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Trade Deadline Primer with NHL Network Insider Jay Feaster

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
With the NHL’s Trade Deadline approaching on March 3, spoke with former NHL Stanley Cup winning General Manager -- and current NHL Network insider and Hockey News blogger -- Jay Feaster. Feaster was GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2002 through 2008, guiding the Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup.

How busy is Deadline Day as a GM? How much of what goes on during Deadline Day is the result of conversations in the weeks leading up to the deadline?
It’s more the culmination of a couple weeks worth of work. You really start laying the foundation for deals well ahead of time. It used to be that the heart and soul of trade talks would get going during the mid-Winter GM meetings – that meeting has historically taken place prior to the Deadline, typically two or three weeks before. This year is different because of the Olympics, but that’s usually where you start to have conversations. You get together after a meeting and wander off with another GM and have those “what are you looking to do?” “what are you in the market for?” type of conversations. You at least start to plant the seeds. When you got back from the meetings you’d follow up with calls. On deadline day you really are scrambling to try to get the leads you have advanced to try to come to fruition.

How much has the salary cap changed the Trade Deadline? Do GMs need to take a different approach now or is it still pretty much the same?
I think it does change. Teams have to be constantly monitoring not only their own cap situation, but how much cap room others teams have; figure out who might be a logical team to take on a player or who has cap issues and may have to clean things up. That factors in to offers in a big way.

The other thing that has changed, is it’s very rare to see just a “hockey move” any more. You look at a team like Toronto. (Maple Leafs GM Brian) Burke has made it very clear: “we have cap room and we’re willing to take back salary and park cap hits.” Now if you’re a team competing with that, you may be able to put together a hockey deal that you think makes sense – and in past circumstances would work – but now you factor in cap considerations and you might get blown out of the water if the other team you’re talking has another offer that allows them to clear more cap room. Your trade partner might be more excited to clear cap space than they are to add a player. The cap has created a different way managers have to evaluate their options.

Does the Olympic Break – and the fact that the Deadline is so soon after the return from the Break – change the dynamics of the Trade Deadline?
I think that it will. I think it’s really a combination of three things. The Olympic Break itself; the freeze on trades during the Olympic Break; and the lack of the mid-Winter Meetings. Not every GM is going to go to the Olympics like they would the GM meetings, so you won’t have that group all together like past seasons with the meetings. That cuts down opportunity for that face-to-face interaction. It’s going to be interesting to see just how much you can advance things just based on phone calls. The GMs are going to have to be ready to go when the trade freeze is lifted, because they only have a couple days after then.

Everyone wants to make there team better at the Deadline, how much risk is there in adding the wrong piece and messing up your team’s chemistry? How do you balance that risk/reward?
I think that’s something as a manager you really have to weigh. You have to have a good handle and a good read on your team. When I was in Tampa, John Tortorella was our head coach and I always believed that chemistry was so important. And that fit with Torts’ coaching style where everybody is equal and it’s all about the team; his belief that no player regardless of his skill level is bigger than the team. So it’s always a risk. If you bring someone in who might be a highly skilled guy, but might like to go his own way, all of a sudden it does negatively impact the other guys in the locker room.

I look back when we had our greatest success in Tampa in 2004, the guy we brought in was Darryl Sydor. I don’t think there’s a better team guy out there than Syd. To have a guy like that come in – where he’s trying to fit in, he’s not trying to take over and take anybody’s spot – that’s a real positive to have come in to your room.

But I think it comes down to each General Manager. He has to know his coach and know his team and his leadership. Your team’s current leadership is another aspect, if you have strong veteran influence, the chances of a player coming in and being a negative influence are lessened by the leadership already in place. If you’re a young team, though, maybe your room is more impressionable and if you bring the wrong guy in, that could be a real negative for you.

I think it’s a real delicate balance and sometimes I don’t think that fans and even some owners fully understand just how negative it can be. The perception is if we can get this superstar let’s do it, let’s rent this player and you don’t always think about the implications within in the locker room.

Does it help to have a situation, like Nashville, where David Poile and Barry Trotz have worked together for so long?
I think it does. I think Nashville for me is the perfect example of the kind of success you can have – and a year-in-year-out type of success – when you have a General Manager and a Head Coach on the same page. I think Barry and his staff do a phenomenal job helping players continue to develop, continue to get better, reach their maximum potential. And they put players in situations where they can succeed and draw the best out of them. Most years when you look at the roster, you don’t say, “that team’s going to be in the thick of it at the end.” And yet Barry and his staff always find a way. And once again this year, it’s so tight in the West, but I look at a team in Nashville – unlike some of the teams chasing it that have excellent records at home but are so-so on the road – that has an above .500 points percentage both at home and on the road. I think that just speaks to the consistency of that hockey club.

Of specific interest here in Nashville, what Western Conference teams would anticipate being busy at the Deadline?
I don’t know how successful teams will be at doing what they want to do – a lot of times you’re actively trying but can’t find a team to partner up with or can’t find that right fit. I think a lot of attention will be paid to a few teams just ahead of Nashville – L.A. and Vancouver – and the teams right behind Nashville – Calgary, Detroit, Dallas, and the wild card of Anaheim. Every team looks to do something one way or the other around the deadline, but when I look at the impact of the deadline on Nashville, it’s those teams.

I think the Kings this year, because of their resurgence this season, I think they’ll be active around the deadline. I think it will be interesting to see what Phoenix does. If you would have talked to (Coyotes GM) Don Maloney at the beginning of the season, I’m not sure he would thought he would be in the position he’s in right now. So what do they look to do? Do they try to take a run? How close do they think they are; with things being wide open maybe they feel if they add the right piece they can make a run to Conference Finals?

Vancouver, in my mind, has to do something. I still think that’s a team that needs some secondary scoring; they’re learning that now as the Sedin twins have hit a lull. Calgary has already tried to do something, so I don’t know how many moves they have left. Detroit always tries to improve its team, but the big questions for them are when do they get healthy and do they look at that as their deadline additions?

I think a big factor out there will be Dallas. Now that they’ve made the trade and acquired (goaltender Kari) Lehtonen, in my mind that means Marty Turco is out of there by the deadline; I don’t see too many teams that want to carry three goaltenders. And then it becomes an issue of what can they get back; do they bring back roster players who can give them a push this year?

This year the Preds have been strong five-on-five, but have struggled on special teams. Coach Trotz has been quoted as stating a desire to fix those areas. Is there anyone out there “on the block” that may help with special teams?
That will be interesting to see which players may be made available by teams. It’s funny, typically what you hear are the bigger names; it’s not those role-player-kind of guys that you necessarily hear about in advance, but man, when you find the right one he can really improve your team. Typically those guys aren’t making big money so teams looking to sell maybe aren’t “pushing” to move them as hard as some of the bigger money guys. And if you’re not sure if you can make the playoffs or not, maybe it’s easier to hedge your bets and keep a role player like that around, than it is to keep a big name guy.

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