Trade deadline day is one of a handful of days that I circle on my calendar every year. It has the potential to shake up the landscape of the league in a major way with big name players moving from cellar dwellers to top flight teams. Teams that are on the bubble must decide whether they have the pieces to make a run at the Cup, and if not how they can maximize the return on the assets they choose to part with.
I’ll go through each team, and try to give you some insight on what their plans will be leading up to the trade deadline on February 28th.
I’ll also look at some of the major players who could be moved by the deadline, and where I think they’ll go.
Obviously, players who are due to become unrestricted free agents are the most attractive and highly sought after commodities. The reasoning for this is twofold.
First, the selling teams wish to part with their soon to be free agents while they can still get something in return for them. Rather than letting them walk away for nothing on July 1st, they often elect to ship them away to the highest bidder.
Secondly, for teams that are looking to beef up their roster, it is easier to add a player whose contract is expiring because they don’t have to create cap space for more than the rest of the season. A team can more easily create cap space for a couple of months than they can for several seasons, especially when the players they might be looking to add could come with a big price tag. In the offseason, the team can negotiate their own price with the player, rather than one negotiated by another team years earlier.
There are two main inhibitors to the kinds of blockbuster trades that we all love to see once in a while. The first is the salary cap. Before the lockout, teams could do almost whatever they wanted in terms of adding players to better their roster because they didn’t have to worry about fitting them all under the cap number.
The second inhibitor is the popularity of no-trade clauses. While some management teams choose to reserve those for very special circumstances, other teams seem to give them out like candy. The Toronto Maple Leafs, for example, gave a group of five players no-trade clauses a few years back. This group included career third-liner Darcy Tucker and human turnover machine Brian McCabe. It also includes Tomas Kaberle, who the Leafs have still been unable to move due to his unwillingness to waive his no-trade clause. Since so many players have NTCs, and can dictate whether or not they will be moved, we don’t see the same kind of huge trades as we used to.
The trade deadline still provides plenty of excitement every year though, as fans wonder what tricks their team has up its sleeve to gear up for a playoff run, or whether or not their favourite player will be shipped out of town.
But is making a deal really necessary to winning the Cup? The results are mixed. Last year’s final two teams, Chicago and Philadelphia, didn’t make a single move on deadline day. Both were pretty cap-strapped and therefore couldn’t really make any moves. In 2009, cup winner Pittsburgh won in part due to their additions of Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin in the few days prior to the deadline while Detroit stood pat. In 2008, Detroit added a huge piece to their blue line in Brad Stuart and went on to win the Cup. Pittsburgh went for broke, adding Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis.
The deadline isn’t for a few weeks but teams that are looking to upgrade their lineup might not be waiting until the deadline to do it, so here is an early preview.
Anaheim Ducks 62P-54GP 7th place (Western Conference) – Standing Pat
As it stands right now, the Ducks are in a playoff position, despite an absolutely horrific start to the season. They have battled their way back into contention without the services of their captain Ryan Getzlaf (face). They have received stellar goaltending from Jonas Hiller, and added Ray Emery recently to back him up. Their glaring weakness has been on the blue line, but just this afternoon they added former Duck Francois Beauchemin back into the fold. Beauchemin was in his second year with the Maple Leafs, after four years with the Ducks. The Leafs acquired Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner and a 2013 pick in the deal.
Atlanta Thrashers 58P-56GP 9th place (Eastern Conference) – Buying
Unless the Thrashers completely fall apart in the next two weeks, look for them to be trying to aggressively upgrade their roster, and they have a boat load of cap space to do so. Don’t be surprised if they are one of the major players on deadline day. In fact, the Thrashers might be the team that lands whoever turns out to be the biggest fish moved. This could include Rick Nash, Jarome Iginla, or Brad Richards among others.
Boston Bruins 67P-53GP 3rd (Eastern Conference) – Buying
Earlier this week, the Boston Bruins made the decision to shut down Marc Savard for the remainder of the season due to multiple concussions. While they have been without Savard for a good portion of the season, they could be looking to add a top line center. Their goaltending is top notch, but they could be looking for some depth on the blue line. They also have two first round picks (their own and Toronto’s) with which to broker a deal.
Buffalo Sabres 52P-55GP 10th (Eastern Conference) – Selling
The Sabres will probably be looking to deal as many bodies as they can, despite battling their way out of the basement of the league. They don’t have a good enough team to make any kind of legitimate playoff run, so they could be looking to deal free-agents-to-be Jason Connolly, Craig Rivet and Steve Montador. They could make a great trading partner for teams like Atlanta or Boston. Montador especially comes with a very affordable ($1.5M) price tag.
