The NHL trade deadline came and went Monday night when the Washington Capitals went chips-in on St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
(For the record, the actual details of the trade are so absurdly complicated that all you will be permitted to know here is that the Caps got Shattenkirk).
But the fact is that, yet again, all the air rushed out of Wednesday’s trade deadline balloon for the hockey media, and the poor sods on set to babysit all the deal-lets and non-deals will weep bitterly as their phones spit out hour after hour of non-information.
At least that’s the way it is playing now. Maybe Pittsburgh will finally close that long-rumored (well, by me, anyway) Sidney Crosby-for-Phil Di Giuseppe deal, but that’s not the way to bet.
But the trade deadline has been slowly but surely dying as general managers find far greater advantage in making their deals away from the time crunch and the persistent phone calls from other general manager, agents and worst of all, media weasels.
For example, the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans broke the NBA trade deadline as well as the All-Star Game by doing the DeMarcus Cousins deal four days early and midway through the first half, in that order.
And though this wasn’t actually a trade, the Golden State Warriors broke the market back in July by maneuvering their way for the prize of the summer – Zaza Pachulia.
Oh, and the other guy.
In short, the general managers seem to have figured out the simplest way to foil the pressures of the trade deadline – by ignoring the deadline and acting ahead of time, creating their own spoiler alerts by spoiling everyone’s fun before they were fully alerted.
And that leaves the rest of us faced with an empty day of blather after we’ve all gone to the trouble of doubling down on beer and chips.
Ultimately the idea behind the coverage of a trade is to break the news of the trade whenever it happens. And the idea of the trade from the general manager’s view is to better the team and minimize the chance of being fired.
All laudable goals, by and large.
But a trade deadline without some recognizable trades is just another day when you can’t fake working, and who needs that?
What’s needed here then is a trade deadline with teeth and real tangible punishments for everyone involved. I mean, we have chips and guacamole to think of.
For instance, there is no reason why the leagues couldn’t install rules that say that no trade can be announced even to any of the principals (players, agents, medioids, et. al.) except on the day of the deadline. Any teams involved in a deal that breaks the embargo is fined a massive amount of the owners’ (as in both teams’ owners) money.
To make this work, the teams would have to agree no trade could be made between, say, Thanksgiving and the deadline. Or Christmas, depending on how you feel about tryptophan overdosing. But the point is, nothing could get done until the agreed-upon deadline, and it could only be announced to anyone on the day of the deadline.
This is profoundly unfair to the players, of course, but that little issue has never bothered management before when the alternative was money.
It is also not much fun for the media, which has to twiddle its opposables floating rumors that can’t be proven or disproven except on that one day when everyone works from midnight to midnight, wired to the eyelids on six-buck coffee and enough green tea to turn a gall bladder into a souvenir ash tray.
No, this is about making a worthwhile and ironclad trade deadline for the good of the sport, and the business.
Okay, this is about our amusement.
We all like trade deadlines. It gives order to the market, and it centers everyone’s focus on one hyper-adrenalized day to watch out for double-, triple- and quadruple-crosses from general managers wanting to jump each others’ action in search of their own personal Shattenkirks.
It spikes Verizon stock, it makes lots of business for movers and real estate vultures, it provides cheap and disposable fame for about two-thirds of the players in the league, and it makes everyone involved look like twitchy red-eyed zombies on television.
It beats the Bachelorette every time, because among other things it looks a lot more like parents do when they’ve been up all day and night with the colic farms.
In short, a trade deadline is a precious thing not to be discarded just because it’s inconvenient for a few suits and about-to-be-moved employees.
So yeah, Kevin Shattenkirk could have held another day or so. You know, for the good of the game.