Trade Central Time Zone: Your Guide To The 2013-14 Trade Deadline

by J.R.

Exactly one week from the moment this is posted — Wednesday, March 5 at 2 PM Central (1 PM Mountain) — the NHL will hit its trade deadline, which makes the next week simultaneously one of the most interesting and exhausting weeks on the schedule. It can be very confusing, what with real insiders — like Uncle Bob — trying to cut through the noise of rumormongers, charlatans, fake accounts of real reporters and fake accounts of charlatans.

We’re here to help with a handy guide to what you need to know for the week ahead.

1. Most teams are looking for a puck-moving defenseman who can make the first pass

Diogenes_looking_for_a_man_-_attributed_to_JHW_TischbeinIn the next seven days, you will hear the phrases “puck-moving defensman” (or alternately “mobile defenseman”) and “the first pass” more times than you can handle. You will wander the streets like Diogenes with a lantern, asking every person you see if they are puck-moving and/or mobile and if they are capable of making the first pass.

The problem with everyone looking for one of these elusive beasts is that everyone is looking for one of these elusive beasts and apparently they are a limited quarry. There are, from what you’ll gather, several kinds of defensemen: PMDWCMTFP who are available, PMDWCMTFP who are not available, guys who are mobile but can’t make a pass, guys who aren’t mobile who can make a pass and guys who can do neither (this last category begins and ends with Doug Murray).

Your team (if they are buying) is looking for a PMDWCMTFP. Your team (if they are selling) is willing to move a PMDWCMTFP at the right price, which will be hilarious and exorbitant. If you actually are a PMDWCMTFP, there’s no need to pack your bags, however, even if you are in the last year of your deal, because no one has ever actually made a deadline deal for a PMDWCMTFP.

2. If your team needs a forward, it is looking for a penalty-killing center who can play on multiple lines or a dynamic scoring winger

There is a school of thought — and one that has a lot of credence with the USA’s disappointing fourth-place finish in Sochi — that overpaying for a forward who can kill penalties is a waste, because so little of the game is played shorthanded. To a degree, that’s true. Power plays don’t eat a lot of minutes, but give up a bunch of goals on the power play and things will go very pear-shaped indeed.

That said: inevitably there are teams looking for a good face-off center who can kill penalties and play up and down the lineup. The Predators gave up a first-round pick for Paul Gaustad, who, indeed, is excellent at face-offs and great at killing penalties (and plays on pretty much every line, because he takes any faceoff he can stand up to take). But, overpaying for these types of guys for a playoff run is a little bit silly because there has never been a penalty called in a playoff game ever (look it up).

The quest for the Dynamic Scoring Winger is also endless for most teams (especially Nashville). Of course teams are looking for a Dynamic Scoring Winger at the trade deadline. Teams are looking for Dynamic Scoring Wingers all the time.

The Penalty Killing Center will definitely be a factor on deadline day — those guys move around like Berbers, mostly because teams trade for them, sign them to ridiculous deals and then realize they have to move those contracts because they are absurd. Dynamic Scoring Wingers almost never get traded and if they are, the trade is accompanied by dozens of stories about how said winger is Bad In The Room.

3. Goalies are bad

Goalies don’t move around a lot on deadline day, but with Ryan Miller hanging out there, this year might be different. It’s important to remember a few things:

  1. All goalies are terrible.
  2. No goalie is as good as his save percentage.
  3. If a goalie has a good save percentage, it’s because he had one good year (or perhaps two or three) and it is unsustainable.
  4. All goalies eventually give up goals and rarely score any goals, therefore they are worthless.
  5. Goalies have terrible Corsi numbers and are frequently outshot, sometimes even by Doug Murray.

Therefore, all goalie contracts are bad. No GM in the history of the NHL has ever signed a goalie to a good deal. Signing a goalie to a multi-year deal is the second-worst thing a GM can do. The worst thing a GM can do is to trade for somebody else’s goalie, who is, by definition, carrying a bad contract. If a GM signs a goalie or trades for a goalie, he should be fired immediately for incompetence. The smartest possible thing for a hockey team to do is to never sign a goalie ever, because that’s the only way to avoid signing a goalie which, remember, will necessarily result in a team carrying a terrible contract, because all goalie contracts are the worst.

4. Conditional picks are awesome

pic3qHZVNMost trades, especially on deadline day, are awful — especially if they involve goalies. The only thing that can salvage any trade is the inclusion of a conditional pick. If a trade is fetid, overcooked broccoli, the conditional pick is a hand-crafted, artisan cheese sauce made by a group of celibate monks locked away on Mount Athos.

