NHL Trade Deadline: Proposing a New System

Nov 27, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Vancouver Canucks right wing Radim Vrbata (17) throws pucks on the ice prior to the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Vancouver Canucks right wing Radim Vrbata (17) throws pucks on the ice prior to the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The NHL Trade Deadline is fast approaching and teams are debating if they should be buyers or sellers come February 29th. But what if everything was different?

For many fans, the NHL Trade Deadline is one of the most exciting days of the year. It is every team’s last chance to shuffle everything around in an attempt to improve their team heading into the playoffs — or to put themselves in a position to succeed at the draft. However, things might be better with something other than a trade deadline: trade windows.

Let’s start at the beginning. In the NHL, teams are allowed to sign free agents starting July 1st of any given year. In addition, teams are allowed to make trades throughout the summer, and until the trade deadline which is usually set to late February or early March. This year, it is February 29th.

At the 2015 NHL trade deadline, NHL clubs made 24 trades involving 43 players, as well as several more in the week leading up to the deadline.

Those trades can be anything from small blockbusters — like Martin St. Louis to New York, Marian Gaborik to Los Angeles and Roberto Luongo to Florida in 2014 — to prospect swaps. It is without a doubt an exciting day.

But how much sense does the system really make?

We all know how it works. The good teams try to get even better by trading for so-called “rentals” — pending unrestricted free agents, usually of advanced age — while bad teams get even worse by giving those pending UFAs away for draft picks and prospects. It is every team’s last chance to prepare for the post/off-season.

The Vancouver Canucks will have played 61 games by deadline day, leaving only 21 to play with the post-deadline roster. NHL general managers like to complain about missing team chemistry in the playoffs, and this is one reason why.

Also, from a fan’s perspective, do we even want to see the team change as much as it does over the course of a full season?

The Soccer System

Enter the soccer system.

Soccer leagues worldwide have two transfer windows per season. Players can be transferred during those — and only those — windows. Transfer window No. 1 is usually open between July 1st and August 31st, during the summer break and the first couple of games, while the second one is open from January 1st to January 31st, during the winter break.

More from The Canuck Way

Now, why would that be something to consider?

It is quite easy. If the NHL had trade windows instead of allowing trades for seven months, teams would be forced to compose a strong roster in the summer. If a team wanted to trade one of their defencemen for a forward because they don’t think they can reach the playoffs — or succeed once they are there — without one, they would have to do so before the season starts. Once it does start, they would have to deal with the roster they have, and try again in the new year.

Come January, teams would need to think about their current state and about where they think they can go in the respective season. Roughly 45 games into the season, do they think they can make the playoffs or no? Do they want to buy or sell? Or do they want to keep the team as it is?

Those questions would be much tougher to answer, making the league more interesting. In theory, there are more teams in the playoff race in January than there are at the end of February. Therefore, one could assume that there would be less selling and more buying teams.

Again, in theory, the league would be more interesting for a longer time, because teams would be closer in strength.

The Earlier Deadline

Obviously, transfer windows are not the only alternative. The NHL could also think about an earlier trade deadline which would have similar effects.

If the trade deadline was, say, on January 15th, teams would only be halfway through the season. They would have to predict where they will be 40 games later and make trades accordingly.

As of today, there are only five teams that can likely be ruled out for the playoffs already: the Columbus Blue Jackets, Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets. All other teams still have a chance to reach at least a wild card spot. Hence, those remaining 25 teams would have to think about improving their team.

Next: What Will the Canucks Do with their Expiring Contracts?

At the end of the day, we have to think about what we want: do we want to cheer for the same team all season or do we want the roster to be in constant change? Do we want teams to give up on the playoffs 20 games before season’s end or do we want them all to fight for a playoff spot? Do we want good teams to get even better for the playoffs or do we want something closer to equal strength in the postseason?

Whatever the answer, there likely won’t be change coming anytime soon.

Still, we want to know what you think! Vote in the poll above, comment below and tweet us  @FSTheCanuckWay!