2017 NHL Trade Deadline Preview
Now that we are one week away from the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline, general managers are evaluating their teams’ position in relation to the playoff standings and trying to make decisions on how to improve the organization moving forward. GM’s have a lot to consider with the Vegas NHL Expansion Draft coming up in June, which explains why so many scouts have attended games all around the league over the last week or so.
With the NHL standings tighter and more competitive than ever, it will be even more difficult than normal for teams to determine if they have a true shot at a playoff berth, so there may be more sellers and fewer buyers by the time March 1 comes around. A lot can happen between now and next Wednesday’s trade deadline, though.
That being said, here’s an overview of every team’s trade situation/approach headed into the deadline, including whether they will be buyers or sellers, needs they may have as an organization and certain players that could be on the block based on trade rumors, playoff positioning and the effects of the upcoming expansion draft.
NOTE: There is endless speculation about countless possibilities leading up to the deadline. This article does not cover each and every one but instead serves as an overview/preview for each team.
Trade Deadline Preview for All 30 NHL Teams
The Anaheim Ducks will likely trade a defenseman at the trade deadline, especially since they’ll only be able to protect a certain number for the Expansion Draft. Rumors have surrounded Cam Fowler, but considering the depth in the organization, the Ducks have options.
Cam Fowler has been the subject of trade rumors since last summer and continues to be a prime topic of rumor and speculation. The Ducks have long-term money tied up in Kevin Bieksa, Sami Vatanen, Simon Despres and Hampus Lindholm, who was signed to a six-year extension earlier this season. Those contracts, with the addition of solid defensive options in the farm system such as Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour, etc., make Fowler expendable. Fowler has one more year at a cap hit of $4 million remaining on his contract. He should fetch a very strong return for the Ducks. That being said, the Ducks might want to keep Fowler for a Stanley Cup run, especially since he’s having a strong year. Sami Vatanen has really struggled this season, so he could be the one to go in the end. If Anaheim keeps both players, it could be Theodore, Montour or Josh Manson that gets dealt in exchange for a scoring forward. The Ducks are in need of help on offense, so one has to assume at least one dman will have to go.
The Arizona Coyotes will be sellers at the trade deadline. They have multiple players to deal in rental situations and can continue to acquire and accumulate draft picks and young prospects. The Arizona organization is stacked with talent, and it should only improve from here on out. Two rental players that should be available by March 1 are forwards Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata.
Martin Hanzal isn’t having a stellar season, with 14 goals and 23 points through 47 games. However, he has a lot of talent and is a big presence down the middle at 6’6″ and 227 pounds. The 29-year-old has been held back throughout his career with a string of injuries but has a lot to offer any contending team looking for size and skill up the middle.
Radim Vrbata is a sniper. Though his goal total is down considerably this season, he leads the Coyotes in points with 41 through 58 games. Vrbata is also great on the power-play and is a five-time 20-goal scorer. This is the eighth time in his career that he has reached the 40-point mark. Vrbata could be an excellent rental for any team looking for an offensive burst for the postseason. A team like Florida, in search of a power-play spark, could target someone like him.
Michael Stone was one of the other players likely on his way out of Arizona. In fact, the Coyotes traded him to the Calgary Flames the other day in exchange for draft picks. The Coyotes didn’t have productive conversations with Stone (or Hanzal, for that matter) about extensions, so it’s no surprise to see him go. Stone had a career season last year with 36 points in 75 games but only had nine points in 45 games with the ‘Yotes this year. However, he is exactly what Calgary needed and should help them considerably down the stretch.
It’s also possible Anthony Duclair could be on the trading block. He had an excellent season last year with rookie Max Domi, scoring 20 goals and 44 points, but has struggled this year. He had just three goals and nine points in 41 games before getting sent down to the AHL. Additionally, it seems as if there might be attitude issues with Duclair, which could make him even more expendable, especially given the depth within the organization. There are plenty of teams that could take a chance on the young speedy winger, though it seems more likely he could get traded at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, unless he’s included in a package at the deadline.
The Coyotes could also look to move captain Shane Doan, assuming he waives his no-trade clause, to a contender.
