The NHL’s trade deadline is fast approaching, and like many hockey fans I’m wondering how much trade activity we’ll see before 3 pm ET on March 5.

Will this  year's NHL trade deadline be all talk and little action?

Will this year’s NHL trade deadline be all talk and little action?

In recent years hockey fans have complained the trade deadline never lives up to the media hype, that’s its overblown and rarely filled with exciting deals involving star players. The media deserves its fair share of blame. At the turn of this century the NHL trade deadline wasn’t the all-day media event it is today. It’s since mushroomed into something of a holiday for die-hard hockey fans staying home from work or school to follow the trade action. Commercials on TSN and Sportsnet suggest blockbuster deals which could shake up the standings, though such deals rarely occur.

And yes, I’ve also contributed to the hype. My bread and butter is tracking and analyzing trade and free agent rumors. I’ve made a decent living at it. That’s because many hockey fans love the speculation and the anticipation of where star players could end up on trade deadline day or the opening of the summer free agent market. For that, I thank you.

There’s several reasons why the trade deadline usually doesn’t play up to the hype. One, of course, is the salary cap, hampering teams from swinging blockbuster deals, especially late in the season. Another is the limited number of teams considered to be “sellers” at this time of year. That means few trade targets for playoff contenders and bubble teams hoping to bolster their respective lineups.

No-trade clauses also play a part, limiting destinations for general managers to ship the players they wish to move. Sometimes a player’s hefty contract can prove impossible to move, as the Vancouver Canucks last year discovered in their fruitless efforts to move goaltender Roberto Luongo.

An oft-overlooked reason is the big trades involving “name” players usually take place in the days or weeks leading up to deadline day.

Last year, for example, Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Jaromir Jagr, Jay Bouwmeester and Ryane Clowe were dealt within two weeks of deadline day. While a couple of notable trades still occurred on deadline day (Marian Gaborik to Columbus, Jason Pominville to Buffalo) there’s no question it would’ve been more exciting if Iginla, Jagr and Bouwmeester were still available in the final hours leading up to the deadline.

The 2012 trade deadline was perhaps the least-exciting ever. The biggest names moved that day were Andrei Kostitsyn, Nick Schultz, Johnny Oduya, Paul Gaustad, Cody Hodgson and a fading Brian Rolston. Hardly the stuff to excite hockey fans. That was a quiet year for trades, but in the days leading up to that deadline Columbus shipped Jeff Carter to Los Angeles for Jack Johnson. Had that happened on deadline day it would’ve provided a much-need jolt of pizzazz.

The 2011 trade deadline (February 27) was also a dud, with the biggest deal being the Edmonton Oilers trading Dustin Penner to the Kings for prospects and picks. Earlier that month, however, a number of notable trades took place:

-The Pittsburgh Penguins shipped Alex Goligoski to the Dallas Stars for James Neal and Matt Niskanen (one of the biggest steals in NHL deadline history),

-The Colorado Avalanche traded Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart to St. Louis for Erik Johnson and Jay McClement, along with a swap of draft picks,

-The Toronto Maple Leafs dealt Tomas Kaberle to the Boston Bruins for Joe Colborne and draft picks,

-The Ottawa Senators acquired Craig Anderson from the Avalanche for Brian Elliott,

-The Bruins acquired Rick Peverley and Boris Valabik from the Atlanta Thrashers for Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart,

-The Ottawa Senators traded Mike Fisher to the Nashville Predators for draft picks,

-The Anaheim Ducks dealt Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner to the Maple Leafs for Francois Beauchemin.

If half those deals occurred instead on deadline day most fans would consider it among the best ever. Sadly, most of the sexy deals tend to occur before deadline day, leaving few stars still available when the big day rolls around.

In the final days heading toward this year’s deadline a number of notable players are considered possible trade candidates. Thomas Vanek, Mike Cammalleri, Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik, Ryan Kesler, Matt Moulson, Ales Hemsky, David Legwand, Sam Gagner and Cam Ward are believed on the trade block. Heck, even the great Martin Brodeur could be moved.

This year’s deadline could the most exciting in several years. It’s also possible most of these players might not be available by March 5. Some could be traded before then. Others could be re-signed by their current teams. Some might not be moved at all, either because there was no suitable deal to be had or because they were never really in play in the first place.

What kind of trade deadline will we have this year? Your guess is as good as mine.  In the meantime, I’ll continue posting up the latest rumors every day and provide brief analysis of each notable trade as they occur.