Calgary Flames 61P-55GP 8th (Western Conference) – Selling
Pardon the pun, but the Flames should be in fire-sale mode. However, GM Jay Feaster has said he won’t part with Jarome Iginla or Robyn Regehr. I’ll believe that when I see it, but if they choose to hang onto those two, they could still move out guys like Curtis Glenncross or Steve Staois to teams looking for some sandpaper for a playoff run.
Carolina Hurricanes 59P-54GP 8th (Western Conference) – Buying
Carolina was my darkhorse team out of the Eastern Conference, but started the season slowly. They have finally climbed back into a playoff spot but have done so by riding Cam Ward and Eric Staal. Those two need some help if Carolina is serious about making a run at the Cup. They have some pieces up front that could be attractive to teams looking to upgrade their forwards (Cole, Samsonov, Larose) in order to upgrade their blue line, the weakness of this team. If they fall out of the playoff picture, D Joni Pitkanen and Joe Corvo are rumoured to be available.
Chicago Blackhawks 58P-53GP 11th (Western Conference) – Standing Pat
They would be best served moving out some bodies to give themselves some breathing space from the cap ceiling, but they won’t. They really don’t want to miss the playoffs a year after winning it all. They had to gut their roster to become cap compliant last offseason, and predictably they’ve had their struggles. They could get a decent return for players like Tomas Kopecky or Troy Brouwer, but they’ll be fighting right til the end for one of the last playoff spots.
Colorado Avalanche 56P-53GP 14th (Western Conference) – Selling
Remember when Colorado was first in the Northwest for a stretch? Yeah, they don’t either. This team is in a freefall, and will be selling everything but the kitchen sink this year. They went so far as to sign Peter Forsberg for the remainder of the year to try to put some spark into the team. Milan Hedjuk has a no-movement clause, but I could see him waiving it to go to a contender. He has played his whole career for the Avalanche and has been a fairly consistent scorer for them. Teams looking for a veteran scorer with a Cup ring on his finger could seek out the 34 year old Czech.
Columbus Blue Jackets 57P-53GP 12th (Western Conference) – Selling
The Blue Jackets are going nowhere fast and would be best served stockpiling some draft picks to retool the team. Just about everyone is fair game on this team, as USA Today’s Kevin Allen pointed out that even stars Rick Nash and Steve Mason could be shopped at the deadline. Nash, though, is under contract until 2018 and comes at a steep cap hit ($7.8M). If a team could find the space for him, he would be an amazing addition. Jan Hejda or Rostislav Klesla could make a useful addition to a team looking for blue line help, and each are making less than $3M/season. Jakub Voracek could be one of the most highly sought after commodities at the deadline, and the young power forward could net the Jackets a nice package in return. Chris Clark and Ethan Moreau are cheap rentals who would provide good fourth line insurance.
Dallas Stars 65P-53GP 3rd (Western Conference) – Standing Pat
If he were available, Brad Richards would be one of the hottest commodities on the block. I can’t see the Stars shopping him though, especially when they have played so well this season. They are currently leading their division, but all four other teams in the Pacific are within striking distance. If they were to fall out of it, then Richards could in fact be moved, but if they stay the course, they won’t be doing much at the deadline.
Detroit Red Wings 70P-53G 2nd (Western Conference) – Standing Pat
The Wings have 0 cap space, and they tend to do their shopping in July and August anyway. Any trade they make would have to be dollar for dollar, since they can’t take on anymore money against the cap. With everyone healthy, I think they have the best forward group in the league. Their defense will also be fine once Stuart is back and everyone gets back on the same page. I’m not worried about Jimmy, either. Any move they made would be to acquire a backup goalie in case Osgood is not ready to go. He will practice on Tuesday and we’ll see how he goes from there. They have apparently spoken with the St. Louis Blues about acquiring former Wing Ty Conklin to fill that role.
Edmonton Oilers 40P-53GP 15th (Western Conference) – Standing Pat
Good news: They are in line for their second straight first overall pick. Bad news: There is no “Taylor Hall” in this year’s draft. Unlike in years past, there isn’t really a consensus #1 overall pick this year, but the Oilers will likely have their pick of the lot when they finish in last for a second straight year. Jim Vandermeer and Jason Strudwick are rental options along the blueline, but other than that they don’t have much to offer to a contending team. They’d love for someone to take Sheldon Souray’s contract off of their books though.
