x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Trade deadline defies all logic

Logic dictates that this year's NHL trade deadline will be a quiet one. For starters, the salary cap seems to have slowed the frequency of deals since it was instituted in 2005.

Logic dictates that this year's NHL trade deadline will be a quiet one.For starters, the salary cap seems to have slowed the frequency of deals since it was instituted in 2005. There are just not as many in-season swaps as there used to be, and certainly not as many of consequence. In the salary cap era, clubs have to worry about getting a fair exchange, plus they have to make sure the players' contracts fit into the equation.

And then there is this global financial crisis thing; you have to believe it is putting a cold chill on the trade front as teams go into lock-down mode rather than take on big contracts in the desperate hope of a play-off run. Then again, desperate hopes and play-off runs are what the NHL trade deadline is all about. Of course, this year's trade deadline should be quiet - most teams are up-tight against the salary cap and it is economic Armageddon out there.

And it is almost certainly going to get worse before it gets any better. But, as usual, it will be a no-holds-barred sell-off as teams with the dream of winning mortgage their future to go for it now. Because, let's face it, logic has never been part of the conversation when it comes to the league's annual player sale. With five weeks remaining in the regular season, 28 of the league's 30 teams probably believe, with sincerity, that they can earn one of the 16 play-off spots - and if they do that, look out, because once you get into the dance, anything can happen.

It almost never happens that way, of course. The teams that make the biggest noise on deadline day usually flop out of the post-season before the new guy breaks a sweat. And the crazy thing is, the teams all know this. They know they might not even make the play-offs, let alone come close to competing for the Stanley Cup. Yet they still go for broke on deadline day, trading draft picks and prospects like they were oh so many O-Pee-Chee cards.

"Any mathematician will tell you that we're all crazy," said the Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke about a week before tomorrow's NHL trade deadline. "We're all nuts. Because there's 30 teams. But there's only one parade." Burke got to see a parade when his Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007, and he surely also remembers he only picked up depth veteran Brad May at the deadline; as is almost always the case, the last team standing when Stanley was handed out had just a small fix and not a complete overhaul.

But with names like Jay Bouwmeester, Vincent Lecavalier, Chris Pronger and Marian Gaborik all reportedly available, the temptation will be too great, for too many GMs, to resist. It always is. They will outbid each other, undercut each other, overpay, overhype, and maybe even out-and-out lie as the clock ticks closer to the 3pm (ET) deadline. It's human nature. They built the team, they want it to win. The fans expect it. The other players on the team expect it; they're taking their cue from management - "Are we going for it or are we selling off?"

You can bet the reply, almost universally, will be "going for it!" "We [NHL GMs] make more mistakes on trade deadline day than we do the rest of the year," said Burke, who was expected to be selling off assets this time around. "That's historical and I don't think it will change. "We all get sucked in. For every GM that makes a brilliant decision on trade deadline day, there are five or six of us that made one poor ones."

smccaig@thenational.ae