Now that the Bruins have fired head coach Claude Julien, it’s more difficult to predict who might be available at the deadline. The Bruins will do everything within their power to avoid missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Players like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Backes, Torey Krug and Tuukka Rask are, presumably, untouchable. But players like Ryan Spooner, Frank Vatrano and even David Krejci could be on the move. At this point, it’s likely the Bruins will be buyers (assuming they stay on track in the next week). They’ve been tied to Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche but seem unwilling to part with defenseman Brandon Carlo (or Charlie McAvoy). Matt Duchene is also of interest, but Landeskog makes a lot more sense given the Bruins’ strength up the middle. Even so, it would seem the Bruins could develop one of the team’s young forwards into a top-six wing if Matt Beleskey is going to be a third-line player. Adding David Backes in the offseason and having a healthy David Pastrnak has helped fill out the team’s top six nicely. Though the Bruins are in need of a puck-moving defenseman, the price for Kevin Shattenkirk is probably too high, especially since the Bruins would be unable to resign him in the offseason. However, don’t count out the Bruins on any player.
The Sabres are a bubble team, within contention of a playoff spot but among many teams in the same battle. The Sabres have improved significantly over the past two seasons and have a lot of good things going for them right now. Ryan O’Reilly has really stepped up as a leader and a true 1C on this team. Jack Eichel missed the first part of the season with an injury but has been solid since returning. Evander Kane is finally starting to look like the Evander Kane from a few years ago that scored 30 goals. Kyle Okposo has been an excellent top-six addition, and Matt Moulson has seemed much more comfortable and part of the fold this year. Significantly, Robin Lehner has played very well this year and is really looking like he can be a starting goalie in this league. Backup Anders Nilsson has also played very well, and the duo has come up big for Buffalo throughout the year.
Buffalo could move some rental players, it’s just unclear how talented those rentals will be. It’s tough to know if teams would be interested in someone like Brian Gionta, but his experience and reliability could help a bubble team down the stretch. More likely, the Sabres will look to unload Cody Franson as a strong rental defenseman for a contending team.
The real question, however, will be whether the Sabres decide to move left wing Evander Kane. He is having a great year, with 21 goals and 32 points in 48 games. He has been especially strong since the beginning of December and has been a great threat at even strength. He has one year remaining on his contract and could therefore generate considerable interest at the trade deadline. The off-ice drama from last summer seems to have been cleared up between Kane and Sabres general manager Tim Murray. That may be an issue for other teams looking to sign him to a long-term deal, though, but that’s an issue for another day. At this point, it’s not clear if Buffalo will decide to make him part of the core of this team moving forward or sell high while he is playing great hockey. Murray certainly has options.
The Calgary Flames got things going the other day by making the first major trade leading up to the deadline, acquiring defenseman Michael Stone from the Arizona Coyotes. Stone is the top-four defenseman the Flames needed, so adding him was an excellent move by general manager Brad Treliving. The Flames now find themselves in the second wild card slot in the Western Conference but continue to play well and are a legitimate threat in the playoffs. Guys like Kris Versteeg and Dennis Wideman could be on the block as rentals, but neither will yield anything useful for the Flames’ playoff push. Calgary would probably be better off keeping them as depth players, especially in case of injury.
The Carolina Hurricanes have played some very good hockey this year. Starting netminder Cam Ward signed an extension in the offseason and has been great at times this year, though mainly at home. A few offseason acquisitions strengthened the team’s depth, and there is a lot to be positive about moving forward. Sebastian Aho, Elias Lindholm, Teuvo Teravainen and Jeff Skinner are having strong seasons, and Jordan Staal and Lee Stempniak have been solid as well. The team will likely be sellers at the deadline but might not necessarily be too involved. Guys like Viktor Stalberg and Eddie Lack won’t generate much interest, and the team has a lot of young talent that will be exempt from the Expansion Draft.
Chicago, once again, will make a few deadline moves to bolster the team’s depth headed into the playoffs. The Blackhawks find themselves with less depth than normal this season, but general manager Stan Bowman will work his magic and should be able to acquire at least one or two guys for a deep playoff run. Cap trouble is always an issue for Bowman and the Hawks, but no one uses rentals as effectively as Chicago. It’s unclear who the Hawks are targeting, though the Hawks are normally interested in the top candidates. It could be someone like Thomas Vanek from the Red Wings, or it could be a smaller depth piece. The team could use another depth defenseman and some bottom-six support, but it doesn’t seem like Bowman will pull off any flashy deadline deals this year. However, never say never when it comes to the Blackhawks.
