If you were following the NHL trading deadline yesterday, you A: are part of a relatively small niche group among sports fans and B: probably wound up disappointed. While 15 trades were announced on Deadline Day this year, the two biggest moves were the Edmonton Oilers trading forward Dustin Penner to the Los Angeles Kings for a prospect and two future draft picks and the New Jersey Devils dealing forward Jason Arnott to the Washington Capitals for forward Dave Steckel and a draft pick.
Penner and Arnott are both great players and should provide a lot of help to a pair of teams trying to climb up in some fairly crowded standings. But they’re not exactly superstars and this year’s deadline’s a pretty good example of why trades are handled differently in the NBA and NHL than they were as recently as a decade ago.
Both leagues have salary caps so trades usually have to match the players’ salaries fairly precisely. That means teams have to be much more careful about how they construct trades and it also ensures unknown prospects or role players like Sean Marks usually figure into the trades a lot more these days. Since the likes of Alexander Ovechkin and Kobe Bryant make an awful lot of money, they’re harder to throw into deals and fans are more likely to see them traded during the offseason or well before the pandemonium of Deadline Day.
Combine all the salary matching with the competitiveness of the NBA and the NHL and the amount of trades anyone cares about goes down drastically. In a league where the top eight teams make the playoffs and where the standings are ridiculously tight in at least one conference, what executive wants to give up this early in the season?
Savor the trading frenzies the NBA and NHL engaged in leading up to the trading deadline this year. We’re probably not going to see anything like them anytime soon and certainly not at the last possible moment.