In little more than two weeks, the NHL trade freeze will come into effect. But ahead of the deadline, these five teams could be big sellers as they look to build towards a brighter future.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that the team at the very bottom of the standings should be the trade deadline’s biggest seller. What conventional wisdom doesn’t take into account, though, is that the Arizona Coyotes don’t really have all that much to sell.
Sure, there are pieces that can be shuffled out, but the Coyotes don’t possess the top-tier trade chips that would make their roster attractive to clubs looking to stock up at the deadline. Gone are the days when Antoine Vermette, Martin Hanzal, Mikkel Boedker and Radim Vrbata were no-brainers to be involved in Arizona’s deadline day discussions. This season, the most clear-cut choices to be shipped off as rentals are low-risk, low-reward depth players such as forwards Brad Richardson and Zac Rinaldo, defensemen Luke Schenn and Kevin Connauton, as well as goaltender Antti Raanta. It’s the latter who likely has the most appeal.
Yes, there have been rumors and reports of the Coyotes considering trading youngsters such as Max Domi and Tobias Rieder, both of whom are pending restricted free agents, but even if Arizona were to pull the trigger on a trade involving either, it’s probably much more likely GM John Chayka would do so in the summer.
But just because the Coyotes don’t stand to make much in the way of waves come the deadline doesn’t mean other teams battling for top draft lottery odds won’t be active come Feb. 26. Here are five teams primed to sell at the deadline:
The Oilers’ issues necessitate a slight shakeup at the deadline, even if some are of the mind that Edmonton has simply fallen victim to bad breaks this season. The good news is it shouldn’t be too hard for the Oilers to make a few moves at the deadline giving they have a few players who fit the rental bill perfectly. And likely the top choice to move on, particularly if he can’t come to terms on an extension with Edmonton before late February, is Patrick Maroon. A big-bodied winger, Maroon has shown an ability to being effective scorer and disruptive force when playing in the Oilers’ top six and his 40 goals and 68 points in 131 games over the past two seasons certainly make him an intriguing addition.
However, Maroon isn’t the only choice for teams looking to pluck a rental out of Edmonton. For those interested in depth scoring, Mark Letestu and Mike Cammalleri could be worth a look. While neither are exactly having 20-goal seasons, both have the ability to chip in as bottom six forwards and can do so for relatively cheap. Letestu is the more expensive of the two forwards with a $1.8 million salary cap hit, while Cammalleri comes in cheaper at just $1 million. The Oilers might also be willing to listen to offers for Ryan Strome, who carries a $2.5 million cap hit and becomes an RFA at season’s end.
Finally, though seemingly much more unlikely, there could be a team who makes a play on center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. His name has cropped up in trade rumors several times over the past two seasons, yet he has remained with the Oilers. There could be a team who attempts to piece together a big enough offer to persuade Edmonton into trading the second-line pivot, though any trade package for Nugent-Hopkins would have to be significant.
By virtue of having the biggest trade chip on the board, Buffalo stands to bring down one of the largest hauls of the deadline. Already, the reported going rate in order to land winger Evander Kane is a top pick, solid prospect and a roster player, if not more. Think back to what Arizona received for Hanzal — a first-round selection in 2017 (used to select defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph), a second-round pick in 2018, a conditional 2019 draft choice and Grayson Downing — and you get an idea of what the Sabres might be after.
But Buffalo’s deadline day movement doesn’t have to end with Kane. The Sabres have three other forwards, none of whom are integral to the franchise’s future success, who could all be dealt away for picks, even if those are low draft choices. Included among those forwards are Benoit Pouliot, Jordan Nolan and Jacob Josefson. Defensively, Buffalo also has two depth rearguards who might draw some semblance of interest in Josh Gorges and Justin Falk. Meanwhile, Chad Johnson is another pending free agent that a team seeking goaltending depth could pursue.
Speaking of goaltending, though, Robin Lehner is about as intriguing as any goaltender who could be available on the market at the deadline. Admittedly, his season hasn’t been great, nor has it particularly been above average, but Lehner continues to show potential behind a Sabres defense that leaves much to be desired. His .913 save percentage seems to suggest he has more to give and could be primed for an even better performance behind a steadier blueline.
One last note: there has been mention of Sam Reinhart in the rumor mill. While anything is possible on deadline day, trading Reinhart seems like more of an off-season move than it does I deal that will get done before the trade freeze comes into effect.