Colorado is the worst team in the league and is having a season out of the Bad News Bears. Everything is going wrong and almost everyone is available. That’s not to say that Joe Sakic will make a lot of deals. He won’t risk the future of the club for the sake of it, but he has lots of pieces to move and lots of interest from around the league. Most would agree that it’s time for the Avs’ core to be split up in order to start a rebuild. Most notably, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog are available. But defenseman Tyson Barrie and veteran winger Jarome Iginla could also be on the block. The Avalanche need defensemen and will try to acquire young talent. There have been plenty of rumors surrounding the Bruins and Avalanche, especially around Landeskog. But the Avs would want Brandon Carlo, whom the Bruins seem unwilling to trade. The Avalanche have the luxury of waiting until the summer to move guys like Duchene and Landeskog, however, so Sakic will only pull the trigger if the right deal comes along. It will be difficult to move Iginla considering his decline this season and his large cap hit, but Sakic will likely try to get him to a contender if at all possible.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets went on an improbable 16-game winning streak this season and currently hold one of three playoff spots for the Metropolitan Division. The team hasn’t been as strong lately but still boasts a 37-16-5 record. Sergei Bobrovsky has 31 wins on the season and will be in the running for the Vezina Trophy. Cam Atkinson and Alexander Wennberg have had breakout seasons. Zach Werenski has been a star in his rookie campaign. Seth Jones has taken great strides in developing his game and truly looks like the defenseman he was projected to be. Sam Gagner has surprised many and has turned out to be one of the most underrated signings of the offseason, as he has 14 goals and 34 points. Nick Foligno has bounced back after a miserable 37-point season last year. Coach John Tortorella seems to have finally struck a balance between riding his players hard and getting the most out of them with a new, more laid-back attitude. Needless to say, there are a lot of things to be positive about in Columbus. That being said, there are one or two deals the team could make at the deadline, though nothing is urgent.
Scott Hartnell has played well in his time with the Blue Jackets, with 139 points in 212 games. He is having a down year with 13 goals and 30 points, and he has been relegated to fourth-line duties. He could be a valuable asset with playoff experience and grit, but dealing him would be better for the organization in the long run. He has two years remaining on his deal, which carries a $4.75 million cap hit. That contract is the reason the Philadelphia Flyers traded him three years ago, and it’s the reason Columbus will look to unload him to a team in need of veteran experience and scoring depth. His no-movement clause will be especially damaging since he’ll have to occupy one of the spots on Columbus’ Protection List for the expansion draft. Obviously, he will have at least some say in any deal given his NMC.
The Dallas Stars are not having as strong a year as they had hoped. The goalie situation is still a mess, but since the team is unlikely to make a postseason push, the urgency of the move is much less of an issue. There are many goalies available throughout the league, such as Marc-Andre Fleury, Ben Bishop, etc. The Stars could make a move for one of these, but the other team would have to take on either Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen, which is a tough deal to sell.
What’s more likely is that the team will move one of its three attractive impending unrestricted free agents.
Patrick Eaves is tied for first on the Stars in goals with 21 and is third on the team in points (37). He has had a very strong season and should be a very popular rental for contending teams. The 6’0″ 200-pound winger can add a legitimate scoring touch to any team’s top-six or top-nine, and he is an underrated penalty killer.
Patrick Sharp has had a tough season. He’s only played in 34 games and only has 14 points, the lowest point-total since his first few partial seasons in the league. He will not be re-signed at the end of this season and figures to be an interesting rental option despite his high $5.9 million cap hit. But above all else, Sharp has three Stanley Cup rings and plenty of experience. He will be a valued option.
Lastly, Johnny Oduya also has Stanley Cup success and experience on his resume and would offer many teams stability on the back end. It would not be surprising to see Chicago acquire Oduya at the deadline to take another run with the former Hawk as they seek the franchise’s fourth Cup since 2010.
Detroit Red Wings
It appears as though the Detroit Red Wings’ impressive streak of making the playoffs in 25 straight seasons will finally come to an end in this year’s tight playoff race. If this is the case, the Wings have one impending unrestricted free agent that could be a top offensive option.
The Red Wings may decide to re-sign Thomas Vanek after this year. The team gave him a chance on a one-year contract, and Vanek has come through. He has 38 points on the year, which ranks second on the team behind captain Henrik Zetterberg. Vanek has fit in well and could earn himself a new contract. If not, plenty of teams will have interest. For example, a team like the New York Islanders could make a play for him. Reuniting him with John Tavares could be the trick to helping the Isles fight for a wild card spot in the east.
