Six reasons NHL trade deadline day could suck (more than usual)

The NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, March 2, and it’s crazy to think back at the action from last season’s deadline.

To wit, we saw: 

- Marty St. Louis moved to the Rangers.

- Thomas Vanek moved to Montreal. 

- Marian Gaborik moved to Los Angeles

And so many more!

Now, each of those trades had particular circumstances surrounding them – some personal, some contractual. It’s possible we’ll see some more of these blockbusters … but not probable.

Here are six reasons the NHL Trade Deadline could (emphasis on could) suck this season. More than usual:

Everyone Is Afraid Of The Cap

Like a chilly wind blowing over the trade deadline, the fear in the NHL is that the salary cap is going to be under $70 million next season. One GM told Elliotte Friedman he’s approaching the deadline with a $69 million cap in mind for next season, which is going to be bad news for a lot of capped-out teams.

Why the drop in value from Gary Bettman’s projection of $73 million earlier this season? A combination of the Canadian dollar’s decrease in value and the idea that the NHLPA will vote against the five-percent cap escalator this summer. TSN’s Rick Westhead wrote about it last month:

Pushing the overall salary cap limit higher drives up the amount of money available for potential free agents - bad news for a spartan free agent class this summer that’s headed by Martin St. Louis - but it also leads to higher escrow collections for all players. Players have become increasingly conflicted about this, several NHL player agents say.“

Players are worried about paying additional escrow,” Ian Pulver, a former NHLPA executive and current player agent said in an interview. “It’s a vicious cycle. Over the course of 10 years, players have voted to increase the cap, to ride with increasing revenue.”

Pulver said it would be a mistake not to trigger the escalator clause. "Because there are a couple of bumps along the way shouldn’t mean the players shouldn't continue to increase the cap and force the major players — the NHL, the clubs and the NHLPA - to grow revenues. To vote against the increase of the cap because of a fear of escrow runs counter to the collective good and common sense."

But it also would make the owners sweat, and every chance the players can do that, they will …

So while it makes sense that a cap panic would cause teams to jettison salaries, especially contending teams, it also might prevent them from taking on salaries (and long-term deals) for a championship push.

No One Wants To Move First Rounders

Last season saw two first-rounders move at the deadline: One in the Ryan Miller trade, another in the Marty St. Louis. They need to move to make big things happen.

Some mouths were left agape when Dean Lombardi unloaded a first-rounder for rental Andrej Sekera. He did it for two reasons: Because it’s lottery protected, and because that’s actually what renting Andrej Sekera costs in 2015.

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has already stated his first-rounders are off the table. Anyone with a sniff of the Connor McDavid Lottery won’t part with theirs this season.

ST CATHARINES, ON - JANUARY 22: Connor McDavid #17 of Team Orr is presented with the winners trophy following the 2015 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game against Team Cherry at the Meridian Centre on January 22, 2015 in St Catharines, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
ST CATHARINES, ON - JANUARY 22: Connor McDavid #17 of Team Orr is presented with the winners trophy following the 2015 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game against Team Cherry at the Meridian Centre on January 22, 2015 in St Catharines, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

The Tank

The “have nots” greatly outnumber the “haves” this season. There are more teams looking to jettison contracts in an effort to sink to the bottom than there are teams looking to take them on for a championship run.

And those teams that are contending have another problem: They’re pretty much capped out. There are 10 teams with less than $2.2 million in cap space. (This excludes the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins, who can both use injury replacement space.) Six of them are in the playoffs currently, with the Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche lingering.

No Good Lousy Stinkin’ Long-Term Contracts

The trade market for star players has become clogged like Chewbacca’s bath drain, and one of the reasons are long-term contracts against the salary cap.

Brian Burke used to rail against these, and his former team has a couple that might prevent a couple of potential blockbusters: Dion Phaneuf making $7 million against the cap until 2021 and Joffrey Lupul making $5.25 million through 2018. And so on. 

Besides the fact that most long-term contracts also come with the real bane of Burke’s existence.

No, not a comb – no-move clauses.

The UFA Crop Is Problematic

Here are the top pending unrestricted free agents, via NHL Numbers. Only three players in the top 12 are under the age of 33: Mike Green, Tomas Fleischmann and Chris Stewart. The latter two are likely to move, although neither one is exactly a game-changer; Green likely stays.

The UFA crop is a collection of players like Green, who are important parts of contending teams (Christian Ehrhoff, Antti Niemi, Mike Fisher, Justin Williams, Mats Zuccarello) and a few players over 35 that could make a difference on the right team (Erik Cole, Michael Ryder, Jaromir Jagr).

Hence, Antoine Vermette and Curtis Glencross are the belles of the ball.

And defense? Well, you just saw what Sekera went for ...

Finally, The Deadline Is Extended

There were 20 deals completed on deadline day last season, and 14 completed in the week leading up to it. We’ve already seen the LA Kings and Winnipeg Jets get ahead of the curve, and that’s a trend that’s likely to continue.

Which means hours and hours of guys looking at their phones on live television, in between World Cup of Hockey roster projections. Well, until that Jeff Petry trade goes down …