DETROIT RED WINGS
Like the Sabres, the Red Wings stand to be one of the deadline’s biggest winners by possessing one of the big-name trade assets. In fact, Detroit has the most sought after defenseman on the market in Mike Green. The going rate for Green isn’t as obvious as the rate for Kane, but if the price paid by the Capitals for Kevin Shattenkirk at last season’s deadline is any indication, it’s not going to be cheap to bring the veteran defender aboard. Washington had to send a first-round pick (later traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Brayden Schenn trade), conditional second-round pick, Brad Malone and Zach Sanford to the St. Louis Blues to bring Shattenkirk in. It wouldn’t be altogether shocking to see a similar package come Detroit’s way for Green.
The Red Wings could also consider moving out a few other players, however. The two likely to bring back the biggest return are Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist. Relatively established scorers in Detroit, both could draw interest from teams looking to add to their top six and acquire some additional scoring punch. All things being equal, Tatar would probably be the better acquisition of the two as he has historically put up better goal-scoring numbers — he has 87 goals and 169 points over the past three-plus seasons to Nyquist’s 71 goals and 169 points over the same span — but the former is having the better season in 2017-18 and has a contract that is much more palatable. Whereas Nyquist is on the books for this season and next at $4.75 million per year, Tatar’s contract runs through to the end of 2020-21 at $5.3 million per season.
Finally, the Red Wings may explore options for goaltender Petr Mrzaek. He is earning $4 million and will become an RFA with arbitration rights after this season. It appears he’s not long for Detroit, and the deadline could be the perfect opportunity to move him out and maximize the return.
No, we’re probably not going to see the Senators trade Erik Karlsson at the deadline. But chances are Ottawa is still going to be plenty active ahead of the trade freeze on the heels of what has been a remarkably disappointing season given they are less than a full season removed from coming one win shy of the Stanley Cup final. So, who goes?
The big rumor has been that Mike Hoffman is available, but the chatter surrounding the Senators’ sniper has quieted over the past week or two. It makes sense, too, that Ottawa would lean towards retaining Hoffman because goal scores of his ilk aren’t easy to come by. That’s not to say the Senators can’t be enticed, but it’s going to take a whale of an offer to land him. But others, such as Derick Brassard, Zack Smith, Jean-Gabriel Pageau or even Nate Thompson could be forwards available for trade ahead of the trade freeze.
Offensively, Brassard and Pageau have the most offer, and the latter might intrigue some GMs given his playoff performance last season. As for Smith and Thompson, both are two-way players best utilized as bottom-six forwards. They are depth options, no doubt.
There are two defensemen who could draw interest, too. Johnny Oduya is on an expiring contract and has a litany of playoff experience. Granted, he’s not as fleet of foot or staunch defensively as he once was, but he might bring some value as a sixth or seventh defender. Dion Phaneuf, however, could be an option for teams seeking a top-four defender. Getting Phaneuf’s $7 million contract off the books might require some salary retention by the Senators, especially with another three years after this season remaining on the deal.
NEW YORK RANGERS
What was once speculation has been all but confirmed by Rangers GM Jeff Gorton and president Glen Sather: New York is looking to shake things up at the deadline. In a message to their fans last week, the pair stated that some “familiar faces” could be on their way out of town in the coming weeks as the Rangers attempt to reshape the franchise by adding “young, competitive players that combine speed, skill and character.”
It’s no secret that Rick Nash is chief among the players on the outs in New York. Speculation at the early point in the season was that Nash could remain a Blueshirt, but rumors have picked up over the course of recent weeks making his move out of town almost inevitable. The price for Nash, though, is higher than his numbers — he has 17 goals and 27 points in 55 games — would suggest. The Rangers are reportedly after at least a high-round pick and a roster player or prospect for Nash, which would likely help New York reach their goal of getting both faster and younger.
A trade involving defenseman and longtime captain Ryan McDonagh has potential to be one of the bigger moves New York makes at the deadline. McDonagh has had a tough season in the Big Apple, as has much of the blueline, but if the Rangers are serious about getting younger, faster and more talented in a hurry, there’s no single player they can trade who has as much value as their top rearguard. Again, the 28-year-old isn’t having the best statistical season of his career, but he’s still a 20-plus minutes per night defender who could easily slot into the second or third spot on the backend of a contending team. Acquiring McDonagh won’t be cheap. Remember the aforementioned Shattenkirk package? It could take at least that much to get McDonagh out of New York.
None of this is to mention forwards Michael Grabner, Mats Zuccarello, David Desharnais, defensemen Nick Holden and Brendan Smith, as well as goaltender Ondrej Pavelec could draw varying degrees of interest come the deadline.
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