The Edmonton Oilers are in a good spot in the second most competitive division in the league, currently sitting second in the Pacific with 72 points and one game in hand over the third-place Anaheim Ducks (72 points). There is still plenty of hockey left, so nothing is guaranteed. But the Oilers find themselves in a new situation nearing the trade deadline, regardless of whether they ultimately compete in the postseason. General manager Peter Chiarelli made some big moves in the offseason, including trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson, signing Milan Lucic to a big contract, shipping away Nail Yakupov and signing defenseman Kris Russell to a one-year deal right before the start of the season. That being said, there are moves Edmonton could make, or at least players for which Chiarelli should field calls. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have been dominant, but other marquee players have underperformed. What the team needs more than anything is a legitimate backup goalie, especially down the stretch considering Cam Talbot has played more than any other goalie in the NHL. But another legitimate center is on the Oilers’ wish list.
Jordan Eberle has had a difficult season. He’s had plenty of chances but hasn’t been able to finish, even when playing with Connor McDavid. He has been shuffled throughout the lineup but is now back on the top line with McDavid and Patrick Maroon. He has only 12 goals through 60 contests and has not been the offensive star he usually is. He could be available because of his mediocre play, especially with Leon Draisaitl having another fantastic season. Even with his current scoring troubles, Eberle is the kind of player most teams would covet. He is capable of 60-70 points and is generally a consistent 25-goal scorer. The Oilers would need a lot in return, and it still seems premature to move him. That being said, he is not untouchable. With the Hall trade over the summer, though, clearly no one in Edmonton (other than McDavid) is untouchable.
But the Oilers could use more help on the back end. The team has been linked to players like Kevin Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler, Tyson Barrie and Jacob Trouba going back to the beginning of the offseason. While the need is not nearly as dire with Adam Larsson and Kris Russell on board, the Oilers are still on the lookout for a defenseman. At the very least, Chiarelli could trade for a depth defenseman to help out in case of injury.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also has 12 goals on the year and is having his second consecutive off season offensively. With the emergence of Draisaitl, RNH is a 3rd-line center for the Oilers, but he could be a bigger piece on another team. He only has 29 points through 60 games and is still operating at a 44 percent faceoff rate. It would make more sense for the Oilers to move him over the summer, unless of course the right deal comes along. That being said, the Oilers are interested in another center because of RNH’s lackluster effort. Someone like Brian Boyle could be a great fit with his faceoff and penalty kill abilities, work ethic, leadership and vast playoff experience.
The Florida Panthers got off to a pretty shocking start to the season. Jonathan Huberdeau went down with a long-term injury before the season started and the team could not overcome his loss and the shorter-term loss of Aleksander Barkov. Aaron Ekblad is having an off year, the power-play is ranked 27th in the league at 14.9 percent and Roberto Luongo is 16-14-6. Head coach Gerard Gallant was fired and general manager Tom Rowe stepped in. Ever since Huberdeau and Barkov returned on Feb. 3, though, the winds have turned in Sunrise. At this point the team has responded and is very much back on track. The Cats have won five games in a row and now sit in the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. Obviously, the playoff race has never been tighter and anything could happen between now and April. But against many odds, the Panthers are in the thick of a playoff push. After spending $200 million on free agency in the offseason, the Panthers will be looking to be buyers come March 1.
What the Panthers most need is someone to jumpstart the power-play. The team will not trade away assets, especially since management spent so much money in the offseason locking up the team’s core for many years. If a move is to be made, expect draft picks and prospects to be going the other way.
Los Angeles Kings
The collective hearts of the Los Angeles Kings’ fanbase dropped in game one of the season when star netminder Jonathan Quick went down with a serious injury. Quick has been out for the entire season. When backup Jeff Zatkoff didn’t fit the bill, the Kings brought up veteran Peter Budaj to man the crease. The interesting part of the story is that Budaj’s NHL career was thought to be over, but he has done an admirable job keeping the Kings in the race. Quick recently joined the Kings in practice and is on track to return some time in March, just in time for the Kings to dig in for the playoff hunt. If any team in the league knows what has to be done to fight for and earn a late playoff spot, it’s the Los Angeles Kings. This Kings roster is missing some key components from the Cup years but has enough veteran leadership and talent, along with the most no-nonsense guy in the NHL in head coach Darryl Sutter, to get the job done. The Kings will be looking for a top-line left winger, a bottom-six forward and a number 4 or 5 defenseman.
