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Reader Beware: A Hockey Fan’s Guide to Trade Rumors

March 1, 2010

NEW NOTE: As we’re approaching the trade deadline, this post still holds true despite being from a few weeks ago so I want to bump it up to the front page. We here at Blackhawks Down Low hope to be the voice of sanity and reason while all the ridiculous rumors fly around.  Make sure you ask yourself where the rumors are coming from and what is being said.

Note: That goddamn compressed Olympic schedule. This would have been, might up been up sooner if not for all the games happening so soon after each other. Apologies, but nonetheless, I hope you find this post still relevant, even though the spotlight is no longer on Kovalchuk.

Sure, Kovalchuk is now a Devil, Phaneuf now a Leaf, Lehtonen now a Star, but with the Olympic roster freeze in effect beginning tomorrow (I believe starting at 2PM CT) and ending on February 28, leaving a precious few days for teams around the NHL to make moves, so don’t be surprised if you find the blogosphere or your Twitter stream filled with all sorts of rumors about which player is supposedly involved in which trade with which team.

Of course it’s always fun to speculate, but before you light the hockey world on fire by telling everyone that Marty Turco has been traded to the Blackhawks for Barker, Versteeg, and Skille, do remember that 90% of the rumors you hear are likely never going to materialize, and the big rumors that actually happen (see Phaneuf, Dion) are the ones you might never have seen coming.

So how do you know which is fact and which is fiction? Here’s a simple three-question checklist for you to keep in mind.

Who is saying this?

There really are only a few sources of insider information in the NHL, but that doesn’t mean that the occasional beat writer or blogger is incapable of a scoop or two either. We do also live in a post-Web 2.0 world, where everyone’s their own newscaster, so real news items will likely reach you in a number of ways. It is therefore important to consider whether it’s a source you can trust. What other news have you heard from this person in the past, and how many of them turned out to be legitimate?

Where is it coming from?

Who the source of the news is, however, is not the only thing you should take into consideration. It gets a little tricky because in keeping up with the times, journalists these days maintain both blogs and columns, and to an average reader the two are sometimes indiscernible. It’s also always good to trace where they themselves are getting the news. People often parrot what other people are saying, but if you’ve ever played “pass the message” it’s easy to see how the original source can get distorted as it’s passed on. An example of this is when Pierre LeBrun said that an NHL executive said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Blackhawks went after Ilya Kovalchuk. Less than two days later, the rumor had caught fire and was being reported in various media outlets as the Blackhawks offering Barker and Versteeg for Kovalchuk.

Many of the rumors I’ve read online credit no one for the information, saying only that “there are rumors swirling” that a certain player is going to a certain team. Ask yourself: where did these rumors come from? Who’s saying them? Often, no one is named because the rumor came from some musing off a random person’s Twitter stream. Usually, more credible beat writers will specify whether they’re getting their information from an inside source, from some other writer, or elsewhere.

What is being said?

Everyone loves to speculate, and a lot of the time, this speculation gets mixed in with rumors. The last thing to watch out for is the language used in whatever article or blog you’re reading. This is why it’s a good idea to check the base of the rumor, to see what exactly was said. Take the Kovalchuk rumors again. While everyone was attributing Pierre Lebrun with the “story”, a look at his actual blog post reveals that the whole rumor is based on what an unnamed NHL executive thought would happen.

When you’re reading trade rumors online, remember that everyone is allowed to speculate, and even though it’s coming from Darren Dreger or Bob Mackenzie, some of the time the rumor may just in fact be their own attempt at armchair-GM-ing. Sometimes rumors run wild because of the intriguing possibilities, but things like “Niedermayer to the Blackhawks” aren’t rumors–they’re just people seeing a) Nieds’ UFA status, b) the Ducks’ struggle for a playoff spot, c) the Blackhawks’ perceived need for defense, and adding them all up in their heads. Similarly, the Blackhawks may never have actually called anyone about trading away (or even expressed disappointment at) Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker, but those names will keep coming up as trade bait simply because of how people have evaluated their performances and salaries relative to the rest of the team.

In Conclusion

We have a potentially crazy day followed by a two-week lull followed by a few more crazy days coming up. There will be speculation, there will be rumors, and then there will be trades. They will not all be the same, and hopefully that helps you be more at ease with the coming trade deadline.

Update from Andrew: All NHL rosters are frozen for 2 weeks starting at 2 PM CST.  There’s already been one trade and a few waiver moves today.  If any important, official Hawks news goes down, we’ll update right here, and I’m sure we’ll all be talking about more general NHL moves on Twitter.  So enjoy this mini trade deadline. Its only a fraction of what we’ll see on March 3rd. And remember, always check your sources.

Update from ChiBlackhawks: As per TSN, the Blackhawks have traded Cam Barker to Minnesota for Kim Johnsson and 2009 1st round draft pick (16th overall) Nick Leddy. Johnsson is a UFA after this season so this is a move by the Hawks to basically shed salary while insuring a future. This is Nick Leddy’s scouting report from 2/6/2009, before he was drafted. Best line:

Who does Leddy like among the current crop of NHL defensemen?

“I’d say Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell of the Chicago Blackhawks because they’re both really good offensive defensemen and both are kind of my style.”

Anyway, he’s currently playing for the Minnesota Gophers and has accumulated 1G 4A in 19 games as a freshman. A more updated report from Hockey’s Future can be found here.

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