For starters, the conditional pick gives fans of teams that have nothing better to do some incentive for keeping up with hockey long after the season went in the tank. For example, last year, the Predators made a nothing trade to San Jose, sending Scott Hannan back to Northern California where he could surf to his heart’s content (Hannan was likely upset that Percy Priest Lake does not produce monster waves, dude). The pick was a seventh-rounder that magically became a sixth-rounder if Hannan appeared in but one playoff game and he did, thus the Preds acquired a low-end sixth-round pick with which they selected Tommy Villeux and boy was that a great pick-up. Via friend of the program James Nelson:

Not overly familiar with Veilleux. The Predators were inspired by the play of Andrew Shaw in the playoffs this year and hope Veilleux can be that sort of gritty role player with offensive pop. At first glance, I don’t see the “offensive” pop that Shaw displayed with Owen Sound while in juniors–instead, I just see an enforcer, but time will tell.

Had Hannan not appeared in the playoffs, the Sharks would have been unable to pick Jacob Jackson, a Minnesota high-schooler, in the seventh-round, who I assume is just Charlie Conway under an nom de bâton.

If there is one wish I have for conditional picks, it’s that the conditions were more interesting. Give me something cool, GMs. Like a third that becomes a second if a guy scores at least six power play goals or a fifth that turns into a fourth if a guy goes for better than 50 percent in shootouts against Western Conference teams. Tie the condition to Corsi or Fenwick or PDO! Think outside the box, gang.

5. Remember which pick your team traded. It will be important for the rest of your life.

sisyphus1Inevitably, if you are a fan of a buyer, your team will give up a pick to get a guy. And if the player doesn’t work out or your team fails in the playoffs, trading that pick was a waste; ergo, you’ll need to tune in on draft day to see what that pick would have gotten you if your GM wasn’t such a short-sighted ninny who doesn’t realize that the only important thing in professional hockey is prospects. A team can never have enough prospects. Prospects are important, especially prospects that don’t work out. Prospects that don’t work out were either overrated (and thus, should result in the general manager who drafted him being sent to The Hague for violation of international law) or they were “ruined by the system” (which means the coaching staff failed and said coaches should be relegated to hawking used tires in northern Manitoba for their rest of their days, like Sisyphuses of vulcanized rubber). Prospects are the fuel of the blame-fire that burns forever.

There are prospects that do work out, of course, but they inevitably play for someone else and they were usually selected with a draft pick acquired on deadline day.

Take, again, the trade that brought Paul Gaustad to Nashville. The Sabres traded that pick to Calgary. Had the Predators saved that pick, they could have traded their pick to Calgary and, like Buffalo, selected Latvian superstar Zemgus Girgensons, who would have sold a zillion jerseys in the Predators’ target demographic of “J.R. Lind.” Calgary used the pick (originally Nashville’s) to take Canadian high schooler Mark Jankowski. Oh what might have been?

The first of these, taken No. 21 overall in 2012, was Mark Jankowski, an extremely young and reedy center playing in a backwater Quebec high school league that never once produced even one drafted player until this one. He was taken 21st despite his having been ranked at No. 43 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, and 55th overall by International Scouting Services. This after Weisbrod saw him play and dominate one game against D-level Quebec teens, and started saying, “He’s Joe Nieuwendyk,” in real life.

It was a baffling pick, especially when Feaster traded down from the No. 14 spot with highly-regarded players like Tomas Hertl, Olli Maata, Teuvo Teravainen, Scott Laughton, and so on still on the board. Minutes after that selection, Feaster swore up and down that a decade from that date, we would look back and view Jankowski as the best player selected in the entire draft. A year and a half later, if he becomes an even occasionally influential NCAA player, that has to be counted as a big win for Feaster.

Certainly, had they held the pick, the Preds could have drafted Hertl, Maata or Teravainen, except that no team ever makes good picks at the draft, except for other teams, who never make bad picks.

6. Finally: Remember your GM could have made that exact same trade.

On the off chance that some team — probably a team that your team will have to play in the playoffs or leap frog to get into same — makes a trade for a good player, the most important thing to know is that your GM could have made the exact same trade he did, except that he is incompetent.

Take for example, the trade that brought Tyler Seguin into Conference III. Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button came to Dallas in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow heading to Boston.

Well, your GM could have made that trade. Your team has those exact assets that Boston was looking for!

An important tool to keep open is Hockey Reference, because it has something called similarity scores for (most) every player. Sure, you could take the time to find a guy who has the same back-of-the-hockey-card stats as Eriksson, but using a metric with a high-minded name will make your argument fool-proof. Check out Eriksson‘s. Well, gosh, your team had a spare Mike Richards or Bobby Ryan lying around, didn’t they? Why didn’t they pull the trigger?

Because your GM doesn’t have any clue what he is doing, unlike the other 29 GMs, who do.

If another team makes a good trade, it was able to do so because your team was unwilling to do so. It was down to your team and this other team and the other team was actually capable of picking up the phone to inquire whereas your team was not. Definitely did not, even.

If only they’d had the creativity to throw in a conditional pick.