Christmas in February
The AFHL Trade Deadline Frenzy
Tuesday, Feb. 28th @ 11:59 pm EST
February 21st, 2012
Christmas comes once a year, but not for the GMs in the Amazing Fantasy Hockey League, who usually get to celebrate twice a year. The first Christmas occurs in June when a fresh crop of 18-year-old hopefuls are scooped up in the annual entry draft. That is the cheap Christmas. On Tuesday, February 28th, we get to witness the unwrapping of the expensive toys… at the trade deadline!
Some teams will miss the playoffs, because their superstar players didn’t perform the way they should have performed, or were flushed by injuries, or were disabled by bad management decisions. Those teams will be offering up gifts which will glitter more brightly as the eventful deadline approaches. A typical characteristic of the AFHL’s regular season is the complete abandonment of common sense by everyone – GMs, media, and fans – involved in the game. A player whose team has spent the entire season trying to dump him becomes in the last couple of days before the trade deadline a priceless final addition to a playoff team’s roster – hopefully guaranteeing a Stanley Cup.
Oshawa City GM Earl McNeill doesn’t know what to expect.
“Anything is possible,” said McNeill after a team practice on Monday morning. “So many big trades have been made in just the last couple of days. With the way things are going this year could be like shoppers who waited until Christmas Eve to buy that special gift, GMs might find the pickings slim in the hours leading up to Tuesday’s trade deadline.”
GMs have spent the past six weeks stripping the shelves of Kris Versteeg, Daniel Alfredsson, Marek Zidlicky, Zdeno Chara, Pekka Rinne, and Nicklas Lidstrom, just to name a few.
But Manhattan GM Tony Furino thinks it will be a busy trade deadline.
“The longer we wait, the better,” said Furino. “For the teams looking for the best return possible, I think they get the biggest bang for their buck on deadline day. That’s been my experience.”
And so we have Goldsboro’s Corey Perry and Jeff Skinner, Twin City’s Brandon Sutter and J.S. Giguere, Detroit’s Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Smyth, Comox Valley’s Brian Elliott and Dennis Widemen, Deer Park’s Alex Tanguay and Scott Hartnell, among the many currently being paraded before the breathless seekers of talent as ‘The Answer’, even if most of us aren’t sure of ‘The Question’. People in Toronto are swarming about on Yonge Street, reserving the best spots on the sidewalk for catching a glimpse of Corey Perry smiling from an open convertible. Perry would transform the Red Devils from an in-and-out team with inconsistency issues into champions, no doubt about it.
Perry, who scored 50 goals last year, has a feeling something will happen. He’s not sure what that will mean, or where he will land when the AFHL trade deadline tolls, but he’s preparing for a trade.
“I think this is a poor analogy, but it’s like going to the chair,” Perry said. “It’s more or less inevitable. When you have star players in the locker room and they can help another team, it’s something that ends up happening and you accept it as part of the game.”
Hamilton GM Gates Imbeau continues to work the phones.
“I’ve elevated things,” Imbeau admitted.
The surging Hamilton Firestorm, who are on the verge of supplanting the North Bay Warriors for the top spot in the league standings, swung two huge deals in the past four days. On Saturday, they sent Tomas Plekanec, Christian Ehrhoff, Trevor Daley, and three prospects to the Oshawa City Leafs to get star defensemen Zdeno Chara, Kimmo Timonen, Michael Leighton and a prospect. Last night, they obtained Nick Lidstrom and Nik Antropov from Washington for Brandon Dubinsky and a draft pick.
“I think at least one playoff team will panic because Hamilton has acquired a couple of superstars in the past week and pay too much for too little,” said Deer Park GM Mike Nellany.
GMs do get it right every now and then. Former Washington GM Ray Irwin traded for Teemu Selanne in the final minutes before last year’s deadline struck and Selanne was terrific in helping the Power win the 2011 Stanley Cup and getting Playoff MVP honors.
“Sometimes we have to look for short term fixes and opt for rental players – fading stars with a few good games left in them,” North Bay GM Mike Brunetta said of Ray Irwin’s trade for Selanne last year.
North Bay GM Mike Brunetta and Deer Park GM Mike Nellany completed one of the biggest last-minute-deadline-deals in 2010 (Anze Kopitar, Jochen Hecht, and a 1st round pick for Ryan Kesler and Tyler Ennis) and the two could hook up again on Tuesday.
There have been 26 trades completed at the deadline over the last two years according to the AFHL, transactions that involved 97 players.
“Guys worry about getting traded, but that’s part of the business,” Buffalo Phantoms GM Daryn Beckman said. “It’s not necessarily personal every time, it’s just something the players have to deal with.”
Buffalo’s franchise player Sidney Crosby has been dealing with the speculation of being traded almost every day since his concussion symptoms returned in December and would certainly be the biggest name moved on deadline day.
“Things are happening and, basically, management will decide if I’m going somewhere,” Crosby said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “As a player, you have to respect that and go wherever you’re traded.”
Beckman offered a degree of sympathy but stressed the fact that he believes the Phantoms can win it all this year.
“I don’t know how many times Sidney has been asked the same question, over and over,” Beckman said. “But we believe we can win the Cup this year. If we get a good enough offer for Sid then we’ll pull the trigger.”
If Beckman decides to trade Crosby, he has until 11:59 pm EST. After that, the sales are over and the store is closed.
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– Talk about leadership! There are currently 9 past and present NHL Captains on the Hamilton Firestorm roster. (Selanne, Alfredsson, Richards, Briere, Doan, Weber, Lidstrom, Chara, Timonen)
– The Lakehead Thunderwolves are so close to being on top of the league standings. Leading the league with 644 total points scored on offense, the T’wolves are just three points out of first place. They’re up against the second place Deer Park Chiefs this week.
– “This has been a very interesting rebuild, we’ve had to deal with a lot of pressure and I think we’ve responded well,” said Montreal Xtreme GM Keith Cancilla, who has been masterful in bringing along the youthful core of his team. “The pressure is good; it’s good for the growth of the young guys on our hockey club to have to go through it. It’s a game of patience and the young guys have been a big part of that, slowly but surely they are logging more and more important minutes.”
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Blast From the Past: