The trade winds are blowing and the action is not going to slow down until after 3 PM ET on Monday, February 25th.
Some big names have already switched uniforms, but with an enticing crop remaining to be dealt, prepare yourself for what is shaping up to be one of the more active and entertaining NHL trade deadlines that we have seen in some time.
What to look for:
It wasn’t hard to predict improvement from this Flames club after plenty of offseason action following an utterly disappointing season last year, but did we think they would be this good?
The Flames are one of the NHL’s best offenses and their defensive numbers also stack up among the NHL’s best. So, what should we expect from the NHL’s second-best team heading towards the deadline? Defense.
Sure, the Flames are a top ten defense at the moment, but a look at their depth chart on the back end reveals they could use an impact blueliner to support the top four of Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Noah Hanifin and Travis Hamonic – the latter of which is sidelined at the moment with a lower-body injury, but is skating.
You can never have enough experience defensemen come playoff time and the Flames are no exception.
While Hanifin is enjoying a career-year in his first season in Calgary, keep in mind that he has yet to play in a playoff game after the Hurricanes missed the dance in each of Hanifin’s first three years in the league.
The wild west is still a big-body, hard checking conference when playoff time rolls around, so I would expect the Flames to be in on an Adam McQuaid-type player who slides in as their fifth or sixth defensemen, can kill penalties and does not shy away from the physical aspect of the game, but rather initiates it. He also comes at an attractive price.
I don’t expect Calgary to go big-game hunting, but rather look at some low-cost depth to their blueline and possibly their forwards ranks as well.
San Jose Sharks
What to look for:
The Sharks came out of the gate slow this season but have rebounded to grab hold of the second spot in the Pacific, but this hasn’t been the complete team we thought they would be entering the season.
The Sharks have largely struggled on the road this season where they rank 28th on defense, however, it’s hard to predict a big addition to the blueline given the strength that’s already present in that department.
Would they upgrade their goaltending? Martin Jones has struggled to a 2.92 GAA and .897 Sv% on the season and has been torched to the tune of a 3.50 GAA and .883 Sv% on the road. Can they go deep in this playoffs with this type of goaltending?
They have been worse than expected defensively this season, however they have also exceeded expectations on offense as they rank third behind only Tampa Bay and Calgary in terms of goals per game with 3.57.
The Sharks have received solid contributions from secondary scorers such as Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen while Timo Meier is turning into a star before our eyes. Unlike last year’s deadline when they acquired Evander Kane – one of the more sought-after names on the market – I don’t expect the Sharks to go hunting for a big offensive upgrade this season, unless….
They call the Columbus Blue Jackets. We know the conundrum on the hands of Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen when it comes to goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin. Both could very well be dealt, and could San Jose be a sneaky player for an upgrade in goal and up front? Bobrovsky’s season has been a disappointment as well, but I wonder if his current environment is playing a part in that.
It’s a long shot, but Martin Jones hasn’t exactly been the reliable goaltender the Sharks hoped they were getting in a 2015 trade with the Bruins, so it stands to reason GM Doug Wilson has Kekalainen on speed dial for the better part of the next three weeks.
Vegas Golden Knights
What to look for:
Last year’s Cinderella story hasn’t had the same season they enjoyed in their inaugural campaign a year ago, however, Vegas has been able to take advantage of a weak Pacific Division and sit comfortably inside the top three.
Marc-Andre Fleury leads the league in starts, wins, and ranks second in shots against, but he owns just a .911 Sv% and has already surpassed his regular season workload from last year (46 starts) by early February. Fleury is no doubt their guy, but I wonder if George McPhee will be in the goaltending market for a 1B type who could pick up the slack if Fleury’s workload proves to be too much.
Offense is more likely to be the name of the game for Vegas as they could certainly use a bonafide goal-scorer since the Max Pacioretty trade hasn’t panned out to this point.
As was the case last year, the Golden Knights are a solid defensive team. Likewise, they don’t strike fear into the opposition in terms of their offensive firepower, and while they didn’t need it last year, I figure they will this time around.
Don’t forget, McPhee actually tried to land an impact offensive player when he paid handsomely for the Red Wings’ Tomas Tatar at last year’s deadline. I expect a similar move this time around.
Erik Haula is by no means a lock to return this year as he underwent knee surgery after a gruesome-looking injury in early November. Vegas is solid down the middle, but I wonder if there’s an upgrade to be had here or if they will go after a winger like they did last year with Tatar. Brandon Pirri has been a godsend to this point, but it appears it’s going to be a buyer’s market for clubs looking to add scoring, something the Golden Knights should take advantage of.
What to look for:
They started hot and subsequently cooled down as expected as the first half of the season moved along. However, the Canucks have also been able to take advantage of a rather weak race for Wild Card spots in the Western Conference as they currently hold onto the second of said spots, albeit with a host of teams on their heels.
Jacob Markstrom has matured into a bonafide No.1 goalie this season. The Canucks are good in net. They’re in the bottom half of the league in terms of offense and middle of the pack in terms of defense. As a result, there doesn’t appear to be an overwhelmingly dire need of one over the other.
More than anything, I would be looking to see what the Canucks do with lifetime Canuck Alexander Edler. Edler suffered a scary injury when he fell on his face in Philadelphia, but as of right now the injury doesn’t appear serious. Will the Canucks extend Edler to keep him in Vancouver during the rebuild or will they put him on a trade market where he would easily become the most sought-after defensemen despite his pending UFA status?
While the Edler situation will become clear soon, don’t expect the Canucks to do anything major outside of potentially trading their 12.5-year veteran to a contender in order to aid their rebuild.
