NAPLES, Fla. – The NHL’s 30 general managers wrapped up three days of meetings Wednesday and left the sunny skies of Florida with trade possibilities dancing in their heads.
No, there weren’t any significant moves made, but when the big trades are pulled off before Tuesday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, the roots will be found in their time in Naples.
“It goes from kicking tires to sketching and we’ll see where we are when we go home,” said Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi.
“There was a lot of talk – if anything comes to fruition, time will tell,” said New York Islanders GM Garth Snow, who last year used the GM meetings in Naples to build the framework for the Ryan Smyth trade with Edmonton.
There wasn’t a single deal at last year’s GM meetings either but a week later 44 players moved in 25 trades on deadline day.
“Just because it’s quiet now doesn’t mean there won’t be the same number of deals made in the 72 hours leading up to the deadline, as there was last year,” Cliff Fletcher said Wednesday.
The Toronto Maple Leafs interim GM has been all ears this week, trying to determine what is the market for his captain Mats Sundin – who controls his fate with a no-movement clause. Fletcher’s likely plan is to present Sundin with the best offers on the table and let him decide to waive it or not.
“A lot of people obviously are waiting until they get back, sit down with their staffs, plan their strategy and move forward from there,” said Fletcher. “We have six days to crunch time …
“It is a delicate time,” Fletcher later added. “It’s very difficult to have a lot to say at this particular time because there really is nothing on the front burner.”
While the Leafs look to be sellers, the Ottawa Senators are aggressively seeking to add a player or two, even after acquiring Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore from Carolina last week. The Sens have been linked to Atlanta Thrashers star and former Senator Marian Hossa as well as Tampa Bay Lightning winger Vaclav Prospal.
“I’ve talked to enough people to know that there are some possible things that will happen,” said Senators GM Bryan Murray. “Whether they’ll happen with me or not I’m not absolutely sure. But it sounds like there’s a few people doing a few things and I feel like I’m in the mix with a couple of them if I want to be.”
It wasn’t all trade talk this week. After deciding on Tuesday that they wanted to go after goalie equipment once more, the GMs looked at a few other ideas Wednesday:
-They will ask the AHL to experiment with a one-minute penalty in overtime for regular-season games next season. If the NHL likes what it sees, it could adopt it for 2009-10;
-The GMs support the idea of offensive zone faceoffs after a penalty to the opposing team no matter where the puck was when the whistle went. The AHL currently uses that rule and it may be adopted for next season in the NHL.
-The GMs gave the league the go-ahead to approach the NHL Players’ Association about pushing back the start of free agency to July 7 instead of the traditional July 1 start date. The thinking is that some of hockey’s biggest off-season moves come on national holidays on both sides of the border July 1-4 and get lost in the shuffle.
-There was a clarification of the “kicking the puck” issue although some media and GMs were still confused by it.
-There was talk of the NHLPA’s proposal of an 84-game schedule which would reduce pre-season games and lead to more games between inter-conference teams. “The room was still split on that one,” said one GM.
But the real interest, even from the GMs themselves, was on the trade talk.
Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke wants to add a centre but left town not any closer in his mind.
“Right now I’ve got nothing that’s imminent,” said Burke, whose Ducks are believed to be among the teams chasing Sundin.
“Usually by this time you’ve gone past concepts and you’re down to names and picks. And I’m not there yet with anybody,” added Burke. “So either I’m slow or it’s a slow-development market.”
Rumours swirled overnight that the Calgary Flames were shopping winger Alex Tanguay – with Montreal perhaps offering up winger Michael Ryder – but that was news to Flames GM Darryl Sutter.
“There are not a lot of names being thrown around, so if you’re getting those names perhaps you could pass them along to me,” Sutter told reporters before heading to the airport.
The San Jose Sharks have struggled a bit of late and they’ve been linked to a number of possible scenarios. Sharks GM Doug Wilson feels one way to get better is from within with Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe coming back from injury soon.
“I’ve always felt that every day you’re trying to figure out a way to improve your hockey team and sometimes it means some of your players just playing better and you as a hockey team just executing,” said Wilson. “I think this year with the parity of the league and the number of no-trade and no-movement clauses, you can have a lot of discussion but sometimes those discussions don’t lead to fruition. Because players do have choices. But certainly, there’s a lot of talk taking place. …
“The phone lines are humming but there’s a lot more buyers than sellers right now.”