NHL Trade Deadline Primer
It seems like only two months ago the season started and here we are already on the brink of the NHL trade deadline. My, how time flies when you’re “halving” fun.
If the NHL Draft is like Christmas Day for Jesse Marshall, then the lead up to the trade deadline is like Hanukkah, Adam Sandler style: eight crazy nights. A timeframe that might be narrowed even further given the proximity of most NHL teams to a playoff berth at this point in the hyper season. At press time, only two teams in each conference are more than three games out of a playoff spot, in the East it’s everyone’s favorite victim: Washington and the hard luck Florida Panthers. In the wild West, miserable Calgary and the flabbergasted Avalanche.
With somewhat-artificial parity by way of three-point games doing a poor job of separating teams in the standings, it’ll be a frantic two weeks for teams to determine if they’re pretenders or contenders AND to delegate their assets properly once such a descriptor is determined.
It’s no secret in the East who will be buying. The arms race between Pittsburgh and Boston will be an interesting one. The Rangers and Glen Sather don’t like to sit on their hands either, and as a bubble team with higher expectations, don’t be surprised if they try to shake things up with a personnel move.
Out West, Chicago and Anaheim have a monopoly on wins in the inner-conference schedule. They’ve succumbed just six times in regulation combined through 59 total games (including last night’s head to head match). Los Angeles will look to defend their title and won’t be shy about supplementing a beat up defense. St. Louis is an organization that feels they are probably one or two good moves away from really having an inside shot at a championship. Vancouver has been an active barker, but so far, no one has bit.
Dallas, Calgary and Colorado are playing hockey well below the mark right now and the “for sale” signs are being drawn up for their veteran, free-agents-to-be.
So, what appears to be readily available?
Let’s start with an obvious choice: Mike Komisarek. The hulking defenseman of the Toronto Maple Leafs has been sitting much of the season (all but four games, to be exact) and, as a result, agreed to waive his no-movement clause to be placed on waivers.
It’s no secret that re-entry waivers would prohibit Komisarek from advancing his career this year in the event that he clears (as it did for Wade Redden in the past). In talking with one agent during the lockout, it was made very clear that there was a huge push to eliminate them and that neither side was particularly happy with the result of them. He told me that it served to hold down fringe players that were on one-way contracts and instead forced teams to promote younger players with two-way deals instead. Which was certainly not the rule’s intent.
With re-entry waivers laid to rest, players like Komisarek still hold potential value for a team in a real jam. Now, with Komisarek in particular, he could be a serviceable, tough #6/7 defenseman, but given his salary and his play of late, he shouldn’t be considered an upgrade for most contending teams.
Staying in the Northeast, the Buffalo Sabres are a team ripe for dismantling. They’ve been become Calgary East at this point almost. A move that shook the organization to its core – firing Lindy Ruff – failed to yield many results. With a new owner that wants to restore Buffalo to its French Connection days, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ruff was the only personnel move they make between now and the start of the next season.
As for this trade deadline, enigmatic winger Drew Stafford will likely find a new address. Stafford is a fine scorer when he wants to be but seldom uses his body or skill to its fullest extent. Winnipeg is a team that makes sense for Stafford, but he could be a consolation prize for a deadline loser.
I don’t believe either of these guys will be moved before the deadline but captain Jason Pominville may have worn out his welcome in Buffalo and goaltender Ryan Miller almost certainly has. The Sabres seem prepared to move away from the “old guard” but the timing is an issue:
A) Knocking down the foundation of a team can take some time to come together because a plan needs to be formed.
B) Ten of the Sabres final 15 games are at home. It’s a tough sell if most of the jerseys in the stands are suddenly out of date.
I don’t believe the Sabres will have much trouble finding a 2nd round pick for veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr despite some somewhat sluggish play this season. Smooth skating defenseman Jordan Leopold could be had for a similar price, maybe slightly less.
Given the Darryl Sutter connection and the loss of defensive stalwarts Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene, it seems almost too obvious that Regehr will be a Los Angeles King before too long.
In Florida, the Panthers have been hit hard by injuries. Most of the major pieces that helped them win the division last year are in the infirmary including two-way centerman Stephen Weiss. His season-ending surgery likely costs Florida Vancouver’s first round pick at the deadline as it would have been a perfect match.
