There hasn't been much early-season action on the trade market, but that's due to so many teams being in contention. If things look bleak near the end of November, NHL GMs are going to start looking at the moves they may need to make.
Since the implementation of the salary cap in 2005, early-season NHL trades have become rare. Even the ability for teams to absorb part of a player's salary failed to spark an increase in player movement during a season's opening weeks.
That partially explains why it took a month for this regular season's first trade to occur, when the Dallas Stars shipped aging defenseman Sergei Gonchar to the Montreal Canadiens for forward Travis Moen. Since that deal there's anticipation over when the next NHL trade will take place.
Last weekend, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch speculated NHL trade activity could increase around American Thanksgiving (November 27). He cited a league executive claiming some general managers get nervous around that time over their playoff chances.
SI.com hockey columnists Allan Muir, Brian Cazeneuve and Sarah Kwak offered up their respective views on which teams could be next to pull the trigger. Among the teams mentioned were the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals. Muir also speculates the Stars aren't done dealing.
Most of the teams discussed by the SI.com roundtable are currently sitting outside the playoff picture, but it remains to be seen if they'll actively pursue trades at this point in the season.
The rebuilding Sabres are a fixture in the rumor mill, particularly defenseman Tyler Myers and right wing Chris Stewart. However, Sabres GM Tim Murray reportedly seeks high draft picks, top prospects and promising young players.
He won't get those returns this early in the season. There's no trade Murray can make to save his team's season, so he can afford to be patient and wait for a team to become desperate enough to meet his asking prices for Myers and Stewart.
While the Colorado Avalanche's poor early-season performance has garnered considerable attention, they're unlikely to make a major deal right now. The Denver Post's Adrian Dater recently spoke with GM Joe Sakic and has the impression Sakic isn't burning up the phone lines pursuing a deal. The Avalanche's poor defensive and puck possession numbers appear more of a coaching issue than a talent one, which isn't likely to improve with a trade.
The Capitals, Flyers, Rangers and Hurricanes aren't that far out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. Ditto the Stars, Oilers and Coyotes in the Western Conference. As long as these clubs don't slide further down the standings they can risk remaining patient with their current rosters.
Injuries have taken a serious early-season toll upon the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their best hope for improvement lies not in the trade market, but upon getting as many of their sidelined players back as quickly as possible.
Things should become clearer on the trade front by the end of November. A lack of improvement by some of these currently-struggling teams by that point could push their general managers into the trade market.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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