SUN Hockey Pool

Salary gridlock cramps trades

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

Bryce Lampman for Mario Scalzo. Jussi Timonen for a conditional pick in 2009. And in a blockbuster involving four players, Geoff Platt and Bruno St. Jacques for Aaron Rome and Clay Wilson.

Who are these people? Other than the deal that sent Andy McDonald to the St. Louis Blues for Doug Weight, a prospect and a draft pick -- and it was a trade that was done only because Scott Niedermayer decided to resume his NHL career -- little has happened on the trade front to get the fans' blood going.

Could that change as the trade deadline of Feb. 26 approaches? Perhaps.

"I don't think things are much different than when the system came into play after the lockout," former NHL executive Cliff Fletcher said. "After the new system came in, there has been the odd trade in the fall. But 90% of the trades now are made within 72 hours of the trade deadline."

A couple of general managers -- the Maple Leafs' John Ferguson and the Carolina Hurricanes' Jim Rutherford -- said there has not been less trade chatter among the 30 clubs in the NHL. But with the restrictions of the salary cap, the days of picking up the phone and making a deal in five minutes don't happen anymore.

"Now, you really have to have a fit for both teams," Rutherford said.

Teams that are close to the cap, and the majority are, have little choice but to wait until the deadline before pulling the trigger when there might not be as much salary to pick up. But if you have signed a player to a long-term deal and he is proving to be a bad investment, chances are excellent you will be stuck with him.

"The role of the GM today is absolutely far more difficult a job under the system that we have now," Fletcher said. "It really penalizes you if you make a mistake (by signing player for a lot of years and a lot of dollars). If a player does not live up to expectations, it's double jeopardy. Not only is he not performing, but you don't have the ability to recover from that mistake."

Ferguson thinks there will be plenty of movement in the final few days of February.

NEED TIME TO ASSESS

"I don't get the sense there will be fewer trades in total," Ferguson said. "Teams just want to get the best assessment of what they have."

Rutherford supports the notion put forth by Ducks GM Brian Burke, one that would enable teams to pick up parts of salaries as a way to get more trades happening.

"I'm all for taking a closer look at that in the off-season," Rutherford said. "I would not want to see changes made to rules in he middle of the season, but I like the idea."

The players don't seem to mind that there could be a smaller chance of getting that phone call.

"In the old days we used to load up at the deadline and that is a lot tougher now," Leafs forward Wade Belak said. "You have to be smarter to work within your system and that's where scouting comes in huge for drafting. It's better for us, because now you are not as worried about uprooting your family."


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