Monday, February 22, 2016

Weekend report: It's quiet. Too quiet.

With the trade deadline now just one week away, we finally got some movement Sunday, with the Maple Leafs sending forward Shawn Matthias to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for minor leaguer Colin Smith and a fourth-round pick. It wasn't much of a deal, but it was newsworthy if only for being a rarity—it was just the second trade consummated in the last month.

That's unusual. Sure, the days leading up to the deadline are where most of the action is. But in recent years, the month before the week before the deadline has been a busy period, as GMs work to beat the crowds by getting some of their shopping out of the way ahead of the rush. Last year, there were seven trades between Jan. 23–Feb. 23, including the Evander Kane blockbuster. Before the 2014 deadline, we got eight deals between Jan. 26–Feb. 26. In 2013, which had an unusually late deadline due to the lockout, we had a dozen trades between Feb. 27–March 27.

You get the picture. So what's going on this year? The trade market got off to its slowest start in history, with only one trade (involving zero NHL players) over the season's first six weeks. But a mid-December deal between the Hawks and Stars seemed to get the dominos falling, with ten trades in the month after the holiday trade freeze lifted, including some big ones. But since then, with the exception of the surprising Dion Phaneuf deal and Sunday's minor move, there has been nothing.

The simplest explanation is that this year's market isn't a very good one. Parity means that there just aren't enough sellers, and the teams that are selling don't have many good players to offer. If that theory holds true, we may be in for a slow week, one where we'd still see a fair amount of minor deals but none of the fireworks fans are hoping for.

The Leafs have been busy. It's time for the rest of the league to catch up. —Photo by Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, there's always the optimistic option: That the lack of action over the last month just points toward an even busier than usual deadline week. There's not a single team in the league that should be done yet, so maybe we're in for a wild few days leading up to a deadline day that will (for once) actually live up to the hype.

In either case, we're in for a busy week, even if that ends up consisting of more rumours than reality. The Maple Leafs were back at it Monday morning, sending Roman Polak to the Sharks for a pair of second rounders. If this keeps up, maybe someday soon we'll even get our first non-Leaf trade since January.

This is the time of year where NHL GMs are expected to do some of their best work. And this year, if nothing else, they're well-rested.

Race to the Cup

The five teams with the best shot at winning the Stanley Cup.

5. Anaheim Ducks (31-19-8, +6 true goals differential)Oh hey, look who finally decided to show up. More on the Ducks' resurgence down below.

4. St. Louis Blues (35-17-9, +10)—With five straight wins, they've moved within two points of the Central lead. Losing Alex Steen for up to a month will hurt, though.

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports

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