I'm getting dizzy, trying to keep up with all the trade rumors floating around. And, frankly, some of them are absolutely insane. I've been expecting to hear that someone has developed a time machine and that the Jackets are going to trade Carter, Mason and a handful of prospects/draft picks for Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky in their prime. Okay, speculating about possible player movements in the form of trades and free agency is as much a part of any sport as uniforms. I get that and I do enjoy whiling away a little time contemplating which Jackets may be on their way out the door, why and what the Jackets may get in return. But when these rumors enter the realm of fantasy league trades, why does anybody report them?
I have to assume that Howson, Patrick, Priest and McConnell are at least as smart as I am. And when it comes to hockey knowledge, I am sure Howson and Patrick know far more than I do. So, when I read/hear some of these trade rumors concerning the Jackets giving up little and getting a lot in return, I have to wonder about the IQ of the person who originated the rumor. And most of the rumors, lately, center on Jeff Carter.
Now, look, I wouldn't be surprised that some teams are (have been) inquiring about Carter's availability. Actually, I'd be shocked if that wasn't the case. Nor would I be surprised to learn that ownership and management have, at least, considered trading Carter. Yet, as I said before, I have to assume that they are as smart as I am. And I note that Carter has not had a chance to show what he can do on the Jackets, having played only 19 games. Talk about his lack of chemistry with Nash, et al? Consider this, how much chemistry did you have with your co-workers after only 19 days on the job. Talk about Carter being frustrated and angry? I don't know about you, but if I was a professional hockey player on a team which had expectations of making the play-offs and I was spending the majority of my time in the season injured, I'd be frustrated and angry, too.
Seriously, I think the only way Carter is going to be traded is if someone makes Howson a deal he simply can't refuse. That is, a real blockbuster. I think that Carter will be kept simply to see how he meshes with the team when healthy. Besides, Portzline guaranteed that Carter would be traded before the deadline and his record for accurate predictions is horrible. Also, am I the only one who has noticed that the Jackets have never in their history so much as hinted that a player is being shopped? Why change now?
There have also been a few (Thankfully, very few.) rumors concerning Rick Nash being traded. The one's I've seen are of the "And then you wake up" variety, mostly from Toronto concerning Nash being traded there. They can be ignored. Mainly because no team trades it's best player without getting a very substantial return. Yes, it can happen. Many times in all sports a team has traded a start player (The first that immediately come to mind is the 1960 trade of Frank Robinson by the Reds.), but there are invariably special circumstances attached, or - as in the case of the Robinson trade - management miscalculates the return they get. In these days of massive information on players, mutli-million dollar salaries and near continuous scouting of players nearly from the time they first take up a sport as a child, such miscalculations are extremely rare. Might the Jackets trade away one, or both, of their two best players? Yes, if the return is exceedingly substantial. Is such a trade probable? I don't think so.
More likely, we're looking at trades to fill actual needs. So let's start there. What are the Jackets' biggest needs? A goalie, a bit of improvement on defense and, maybe, a bit more scoring (Another reason I don't think Nash and Carter are going anywhere. When you need more scoring, you don't trade away your two best scorers!). There are goalies out there who could help the team and may be available. We've all heard the names, so I won't bother to repeat them. On defense, the Jackets have quite a bit of talent in Springfield nearly ready to contribute at the next level, so I don't see bringing in a star player, saddled with a multi-year contract, blocking the path of those players. Look for another "Russell for Nikitin" type move. That is, enough of an upgrade to make a difference, but a near unknown player. As for scoring, look for a third-liner type, not a big name. Someone who adds a bit of secondary scoring, nothing more. Not with players like Atkinson, Kubilak, Mayorov, Johansen, etc. just waiting to really make a difference.
Who is likely to be traded? Look, if Carter &/or Nash &/or both are traded, that means that the "nuclear option" is being taken and, frankly, the Jackets don't need to tear everything down, then take 3 - 5 years to rebuild. The talent is already there to make the play-offs with only a few tweaks. I think Howson, Patrick, et al are smart enough to see that. Most likely what we'll see is players like Vinny Prospal (Though I'd hate to see him go.), Sammy Pahlsson and others about to become UFA's traded as well as role players (Boll, MacKenzie, that type of guy.) sent away. Maybe Brassard will be traded if the offer is too strong to refuse, but I honestly don't expect any of the Jackets' big names to be gone by season's end.
I actually expect the biggest change in players to come during the off-season. Once the dust settles, we find out just how high up the Jackets' get to pick in the draft and management has a chance to evaluate whom was acquired during the season, we'll all have a better idea of just what the Jackets' needs are for next year.
So, let's hold off on the trade rumors, please. At least, the wildly improbable ones. Though still losing, the team is playing better, lately. And we'll know who is on the trading block when the team actually announces a trade.