If the Anaheim Ducks placing goalie Ilya Bryzgalov on waivers last week was indicative of anything, it’s how difficult the salary cap has made it for teams to make trades early in the season.
After putting Bryzgalov on waivers, Ducks GM Brian Burke lamented the inability to trade his goalie, claiming teams with interest in the talented netminder cited salary cap constraints for their unwillingness to trade for him.
Even Bryzgalov’s affordable salary of $1.4 million and Burke’s bargain-basement price of a conditional draft pick wasn’t enough of an enticement, forcing Burke to go the waiver route where Bryzgalov was claimed by the Phoenix Coyotes.
The lack of any real trade action thus far in the NHL season also has some folks clutching at straws to dream up trade scenarios.
Take the presence of Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe in the Boston Bruins press box during the Bruins-Canadiens match-up Nov. 8.
An Edmonton sportswriter wondered if Lowe was there to scout Bruins right winger Glen Murray as, apparently, Lowe nearly had a deal in place for Murray last summer until the Bruins backed out.
Once this story passed through the filter of Internet rumormongers, it quickly went from speculation to confirmation that Lowe was planning to acquire Murray.
The truth, sadly, was far less sexy, as Lowe was in Massachusetts to watch the Springfield Falcons – the Oilers’ AHL farm team – play the following night and merely decided to take in the game while in Boston.
Even if Lowe were scouting Murray, he wouldn’t have been pleased with what he saw in that game, as the struggling winger had no points and was held to one shot.
Those who follow trade speculation sit up and take notice whenever multiple scouts are spotted at a game.
The presence of scouts from Washington, Montreal, Colorado, Philadelphia and Nashville during a Columbus-San Jose game Oct. 28 led to the inevitable trade rumors, since most of those teams won’t face the Blue Jackets or Sharks for weeks, if at all this season.
But again, the truth is far less interesting. The Predators scouts were obviously there to check out the Blue Jackets for a back-to-back series two weeks later, while the Avs scouts were likely getting an advanced viewing of the Jackets for their back-to-back series at the end of November.
As for the Washington, Montreal and Philadelphia scouts? Perhaps they were there to check out a player or two, or like Kevin Lowe, might have been passing through and decided to watch the game. Scouts have different reasons for attending their rivals’ games, but it rarely means a trade is brewing.
The recent firing of Doug Armstrong as GM of the Dallas Stars and the hiring of Les Jackson and former scoring star Brett Hull as co-GMs has led to suggestions the two could soon start shaking up the Stars roster.
It’s possible Hull and Jackson could clean house in the coming weeks, but it’s not a certainty. The two will most likely take some time to evaluate the roster to best determine where changes need to be made before shopping anyone.
With the Stars still a .500 team and only a handful of points separating them from the division-leading Sharks, it’s far too soon to start a massive roster overhaul.
Early-season trades may be a thing of the past, but the coming weeks should bring deals of more significance besides waiver pick-ups and swaps of minor leaguers.
The NHL’s Christmas “trade freeze,” which runs Dec. 19-27, tends to spark some deals before going into effect. Once into January, salaries become easier to absorb (because players have already received half their money) and some teams will try to beat the Feb. 26 trade deadline rush.
So take heart trade rumor fans; business will start to pick up soon.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, www.spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.