Thursday, November 19, 2015

How to save the NHL's trade market

Last week, the Tampa Bay Lightning traded goaltender Kevin Poulin to the Flames for future considerations. It was an almost completely unremarkable trade, one that went all but unnoticed by anyone who wasn’t directly related to Poulin himself. But it was noteworthy in one way: It was the first (and so far only) trade of this regular season.

That’s become the new normal in this league. This is the third time since 2010 that we’ve made it well into November before the first deal of a new season. History tells us that the market will start to pick up soon, but not all that much, with a smattering of deals between now and the trade deadline. If we’re lucky, fans will get a handful of moves that feature players they’ve actually heard of.

Trading used to be a big part of both the typical GM’s toolbox and the NHL’s overall entertainment package, but it’s been dying a slow death in the cap era. And we all know why: It’s the dollars. The salary cap complicated everything, we’re told. It’s just too hard to make a deal these days.

But while all of that is probably true, we don’t have to let the trade market die a slow death. I have an idea that could help revive the lost art of the deal. The NHL has the power to deliver an adrenaline boost to the market, ushering in a new era of wheeling and dealing and reigniting hot stove debates across the league. And all it will take is one relatively straightforward new rule.

Fair warning: you’re going to hate it… at first.

I mean, you’re a hockey fan. You hate change. You complain about the state of the game constantly, but the mere suggestion of even the smallest tweak puts you on the defensive. You miss ties, you’re still not over the trapezoid, and the last time one of your friends suggested making the nets slightly bigger you stabbed them with a plastic fork. It’s a hockey fan thing. I get it.

So yes, you’re going to think this idea sounds ridiculous and unworkable and you’ll immediately go into defensive hockey fan mode, coming up with a dozen reasons why it could never work. All I’m asking is that you give it a chance. Let it percolate. Wait a few hours before you track me down on Twitter and call me an idiot. And during that time, think about how much fun it would be to have trading back in the NHL.

Promise? Then let’s get started.

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