With the trade deadline just over 24 hours away, Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray said that he's listening to offers for defenseman Chris Pronger, but hasn't heard a deal that's made him start crunching numbers. From the LA Times:
Murray also indicated he might not deal prized defenseman Chris Pronger. "Teams have interest but there has to be something to it that makes sense to us," Murray said. "He's playing very well and he and Scotty and [Ryan] Whitney give us a pretty good start on our defense right now.
"You'd listen to anything, but nothing has been thrown at me that's exciting."
Which, of course, could simply be a general manager using the media to say, "Hey, dudes, throw something exciting at me already..."
But the reality is that Pronger is a superstar player with a superstar contract ($6.25 million against the cap next season), and the machinery of this trade deadline appears to be gummed up with economic reservations. You hear more about the Niclas Havelid/Gary Roberts-level deals than you do the Pronger-level blockbusters. As Bruce Dowbiggin of the Calgary Herald wrote today:
But when the dealing is done next Wednesday, these fine fellows will almost assuredly be where they are now, while low-priced foot soldiers and heroes with expiring contracts will be changing sweaters with alacrity. As the NHL economy tanks, owners have sent out the edict: Hold the line on salaries. Better yet, dump 10 or 20 per cent of the salary budget for next year if you think we're not going to make the playoffs.
He makes an important point at the end there: Dumping salary can be more vital than holding the line on them. The Ducks have a summer of unprecedented potential player turnover ahead of them, and shedding the final year of Pronger for younger players and picks would help with the flexibility.
The potential destinations for Pronger at the deadline are few and far between: You hear the Boston Bruins and the Washington Capitals ritualistically mentioned as suitors or customers. Lately, there's a new name put in play: The St. Louis Blues, who have miraculously crept within three points of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
First, a word about the Blues: bizonkers. The franchise is playing one of the most important home games in years tonight against the Detroit Red Wings, in what could be the first playoff atmosphere in St. Louis since ... well, since Pronger was on the team. They're a great story, and like some other Western Conference underdogs, you can't help but hope they earn a postseason berth. Plus, it's nice to see Chris Mason steal someone else's job again after getting his stolen in Nashville.
Acquiring Pronger would obviously help in that playoff chase, but at what price? Bruce "Malkin To the Kings" Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun offers this scenario:
The Blues are interested in Anaheim defenceman Chris Pronger, but not at any cost. Sources say the Ducks are demanding LW David Perron, a prospect, a first-round pick and a conditional pick. The Blues would like to bring Pronger back for a second stint, but they won't pay that price. The Devils, Bruins, Caps and Flyers have shown interest.
Dealing an established NHL player for Pronger is something Brian Burke said, in his post-Ducks exit interviews, would be mandatory if the defenseman was to be traded. It may also be a deal-breaker for the Blues, according to radio host Kevin Wheeler of KMOX in the Post Dispatch:
It's almost unfair to even mention Chris Pronger's name but since it's already out there in the rumor mill I'll go ahead and say that if I could get a player of that caliber I'd pull the trigger. I just wouldn't move Backes, Berglund, Oshie, Johnson, Polak or any of the established forwards on the NHL roster to get it done.
The Blues have more than enough prospects for the future and, let's be honest, you can't possibly count on having 15-20 young, homegrown players on your team in the next year or two. There are two reasons professional sports franchises need a strong developmental system: to create cheap talent that you can add to your roster periodically and to have the ability to acquire established impact players via trade.
On the ice, Pronger is a near-perfect fit for the Blues: The lynchpin for an above average group of defenders (when healthy) and another weapon on one of the most dangerous power plays in the NHL.
Off the ice, it's a little dicier. TSN's Darren Dreger believes the Blues are "in a great position cap-wise and they have the young assets to attract that type of deal."
But according to NHL Numbers, they have roughly $42.4 million on the cap next season without Pronger and without resigning (or replacing) UFA Keith Tkachuk. Unless they move some salary for him, the addition of Pronger would put the team well over $20 million committed to its defense; the Bruins, by comparison, should be under $17 million for its defense next year.
The boys at St. Louis Game Time sound indifferent to Pronger's potential return; we imagine many Blues fans would be more concerned about what's being given up than the big man wearing the uniform again.
What is Pronger thinking about all of this? For that, we turn to ProngerBlog, and an (unedited) entry from Feb. 13:
Well without beating around the bush i will get straight ot the point. There have been many, many trade rumors regarding my name over the past month or so. Let's get something straight i have not asked for a trade nor will i ask for a trade. In my opinion i believe the rumors are part of an overzealous group of reporters who are putting the Ducks in the "sellers" category at the trade deadline and trying to drum up fan interest in there stories and TV shows. They put us, the Ducks, in this category because we have not played up to expectations thus far. With 25 games to go and around 10 left before the deadline we hope to put these rumors to rest with the we play the rest of the season and on into the playoffs.
As i have stated on numerous occasions i love playing here in Anaheim with the Ducks and i love living here in California. I have NO control over what the Management and/or Ownership do with respect to the team, i am merely an employee. Having said all of this the game takes many turns and bounces and trades are a part of the game. Would i be very disappointed if i got traded YES but having been in this business for 16 years now i completely understand how this side of it works. Rumors are merely that rumors until you are told otherwise. I have not been told anything so .....they are just rumors.
Indeed. Of course, the odds are still good that Pronger will be a Duck after the deadline, and that any potential move would come in the offseason.
The Blues could use Pronger, but not for the current asking price. The Ducks could lose Pronger, and rebuild without financial constraint in the summer. Pronger? Well, we all know about how important a comfort zone is to his family. And St. Louis certainly provided one in the past. So maybe if this doesn't happen in the next 24 hours, it happens in the next few months instead.