In his most recent 31 Thoughts article, Elliotte Friedman noted that he spoke with a current NHL general manager who was doing a lot of research, going back many years, in respect to what successful NHL teams are doing as they approach the trade deadline.
The NHL Trade Deadline is a much-anticipated time of year for fans, GM’s and players because a lot of action takes place. But, are big moves or a high amount of moves something that the most successful, Stanley Cup teams are doing?
Tampa Bay GM Julien BriseBois referenced a personal study of the last 10 deadlines and while he wouldn’t share of the results of what he uncovered with Friedman, the Sportsnet broadcaster and NHL Insider figured the topic was interesting enough to take a look on his own.
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What Did Friedman Discover?
“First: the trend is moving away from late-season blockbusters,” Friedman wrote. He cited the Pittsburgh Penguins trade for Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz in 2009 and the radical surgery they performed in 2016 as the last of the major shakeups.
From there, Friedman pointed out that the “last three Stanley Cup champions tinkered.” The 2017 Penguins added Ron Hainsey and Mark Streit but gave up only an AHL player, a second and a fourth. He then discussed the 2018 Capitals who gave up a third-rounder for Michal Kempny. As well, the 2019 Blues’ in-season trades that weren’t involving big-name players at all.
Few NHL First-Rounders Moved
Second, Friedman noted that successful teams are veering away from moving first-round draft picks. Only one champion in the last seven years — the 2015 Blackhawks, did so when they added Antoine Vermette.
Prior to that, you’d have to trace all the way back to the Boston Bruins in 2011, and the Kings in 2012 to find any team willing to give up what seems to be deemed the most valuable asset in hockey these days. When you consider how the NHL Draft Lottery works and has become more favorable to more teams who don’t finish dead last, that’s not surprising.
There have been first-rounders moved in the past and for players who contributed to championship teams, they just weren’t done at the trade deadline. One GM said, “I would bet that Julien is looking at the draft, and seeing how many other first-rounders were traded for players who didn’t make enough of a difference.” With the Lightning not where they would normally be this season, it’s a pretty big gamble if Tampa were to pull the trigger and move a first-rounder. They could end up giving away a lottery pick if things don’t work out.
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Big NHL Trades Are a Risk for Many Teams
With every team that decides not to pull the trigger on a big deal (Edmonton has already said they won’t move a first-rounder to get in) there are teams that swing for the fences. Friedman noted situations like last year’s Columbus Blue Jackets who went for it all and bombed out of the playoffs and then couldn’t keep most of the assets they acquired. Or, already, this year’s Arizona Coyotes seem to be willing to give it a shot by adding Taylor Hall.
There’s a fine line between showing your players you’re willing to do what’s needed to give them the best shot to get in and mortgaging your future when you know the odds aren’t stacked in your favor based on the history of what successful NHL franchises have done on their way to a Stanley Cup.
I guess, in the end, you have to decide which team you are and how willing you’ll be to take that risk when the time comes. Sometimes, the incentive and attractiveness of a bit-time trade is too much to resist. We see that all the time.
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