An NHL rink has never been a place for the prim and proper, and when things get heated there isn’t much in the way of vocabulary that’s considered off limits. But these days, there’s one four-letter word that causes even the bravest hockey lifer to clutch at his pearls and reach for his fainting couch.
Coaches won’t tolerate it, as demonstrated by their game strategies. Players are benched for engaging in it. Fans don’t always understand it. And general managers hate it, which is why most of them go to such great lengths to avoid making trades.
As this year’s deadline draws near, every potential trade target carries some risk. Anyone can get hot, or get hurt. Young prospects can turn out to be the next Brett Hull or Markus Naslund, and tossed-in draft picks can turn out to be the next Ray Bourque or Patrick Roy. No trade, no matter how minor, is ever risk-free.
But some trade targets carry more risk than others. If you go out and pull the trigger on a move for Brian Boyle or Martin Hanzal, you pretty much know what you're getting. Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog would cost you plenty, but you could feel reasonably confident about what the future would hold with either guy.
Other players on the market... well, you wouldn't be so sure. Maybe that's a good thing — it's hard to find a game-changing bargain in the "sure thing" pile. But in a league where nobody ever seems to want to roll the dice and take a risk, these are some of the names that will require doing just that.
JAROME IGINLA AND SHANE DOAN
Best case: We're going to group these two together because they both offer up the same question: At what point does reputation, character, veteran leadership and good old-fashioned narrative outweigh actual performance?
Both guys are former all-stars and longtime captains who've been around forever, and neither has ever won it all. They're classic Old Guys Without a Cup, and from Lanny MacDonald to Ray Bourque to Teemu Selanne, the hockey world loves its OGWACs.
If you want to get all romantic about things, either of these guys would report to work for a contender and leave absolutely everything on the ice in what could be their very last chance at that elusive title. Then the rest of the team would see that, crank up their own effort level, and go to war for their new teammate. It's a beautiful, vicious cycle, and it ends with one of those Stanley Cup handoffs that makes everyone cry.
Worst case: Neither one of these guys has been very good this year.
Sorry, I know that sounds harsh. But it's reality. Iginla has seven goals and 16 points, while Doan has five and 20. Those aren't exactly the sort of numbers you want to mortgage the future for.
And sure, both of these guys bring more than offence to the table on and off the ice. But this is a young man's league now, and time comes for us all (except maybe Jaromir Jagr). If these two guys look like they're missing a gear now, what would they look like two months into a grueling playoff run?
It's possible that either guy could come cheap, especially if their no-trade clauses mean their current team lets them choose their destination. And that inspirational-veteran narrative is awfully hard to resist. But if this turns into a bidding war, there's a good chance that you give up a decent pick or prospect to bring in an inspiring story that just can't play anymore.