Florida Panthers 53P-52GP 11th (Eastern Conference) – Selling
Florida isn’t bad defensively or between the pipes but they can’t score to save their lives, and that will be their downfall this year. They have plenty of UFAs coming up this offseason, so they could use this opportunity to really retool their offense and/or acquire some draft picks. Bryan McCabe has a no-trade clause and a big price tag, but if a team is looking for some offensive upside. 27 year old Stephen Weiss is also rumoured to be available. He’s hit 60 points each of the last two years and should be in the upper 50s this year on a team that struggles to score. His production is good value from his $3.1M salary. He too has a no-movement clause.
Los Angeles Kings 60P-53GP 9th (Western Conference) – Buying
The Kings have been on the outside looking in, after many (yours truly included) predicted they’d contend for a division title, for the majority of the season. They will be looking to upgrade their roster and gain a playoff berth, as they are one of about 12 teams that could wind up anywhere between 3rd and 14th in the conference. They have the cap space to make a move to upgrade their defense, which is quite young. Elderstatesmen like Craig Rivet or Steve Staois could help this team out.
Minnesota Wild 59P-52GP 10th (Western Conference) – Selling
For a team that is pretty tight to the salary cap, the Wild sure don’t have much to show for it. They might want to auction off some pieces to give themselves some breathing room from the cap ceiling. John Madden would be a nice, relatively cheap addition for a team looking for a veteran presence with multiple Cup rings.
Montreal Canadiens 65P-54GP 6th (Eastern Conference) – Standing Pat
Montreal doesn’t have any cap room, so they’ll likely be quiet at the deadline. However, if they could find someone to unload Scott Gomez’ vastly inflated contract on, then all bets are off and they could be one of the big players. They really need some help on the blue line since they have had a hard time staying healthy, but unless they find a way to shed some salary that help will have to come from within.
Nashville Predators 63P-54GP 5th (Western Conference) – Standing Pat
The Predators have a solid, if unspectacular, team from top to bottom, and will likely not be looking to do much shopping. They will be in the thick of the playoff race, but don’t really have the pockets to spend on upgrading their roster. They are going to live and die by the product they currently have.
New Jersey Devils 44P-54GP 13th (Eastern Conference) – Selling
If you look at New Jersey’s lineup, they are far too talented to be this bad. They got off to a brutal start and have only recently started to turn it around. They are a league best 8-1-1 in their last 10, but they’re still miles out of the playoffs. They will likely field some calls regarding Jason Arnott, but his $4.5M price tag will scare off many teams. Bryce Salvador and Colin White are attractive options on the blue line for a contending team. Dumping Brian Rolston’s contract would be a huge step in the right direction, but that will prove easier said than done.
New York Islanders 41P-53GP 15th (Eastern Conference) – Selling
The Islanders are a long, long way from fielding something resembling a competitive NHL team. Stockpiling draft picks now would be wise, but not at the expense of their promising young talent. Veterans like Doug Weight and Radek Martinek could be inexpensive depth players for some contending teams, but the Islanders also must be wary of not putting themselves below the salary cap floor. *Editor’s note: Earlier today it was announced that Doug Weight would be out the remainder of the season with a back injury*
New York Rangers 62P-56GP 7th (Eastern Conference) – Standing Pat
The Rangers are always looking to spend money, wisely or not. For years, they were among the highest salaried teams, with nothing to show for it. This year, they actually have a pretty solid roster, and some cap space to upgrade. The only move I could see them making though is one for a depth defenseman.
Ottawa Senators 42P-54GP 14th (Eastern Conference) – Selling
The Senators need help everywhere. They don’t have a goaltender they can rely on. Their defense is suspect at best (only Edmonton has allowed more goals), and they are the lowest scoring team in the league by quite a bit. Quite a drastic fall from a team that was a perennial contender and offensive juggernaut just a few years back. They need a complete rebuild, and they need to start now. Sitting right at the salary cap ceiling and being in 28th in the league in points is just unacceptable. Chris Phillips is one of the most in demand defensemen right now, and Alexei Kovalev could be on the move as well. That alone would clear out over $8M in cap space. I’m interested to see what they do with Jarkko Ruutu, who is very cheap and among the best in the league at what he does: irritate the hell out of the opposition. I’d say only Spezza, Alfredsson, Fisher and Karlsson are untouchable on this roster. Everyone else is in play.
