Big deals don't guarantee a Cup

SCOTT MORRISON

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

So, the Los Angeles Kings have a horrible season and it is Rob Blake's responsibility to help fix it by waiving goodbye to his family and his no-trade clause and moving on?

Or, in the case of the Toronto Maple Leafs, it is up to Mats Sundin to live in a suitcase for the next 31/2 months because he owes it to the franchise?

Like neither guy has done anything for his team on the ice?

Now, the likes of Blake and Sundin are under public pressure to waive the no-trade clauses they negotiated in their contracts for the good of their not-so-good teams. They are unrestricted free agents in the summer and would garner a good return on the trade market. And if they don't do it they are selfish and uninspired, according to some.

Okay, on the surface it is hard to fathom a player, especially one without a family, in the twilight of his career, not agreeing to move on at the trade deadline to a team of his choice for a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

But it is also the players' prerogative, for whatever reasons, to say no. It doesn't make them a bad guy.

Sundin has hinted previously that winning as a rental wouldn't be as rewarding so it is not his first choice. That doesn't mean he won't waive his no-trade clause eventually, but it is a valid reason for not doing it, or being reluctant.

In Blake's case, he previously has moved at the deadline, won his Stanley Cup and returned to L.A. for family reasons.

Before pillorying the players, know this: There are two lanes on this street and they head in opposite directions. Meaning, the players aren't the only ones who can be the so-called bad guys in this game.

What if the player had term on his contract and decided, or demanded, that he wanted to leave to go to a contender, to heck with his agreement to not move? Would the team and the fans be as understanding?

And what if Sundin agrees to depart but has a short list of destinations that reads Ottawa or Montreal? Will that satisfy Leafs Nation?

Players ask for no-trade, or no-movement clauses for a reason. In large part, it is protection from teams unloading them when it is convenient to dump a salary, or whatever, and destination be damned. It is protection to guarantee that you play in a city of choice.

Bottom line is that if teams want to avoid these problems, they simply can stop including them in contracts. One general manager who refuses to hand out no-trade clauses is Brian Burke of the Anaheim Ducks. It only in part has to do with the difficulty it causes in making trades.

"By and large, I won't give them because I think they are coach-killers," Burke said. "A coach might want to kick a guy in the butt to get him going and that guy (or guys) can sit back and say: 'Hey, I'll be here long after you're gone.' I don't like them."

Burke inherited one player with a no-trade in Doug Weight, who ironically had to waive it to come from St. Louis earlier in the season. Burke also agreed to give one to goaltender J.S. Giguere for compassionate reasons.

"His was a legitimate request," Burke said. "His child has had some health problems and they need to be near the UCLA medical centre."

THE LIST

It would make sense that Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher finally has asked Sundin for teams he might consider for a trade.

First, while in Florida this week at the general managers' meetings, Fletcher said he wouldn't do anything involving a player with a no-trade clause without speaking face to face. Second, teams understandably are getting anxious to deal as the deadline draws nearer and the frustration level is also growing, meaning teams have to know whether Sundin indeed will waive his no-trade and to which cities he would considered going.

It's no different than what Dean Lombardi is doing in Los Angeles with Blake, who has said his preference is to remain with the Kings. Lombardi has pretty much established a short list in his own mind and is listening to offers. If he gets a good one he will ask Blake the question. If he doesn't, he won't.

"And if I do ask and the answer is no, then the answer is no," Lombardi said. "It's up to him."

As for Sundin, if Fletcher has a short list of teams in hand he then can step up the bidding process.

Presumably, if Fletcher has a list in hand then Sundin has given an indication he will move to the right team, if it fetches the right return. But that is still an assumption for now.

CUP WINNERS

Recent history would indicate that teams don't have to make a blockbuster deal on or around the trade deadline to turn them into Stanley Cup champions.

It all depends on circumstance, but sometimes fine-tuning is the way to go.

Last year, for instance, the Ducks added Brad May, who helped in the post-season but hardly was the determining factor. Two years ago, the Hurricanes added Mark Recchi at the deadline, after acquiring Weight a month earlier. Both were nice additions but not blockbusters. In the case of Recchi the price was winger Niklas Nordgren, centre Krys Kolanos and a second-round pick in 2007, who turned out to be Kevin Veilleux.

And so it goes. Fact is, teams that made the bigger acquisitions, the really expensive rentals, weren't guaranteed a long playoff run.


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