Some are real, some are rumours, most have no chance of coming to fruition, but trade chatter can affect different NHL players in different ways. That’s when player agents become counsellors. Soon the Vancouver Canucks and the rest of the NHL will see the trade talk heat up right along with the playoff races.
This year’s NHL trade deadline hits in two months on March 21st. There are entire websites dedicated to it already.
Ben Hankinson of the Octagon Agency represents Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks, Brock Nelson of the New York Islanders, and Alex Goligoski of the Minnesota Wild among others. Besides all being Minnesotans, all of those names have been the focus of trade rumours at one point or another in their careers, some heavy, some light.
Actual Boeser trade talk within the league was a bit misleading, conducted in a purely speculative manner by former Canucks general manager Jim Benning in an environment of desperation earlier this season. Ottawa and Los Angeles were in on the conversation. Last year there were rumours.
“Ignore it,” agent Hankinson told Vancouver Hockey Now. “Anytime any of these guys start reading or listening to rumours it can really only have a negative impact. Everyone is different, every agency is different in how they handle these scenarios.”
Simply due to age and RFA vs. UFA contract status, Boeser’s chatter, he’s about to turn 25, has been much lighter than that of the aforementioned veterans.
Age and experience brings exposure.
Nelson spent plenty of time blocking it all out on Long Island before and after the one-year UFA deal he signed in 2018 and again when he signed a six-year deal ten-months later. Defenceman Goligoski has been a human rumour mill over the years, but at this point he shouldn’t be too worried about it. He’s on a one-year, over-age-35 contract with a no-move clause and he and his team are going like gangbusters.
Boeser-talk could pick up again later this season as the Vancouver Canucks playoff hopes and organizational direction become clearer and with him due a $7.5-million qualifying offer as a restricted free agent. He has nothing to worry about in the immediate future with Jim Rutherford just a month into the Canucks President of Hockey Operations job and still in the process of finalizing the acquisition of a new general manager.
Plus, getting a complete feel for the Canucks roster and its direction has been next to impossible based on the endless revolving door of Covid protocols and game postponements. Haste makes waste; any deal-making now would be premature.
‘Petey’ and ‘Huggy’
Pat Brisson of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) handles more than a billion dollars in active NHL player contracts, among them Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks. He and his CAA team negotiated Pettersson’s three-year $7.350-million deal and Hughes’s six-year $7.850-million contract, both signed October 1st.
Brisson sure the hell doesn’t have to worry about any Hughes trade talk, and as for Petey, any chatter at this point could stem from fan frustration or media impatience with Pettersson’s slow start to the season. The list is long of superstars who have gone through funks or droughts, periods that can be particularly difficult for a recently turned 23-year-old.
“Now if he were 32-years-old or 33-years-old it might be, ‘OK, is he diminishing as an athlete’, but in his case we’re not even concerned about it,” Brisson told VHN. “We only see him getting better. We’re confident. Even the game against Carolina last week when he didn’t have a point, I thought he was outstanding, and then the next game he had two. He’s a tremendous player and not many players around the league can shoot the puck like he can.”
Logical trade talk, usually centered around UFA’s on expiring contracts, or players that want to be moved, or teams entering rebuilds, that’s often self-explanatory and legit.
“Eighty percent of the time, where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” Brisson says.
Random rumours are often just the opposite.
“There’s always some BS,” Brisson pointed out. “Bloggers starting up stuff and it’s not true at all. We usually know pretty quick when it’s legit or not. If a player is actually on a trading block, GM’s will talk to GM’s and some GM’s will express to us, ask us about players, so you can read between the lines pretty quick and find out what the info is. That’s why being informed and having relationships is important.”
If a player’s feelings are involved, or concerns arise, agents will dig into matters to avoid a distraction.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” Brisson added. “They have their families, some of them have kids at school, they have another life. We think they’re just hockey players and they’re going to the rink and they’re having fun, well it’s part of it, but they have a job to do and they have other responsibilities off the ice. A 23-year-old player will approach things much differently than a 32-year-old married player with two kids.”
As for Pettersson, should this season’s bumpy road once again get bumpier, then the trade chatter phenomena will kick up in earnest. Neutralizing it for the time being is the simple reality of this player’s upside, his contract, and his limited career timeline. Also neutralizing it is the fact that his play has improved and although annoyed, he seems to be handling questions about his ‘struggles’ rather well.
Pettersson and Boeser appear fully aware of the pressures, realities and rumours that come with playing in this rabid Canadian hockey market.
“Every player is different, some players want to know a lot more than other players, and others just block out the noise and play hockey, and those are the guys that usually handle it the best,” Hankinson said.