• By: Dave Gross

NHL trade deadline a pickle for Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto

Complex and potentially puzzling are a couple of ways to project the upcoming National Hockey League trade deadline for the three Eastern-based Canadian operations.

Take any one of the above descriptions and apply it to your favourite Canadian team around these parts if you want, but you can also and always add the word intriguing. And that’s what makes the deadline such a hoot – you never know how the cards are going to turn.

Here’s a brief team-by-team preview of what the deadline – set for Friday, March 8th – entails.



We’ll start here of course, cause that’s where we’re situated.

None of the Canadian centres brings more ifs-ands-or-buts to the table than Ottawa. With a relatively new regime in place, Senator Fan is in a universe of unknown heading into the deadline.

Hockey boss Steve Staios can go in a bunch of directions here.

He’s indicated he’d like to bring in hockey sense and savvy . . . real ‘pros’ if you will . . . and it’s a smart direction. For too long, the approach management took was patchwork. In other words, search to be hasty; search for a quick, unresearched solution.

Staios (I don’t know the guy and quite frankly there’s very little history on the management side of things here) reportedly is taking a more balanced and thoughtful approach. Hasty/reactionary does not appear to be in his dictionary.

At first blush, the Senators’ GM gives the impression that he’s the guy not rushing to pick up the phone and call. Instead, he’s the guy calmly feeling out the other GMs, as plenty around the league are reportedly rushing around looking for the quick fix.

Let’s face it Ottawa’s season, per se, was dust as far as playoffs back in December. There’s not been much rush to do much of anything; certainly, nothing hurriedly.

Adding a few of those ‘pros,’ though won’t be easy. It’s not like other teams are sitting there thinking – sure, go ahead and have at my roster. Fill your boots.

Commodities cost commodities.

Does this mean tapping into the core?

If I’m Staios, nothing is off the table. Nothing. Your team hasn’t even had a vague sniff at a playoff spot for six, and in a few weeks you can make it seven, seasons. Your treasured core – while still holding potential – has done a whole lotta zip. Ask Toronto how hanging steadfast onto its core season after season has worked out from a financial and success standpoint.

This will be a lot of fun to watch from an outsider’s perspective, as Ottawa approaches the deadline.

New management, new direction.

Have at it.



Kent Hughes, Jeff Gorton and staff are sitting with what exactly?

To this, the outside eye, Montreal holds plenty of capable potential.

Capable – yes – but eye-popping? No.

Cole Caufield? Nice player, great shot. Nick Suzuki? Nice, well-rounded player. Kirby Dach? Decent potential there. Juraj Slafkovsky? Still so very young; still learning.

The defence? Again the word is ‘potential.’ The Canadiens back row is as blue-rare as a Montreal steak. Kaiden Guhle looks ‘arrived’ while Lane Hutson and David Reinbacher looks like they will ‘get-there-soon’ as will Logan Mailloux.

In goal you have a bit of certainty with Sam Montembeault. He looks blue-chip.

So then, with all this ‘potential’ (some of it decent, some remains up-in-the-air) what plans do you have for the upcoming deadline?

Don’t expect much of a wow moment come March 8th coming out of Montreal. Honestly, Montreal won’t know for sure what it has as far as sure-things for at least two-to-three years.

Best bet is the Habs sit tight, anything else would be puzzling.



Johnny Toronto must be done with playing this tune over and over come spring – trade whatever diminishing draft capital you have left for a veteran on an expiring contract.

Groundhog Day. Be it Nick Foligno or Ryan O’Reilly or Luke Schenn, we’ve heard this song before. None of it worked unless you count one playoff series win as significant.

Patience isn’t a word you can easily associate with the Maple Leafs, but in this instance, patience and reflection are required. Do you really have the stones to deal yet another first-rounder for, say, a Chris Tanev? Does that make any sense when your appearance right now indicates you’re a club contending simply for a playoff spot as opposed to tackling an Eastern Conference title?

Does trading top prospects Fraser Minten, Easton Cowan or Topi Niemela take you any closer to 1967?

And yeah, we get it: the core is untouchable (pay heed Ottawa). Auston Matthews, Michael Nylander, John Tavares and Mitchell Marner aren’t going anywhere. Toronto hasn’t won anything (apologies over there Tampa) with the same formula, year after year after year.

Suggestion to GM Brad Treliving is to display a bit of patience surrounding early March and reevaluate come summertime. While the fan base is nothing but impatient, it doesn’t mean hockey ops has to follow suit.



Thursday, Feb. 22: Dallas at Ottawa (7 pm)

Saturday, Feb. 24: Vegas at Ottawa (7 pm)

Monday, Feb. 26: Ottawa at Washington (7 pm)

Tuesday, Feb. 27: Ottawa at Nashville (8 pm)




Photo: Courtesy MSN