Minnesota is having a fantastic season. Devan Dubnyk is in the running for the Vezina Trophy, head coach Bruce Boudreau is seeing the type of regular-season success he is used to and the Wild are in second place in the NHL’s overall standings, first in the Western Conference. The team hasn’t officially clinched, but the Wild are as sure a bet as any team to make the postseason. There’s no doubt Boudreau is one of the best regular-season coaches in the league. His problem comes when the going gets tough come playoff time. This is why he was fired by the Washington Capitals and why he was fired last year by the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks’ game seven loss last year marked the fourth consecutive year in which Boudreau and the Ducks lost a game seven at home. It was also the fourth consecutive season in which the Ducks did so after blowing a 3-2 series lead. Obviously, the personnel are different in Minnesota. However, this is the pattern Boudreau’s teams follow, so nothing is said and done at this point.
That being said, Boudreau has helped this Minnesota roster substantially. He is getting much more out of these players than any coach in the past, and the overall team chemistry is electric on the ice. Former underachieving players have been consistent offensive contributors. Players play well together and succeed regardless of linemates or position in the lineup. The team as a whole is playing outstanding defense, and perhaps the biggest change is that the quality defense is creating chances on the rush.
For a team that was rumored to have locker-room rifts among players in previous seasons, it certainly seems as though Boudreau has this group tighter and closer than ever. For this reason, it would be surprising to see the Wild do much at the deadline. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Plus, if things are going well and there is evident chemistry throughout the team, don’t jeopardize that in favor of possibly adding another element. The team could make a depth move to bring in some insurance in case of injury, but otherwise it would be surprising to see general manager Chuck Fletcher too active leading up to the deadline.
The Montreal Canadiens made the biggest splash in the offseason with the P.K. Subban/Shea Weber trade and made an enormous splash last week by firing head coach Michel Therrien and bringing in recently-fired Claude Julien to be the new bench boss. Julien coached the Habs between January 2003 and January 2006 but has been the coach of the Bruins for the last 10 seasons.
There have been countless rumors about Therrien, Subban, Carey Price, etc. over the last few years, and there have been reported issues between Therrien and various players. Now that Therrien is gone, the player to watch in this situation is Alex Galchenyuk. He has been moved from center to wing and around the lineup by Therrien. Julien immediately put him back on the top line between Alexander Radulov and Max Pacioretty. However, there are rumors suggesting that if Galchenyuk doesn’t show in the next few games that he’s capable of being a first-line center he could be involved in a deal for Matt Duchene. That seems a little rushed given the fact that Therrien misused Galchenyuk for so long, but Montreal views Duchene as a true first-line center and could pull the trigger if Colorado is interested/willing.
The Nashville Predators currently hold the first wild card slot in the Western Conference standings. A postseason berth is by no means guaranteed, but a rental player could help the team down the stretch. General manager David Poile already traded for a depth forward in Vernon Fiddler earlier this month. What the team could use, however, is a top-six scorer. Filip Forsberg has underperformed all season, as have James Neal and especially Craig Smith. While a top-six forward would help for the playoff push, the team will be hesitant to lose a top-four defenseman in order to acquire one. It seems more likely the team will look for more of a middle-six winger that won’t come with a huge asking price.
New Jersey Devils
It’s difficult to determine who will be active at the deadline, especially since the standings are tighter than ever, especially in the Eastern Conference. But the Devils are in the most competitive division in the league and have not been competitive on a consistent basis. The team made substantial progress in the offseason in acquiring Taylor Hall. Another defenseman or two would be a great help, and Cory Schneider will have to be better next season. The Devils aren’t missing much, so there’s no need to be overly active at the deadline. P.A. Parenteau and Kyle Quincey will be unrestricted free agents in the offseason.
New York Islanders
The Islanders are a true bubble team at this point. It’s certainly possible for them to make the playoffs, but they’re currently on the outside looking in. The team’s play has clearly suffered from losing Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen in the offseason, but the Isles look much better after making a coaching change. The team waived Jaroslav Halak to make Thomas Greiss the official number-one starter. He has struggled in recent games, but New York has been winning and is back in the mix.
Jaroslav Halak could be an attractive option for teams in need of backup or depth goaltending. The issue, however, is that Halak has one more year remaining on his contract, which carries a $3.55 million cap hit. There are still teams that could be interested, though, and the Isles seem confident in Greiss moving forward (they signed him to a three-year extension shortly after waiving Halak). Keeping Halak would give the Islanders a goalie to expose in the expansion draft, so retaining him is not the end of the world.
