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  • Players forced to deal with rumors

    Players forced to deal with rumors

    By Jim Wilkie
    NHL Insider
    Send an Email to Jim Wilkie Friday, March 5
    Updated: March 5
    12:10 PM ET

    Next to the playoffs, it's hard to top the last few weeks before the NHL trading deadline in terms of fan interest, volume of stories and news value.

    For the players whose names are being tossed around it can be a difficult time on them and their family as they wait to see if they have to relocate or, in some cases, live the rest of the season in separate cities rather than have their children transfer schools so late in the year.

    But in the tradeoff for having the privilege to be a professional athlete, players better understand that it's better that some team wants you instead of the alternative.

    "When they stop talking about 'em, that's when they should get annoyed. When they're not hearing their name," St. Louis Blues general manager Larry Pleau said last week.

    Many of the biggest names, such as Sergei Gonchar, Jaromir Jagr, Alex Kovalev and Alex Zhamnov, have already changed teams, but new names will replace them before Tuesday's 3 p.m. ET trading deadline passes. Between sports talk radio, the Internet, newspapers and TV, it's hard to find a player who hasn't been mentioned in a trade rumor in a given year. Pleau said the rumors don't affect how he does his job and management and players just live with it.

    "To me it's part of our business today. It's just so much more prevalent, there's so many more teams and there's so many more talk shows and radio shows. And the fans call in," Pleau said. "It's great for the business."

    San Jose GM Doug Wilson agrees that the rumors can be good because it gets people talking about hockey. What isn't as much fun is seeing rumors like one earlier this year that said the Sharks were shopping 24-year-old defenseman Brad Stuart.

    "I get embarrassed, I guess, when something is ridiculous like that," Wilson said last week. "You have to tolerate it, but if somebody is going to manufacture something or if they're going to name our player then I want that unnamed source or that executive named because it's wrong."

    A year ago, San Jose center Mike Ricci's name was frequently mentioned in rumors because the Sharks, who were in last place, were selling off many veterans and he's a gritty, character player who could help any team's playoff run. This year the Sharks are leading the Pacific Division and Ricci doesn't have to deal with those distractions.

    "Last year when things were going bad, when you hear stuff like that obviously it's going to affect you more," Ricci said last week. "Right now we're just trying to win games. (There's) not much worrying about the trade deadline. I don't know anything about it, so for myself it hasn't even crossed my mind. It's just trying to get out there and win some hockey games."

    Free agency, escalating salaries and expansion have made it rare for a player to spend his entire career with one team. On Wednesday, for example, Brian Leetch was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs after playing 16&189; seasons with the New York Rangers. Since 1988, players learned a new cliché: "If Wayne Gretzky can be traded, anyone can."

    "We're all professionals, we've all been through it," Vancouver Canucks goaltender Dan Cloutier said last week. "Even in junior hockey there's trades, so we've been through it for a number of years now and I think we can deal with it."

    Cloutier said it's a waste of time to worry about possible deals and he doesn't pay much attention to trade rumors because most players (those without no-trade clauses) can't control whether they are dealt.

    "There's rumors every year, this time of the year. It's the same story every year, this guy might be coming, this guy might be going, so they're rumors until they really do happen," Cloutier said.

    Cloutier's teammate, center Brendan Morrison, is more curious and said if he happens to be speaking with his agent, he might ask if he's heard anything. "He'll maybe give you a little insight, but most of the time it's something you've already heard or has been reported," Morrison said.

    "I would be lying if I said (players) weren't interested in what's gonna happen because there's so much speculation leading up to trade day and you want to know if it's going to live up to its hype. A lot of times it doesn't but like anything else I guess it's the unknown and people are interested in that," Morrison said.

    Still, Morrison said players don't get as caught up in any talk until a deal is final. If it happens, it happens.

    "You can't really assume anything because if your expectations are high that something is gonna be done and it isn't, is it a letdown? Or how do you go about reacting to that? So I think guys are pretty even-keeled about it," he said.

    For members of the Detroit Red Wings, playing on a perennial contender that has won three Stanley Cups since 1997 and has one of the highest payrolls in the league raises the expectation that weaknesses will be addressed by the trading deadline. Detroit did it again last week by acquiring high-scoring center Robert Lang from the Washington Capitals.

    "I think so. I think over the years, Kenny (Red Wings GM Holland) and Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch (owners Mike and Marian) have, if there's an opportunity to better our hockey club they do it," Red Wings center Kris Draper said last week before Detroit acquired Lang. "And I think you figure that you have to kind of look at the situation of the player and maybe the contract and obviously they make a judgment call.

    "But then like you said, usually come trade deadline if something is available and they think they can improve their team that's what they do. And that's why we're lucky to be in the situation that we are, knowing that if there's a player that's gonna help this hockey club, they'll go get him."

    The uncertainty over an expected lockout this summer and "cost certainty" for future payrolls hasn't seemed to slow the number of trades, although many teams aren't as active as in the past and others refuse to add any payroll beyond this season, if at all.

    "I think that the big things are what you're willing to give up as far as is it a player, what kind of player is it?" Pleau said. "Is it an amateur player? Is it a minor-league player that you have that's an NHL prospect? Is it a draft pick? And then, naturally how much money are you taking back. So I think those are the key areas right now and we all look ahead and wonder what's gonna be there next year, but I don't think you make your final decision on that."

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

  • #2
    When I think about situations like this, it makes me cry for all the stress and hardship endured by these professional athletes, many of them multi-millionaires. :rolleyes:

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Bluenotebacker@Mar 5 2004, 12:21 PM
      When I think about situations like this, it makes me cry for all the stress and hardship endured by these professional athletes, many of them multi-millionaires. :rolleyes:
      They even have to deal with it in their 4 month off-season.

      Unlucky bastards.
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