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Thoughts Before Trade Deadline...

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

Quick: name the four players most likely to be traded at or before the Feb. 27 deadline.

Okay, now name the four Beatles.

If you had less trouble with the first question than the second, you sir or madam are in the grip of trade deadline frenzy.

When Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets quietly gave his ascent to accepting the right offer he supercharged what had been a barren trading season.

Fans loyal to a host of franchises across the league will now watch until the very end to see whether their general manager can bring home the big fish.

Nash has a no-trade clause so he will navigate the destination and therefore the terms of any transfer. Still with competition sure to spiral in the days leading up to the deadline hanging on to Nash looks pointless for the Jackets.

It’s difficult to predict what kind of an impact Nash will have on the trade market. He might, for example, prompt GMs who own comparable players -Ryan Getzlaf and Carolina’s Eric Stall come to mind- to lower their demands. Conversely, GMs holding franchise players might reason that a lower return makes trading a front-line talent even less attractive.

Exactly who can be had is unquantifiable. From that summer day in 1988 when he was dealt from Edmonton to Los Angeles, phrases that began ‘Hell, if they can trade Wayne Gretzky…’ have underscored the notion that barring no-trade clauses everyone is available at the right price. By that reasoning so is the CN Tower.

If you want to understand the daily shadow dance that is the trade deadline, look west to Anaheim.

Ducks GM Bob Murray’s remarks that Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan were off his untouchables list is now old news. Murray’s Ducks have since caught fire since and the availability of any and all of those players is in doubt.

Misinformation is the common currency of trading season.  GMs understandably conduct their business as discreetly as possible. Abundant rumour always fills the gap created by a lack of real information.

For fans, it’s like an Easter egg hunt. It’s no fun if you find the egg too easily. If the parties manage a Dion Phaneuf-style trade with little inkling that such a deal was even possible, fans revel in the surprise and credit the canny GMs.

When a player is called up or when a regular goes missing from practice the Twitterscape goes nuclear, traffic surges on trade and salary websites and newspaper types grouse about one-sided trade rumours put forward by armchair GMs.  Everybody wins.

Trade talk, like hockey pools, increases the emotional investment of the fan in the team. It’s harmless unless you count the angst felt by players whose names consistently bob around. Even keeps a storinghouse of rumours.

The tremendous salary earned by NHLers does nothing to ease their anxiety at this time of year. Big paycheques do erase the scintilla of guilt fans might hold about reveling in speculation.

There is a little something to the idea that where there is smoke there necessarily is fire. All it takes is a glance at the standings and a quick toggle to CapGeek to find teams looking at a lengthy rebuild with high-priced talent who might be past their prime when the playoffs are revisited.

The Ducks seemed to be in that category. The Hurricanes and Blue Jackets surely are so it’s not unreasonable to suggest the Canes’ Tuomo Ruutu and defenceman Jaroslav Spacek will be moved although the always dependable ‘sources’ indicate the injured Ruutu is off the market.

Jeff Carter has been on the radar since management visited him at his cottage last summer to convince him to give the Midwest a try.  Perhaps you have heard  his contract is somewhat problematic.

Derek Roy and Ryan Miller have heard the rumours in Buffalo.  Many believe Philadelphia covets Nashville’s Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. The Flyers’ James van Riemsdyk likely sleeps with his bags by the door.

Locally, Luke Schenn and Nazem Kadri have been staples of trade talk. If you asked really nicely you might be able to pry Scott Gomez out of Montreal. To be fair, his name has most often been linked to an alternate reality league where players who score annually and will make $7.3 million for two more years are actually in demand.

One final caution. The two biggest names to switch teams last season were upper middle class players Jason Arnott and Dustin Penner. Like most confections, trade deadline day leaves you feeling a little silly after you indulge.

Instead, consider trade talk as you would an upcoming vacation. By giving fans something to look forward to in the bleak midwinter, the thing has paid for itself before anyone gets on the plane.

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