The Islanders could use some top-six scoring. They could look at Thomas Vanek from Detroit. Vanek spent part of a season with the Islanders and had great chemistry with John Tavares. That’s not as urgent now that Josh Bailey and Anders Lee have been playing very well with JT over the last few weeks. If the team wants to make a big move, there are many teams that would be interested in defenseman Travis Hamonic, who is currently injured. But that’s the kind of move that would make a lot more sense to take care of after the season. There were rumors that had Ryan Strome going to Arizona, but he has been fantastic over the past six-eight games.
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers find themselves in the first wild card slot but only one point behind Columbus for the third Metro slot. Though the Rangers weren’t involved in any large deals in the offseason, general manager Jeff Gorton quietly managed to build more forward depth than the team has seen in years. The additions of guys like Michael Grabner, Jimmy Vesey, Brandon Pirri and Pavel Buchnevich have paid dividends. Chris Kreider seems to have finally put together all of his tools, making him one of the top power forwards in the league. Mika Zibanejad found instant chemistry on the team since being acquired in exchange for Derrick Brassard. Ironically, the most inconsistent part of this Rangers team has been the goaltending. A lot of this has to do with the defense, which has been anything but solid. But Lundqvist seems to have have picked up his game of late, and the team seems ready for a strong playoff push. It would be shocking for the Rangers to find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time.
The Rangers have two objectives headed into the deadline. The first is to try to acquire a puck-moving defenseman. The second, which could be part of the first, is to try to unload the contract of either Dan Girardi or Marc Staal. All the years of sacrifice and excellent defensive play seem to have caught up with Girardi, who is not the player he was two-three years ago. Staal hasn’t been consistent this year and will have four years remaining at the end of this year on an expensive contract. Ideally, Kevin Shattenkirk would be a perfect addition for the Rangers. However, it seems unlikely they’ll be able to part with the package St. Louis will be demanding, and unless one of those contracts is unloaded, the Rangers would not be able to afford re-signing Shattenkirk this summer. There are other options, though; the Rangers will certainly explore them. Brandon Pirri seems to be the odd man out with Oscar Lindberg seeing time on the fourth line; he would be a valuable and relatively inexpensive rental for teams looking for bottom-six depth and help on the power-play.
The Ottawa Senators are one of many teams fighting for only a few playoff spots, but the team has a good chance of fighting until the end. With the recent injury to Bobby Ryan, Ottawa could be in the market for a top-six forward. Curtis Lazar, who has come out and said he just wants to play in the NHL, whether it’s for Ottawa or another team, could request a trade, though that’s probably less likely now that he’s in the lineup for Ryan. It is said the Sens expect a 1st or 2nd in exchange for Lazar, which is a price most general managers will be unwilling to pay since some view him as a bust.
However, it’s also fair to assume the Senators might shy away from making huge deals considering the recent injury status of several top stars. In addition to Ryan, both Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone are out with injuries. If those are serious, that will greatly affect what general manager Pierre Dorion and management ultimately decide to do.
The Flyers are one of the more difficult teams to peg. On the one hand, the team sits three points out of a playoff spot. On the other hand, Philly has been in a tailspin of sorts after going on a 10-game winning streak. The win against Vancouver on Sunday was big, and the outcome of the next few games will determine how general manager Ron Hextall approaches the deadline. Expect the Flyers to be sellers at the end of the day, though. It’s unlikely the team will mount a run like last season. This is a team that was never guaranteed to be playoff-bound, though if they miss the playoffs they will be the first team in NHL history to do so after going on a 10-game winning streak during that season.
But the Flyers are taking a long-term approach to building a team through the draft, something that has never been done in the 50 years of the franchise’s history. Hextall has been patient and will need to continue to be patient to bring this team back to its former glory. There is plenty of talent up and down the lineup, but with the Expansion Draft coming up, it’s likely Hextall will make the most of his opportunities.
Ideally, Hextall will be able to pull off another miracle of a move by unloading Andrew MacDonald or Dale Weise. Either one of those players being taken in the Expansion Draft would be a best-case scenario for the Flyers, but moving them at the deadline would be next to impossible, or at least highly unlikely. The team would like to move Matt Read as well, though his contract is much less of an albatross than the other two. Read’s production has basically disappeared over the past few seasons after he started his NHL career with two 20-goal campaigns in his first two full seasons.
What the Flyers can do is move a defenseman or two.
Mark Streit is the most likely candidate to get dealt before the deadline. He is in the final year of his five-year contract and would be an excellent rental for almost any team. He is reliable defensively and can still produce on the power-play. There are many teams that would be interested in his services. It’s possible Nick Schultz and/or Michael Del Zotto could be moved, though Streit is the more likely candidate.
