Brooks Orpik’s most vivid memory of trade deadline day mayhem is a decade old now, but fresh all the same. He was in his fourth season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the team had pulled off a blockbuster for winger Marian Hossa just minutes before the cutoff time. But with the Penguins playing the New York Islanders that night, not everyone was immediately aware the deal went down.
“Obviously, most guys nap from 1 [p.m.] to 4 or whatever,” Orpik said. “Colby Armstrong was on our team, and he was a really well-liked guy. He woke up, and I think his mom had called him actually. That’s how he found out [he’d been traded]. I don’t think he believed it at first. I think he’d probably laugh about it now, but he was pretty devastated at the time.
“Fans and media are really excited about it, and people overlook the human side of a guy who’s played in one organization. He doesn’t think he’s going to ever get moved and he wakes up from a nap and he’s been traded to a different team. It can be really tough on guys.”
Trade deadline day brings anxiety for players in even the most secure situations. Sometimes it’s their friends who are getting uprooted, and Orpik mentioned that it was hard for Capitals players to see extra defenseman Taylor Chorney waived earlier this week because he was popular in the locker room. For the 10 teams who will play a game Monday after the 3 p.m. deadline, including the Capitals in Columbus, there’s an added layer of tension.
“I think what happens on that day is all of the players, as soon as they got off the ice for morning skate or whatever, they’re all looking on their phones,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “They want to see what’s happening around the league.”
So, should teams even play on the day of the trade deadline?
“It’s definitely a distraction for guys,” Orpik said. “That’s all I can say on that. It’s definitely tough for certain guys to concentrate.”
The sense around Washington is that this trade deadline will pass by quietly. The Capitals have already acquired two mobile, puck-moving defensemen in Czechs Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek, and while three players on the team could be reassigned to the American Hockey League without clearing waivers, Washington’s tight salary cap situation is prohibitive from the team making any “big” moves without dealing a player on the current roster, something the organization has tried to avoid in recent years. The Capitals are also taking a more conservative approach after trading a first-round pick and top prospect to St. Louis last February for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
But around the league, this is shaping up to be one of the more active trade deadline days in recent memory. The New York Rangers have already dealt star wingers Rick Nash and Michael Grabner, and defenseman Ryan McDonagh, the team’s captain, is expected to be traded by Monday at 3 p.m. The Ottawa Senators are looking to move Erik Karlsson, arguably the best blue-liner in the league.
The Buffalo Sabres didn’t play forward Evander Kane on Saturday night against the Capitals in anticipation of trading him. Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Green and Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty are other notable names involved in trade speculation. Just in the Eastern Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins have already added center Derick Brassard, and the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired center Tomas Plekanec from the Canadiens on Sunday.
“I don’t really focus too much on it,” Capitals center Jay Beagle said. “I’ll all of a sudden see a new guy on a new team when we play them and be like, ‘Oh, all right, he must have gotten traded.’ I don’t really check or pay too much attention to it. You obviously hear about things when the guys are talking in the locker room and stuff.”
Back when Beagle was still playing in the American Hockey League for the Hershey Bears, there was one trade deadline in 2008 that sticks out. “We’d just gotten to the hotel and all of a sudden everyone’s phone blew up,” Beagle said. “Six guys, and they were like, ‘Oh, okay, we’re gone.'” His NHL trade deadline experiences haven’t been as wild, although the Capitals haven’t played on the actual day of the deadline since 2014.
“I think it depends on the year and the rumors,” Trotz said. “I think our guys are pretty settled in. We like our group, and we’ve already made a couple deals. … In other places, it can affect certain guys because their names are obviously spread all over the place. They’re human, too. They pretend not to hear it, but they do. That’s part of the business, that if you’re a family or somebody in this business, it’s not great, but it’s part of what you sign up for.”
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