Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Deadline Deals Since 1980

The NHL trade deadline has become a full day media event in Canada. It’s crazy. Sportsnet is producing ads for their deadline show that have the analysts comparing the race to break stories among networks to the competition they faced as players on the ice. Doug MacLean yells about trades, something like, “instead of making bad trades today, I get to praise them!”

TSN is pretty awful on deadline day, too. James Duthie makes smart-ass remarks, while we watch Darren Dreger and Bob MacKenzie text on their blackberrys for 8 hours. Spectacular television. That being said, I do like watching for an hour near the actual trade deadline to get a nice recap of the day’s trades and to see if there is any sort of flurry near 3pm. I don’t need to watch each trade analyzed for an hour until the next trade occurs.

It hasn’t always been this way.

I used everything I learned in school over the past 20 years to make this line graph showing the deadline deals and the amount of players involved since the 1980 deadline. This only includes the deals made on the actual day, so if you count a few days before the deadline then the numbers are slightly higher each year.

I got the majority of my information from, but I can’t find any information prior to 1980. Was there even a trade deadline before this? I don’t know if there were really enough trades to justify a deadline.

nhl trade deadline
As you can see, the amount of trades have steadily increased over time, as well as the amount of players involved.

There is one major aberration on this list that is very interesting when you examine it closer. Aside from 1981, each deadline in the 80s was pretty boring. The reason for 1981’s spike in action is because in 1980 the New York Islanders traded Billy Harris and Dave Lewis to the Los Angeles Kings for Butch Goring. Goring became one of the key elements that pushed the Islanders over the top, scoring 11 points in 12 games down the stretch and 19 points in 21 playoff games, and helped the Islanders win their first Stanley Cup. He was the first “final piece to the puzzle” that seemingly every team tries to find at the deadline. Everyone around the league took notice of this trade and its tremendous impact on the Islanders because the next year the amount of deadline trades quadrupled.

Adding a major piece at the deadline certainly isn’t a guarantee that a team will win the Stanley Cup. Since the 1980 trade deadline only two teams have added major players at the deadline who played a significant role in their Stanley Cup victory.

In 1991, the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Ron Francis, along with Grant Jennings and Ulf Samuelsson, from Hartford for John Cullen, Jeff Parker, and Zarley Zalapski. Francis scored 11 points in 14 games during the rest of the regular season and added 17 points in 24 playoff games. Not only did he add a secondary threat to Jagr and Lemieux, but he stuck around in Pittsburgh for another 7 years and topped 85 points 5 times (twice over 100).

In 2001, the Colorado Avalanche added the final piece to their super-team by acquiring Rob Blake and Steven Reinprecht from the Los Angeles Kings for Adam Deadmarsh, Aaron Miller, and a first round pick. This actually happened 20 days before the deadline, so it isn’t a true deadline deal, but I’m counting it. Plus, we get to remember that Blake joined a group that already included Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy, Adam Foote, Chris Drury, Milan Hejduk, and Alex Tanguay. Plus, they acquired Ray Bourque a week before the deadline. Wow.

What’s really interesting is that this deal helped LA as well. The Kings made the second round and took the Avalanche to seven games, while Adam Deadmarsh was looking like a mini-Forsberg in the making before concussions ruined his career.

Finally, one major deal took place one deadline before its full impact was felt. In 2002, the Dallas Stars traded Joe Nieuwendyk (my favourite one-year Leaf) and Jamie Langenbrunner to New Jersey for Jason Arnott, Randy McKay, and two first round picks. Big pieces of the 1999 Stanley Cup traded for big pieces of the 2000 Stanley Cup. Both Langenbrunner and Nieuwendyk only scored one point in a first round loss to Carolina in 2002, but played significant roles in the Devils’ 2003 Cup win. Langenbrunner was second in scoring during the regular season and led the team in scoring during the playoffs.

These deals are the minority. The majority of deadline deals that make a difference to the eventual Cup winner are depth deals or deals that bring in a veteran with a winning pedigree. These deals include Glenn Anderson and Craig MacTavish to the Rangers in 1994; Larry Murphy to the Red Wings in 1997; Alexander Mogilny to the Devils in 2000; Mark Recchi and Doug Weight to the ‘Canes in 2006, and Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz to the Pens in 2009.

Does this mean that there won’t be any significant trades this year? Well, probably not at the deadline since we’ve already seen both Kovalchuk and Phaneuf traded. It doesn’t seem like there are anymore big names left to be traded, but these are always wacky days and no one expected Ryan Smyth to be traded in 2007, so maybe there are some surprises.

While there may not be any big names moving on March 3, there will certainly be an abundance of trades. The post-lockout has definitely produced the most action on deadline day. At first, pundits were afraid that the salary cap had made it too difficult to make deals. Actually, the salary cap has made the deadline even more exciting. This is because this late in the year enough salary has been paid that cap hits are reduced and teams don’t have to take on as much payroll. The deadline is actually one of the easiest times to make a deal. If this deadline is like the last few I expect that there will be around 20-25 trades made, enough that TSN will have enough to do besides letting James Duthie deliver well practiced jokes.


Drew Swanson said...

I feel terrible for anyone who comes back from the Olympics on a Sunday and is traded by Wednesday. Not too bad of course because they'll get millions of dollars and, a select few, Olympic medals. Yet still pretty painful.

Theodore said...

If I could I would watch the trade deadline shows... but unfortunately the demands of a normal human existence take precedence. I saw the Leafs traded Ponikarovsky for a bag of hammers... is this their final piece to the puzzle???

James Armstrong said...

Nope. They are trading the bad of hammers for some pylons.

Matt Horner said...

I didn't have to go into work until 12 today, so I actually watched about an hour of these shows. It was awful, there aren't even trades happening before noon. What's even worse is that anytime one channel went to commercial I would just switch to the competing channel.

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