Many expect the Flyers might move either Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth before the deadline. Both goaltenders will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, and neither has had a particularly strong season. Neuvirth has been better and is the better goalie, but the feeling in Philadelphia all season has been that it’s Mason’s job to lose. Neuvirth would be more attractive to teams in need of goaltending, especially a team like the Oilers. That being said, the Flyers need to decide if Mason is truly the right goalie for the future. He seems to play better when the crease is his and his alone, but he frequently has stretches of abysmal play. The Flyers could always bring in a guy like Ben Bishop and lose Mason and Neuvirth in the offseason, but Bishop’s salary demands are unrealistic (plus, his injury issues are a concern). One move the Flyers will have to make at some point is to get a goalie who will be eligible for the exposure requirement for the Expansion Draft. That’s a minor move Hextall could make this week.
There have been rumors circulating over the past few days about captain Claude Giroux possibly being on the move. None of the rumors have been substantiated, but his name is in the rumor mill. The Flyers are having a very tough season, and Giroux is either playing hurt or just going through an especially rough stretch. It would be surprising to see the Flyers move the heart of the franchise, but you can’t say this team hasn’t done it before.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are poised to take a run at back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. Most of last year’s Cup-winning team remains, and Pittsburgh doesn’t have many needs. The biggest question will be whether the Penguins keep Marc-Andre Fleury for the playoffs or whether they deal him prior to the deadline. It seems as though it is now solidified that Matt Murray is the guy for Pittsburgh moving forward. Fleury takes up valuable cap space and is no longer the number-one in Pittsburgh. One way or another, Fleury will not be in a Penguins jersey by the 2017-2018 season. Whether or not he’s moved prior to the deadline is unknown. General manager Jim Rutherford will certainly take offers and go from there.
What the Penguins could use is another defenseman. Olli Maatta just went down with another injury, so he could be expendable given his injury history and the fact that the Penguins are right in the mix for the Cup. One theory that has been thrown around is the Penguins acquiring Kevin Shattenkirk as a rental. They cannot afford to re-sign him next year with so much cap tied up in the contracts of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. However, Pittsburgh has enough youth and talent in the organization to take a shot at getting Shattenkirk for rental purposes, assuming St. Louis doesn’t keep him for the playoffs. That would be a dangerous move for the Penguins and would certainly improve their chances further.
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks are not having as strong a season as they did last year but are certainly a playoff team, as they occupy the first seed in the Pacific Division with 77 points. The Oilers and Ducks are only five points down, but the Sharks are in a good spot. It’s doubtful the Sharks will be as active at the deadline as they have been in the past. They’ve already made a few small moves, trading Tommy Wingels and losing Matt Nieto on waivers. Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton will remain with the team for the playoffs, and their future with the club will be dealt with at the conclusion of the season. The Sharks don’t have many needs and will probably be relatively inactive at the deadline.
St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues recently fired head coach Ken Hitchcock but have played well under Mike Yeo. The main problem this year has been goaltending, something that has not been an issue for the Blues for years. After trading Brian Elliott over the summer and making Jake Allen the number 1 goalie, the Blues found themselves with mediocre and inconsistent play. Allen has been better since the coaching change, as has backup Carter Hutton. But it would not be surprising to see the Blues inquire about some of the number-one goalies in play. Could Ben Bishop or Marc-Andre Fleury head to St. Louis? It’s possible, though the team could stick with Allen and address the matter in the offseason.
There are a few players the Blues could move, however. Someone like Nail Yakupov is unlikely to generate much interest, but Patrik Berglund has played very well of late and could be a legitimate trading chip or part of a package. The Blues currently hold the third slot in the Central Division but sit only two points ahead of Nashville in the first wildcard slot and three points ahead of Calgary in the second wildcard slot. If St. Louis struggles this week, general manager Doug Armstrong could be more inclined to trade a guy like Berglund, and especially Kevin Shattenkirk, whom the Blues cannot afford to re-sign in the offseason. However, though many teams have interest in Shattenkirk, the asking price of a high-end prospect, a 1st-round pick and another asset is scaring off many GM’s. This is especially true since Shattenkirk may decide to hit free agency regardless of where he ends up after the deadline.
Tampa Bay Lightning
One of the most surprising aspects of this season is the Lightning’s regression. Tampa has gone from being a perennial Cup contender to a potential lottery team. Though Tampa has had a great month and sits four points out of a playoff spot, it will still take a lot run for the team to advance. The roster is loaded with talent but has taken a major step back this season. With continued cap constraints and young talent on expiring contracts, general manager Steve Yzerman could take advantage of his current situation and move some pieces at the deadline.
