Chris Pronger being traded from Anaheim to Philadelphia is the biggest deal of the off-season so far. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Since the Pittsburgh Penguins hoisted the Stanley Cup June 12, there have been 23 NHL trades involving 51 players and 18 draft picks – a little below average for a post-lockout off-season, but not a bad amount of action in a salary cap world.
But what is lamentable is the lack of big-name trades in the salary cap world. During the four summers since the lockout ended, the biggest name to be moved is Roberto Luongo, from Florida to Vancouver in a lopsided deal that will only get worse for the Panthers if 2008-09 Kontinental League scoring champion (and the sixth-round pick included in that trade) Sergei Shirokov makes an impact for the Canucks this season.
Chris Pronger is next. In July 2006, he went from Edmonton to Anaheim for Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, a first-rounder, a second-rounder and a conditional first-rounder. This summer, Pronger was traded from Anaheim along with minor-leaguer Ryan Dingle to Philadelphia for Lupul (again), Luca Sbisa, two first-rounders and a conditional third-rounder.
Summer 2006 also saw Martin Havlat traded from Ottawa to Chicago, Alex Tanguay to Calgary from Colorado and Pavol Demitra moved from Los Angeles to Minnesota.
The hot months of 2007 were especially slow in the big-name trade department, with Tomas Vokoun being the biggest – he went from Nashville to Florida.
Summer 2008 had some more prominent names changing addresses. Olli Jokinen moved from Florida to Phoenix, Mike Cammalleri from L.A. to Calgary, Lubomir Visnovsky from Hollywood to Edmonton and Tanguay from Stampede Central to Montreal.
This summer has been about as exciting, trade-wise. Other than Pronger, the biggest name to move was Jay Bouwmeester – and he went for just Jordan Leopold and a third-rounder. (Former Cats GM Jacques Martin left to coach Montreal at the beginning of June, before that deal was made. No wonder; not moving Jay-Bo at the deadline was preposterous.)
Next on the 2009 summer list: Scott Gomez, he of the $7.4-million cap hit and 45 total goals the past three seasons. Then Ryan Smyth (Ryan Smyth!). After that we’re into Pavel Kubina and Christian Ehrhoff territory, not exactly names that’ll blow you off your couch.
None of them are, really.
And that’s too bad, because although the draft and unrestricted free agency offer some respite from the summer blues, blockbuster trades have always been the real tonic for hockey-starved fans.
Now, there’s not a huge history of summer blockbusters, but a quick glance through some randomly chosen NHL Guide & Record Books from years past offered a glimpse of what it was like before the lockout.
Some of the names traded during the summer of 1990 included: Dale Hawerchuk, Phil Housley, Joe Mullen, Denis Savard, Chris Chelios, Ray Sheppard, Geoff Courtnall and Bobby Smith.
And in 2001: Joe Juneau, the-yet-to-be-a-stud Zdeno Chara, Alexei Yashin, Mike Peca, Tim Connolly, Dominik Hasek, Doug Weight, Jaromir Jagr and Eric Lindros.
Two summers 11 years apart, both of which put the four post-lockout summers to shame.
While I don’t have a problem with the salary cap per se, I think no-trade and no-movement clauses are for the birds – and the real reason why big names are now traded so infrequently. Teams simply can’t make moves to better themselves (or worsen themselves, depending on the GM) without the approval from any NHL player worth his salt; GMs are, essentially, handcuffed by their own personnel.
That’s why I hope to at least see some limitations put into place on no-movement clauses during the next round of collective bargaining sessions. Put some intrigue back into the off-season. Let GMs create some buzz and excitement after July 1. Give hope back to the fans of teams who just can’t seem to get out from under a player or two. Make the summer exciting again. (Remember Gretzky to L.A. in ’88?)
At the very least, it would feed the beast that is my Tuesday summer blog.
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