Regardless of a weak division, the Canucks are better than we thought they would be. They play with speed and skill, items that bode well in today’s NHL. Under no circumstances will GM Jim Benning be willing to send future assets out the door, unless it was part of a package in exchange for – you guessed it – future assets.
The rebuild is well underway and the sheer excitement surrounding superstar rookie Elias Pettersson has the fanbase engaged and excited. I don’t expect much when it comes to Vancouver, but there’s no doubt things are brighter on Canada’s west coast than they have been in years.
What to look for:
The Coyotes slow rebuild is potentially showing some results as they are one of the seven Western Conference clubs duking it out for the second and final Wild Card spot. It’s just hard to see it going any further than that.
They have done well to remain semi-competitive despite being hammered by the injury bug, but we need to put things into perspective. The Coyotes’ 51 points sits in a tie for 11th in the west and would sit 13th in the east. Overall, they’re 23rd of 31 teams.
As a result, there’s not much optimism for a big-time trade deadline addition for a club that continues to prioritize youth and skill. Arizona’s woes continue to be on offense where they rank in the bottom four in the league at the moment. Their offense will improve along with the maturation of their young forward group, but I wouldn’t look for a home run from GM John Chayka until the offseason at the earliest.
Like the Canucks, the Coyotes aren’t going to be buyers, or in other words, won’t be sending future assets out the door in hopes of a short-term fix. If future assets do go out the door, it will be akin to the trade that sent Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini – two young forwards – to the Blackhawks for Nick Schmaltz – a more developed promising young forward.
The offensive woes will need to end, however, in order for this franchise to become a true contender. Aside from sophomore Clayton Keller and perhaps Alex Galchenyuk, the Coyotes are without true offensive weapons up front. We’ve seen Chayka busy on the draft floor before, so perhaps we will see the Coyotes more active in June at the draft or in July when the UFA frenzy kicks off.
What to look for:
It’s largely been an ugly season in Oil Country again this time around, but thankfully most of the Western Conference has followed suit which has given the Oilers every chance to sneak into the playoffs.
Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to get out of their own way and were embarrassed by the visiting Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night on home ice. The Mikko Koskinen extension signaled Edmonton won’t be players in the goaltender market. They could absolutely use an upgrade on their 27th-ranked defense, but there’s no way that a team rostering Connor McDavid should rank 24th in offense.
McDavid is tied with Chicago’s Patrick Kane for second in league scoring with 78 points in 52 games, once again holding up his end of the bargain, one of roughly two or three Edmonton forwards who are doing so. At the end of the day, this team needs more offense to A) score more goals and B) spend more time in the offensive end which will trickle down to fewer goals against.
It’s time for the Oilers to make a hockey trade. In other words, a trade that has nothing to do with money or contract status. Interim GM Keith Gretzky has admirable depth down the middle with McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but there is little to no help on either wins of these talented pivots.
The Oilers are obviously committed to McDavid and Draisaitl, so it’s time to take calls on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for teams in need of depth down the middle. Could the Blue Jackets be a fit? After Pierre-Luc Dubois, Columbus isn’t exactly stacked with centers. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could be the centerpiece of a deal to be made for Artemi Panarin.
There are plenty of other teams in need of centers come playoff time, so why not swing a deal from a position of strength while boosting your own playoff hopes in the process? In a wide open race for a Wild Card spot out west, it’s worth a shot.
What to look for:
No team in the NHL has stumbled as hard as the Ducks have this season as their 4-1 loss in Montreal on Tuesday was their 17th in their last 19 games.
In a perfect example of how weak this playoff race in the west is, the Ducks are still just three points out of the second Wild Card spot. How do you lose 17 of 19 games and hang in the playoff race?
The Ducks are an interesting team. They have an elite young goaltender in John Gibson who carried the team through the first half but is now being exposed with a complete lack of help up front. Their top four defensemen are young and talented and this is not the area of need.
Anaheim’s aging forward core is to blame as players like Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry are not built for today’s NHL. Their contracts are burdens, however, and they are nearly impossible to move in a trade. I would look for a whole lot of nothing from the Ducks other than shopping their most marketable assets in center Adam Henrique and winger Jakob Silfverberg.
The Ducks’ core is aging, but a rebound next season is totally plausible. The race is the west is so weak that the Ducks could trade with next year in mind and still make the playoff this year.
They have attractive young forwards in the minors or junior in Troy Terry, Max Jones, Sam Steel, Maxime Comtois and Kiefer Sherwood, so it’s not like the cupboards are empty. Some of these players will get a crack at the roster next season, but some can also be used to acquire win-now talent in hopes of a better season next year and/or a playoff push this year.
Things are not going well in Anaheim right now, but by no means is the grass not greener on the other side.
Los Angeles Kings
What to look for:
The Kings have already entered the trade fray this season by shipping Jake Muzzin to the Maple Leafs for a pair of prospects and a first-rounder after sending winger Tanner Pearson to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for speedster Carl Hagelin.
Now, the Kings need to keep thinking ahead. Unfortunately, their unproductive veterans are on undesirable contracts, which never makes things easy on the trade front. Their best option of dealing a veteran and most of his salary is Jeff Carter who has another three years left at a $5.27M cap hit after this season. The financials might be tricky, but a player of Carter’s caliber could be helpful to a contender in need of centers.
The Kings simply need to deal what they can and accumulate assets for the future. They did well in the Muzzin trade with the Maple Leafs, but unfortunately Muzzin’s contract situation and talent level made him their most marketable trade asset.
The Kings will be able to do more in the summer. They have a shot at the number one pick in this June’s NHL Entry Draft should the lottery balls fall their way, and as we’ve seen around the league with other clubs, things can blossom from there.
For now, barring a miracle run this season, the Kings will be, at most, getting what they can for unproductive veterans are this points in the early stages of what could be a lengthy rebuild.