Johnston on Deadline Day: Too many buyers

Jason Pominville netted the Sabres a decent gain. (CP/Nathan Denette)
April 3, 2013, 8:13 PM

TORONTO – Full disclosure: Our 10 hours of wall-to-wall coverage during trade deadline day came with some comical moments.

And yes, most of them were unintentional.

It was a few hours into a morning that included no moves — not one — when this reporter accidentally dropped a notepad on set and had host Daren Millard stop mid-sentence to say: “There appears to be some action over at our insider’s desk. What do you got, Chris?”

Oops.

Let’s excuse Millard for this one. He was by far the busiest man in our stable until an afternoon flurry of activity miraculously bumped the total number of deals to 17, which is actually a little higher than the total each of the last two years.

There might never have been a deadline as challenging as this one for NHL general managers, at least not in the last 15 years or so. Believe me, there are more than a few of them who wanted to be more active than they were.

However, with the salary cap set to drop to $64.3 million next season and only a dozen or so games for each team to play in a shortened schedule, the market was narrowed considerably.

“Today was the end of the most difficult trade period I’ve been through in hockey,” Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told reporters Wednesday.

Part of that was due to the number of big moves made in advance of the deadline, with Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Jay Bouwmeester, Jaromir Jagr and Ryane Clowe among the players who were snatched up early.

But the comment also spoke to something a little deeper.

There really weren’t many sellers — Calgary, Dallas and Buffalo notwithstanding — and that was driven by the tight standings and shortened season. Those that chose to peddle assets were handsomely rewarded.

Had it been another season, it’s likely that the Sabres wouldn’t have parted with captain Jason Pominville. Yet once GM Darcy Regier waded into that discussion he felt he had almost no choice but to pull the trigger.

The Minnesota Wild, a motivated buyer if there ever was one, surrendered a first-round pick, second-round pick and prospects Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett to land Pominville.

“More teams were looking to buy than sell,” Regier said. “I think we did recognize it as an opportunity. And honestly, when I entered it, Jason Pominville may have been at the bottom of the list of players I wanted to move.”

With no action happening early in the day, there was a temptation for some to conclude that the deadline has become more of a dudline. After all, it was just three years ago that 31 moves were made on the final day of activity.

Be careful.

The guess here is that this was more of an anomaly than a trend. Keep in mind that by the time we reconvene for the 2014 trade deadline we’ll likely know that the 2014-15 salary cap is on the rise and GMs will have been given a proper amount of time to decide if they are a buyer or a seller.

Even on a day that saw Pominville and Marian Gaborik dealt, the most interesting thing that happened Wednesday was the press conference Roberto Luongo gave after the Vancouver Canucks failed to complete a deal to send him to Toronto.

The veteran goaltender bared his soul — something GM Mike Gillis was quick to point out when he took the podium shortly afterwards — after finding out that he wouldn’t get a chance to continue his career elsewhere.

In this economic system with so much focus on the salary cap, there were no takers for Luongo and the remaining nine years on his deal.

“We’ve had discussions with five teams over the past six months,” said Gillis. “Since we signed the contract there have been significant changes (to the industry). At the time (the contract) was done it was very favourable for this organization (and) Roberto.

“Since, there have been a number of changes. It’s a fluid industry.”

It’s a fluid industry and it will remain that way.

I’m willing to bet that next year’s trade deadline will come with plenty of deals — and probably a few more laughs at our expense.

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