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Call GM meetings an incubator for deals

by Dan Rosen and Shawn Roarke

Edmonton Oilers General Manager Kevin Lowe acknowledges that the NHL GM meetings can be a catalyst for trades.
NAPLES, Fla. -- The common notion that the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort here will devolve into a swap meet of players during the 72 hours of NHL GM meetings is a wee bit misguided, it seems.

”I think the media blows it out a little bit,” said Kevin Lowe, the general manager of the Edmonton Oilers.

But the media isn’t all that far off, either. After all, it’s hard not to talk business -- especially trades -- when surrounded by the game’s 29 other general managers.

“Having said that, I think it is a bit of an incubator for seedlings of ideas (for trades),” Lowe said. “You’re just sitting around and, I guess, if you put the 30 general managers anywhere, that would be the case, not just at the deadline. But the fact that it’s close to the deadline impacts (the discussions).”

And, there are discussions all day and all night, says Brian Burke, the GM of the Anaheim Ducks.

“There a lot of people working a lot of different angles,” he said. “You got hockey trades that are possible, and then you have to deal with all the rental scenarios that are very different.

“It is a big swap meet here right now. My impression, though, is that a lot of seeds get planted here. The deals themselves aren’t consummated here, but a lot of stuff gets done that leads to deals getting done shortly after everyone leaves.”

Detroit’s Ken Holland preaches a similar tune.

“Well, obviously, there is going to be lots of discussion here, but I still think most of the things that will happen will happen closer to Tuesday, maybe starting on the weekend,” Holland said. “Out of 30 teams, probably 26 or 27 still think they have a chance to make the playoffs. You get another week, another two or three games under the schedule -- a two-game losing streak, and maybe they become sellers. I’ve had a few conversations and certainly hope to have a few more conversations over the next couple of days.”

That’s the beauty of being here in Naples. The GMs are taking advantage of face time, happy to not have to play phone tag with prospective trade partners.

“It’s easier here,” Burke says. “You can just say to a guy; ‘Hey, let’s step outside.’ It’s just proximity.”

But the face-to-face aspect also has its drawbacks. Only the most discrete GM can get away with talking to another without rivals noticing.

“It is the most immature group you have ever seen in your life in some respects,” laughed Burke. “I do, I watch them all like a hawk, and I get paranoid right away. I see Cliff (Fletcher, Toronto’s interim GM) go outside with this guy, and I wonder what they got going.

“It’s ridiculous. I’m just as guilty, believe me. I’m not throwing a stone when I say that. We’re all paranoid.”

Respectful response -- Monday’s big news regarding Peter Forsberg’s decision not to return to the NHL elicited a classy response by Brian Burke, whose team was never in the running for the Swedish star’s services anyway.

“I had the impression that he was having trouble getting comfortable enough to play. He could have come over and passed a physical and gotten someone for pretty good dough, and to his credit, my understanding is he doesn’t feel physically comfortable to play,” Burke said. “He’s been a warrior in our League and it was an honest way to do deal with this. It confirms my feeling that Peter Forsberg is a pretty quality guy.”

Wanted man -- The hoard of media surrounding Toronto interim GM Cliff Fletcher on Monday wasn’t surprising. Fletcher is, after all, trying to lead the Leafs out of one of their most turbulent times ever and everybody wants to know what he is going to do.

The problem? Even Fletcher can’t tell you what he’s going to do because all the trading pieces he could have in his grasp -- Mats Sundin, Tomas Kaberle, Darcy Tucker, Pavel Kubina, and Bryan McCabe -- control their own fate with no-trade clauses.

While Fletcher said nothing is stopping him from approaching any of the aforementioned players about waiving their no-trade clauses, he hasn’t done so yet.

“If I was going to ask them I would be going to them with something tangible that they can evaluate,” Fletcher said.

Out of 30 teams, probably 26 or 27 still think they have a chance to make the playoffs. You get another week, another two or three games under the schedule -- a two-game losing streak, and maybe they become sellers. - Ken Holland

No-trade, no way -- On the same topic of the no-trade clause, the always opinionated Brian Burke had this to say about his feelings toward them: “They were really a rarity, and now they’re more and more prevalent,” Burke said. “I’m not saying I’d never give them. It’s something that is going to happen in the future for us, but I don’t like them and I’m going to try to stay away from them as best as I can.”

How do you react? -- Nashville GM David Poile believes when the first Western Conference contender makes a move the domino effect could start.

When that happens remains a mystery.

“The top three teams are Anaheim, Detroit and Dallas or San Jose and if one of them makes a significant move you’re talking about the domino effect,” Poile said. “Last year at this time we moved out ahead of everybody else with the (Peter) Forsberg deal, and that’s a huge reason why you saw so many more significant trades. They were saying; ‘Nashville is here, and we have to keep up.”

But Anaheim’s Brian Burke, who holds a key trading chip in Edmonton’s first-round pick, which could wind up being a top five selection, said he will not be reactionary. He wasn’t last season when Detroit and Nashville made big splashes, and the Ducks wound up winning the Stanley Cup anyway.

”It’s going to make sense or it’s not. It doesn’t matter what other teams around us do,” said Burke, who maintains that if the Oilers pick is a top seven selection that he won’t trade it. “Last year there was a great deal of activity in the West. We didn’t do much and we still had some success.”

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