Before we even get started on the topic that I want to touch on, we need to give a high-five to the Calgary Flames’ twitter account. Prior to leaving on their Canadian road trip, St-Louis Blues defenseman Justin Faulk, a St. Paul, MN native, told the press that he wasn’t “looking forward to going to Canada one bit. But we’ll play some hockey games and get it over with and then come back.” Then, the Blues got spanked by the Calgary Flames 7-1 and whomever handles their social media accounts had a major “burn” for Faulk…
Clever and witty. Well done, Flames.
A harsh reality
In spite of the humour in this tweet reaction, what Faulk said wasn’t wrong. There are some players who really don’t want to come to Canada with the way the pandemic spread of the Omicron variant of COVID. In his most recent 32 Thoughts on Sportsnet, NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman mentioned that it could even be a factor for teams that are buyers at trade deadline this season.
Need for revenue
This season is nothing like previous seasons. This is the first time in three seasons that the NHL is gunning to have an 82-games season for all of its teams. Why? Money talks. The NHL and its owners have lost revenues in the past two seasons. Major revenues. While some teams are fine, with owners with deep pockets, others are not so fortunate and they are struggling. Some claim that another incomplete season, or playing in empty arenas, could be disastrous for their future.
What does this mean for the trade deadline market value, will you ask? It means that some teams’ GMs will be getting in conversation with their respective General Managers reminding them of the importance of making at least one round in the playoffs. As you know, teams don’t pay the players in the playoffs and the profits go directly in the owners’ pockets.
Just how desperate are teams? Look at the Edmonton Oilers. Their biggest need is for a quality goaltender. What do they do? They take on a cancer, a guy whom the San Jose Sharks players didn’t want in their own dressing room, in hope to stop their slide out of the playoffs!
It has been calculated in the past that teams make on average between $1.5-$3 million per home game in the regular season. That number rises exponentially during the playoffs when teams don’t pay the players, but also when ticket prices and other attendant expenses rise.
Unusual season, unusual market
So without even without the “Canadian factor”, this is an unusual season and therefore, it’s creating an unusual need for more teams to make the playoffs. GMs will have more pressure on them to help their owners get their team in the playoffs for revenue purposes. A team that was on the bubble in past seasons might have owners not too worried. This time, they might push harder, upping the demand. And if you understand market, you’ll know that when the demand is higher and the supply remains the same, prices go up.
Now you’re a Canadian team who is a contender (or pretender), and your owner is breathing down your neck. You now realize that some of the players you want want nothing to do with coming to Canada for a playoffs’ run. Where do you turn? You turn to Canadian teams with players already in Canada. Now the supply is even lesser but the demand for those players in Canada remains the same, as they won’t oppose to going to the states to play. You see what I’m saying?
Ben Chiarot will be in high demand league-wide. The Calgary Flames are rumoured to be one of the teams interested in his services and, as Friedman reports, maybe the Toronto Maple Leafs? Edmonton, Winnipeg and Vancouver are still within five points of a wildcard spot at the time of writing this. Let’s say they’re still within reach by trade deadline… in normal time, they might choose not to overpay. The ownership might push harder this year for the revenue.
So if Canadian teams are struggling to draw players from the USA – keeping in mind that most prominent players have no-movement, no-trade or modified no-trade clauses – and are pressed to get help, they will compete even harder to get a guy like Chiarot. Then the teams outside a playoffs’ spot are added to the mix. Canadian teams will have to offer more if they want that player. US teams, some just as desperate, will match or go higher even. Unusual market making for potential bidding wars.
So say the Leafs offer a 1st round pick. Winnipeg offers theirs, and a conditional pick based on if they make the playoffs and how far they go. St. Louis, seeing that, removes the conditional and offers a 1st and a “B” level prospect. Now Calgary, getting pressure from ownership and unable to get someone of the same caliber from US teams, offer their 1st round pick and adds a second round pick or a higher level prospect. Now the other teams involved have to up the ante or fold. It is likely that fewer teams will want to fold. At the last minute, a desperate team will come with an offer even higher. So Chiarot, who might have been worth a 1st round pick – at best – in a normal season, now goes for much more. That’s the market.
This year may not be the best year to finish at the bottom of the standings as while there are some very good players available, none of them are seen by scouting professionals as elite. Even Shane Wright is not as much of a clearcut first overall pick as we’ve seen in years past.
But as you demonstrated above, not only is this a good year to be sellers at trade deadline, we have the making of the perfect storm to be a Canadian team seller this season. It’s a matter of supply and demand, and all it takes is for one GM desperate enough to have a huge overpayment on a player. Time will tell, but Kent Hughes is in a good position.
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