There’s an old adage that states, “believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.” When it comes to trade deadline articles and rumors that saying couldn’t be more accurate.
While the deadline is without a doubt a stressful time for General Managers who need to retool their rosters before the final playoff push, teams on the outside looking in are facing considerably more pressure internally. It is at these critical moments where a GM has to do everything in his power to get back the value his team needs before the media and fans start kicking down his door.
And it isn’t easy. You know your team is years away from contending. You know your marquee star is probably going to sign elsewhere this summer either for more money than you can offer him, or because he wants a chance to hoist the Cup. Finally, you know that you somehow have to sell the idea to your owner that hope and patience aren’t counterproductive to selling tickets and corporate partnerships.
So what is the GM of a “deadline seller” to do?
Control the message
The last thing any seller wants are rumors getting out that his star player is only interested in playing for a specific team. It pretty much kills his maximum return. The Brad Richards situation last season was a perfect example.
There were tidbits in the press that Richards wanted to come to New York to play for John Tortorella, or because he was friends with Avery, etc. All of a sudden Los Angeles and other teams were no longer dangling that first rounder they were initially offering. Why give up picks/prospects if you think there is a good chance Richie is going to end up in NY come July anyway?
Of course GM’s can plant nuggets in the press to boost a player’s appeal as well. Say Sather stays away from certain players, believing that they can’t be resigned in the offseason. Then all of sudden you’re hearing about how player X grew up a Rangers fan, has family in Westchester, a goomar in Howard Beach, etc.
That’s the seller controlling the message!
Increase Ice time
When a perennial losing team starts playing a third liner on their top power play unit in the days leading up to the deadline, it probably isn’t to win games. Well, other than the Islanders it probably is to win games, but it’s also an effort to inflate that player’s value. You think Chris Kelly deserved the extra ice-time in his final days as a Senator? Um no.
GM’s with zero leverage have to manufacture ways to get available players’ stock up. Even if it seems far fetched, there’s always a sucker willing to believe it. Or maybe you really did believe Frolov’s problem in LA was “he just didn’t fit the system!”
While the approaching deadline will certainly produce some perfunctory trade rumors, if you peel back the layers you may be able to figure out who is really available and who’s name is being dropped just so Canadian newsies can sell more papers.