Clubs aren't feeling that trade frenzy

 

The frenzy surrounding the National Hockey League trading deadline is beginning to take on the feel of a Shakespearean play.

 
 
 

The frenzy surrounding the National Hockey League trading deadline is beginning to take on the feel of a Shakespearean play.

Sadly, it's not one of the great dramas like Macbeth or Richard II, but more like the comedy, Much Ado About Nothing.

I hope I'm wrong and that my friend Bob McKenzie is kept busy during TSN's 10-hour marathon coverage, but the action to date has been an anticlimax.

No-trade clauses and the salary cap have contributed to the inactivity. Wade Redden, Bryan McCabe, Mats Sundin and, to a lesser degree, Alex Tanguay, have all rejected the idea of a late-winter move.

Brad Richards has suddenly come into play, but teams will have to think twice before adding his $7.8-million salary.

Richards will get more attention than he deserves, only because the law of supply and demand is kicking in and there are only a few available players who would met Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey's definition of an "impact player."

Sundin fit that description, but he turned down a request from the Toronto Maple Leafs interim general manager, Cliff Fletcher, to waive his no-trade clause.

After agonizing over the decision for a couple of weeks, Sundin finally announced Sunday night that he wouldn't move.

The longtime captain of the Leafs has been vilified in some circles as a selfish player, standing in the way of a much-needed rebuilding program in Toronto.

There's no doubt the Leafs need to rebuild and that the

37-year-old Sundin is unlikely to be party to the resurgence. But there's something noble about Sundin wanting to stay in Toronto and try to turn things around with his teammates.

Loyalty is an uncommon trait in the world of professional sports. Athletes long for an opportunity to become free agents and teams are quick to dispose of players at the first sign of deteriorating skills. Redden took a hometown discount to sign with the Senators a few years ago, but now he's considered disloyal because he wants Ottawa to honour that contract.

Sundin's desire to remain with the Leafs reminded me of the time back in December 1956 when the Brooklyn Dodgers traded Jackie Robinson to the archrival New York Giants. Robinson, the man who broke baseball's colour barrier, was on the downside of his career, but the Dodgers were the only team he had played for and he retired rather than make a move.

A few nights ago, the Canadiens retired Bob Gainey's number and we saluted the fact he spent his entire 16-year NHL career with one team. Such loyalty - on the part of the player and the team - is hard to find today.

The irony with Sundin is that fans in other cities probably have more reason to be upset with his decision. The lack of trading action to this point is partly because teams were waiting for the Leafs to set the price for other deals. When Sundin took himself off the market and the Calgary Flames decided to keep Tanguay, there was one less quality player available, and the price for other players like Richard, Olli Jokinen and Brian Campbell went up.

And Sundin's decision to stay in Toronto means that, while the Leafs are still hopelessly out of the playoff race, they are a better team with him than without him. That means that some team with playoff aspirations might find themselves falling short because the Leafs are in a position to play the spoiler. Without Sundin, they might well have rolled over and played dead.

 
 
 
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