A month into this new NHL season, the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, and Columbus Blue Jackets find themselves mired near the bottom of the league's overall standings. While it's rumored they're shopping around for help, they've yet to find trade partners willing to assist them.
In an interview with USA Today, TSN insider Bob McKenzie reported Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray was trying to make a deal, but he's unwilling to do anything rash. He also believed the Blue Jackets are still in the market for a defenseman. Earlier in the week, McKenzie named the Avalanche among several teams with interest in demoted Edmonton Oilers blueliner Nikita Nikitin.
Meanwhile, the Calgary Sun's Eric Francis reports Flames GM Brad Treliving admits he's been shopping around, but won't mortgage the club's future. In other words, Treliving's rivals hope he's desperate enough to part with a good young player or two for a quick-fix deal.
If these teams were (like the Toronto Maple Leafs) commencing a roster rebuild, they wouldn't be looking around this early in the season for roster depth. Instead, there would be lots of talk about being patient and developing talent. However, the Ducks entered this season considered legitimate challengers for the Stanley Cup. The Flames wanted to build upon last season's surprising success, while the Avs and Blue Jackets hoped to prove last season's disappointments were merely aberrations on the road to perennial playoff contention.
These clubs now face the real possibility that their respective dreams could be dashed by mounting losses in November. That's pushed their respective GMs into the trade market dealing from a position of weakness. They need help for their floundering clubs but find the pickings slim.
The salary cap is deservedly blamed for the lack of trade activity in the NHL throughout the regular season. The no-trade and no-movement clauses contained in the contracts of over 180 NHL players are also contributing factors. But what's really preventing the Ducks, Flames, Avalanche, and Blue Jackets from finding early-season help is parity among their rivals.
With so few teams facing early-season problems, those four clubs simply cannot find trade partners willing to make reasonable deals. Teams currently riding high in their respective standings have no reason to make trades right now, while the others are still evaluating their rosters.
That's not to suggest the GMs of those clubs aren't listening to calls for help from their struggling peers, but they want to capitalize on that desperation. As Treliving told Francis, he's getting a lot more friends lately, though he doesn't know “if they're trying to cheer me up or throw me an anchor as we're sinking.”
For Treliving and his peers on the Ducks, Avalanche and Blue Jackets, there's little recourse but to wait for other clubs to get into the trade market. McKenzie observes trade activity picks up by late-November, usually around American Thanksgiving. But if those current bottom feeders fail to gain ground in the standings, that projected increase in trade activity could come too late to save their respective seasons.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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