Deadline Decisions: Can buyers afford to wait?


Buffalo Sabres right winger Chris Stewart. (Gary Wiepert/AP)

The good news, for all those who believe the NHL trade deadline should be a national holiday in Canada, is that there are still pieces to be moved.

The scary news is the number of those pieces is dwindling. Fast.

There was activity galore on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, deals that would have been much more dramatic had NHL clubs waited until Monday. Instead, there seems to be a greater appetite this year to get transactions completed well in advance of the deadline, and perhaps a recognition that teams are more likely to make a big error if they wait until the final hours than land a big fish.

That said, wasn’t it just last year that 20 trades were made on March 5, including ones involving Martin St. Louis and Tomas Vanek, and another involving Marian Gaborik that might have made the difference for the L.A. Kings as they won their second Stanley Cup in three years?

Two years ago, there were 17 trades on the final day. Three years ago 15, and four years ago 16.

This year? Here at Sportsnet, we’re starting to get a little nervous as to exactly what our cast of thousands will be doing on Monday. Thank goodness for the ping pong table in the hall.

Then again, Buffalo still has Chris Stewart to move. Jersey might still be dangling Marek Zidlicky, Michael Ryder and Jaromir Jagr. The Leafs are throwing all available bodies overboard.

Calgary may have to peddle Curtis Glencross and Karri Ramo. We know Jeff Petry is going to be moved out of Edmonton, and ditto for Zbynek Michalek and Arizona. The Coyotes also still could move Antoine Vermette, and seem likely to.

Florida has UFAs to be Tomas Kopecky, Scottie Upshall and Tomas Fleischmann. The Flyers have backliners to move if they so choose. Columbus has both forwards and defenders available.

Then there’s the injuries that have cropped up over the last week. Boston won’t have David Krejci (knee) to help their playoff push for at least a month, and a busted collarbone has put Chicago’s Patrick Kane on the shelf for three months, but also given the cap-constricted Hawks a sudden opportunity to spend.

Ryan Miller’s sore knee will keep him out 4-6 weeks, and Calgary’s ace defenceman, Mark Giordano, went down Wednesday with an undisclosed injury that sent Flames fans to bed very nervous indeed. And did we mention Tyler Seguin’s still out?

Add all those players and those circumstances together, and there’s still lots that may happen before Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline.

Then again, if Vermette’s the big prize left, as he appears to be, this could be like March, 1993 when veteran winger Murray Craven was the star acquisition of deadline day and only nine swaps were made.

But let’s hope for more, shall we?

Wednesday was a very intriguing day, with both Pittsburgh and the Kings making moves to shore up their playoff chances, and with Carolina GM Ron Francis choosing to move both of the players most had expected him to move well in advance of the deadline.

The Kings got defenceman Andrej Sekera from the Canes to fill in for Slava Yoynov, who may or may not be back this season. They gave up a lottery protected first rounder and blueline prospect Roland McKeown, a seemingly hefty price that might make us all re-examine Sekera’s value as an NHLer.

We know he played for Kings assistant GM Mike Futa in Owen Sound. Could the Kings have hit a home run for the second consecutive year near the deadline?

The Penguins got Daniel Winnik from Toronto, a very useful player. With no first rounder this year to offer, they gave up a second next year, a fourth this year and forward Zach Sill, plus the Leafs retained 50 per cent of Winnik’s salary.

After getting a first, prospect Brendan Leipsic and the soon-to-be-jettisoned Olli Jokinen from Nashville for Mike Santorelli and Cody Franson, that about does it for Toronto’s UFAs-in-waiting. Now we’ll see if they want to dig deeper and try to move players with term, or wait until summer to do the heavy lifting.

After moving Sekera, Francis peddled winger Jiri Tlusty to the Winnipeg Jets where he’ll help fill the void left behind by the injured Mathieu Perreault. GM Kevin Chevaldayoff has added Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford and Tlusty to his roster in recent days as the Jets push hard for the post-season.

What else, let’s see. Oh yes. Lots more. Kyle Clifford signed a five-year deal with the Kings, Buffalo goalie Michael Neuvirth made history by being fined for diving, the NCAA free agent market is heating up with lots of eyes on Boston University goalie Matt O’Connor and presumptive No. 1 draft pick Connor McDavid is managing to out-pace the numbers Sidney Crosby put up in his draft eligible season.

No wonder the drive to 30th is getting as heated as the ill will between Eric Lindros and Paul Stewart.

Layer all that on top of Jiri Sekac-for-Devante Smith-Pelly, Minnesota adding Sean Bergenheim from the Panthers and Nick Leddy getting a seven-year contract from the Islanders, all of which happened on Tuesday, and you can see there’s lots happening that will impact these playoffs and beyond.

And there’s still five days to go. Pace yourselves boys, please.

I’m not that good at ping pong.

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