We are now in mid-January and the NHL season is in top gear. The league is celebrating 100 years this year, and the league is as competitive as ever. There are a lot of teams that are currently out of the playoff mix, but are very close to being in the playoff mix.
Since the beginning of October 2016, there have only been 8 trades around the league. Most of these deals have involved players that have smaller contracts.
Here is a list of trades that have happened around the NHL since October, from NHL.com
So why does the league periodically go months without significant trade activity? Why do trades not happen very often around the league? Why are blockbuster deals involving big name players a rarity?
NHL GMS STILL BELIEVE THEY ARE IN
If one glances at the NHL standings right now, there are 28 teams that are still mathematically alive.
Arizona and Colorado are the only two teams that are probably looking ahead to next season at this point. If one looks in the East, the last place NY Islanders are only 10 point out of a final wild card spot. Mathematically, they are still alive, but will need a lot of help in the 2nd half of the season.
Even an NHL GM like Garth Snow from the NY Islanders will still believe that his club is still alive at this point in the season, even though the odds are not in his club’s favor. As the league progresses into early March, teams will stretch the standings out a little bit, and more “buyers” and “sellers” will have an easier time negotiating with each other. Buyers will want to load up for their playoff runs, and sellers will want to load up on prospects and picks for the future.
PRICES ARE SKY HIGH AROUND THE LEAGUE
If there is a team that is seeking to add a top-4 defenseman or top-6 forward to their lineup in the middle of the season, that team will have trouble locating one. Top defenseman and top forwards are hard to come by, and the cost of acquiring these players is outrageous.
The best way for a team to acquire these top players is by drafting them. Top defenseman and forwards in the NHL do not grow on trees. To acquire an established top-6 forward or top-4 defenseman, the trade package usually includes a high pick and an additional top pick or prospect. Sometimes, these deals can include 3-4 pieces, depending on the player.
Most GMs are hesitant to make deals like this. Most trades now tend to be player for player, or player for draft pick.
SALARY CAP RESTRAINTS
Right now, there are 9 teams that have a projection of 0 cap space available. With injuries on every team’s roster, some teams can get a little bit of cap relief via players on injured reserve.
With many teams up against the cap, that can prevent a lot of trade movement. Teams that are up against the cap likely have to do dollar-for-dollar transactions. Teams that are not salary cap teams can be budget teams, and may choose to not spend a lot of money on players.
The league has a lot of teams – some of them will spend money every year, some will not. When one looks at these factors, sometimes trades can be difficult to make because not every team shares the same ideology on the business front.
By: George Foussekis