Buyer Beware: Are Trade Deadline Deals Worth the Risk

Steve HeldCorrespondent IFebruary 23, 2008

As we approach this holiest of days, the NHL trade deadline, we cannot help but dissect; the urge is undeniable.

Every team wants in on the Cup and this is a chance at a last ditch effort to get into sixth gear and really make an impact in the postseason.

How can anyone deny the anticipation, the excitement...the illogical zeal behind deadline dealing?

That’s right people I said it: I’m not a big fan of deadline deals. The large majority of buyers who participate in last minute deals don’t win the Cup.

In fact, by far the best indicator of a team’s chance at winning it all is their regular season record.

That’s pretty simple huh?

The better teams always win.

Edmonton had that miraculous run to the Cup finals a few years back, even pushing the Hurricanes to seven games, yet Carolina prevailed.

Last season, the Ducks defeated the Ottawa Senators.

In 2004, Tampa Bay prevailed.

In 2003, the Devils claimed victory.

In 2002, Detroit raised the cup.

In each of these cases, and in the overwhelming majority of Stanley Cup victories, the winning team had better regular seasons than their respective runners-up.

And with the exception of Carolina in 2006, none of these Stanley Cup champions made significant personnel changes at the deadline.

Now I’m not against all moves at the deadline.

I cannot argue with moves like Detroit picking up Todd Bertuzzi in hopes of adding a bit more grit for the playoff run. They had a dominant squad and saw a possible hiccup, yet they didn’t give up too much in exchange.

Carolina looked to stock up in 2006 by getting Doug Weight, with another prospect included. While it ultimately worked out, the price was steep: one first round pick, two fourth-round picks and three relatively unknown players.

However, they had a great chance to win the cup anyway, but have since fallen sharply in the standings.

Could that missing first round pick have turned into an impact blueliner on the ice one or two seasons later?

For teams like Detroit, Anaheim, or San Jose, whose scouts seem to be incredibly perceptive, it likely would have.

But it is not deals like these, executed by seriously competitive teams, that concern me.

I cannot understand why a GM of a middling team would be willing to throw away future potential for what may only amount to a playoff berth or an extra round of playoffs.

Garth Snow pulled an impressive move by landing "rental player" Ryan Smyth last season, and the gritty power forward did exactly what they wanted him to do: get the Isles into the playoffs.

Well if that was the only goal, then mission accomplished.

The Islanders, who never had a dream of retaining Smyth after season’s end, were left without Smyth, without a first round draft pick and without two prospects.

They did earn revenue from an impressive two whole playoff games on the Island. And I guess the memories of five playoff games will last a lifetime.

Again, last season, in a bafflingly similar situation, Thrashers GM Don Waddell threw away a first-round draft pick, a solid second-line pivot in Glen Metropolit, and a second-round pick to acquire Keith Tkachuk, another obvious rental player.

However, if he chose to re-sign with Atlanta, the Thrashers would have owed yet another first-round pick to the Blues.

The results were the same as Snow’s: a quick rise into the playoffs and a quick sweep right back out, at the hands of my always beloved, sometimes reviled New York Rangers.

What were these GMs thinking?

Over these last three days I’ll be hovering over the wire same as everyone else, anxiously awaiting the next big move.

If Glen Sather offers a decade of first rounders for Mats Sundin I may lose it.

However, I must admit, I’d be happy if the Canucks pick up a top-tier winger to solidify a second scoring line; but only if the price is right.