PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Eventually, something has to give.
What became clear as the NHL’s draft weekend came and went with only one major trade is the fact a wide gap remains between buyers and sellers. There’s no doubt a number of NHL teams could use a Rick Nash or Roberto Luongo, but not at the prices currently being asked.
Of course, any team looking to move a former franchise player isn’t simply going to give him away either.
“(We had) lots of discussion, but I think it’s really challenging to make trades,” Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis said Saturday. “This is a complex (collective bargaining) agreement that everyone operates under and it will get more complex. It’s hard to find partners to make trades.”
Yet two big deals were made, with one coming during the draft and another shortly after.
Pittsburgh sent Jordan Staal to Carolina for Brandon Sutter, the eighth overall draft pick and a prospect.
Then after the draft ended Toronto traded defenceman Luke Schenn to Philadelphia for forward James Van Riemsdyk.
Gillis pointed out that a number of unique factors existed around that Penguins-Hurricanes deal, which was hammered out by Ray Shero and Jim Rutherford in a matter of hours. Both general managers knew Staal was anxious to play with his brother Eric in Raleigh, N.C., and that gave both plenty of motivation to sit down together in Shero’s office on Friday night and talk seriously.
“You need a bunch of different synergy from a bunch of different places (to make a deal),” said Gillis. “Both of those teams feel like they’re close, good players went both ways and they filled needs that they both have. That can happen in five minutes in this business.
“The right person, the right time, it can occur.”
There was precious little evidence of that elsewhere on the draft floor at Consol Energy Center.
Scott Howson tried to deal Nash before the trade deadline in February and arrived in Pittsburgh hopeful that it might happen here. However, the Blue Jackets GM didn’t end up getting even close to completing a move involving his captain.
With a thin free agent class set to hit the market on July 1, Nash might become an easier commodity to move, particularly once a few teams interested in Zach Parise find out he’s going elsewhere.
“I think we’ll have some more certainty then,” said Howson.
The Luongo situation also bears watching. Gillis reiterated Saturday that there’s still a chance he could have Luongo and Cory Schneider as a tandem again next season—a scenario that would almost certainly be uncomfortable for both men.
Florida and Toronto are the two destinations that make the most sense for Luongo, but the managers of both teams balked at the Canucks demands.
“From my perspective, the prices that are being asked have to be reasonable,” said Leafs GM Brian Burke. “If you can get a goaltender that makes you better and it costs you 15 first-round picks, would you do it? No. So somewhere between 15 first-round picks and something that makes sense, we’re not there yet.
“My comments are that I’m not going to overpay to upgrade at that position. I’m not happy with what’s being asked.”
Those comments were virtually mirrored by Panthers GM Dale Tallon, who acknowledged speaking with the Canucks about goaltending over the weekend. Luongo, who was drafted by the New York Islanders in 1997, was traded to Florida in 2000 and still has strong ties to that community.
“We made inquiries into possible deals, but in every situation it was giving up some of our top prospects,” said Tallon. “And we weren’t prepared to do that. We’ve got to be patient and not jump at it. Just because we had a really good year this year doesn’t mean we’re going to give up guys that we have a really good connection with as far as the future.
“We’re not going to give up a (Jonathan) Huberdeau or (Erik) Gudbranson or any of these kids.”
The Canucks claim they’re willing to be patient. It’s almost like teams are having a staring contest with one another and waiting to see who will blink first.
“For us to even consider trading a player of that stature is an enormous thing,” Gillis said of Luongo. “We’re going to do it on our terms and the timeframe we want to do it on, if we do it at all. And that decision still hasn’t been made.”
As a result, trades might end up happening throughout this summer, which is not usual practice in the NHL.
Despite the gap that exists between buyers and sellers, there is clearly the potential for some common ground. Gillis expects the trade activity to pick up eventually.
“I think they’ll come,” he said. “I think they’ll come later.”
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version stated Roberto Luongo was drafted by Florida instead of New York.