A major consideration GMs need to make when trading players is the salary cap. It’s not like pre-2004 when teams could spend as much or as little money as they wanted. Every season, there is both a floor, where the thriftiest team must spend to and a ceiling, where the most free spending team can spend to. The salary cap generally goes up every year but GMs can’t assume that to be the case. Next season, it is predicted the salary cap will only go up a bit, due to the weaker Canadian dollar. There are ways around the cap, such as injuries, where if a player is out long term with an injury, that player can be placed on the injured reserve list and his salary won’t count against the cap. There used to be a buyout window where GMs could buy out up to two expensive contracts without consequences against the cap, but that ended this season. At trade deadline day, many GMs opt for the rent-a-player route, taking on an expiring contract of a player who they might not have been able to afford at the beginning of the season. Because most of said player’s deal has already been paid, the amount owed works within the salary cap restraints
GMs also need to consider how well the team is playing as well as the demeanor and history of the player they are pursuing/looking to offload. Sometimes, a GM might envision a player playing on a certain line or with a certain defensive partner, but for whatever reason the line/defensive pairing doesn’t work. Maybe one or more players are going through a cold streak where nothing is working. Or on the flip side, the player might be red hot and be able to overcome any chemistry issues. Also, when a player switches teams, they must learn a new system and it’s possible that the offensive or defensive strategy doesn’t mesh with the player’s skill set. Alex Edler of the Canucks is a perfect example. Last season under John Torterella, Edler was a hot mess under Torterella’s complex system, but he has bounced back nicely under the tutelage of Willy Desjardins. Another prime example is Habs forward Dale Weise, who fell out of favor with the Canucks, but has thrived playing for the Habs. This isn’t video game hockey where one can make any line combination work; players are human and have tendencies/playing styles that don’t work in every hockey system. However, the same player might be good in the locker room and act as a guide for the younger players.
After taking into consideration the bigger picture. First of all, where is the team in the standings? A team comfortably in a playoff spot might want to add that piece or two that might propel them into the Stanley Cup finals. On the other hand, if the team is trending downwards, perhaps accumulating draft picks and getting rid of players unlikely to re-sign with the team might be worthwhile. This season, there is a big name in Connor McDavid, projected to be selected first overall in June’s draft who’s deemed to be NHL ready now. It is a huge risk, however to put all one’s marbles in the hands of a player who has yet to play an NHL game. The NHL is substantially more difficult than the junior hockey leagues. There have been many players drafted high who didn’t succeed, Pat Falloon and Alexandre Daigle to name a few. Edmonton had three straight 1st overall picks from 2010-2012 and the team is in the mix to obtain yet another 1st overall pick. As a whole, GMs need to make a move sometimes, but every move they make will either turn into gold or blow up in their faces
My take on the Habs trades this season
Habs GM Marc Bergevin has been one of the most active GMs in the league this season. I will briefly examine his trades since the season started here. His first two trades, made within ten days of each other were more or less to allow the younger players more ice time. First, center Travis Moen was traded to Dallas for defenseman Sergei Gonchar. Gonch has been a solid addition to the line-up, mentoring youngster Nathan Beaulieu. He can be seen on the Habs 2nd unit power play and while he is getting older he can still shoot the puck. Nine days later, Bergevin dispatched the mercurial Rene Bourque to Anaheim for the bloated contract of Bryan Allen. This deal was necessary because Bourque was struggling and after being sent to the AHL, he was a threat to be a locker room cancer. Even though Allen really hasn’t worked out either, I’d take him over Bourque messing up the chemistry in the Habs locker room and the fact that Bourque had one more year to his contract. More recently, the Habs, in a twist of irony traded Jiri Sekac to Anaheim for Devante Smith-Pelly. Smith-Pelly can play in the Habs top six and Sekac gets a change of scenery. Sekac never really earned the trust of coach Michel Therrien. Finally, on deadline day, the Habs added some defensive depth in Jeff Petry. They also acquired Torrey Mitchell for prospect Jack Nevins and a low pick. Mitchell will add depth and a scoring threat to the Habs line-up Finally, they picked up Brian Flynn for a late round pick from Buffalo. On the latter three deals, it is too early to judge whether the players will succeed or not in Montreal. We will find out in the coming weeks. #GoHabsGo
A Habs fan blogging from BC