I wouldn’t expect a major shakeup in Florida. The Panthers like the core that they have and probably won’t shuffle too much. Maybe Filip Kuba or hot utility man Tomas Kopecky could draw some interest. The player who no one is talking about, but there is a lot of chatter among contenders about, is gritty, defensive centerman Marcel Goc. An unsung player, Goc would be a great addition to a team. He’s in the Paul Gaustad mold and was terrific in Florida’s near upset of Eastern Conference champion New Jersey in 2012.
Not a lot of word coming out of Washington about the direction they’re heading. GM George McPhee is walking on egg shells right now I have to believe. On the plus side, the Capitals have found their #2 center, Mike Ribeiro. Despite his defensive deficiencies, he’s been a productive player under Adam Oates and one of the Caps best overall this season. The problem is, he’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year and given Ryan Getzlaf’s contract, it might be tough for the Caps to sign him. He’ll gather a lot of interest at the deadline from teams like Chicago and Anaheim who could use the playmaking centerman for the droves of wingers they possess.
Young backup goaltender Michal Neuvirth might be worth a look for a team trying to go a different direction with their goaltending: Edmonton and Buffalo come to mind immediately.
Ribeiro’s former team, Dallas, was the beneficiary of the draft day trade that sent Ribiero to Washington for Cody Eakin and a 2nd round choice. Eakin has been superb in the AHL during the lockout and in the NHL this season. Despite the fiery redhead’s play, the Stars are hurting. Their defensive depth is led by Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley, which says plenty. The big bright spot has been Brenden Dillon, an undrafted free agent out of the Western League, who has one of my top-5 votes for the Calder Trophy right now given his play.
The obvious mover from Dallas is Brenden Morrow and he’s heavily coveted around the league despite getting up there in miles. He’s a grinding winger that owns real estate in front of the net on the power play. Morrow will net at least a 2nd round pick and a prospect I believe, but a bidding war could push it higher. Pittsburgh and Boston will lead the chase for him. But strangely, even Philadelphia is hot on him despite their flickering playoff hopes. In terms of prospects, the Stars could use a puck-moving d-man or a quality center to help fill in their talented prospect pool.
Additionally, contract talks with Derek Roy are not going well. If the two sides remain more than a million per year apart, it might be a chip for Joe Nieuwendyk to throw on the table.
In Calgary, Jay Feaster seems reluctant to surrender. It appears the ball is rolling on the Jarome Iginla front. There are probably three or five teams that have a crack at him: Pittsburgh, Detroit, Vancouver, Boston and Los Angeles. The cost is likely a top prospect and a first round pick.
There is talk that Jay Bouwmeester is being shopped. However, he’s been their best d-men this year by a mile and has flourished under Bob Hartley’s system. I don’t think anyone is willing to pay the piper for Bouwmeester, who has never played a playoff game at the NHL or junior level.
If it rains, it probably pours in Calgary. If Iginla and Bouwmeester go…why not Michael Cammalleri and Lee Stempniak or even Mark Giordano for that matter? Heck, how about veteran goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff too – a team like Toronto would love to have him. The Flames have been the worst run franchise in the NHL starting with the Doug Gilmour trade some 20 years ago, anything that happens or doesn’t happen inside the walls of the Saddledome would not surprise this observer.
- New York Rangers speed demon Marian Gaborik is available for the right price but no discussions have gotten terribly serious. Brian Boyle is believed to be available as well; he has not lived up to third line expectations.
- Nashville might be in a position to unload a depth player or two. Sergei Kostitsyn seems to have taken matters into his own hands on that front.
- Winnipeg brought back steady defenseman Arturs Kulda from the KHL. Assuming his play is up to snuff, defensive lefties Ron Hainsey and/or Mark Stuart likely become available.
- The Philadelphia Flyers are believed to be heavily shopping Daniel Briere. He’s been borderline dreadful this season and may be on the buyout chopping block if no suitor is found.
- With the increase in rookies “trying out” in Tampa Bay’s line up on a nightly basis, GM Steve Yzerman may find some veterans expendable in the process. Nate Thompson would be of great service to a contending team in a bottom-six role.
- Lots of teams have tried to swipe lackadaisical first round pick Kyle Okposo from GM Garth Snow, but the offers have been categorically rebuffed. It seems fairly unlikely the Isles will keep both puck-moving d-men Mark Streit and Lubomir Visnovsky, both should garner interest from contenders.