Nikita Nikitin made the news today. Something about him being a free agent defenseman, negotiating rights, and how he’s the missing Edmonton blue liner. Ok. With Dan Boyle politely declining to sign, the search is still on for a top-pairing defenseman.
So….HOW DID GARTH SCREW THIS UP NIKITIN WAS AVAILABLE OH MY GOD THE BAD FEELS!
There are 30 General Managers in the NHL, meaning 29 men are paid to compete with Garth Snow. These GMs are out to cut deals that suit their needs and propel their teams past rival clubs (Philadelphia signs Max Talbot away from Pittsburgh). Sometimes deals are made purely to screw over or circumvent division rivals (Mike Milbury promising not to trade Chris Osgood to the Blues for a year after claiming him). In all scenarios, a General Manager is going to take a lot of unnecessary flak from outsiders. Many of them will make strange claims that their team’s GM didn’t work hard enough to screw the other team, was lazy and dumb and got screwed, or he just flat doesn’t care and is collecting a salary until he’s Future Endeavored. That last one always gets me.
When this niche sect of men discuss a swap of assets, there are two outcomes; deal or no deal. The why can be eternally fascinating. For a stretch in the late 90’s/early ’00s the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers traded like 4th graders on the playground. Trading cards, lunch pieces, action figures, they traded whatever they had whenever they felt like it. For reasons beyond me at this time, Garth has executed deals with the Philadelphia Flyers and gave them poorly-appraised and/or unserviceable defensemen. If his sanity holds he will never trade with the New York Rangers.
Unless there is a barn in play, Brian Burke and Kevin Lowe will never talk lunch or the afternoon weather, god-forbid a trade.
When Snow “fails” to execute a trade (any speculated by people who are not Garth Snow) he becomes the target of ridicule and shame, which is usually baseless. No one from outside each organization is in on a trade discussion, leaving pure and unadulterated speculation. All of it is pointless.
The Vanek trades aside, there was legitimate issue taken with Snow’s lack of initiative in upgrading his goaltending last season. Really, that was some of thr only legitimate criticism Snow has taken in the last 8 years. Prior to the trade deadline Edmonton acquired Ben Scrivens from Los Angeles, then at the deadline Viktor Fasth from Anaheim, both for relatively nothing. Total cost, two 3rd’s and a 5th. That’s it. Both of these young goaltenders could have been foundational pieces to the franchise. (The Jaroslav Halak trade neutralizes those missed opportunities. No one saw that scenario falling into the Islanders’ lap.) Snow had these and other assets in hand to make a deal at the time. Why didn’t he? Ask Dean Lombardi and Bob Murray.
Just because a team has “assets” and “prospects” does NOT mean someone else wants them. Lombardi has made near 70 trades since being hired as the Kings’ GM, so one would assume he’d trade anything at anytime. What if Snow offered his 1st Anders Lee, and Kevin Poulin for Scrivens? Does Dean take the offer? He should have but he declined (highly doubt that was the offer, but for argument’s sake let’s pretend) but he would have been a genius, with Garth looking all a-fool. But it didn’t happen. Whatever the reason was it lay solely within the head of Dean Lombardi. If Jonathan Quick were available, I’d offer a package centered around Blue Point Brewery, and no one knows why it would be rejected. Only the person being given the offer would know.
Tom Gilbert was bought out by Minnesota then promptly given a tryout by Florida. He signed on shortly after. “WHAR GARTH WHAR??” Tom Gilbert had every right to decide if Nassau County was right for him and he chose otherwise. That was not Snow’s fault. He cannot conjour up an inner Charles Xavier to convince GMs to trade with him or players to sign with his team. Much like Columbus going with the Edmonton offer. Columbus sent negotiating rights for a conditional pick. Do any of those words sound like concrete terms to judge a trade? Nikitin was once traded for Kris Russel, and now the Edmonton Oilers think he’s a key to the future. Unless David Perron said all the wonderful things to Craig MacTavish, this deal sounds more like Jarmo Kekalainen found a taker for a spare part. A spare part with size, mind you, but one who doesn’t fill a need for the New York Islanders. One hopes Garth never made an offer for Nikitin because he could be a guy to be had for beans in late August. That’s judging an asset and the market in front of him.
All of that returns us to the original point; just because a GM does not make a move, or is declined does NOT mean the GM “failed.” It means one of 29 other men, or one of 700 players, had his own rationale for making his own decision. Individuals are allowed to accept or decline whatever they want, whenever they want. Perception, a General Manager didn’t try or care to help his club, does not equal reality. More often thann not, these situations have no one to blame.