x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Many buyers but less options ahead of NHL trade deadline

Not many teams are selling as all but one are contenders for post-season berths.

Ryan Suter, left, is a choice pick but Nashville Predators may be keen to keep him.
Ryan Suter, left, is a choice pick but Nashville Predators may be keen to keep him.

The trade deadline is always one of the most anticipated dates on the NHL calendar, a time for contenders to load up for a run at the Stanley Cup and for also-rans to rebuild for the future.

This year will be no different, although the lead-up has veered off the path of past seasons.

Usually, there is a high-profile deal about a month ahead of the deadline, a deal that serves as an unofficial starting gun notifying teams that it is time to trade.

This year, though, there has not been a big trade to set things in motion ahead of the deadline, which is one week from today.

Every team except the Columbus Blue Jackets are effectively in contention for one of the 16 post-season berths. Thus, while there were clubs that were obvious buyers, there are no real sellers apart from the Jackets.

There were rumours, of course, mostly swirling around the Nashville defenceman Ryan Suter, a jewel on the blue line and a pending unrestricted free agent, and the Columbus goalscorer Jeff Nash, who initially baulked at going to the Jackets when he was traded last summer and has suffered through a forgettable campaign pockmarked by nagging injuries and constant losing.

But the Predators appear determined to keep Suter and take a shot at the cup, while Carter has several factors working against his escape from Columbus. (Take your pick: he is been on the injured reserve list twice; he has not produced for the Jackets; his attitude has been called into question; and, he is got a long-term contract with nine years left at US$5 million (Dh18.37m)-plus per season.)

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All was eerily quiet on the trade front.

Finally, a week ahead of the deadline, there were a few moves of note, with Nashville scooping the veteran defenceman Hal Gill from free-falling Montreal; San Jose adding the checking centre Dominic Moore from Tampa Bay; and, Philadelphia solidifying their defence corps in the absence of Chris Pronger by picking up the stay-at-home Nicklas Grossman from Dallas. No, none of these deals are overwhelming. They’re depth moves, pure and simple.

But it is interesting to note that Montreal and Tampa have signalled that they are ready to sell, while Nashville’s move would seem to indicate they plan to keep Suter and adopt a win-now mentality.

The question, of course, is who’s on the market – and who’s willing to pay what appears to be a steep price for rentals, if the aforementioned deals are any indication.

It’s a great time to be selling off assets, even if it means you’re not destined for the play-offs this season. Meanwhile, it’s buyer beware as at least 16 teams – and probably more – begin bidding on the scarce assets available, with the hopes that the right move will make all the difference in the spring.

sports@thenational.ae

REVIEW
Players of the week
* Mike Smith, Phoenix The Coyotes goalie stopped all 66 shots he faced in shutout victories over Chicago and Los Angeles.
* Corey Perry, Anaheim The Ducks sniper is heating up, just like last year. The reigning MVP had five goals in three games last week.
* Alex Pietrangelo, St Louis. The talented young defenceman piled up seven points in four games, including a pair of three-point efforts.

Teams of the week
* Detroit Red Wings. Four successive wins for the NHL’s top team.
* Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks won three in a row to re-enter the play-off conversation after a horrid first half.
* Ottawa Senators. The Sens shook off a six-game skid, getting back on track with back-to-back victories.

Duds of the week
* Buffalo Sabres. Just when it looked like the Sabres might crawl into contention, they dropped three in a row and were outscored 13-4.
* Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg. Pittsburgh bombed the Jets goalie for eight goals and he lost to the Islanders, too.
* John-Michael Liles, Toronto. The defenceman is counted on to kick-start the offence, but he went pointless with a -4 rating in three games.

Games of the week
* Dallas at Chicago, Thursday. The Stars need a big finish to make the play-offs, and the Blackhawks need to put that ugly nine-game losing streak behind them.
* San Jose at Nashville, Saturday. The Sharks and Predators are among the West’s best and both have high hopes for the spring.