Setting up for playoff run

NHL Trade deadline promises to be the busiest yet

Trying to behave like the esteemed business professionals that they are, general managers around the hockey world are conveying, as the trade deadline approaches, an outward appearance that they are in complete control of their team’s fate, and their own nerves in negotiation.

Do not be deceived by their sedate manner in interviews.

Behind the scenes, if the phones in all the GM’s offices were put in a telethon-like environment, the result would be a chaotic jostle for the upper hand among needy shoppers, acting all willy-nilly.

With no clear favorite in either conference, and all but five teams—Columbus, Long Island, Tampa Bay, Montreal and Florida—still in realistic contention for a playoff spot, this year’s trading before the final bell on March 13 promises to be a busy time.

That this year’s free agent market is the most talented in years has a lot to do with that.

Last year’s spring dealings saw, predominantly, the exchange of role players trying to shore up minor voids on their checking lines, as perennial NHL nomads like Rick Tocchet, Rene Corbet, Mikael Renberg, and Chris Gratton found themselves on the move.

This year’s candidates are impact players, and will continue that role in whatever city they may land in.

Eric Lindros, Keith Tkachuk, Teemu Selanne, Rob Blake, Rod Brind’Amour, and Mike Peca are among the most tantalizing offers.

Scoring leader Joe Sakic, John LeClair, Theoren Fleury, Petr Nedved, and two-time MVP Dominik Hasek may also be up for grabs.

The talent being offered has turned the NHL’s front offices into characters in a sports soap opera.

Lindros is, of course, the protagonist in the most distracting plot being played out.

Philadelphia owner Ed Snider’s first devilish tactic was to announce in late December to the league, on the evening before the six-day holiday moratorium on trades, that his number one intention was to deal the star centerman. Lindros immediately came forward to announce he would only play in Toronto.

If we are to believe all the mudslinging around this pending deal that since these declarations, then it looks like Philadelphia and Toronto are bracing themselves for corporate armageddon. This is not the case.

Snider’s public insistence that the Leafs have been eliminated from the bidding war because their offer for Lindros—alleged to include Nik Antropov or Yanic Perrault and a series of conditional draft picks—is believable enough. After all, trading your most talented player to your conference rival isn’t a shrewd move. But Clarke, new reports say, is still talking to his friend Quinn, and that Lindros is at the center of these talks.

Of course, when the Lindros hype briefly cooled, Blake in a Toronto jersey was all but a sure thing. And now it’s not.

But Tkachuk and defenceman Jryki Lumme, now, it seems sure, will be traded to Toronto, unless that lead, by press time, has been quashed by the next daily feeding from the media.

It seems every day is an opportunity for the press to inflate the validity of their sources, to break a far-fetched rumour as an imminent happening.

In the past week, Peca has been rumoured a Ranger or a Devil, Fleury a King or a Coyote, Selanne a Leaf or a Ranger.

Now there’s word that Sakic might be a Senator, and disgruntled Alexei Yashin a resident of Colorado?

If the rumours are this crazy, you can bet the owners and managers are busy just the same.

John Trenholme doesn’t watch soap operas, or care where all the millionaires go by March 13.

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