to them. Nobody likes to see that Sergei Plotnikov was the only player dealt for the first four hours of deadline day.
That’s why your trusty correspondent has long advocated for the NHL to make deadline day an event. And a good way to do that would be to have a complete moratorium on trades for 10 days prior to the deadline, then make deadline day an event much like the draft where you assemble all 30 teams in one place and have them making deals on the floor right before the cameras and onlookers. No NHL games would be played that day so as to make the deals the focal point of hockey fans.
If the NHL is all right with most of the work being done prior to the deadline and at the draft, with the actual deadline day being a dud, which is fine if that’s the case, then the league needn’t do anything. But the league has become so event-driven with World Cups and outdoor games, so making trade deadline day an event would fit into its current philosophy.
Would creating a deadline day event have prompted Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman to trade Jonathan Drouin? Given Yzerman’s ability to dig his heels in, probably not. Would Dan Hamhuis have moved? Perhaps because if the Vancouver Canucks could have convinced Hamhuis he’d be coming back to a better team next season because of the return they might have received for him, it might have happened. Would PA Parenteau have moved, would Loui Eriksson have been dealt?
It’s impossible to say for sure. GMs aren’t about to make snap decisions because of circumstance, but there’s something about that environment that might bring out the wheelers and dealers. Suffice to say it would not have been the underwhelming event it was today. It couldn’t have possibly been more underwhelming. With a moratorium, at least all those deals that were done on the weekend and the days leading up to today would have been announced first thing in the morning instead of during the Oscars telecast.