Ben Bishop has been on his way out of Tampa Bay ever since last summer. The Lightning signed backup Andrei Vasilevskiy to an extension, and the team was ready to move ahead. Most believed that Tampa would keep Bishop and go after another Cup, but the plan entering the season was that he would be on the move eventually out of necessity more than anything. Vasilevskiy hasn’t exactly taken the reins, though. He is 11-12-5 in 28 starts this season, and obviously the Lightning are not where they thought they would be in the standings. Part of that is due to the loss of Steven Stamkos to a long-term injury, but the team has played well without him before. Chalk it up to bad luck or just an off season, but it seems that no matter what, Bishop must go. He will demand a minimum of $7 million per year, and there are many teams that are prepared to offer that. Tampa Bay cannot.
One name that has picked up steam as a strong rental option is Brian Boyle. He is on an expiring contract and is set to be an unrestricted free agent after this season. He has plenty of playoff experience in his time with the Rangers and Lightning, and he has seen an increase in production in his time on the Lightning (he has 13 goals this season). Boyle is an excellent two-way bottom-six center and has shown that he is more than just a penalty killer. He should garner widespread interest.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs are back in the playoff picture after several disappointing seasons. Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and the rest of the rookies have been sensational, and plenty of veterans have had strong years, like Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner. Goaltender Frederik Andersen has proven to be worthy of his $5 million cap hit, and things are certainly looking up in Toronto. That being said, Toronto still has areas to improve, and there are plenty of players they can deal. One such player could be James van Riemsdyk, who has been rumored to be on the block with the influx of young talent. Even someone like Wiliam Nylander could be on the move with Matthews and Marner leading the way. However, Nylander has had a fantastic season, and Toronto should hold onto him unless he can land them Kevin Shattenkirk or a player of that caliber. His future in this league is as bright as the sun.
The Vancouver Canucks are further along than many thought. Ryan Miller has had a great season, and the young talent throughout the roster has really shined. Guys like Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund and especially Bo Horvat show a lot of promise. Two guys the Canucks might try to move are Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen. That being said, Burrows has said he wants to remain in Vancouver even though his contract is expiring, so he may not waive his no-trade clause. One would have to believe Miller has done enough this season to earn an extension over the summer even though Jacob Markstrom has a three-year deal kicking in next year. Hansen has one more year on his deal so he won’t be overly attractive to bubble teams.
The Washington Capitals will not be very active at the deadline. The team recently acquired defenseman Tom Gilbert from the Kings as a depth defenseman in case of injury. When Brooks Orpik was suspended during the playoffs last year, it was clear the Caps lacked defensive depth even with the acquisition of Mike Weber at the deadline. It’s possible Washington could look for another depth defenseman or a depth forward, but it is highly unlikely the team will make any changes to the roster. The team has started to play well over the past few months and has great chemistry on the ice and especially in the locker room. This is a tight-knit group management will be hesitant to disrupt.
The Winnipeg Jets are stacked with talent, so much so that there are very talented players that can’t earn a spot with the big club. That is not a bad problem to have, especially in today’s NHL, which is getting younger and faster every year. The Jets have shown a lot of resolve this season, but the questions surrounding the crease still remain. Winnipeg could be and probably should be a team looking to acquire a legitimate number-one netminder. Whether that means Ben Bishop or even someone like Marc-Andre Fleury, it’s hard to say. There is likely going to be very little interest in Ondrej Pavelec, who spent most of the year in the minors, as a rental. Connor Hellebuyck will be a restricted free agent this summer, but Winnipeg needs to look into someone other than Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson moving forward.
Though there were tons of rumors surrounding Jacob Trouba during the offseason and early in the season, he has had a great season and is likely going to stay put. One player that could be on the way out, however, is Mathieu Perreault, who signed a multi-year extension in the offseason but could be an issue in the expansion draft because his modified no-trade clause doesn’t kick in until next year. Drew Stafford would make a strong rental for many teams, but Winnipeg may not want to lose him.
Featured Image Credits: Kevin Shattenkirk: Doug Pensinger-Getty Images; Radim Vrbata: Norm Hall-Getty Images; Brian Boyle: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports; Matt Duchene: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports; Gabriel Landeskog: Doug Pensinger-Getty Images; Evander Kane: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports; Thomas Vanek: Mike Carlson-Getty Images; Ben Bishop: Bruce Bennett-Getty Images