Philadelphia Flyers 75P-53GP 1st (Eastern Conference) – Standing Pat
A year removed from their surprise run to the Cup Finals, the Flyers are sitting pretty with what is easily the best forward lineup in the East, and maybe the league. They need not mess with the chemistry they have up front. Their defense is equally solid. Their only question mark is in net, as they’ve relied on rookie Sergei Bobrovsky and journeyman Brian Boucher. They’ve got the job done so far, but it remains to be seen if they can do it in the playoffs. They missed out on a chance to snag Nabokov on the cheap when the Islanders submitted a bid for the Russian tender, so they are likely stuck with their duo for better or worse.
Phoenix Coyotes 63P-55GP 6th (Eastern Conference) – Buying
The Coyotes are a difficult team to assess. Their ownership situation is up in the air, and usually that restricts a team’s ability to make moves, but at last years deadline, shortly after being taken over by the NHL, they were the biggest players in terms of number of moves made. With 8 players set to become UFA and 5 RFA, they could be wheeling and dealing again this year. If someone presented them a too-good-to-be-true package for Byzgalov, they’d be hard-pressed not to take it.
Pittsburgh Penguins 72P-55GP 4th (Eastern Conference) – Buying
Despite sitting 4th in the conference, the Penguins could be in a world of trouble. Evgeni Malkin is out for the season with a torn ACL and MCL in his knee, and who knows when Crosby will be back from his concussion(s). They need help at center in a huge way, and if anyone lands Brad Richards this deadline, it might be them. They now have the cap space with Malkin out. They are also probably looking at brining back former Penguin Alexei Kovalev, who has worn out his welcome in Ottawa.
San Jose Sharks 64P-54GP 4th (Western Conference) – Buying
A few weeks ago, the Sharks were on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. They are now firmly entrenched in a playoff spot and looking to shore up their roster. Devin Setoguchi, who has underperformed, could net them some help on defense. A possible trading partner there could be Pittsburgh. They’ve also made deals on past deadline days with a number of teams, including Carolina, Columbus, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Anaheim and the Islanders, to name a few.
St. Louis Blues 56P-52GP 13th (Western Conference) – Selling
The Blues have had an unfortunate year. They were decimated by injuries to key players early on, and have yet to recover from the setback. I predicted them to be in a playoff position at the start of the year, but now they’re looking more like a lottery pick team. They are committed to building their team with a strong young nucleus, so Eric Brewer and Ty Conklin might be the only two guys shown the door.
Tampa Bay Lightning 71P-55GP 2nd (Eastern Conference) – Buying
New GM Steve Yzerman got some of his shopping done early when he acquired Dwayne Roloson in January (I bet the Islanders are kicking themselves now eh?). With a management and ownership team committed to winning and a boatload of cap space, the Lightning could be big players at the deadline. Keep in mind a good chunk of their cap space will go to resigning Steven Stamkos this summer, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Brad Richards made his way back to the Bay. They could also be looking to add another D-man, like Chris Phillips of Ottawa or Bryan McCabe of the Panthers. McCabe to Tampa Bay makes some sense, as he might wave his NTC to stay within Florida and play for a Cup contender.
Toronto Maple Leafs 51P-54GP 12th (Eastern Conference) – Standing Pat
The Leafs won’t make the playoffs this year, but unlike in years past that doesn’t give them a reason to tank it and try to get a high pick. Boston owns their first rounder for a second year in a row, so they are going to try their best not to net the Bruins another hot prospect. That means they will be holding on to their assets.
Vancouver Canucks 79P-54GP 1st (Western Conference) – Standing Pat
The Canucks boast one of the league’s best forward groups, right up there with Philly and Detroit. Their defense is similarly solid, but have had problems staying healthy. They will get Sami Salo back soon, but Keith Ballard just went down for a month. They don’t have the room or the need to make any moves, so it will be a quiet day for the Canucks.
Washington Capitals 68P-55GP 5th (Eastern Conference) – Buying
Washington was extremely active last year at the deadline, in hopes of adding some grit to a flashy offensive lineup. They were bounced in Game 7 on home ice in the opening round by the Canadiens. Some are suggesting it is time for a complete overhaul of the Capitals lineup, since they have struggled to do anything with their regular season success. If they choose to make a big shakeup at the deadline, don’t be surprised if Alexander Semin is one of the casualties. Clearing his $6M salary would help financially, and could probably net them a roster player at both forward and defense. Backstrom, Ovechkin, Alzner, Green and Carlson are safe. Everyone else has a for sale sign around their necks.