The NHL trade deadline is less than a month away. While deadline day itself has been rather ho-hum over the past few years, a lot of the reason for that is that general managers have been making trades in the weeks and months leading up to the day itself. Yes, the salary cap and the proliferation of ‘no-movement’ clauses can make trades more difficult to pull off than was the case 12-20 years ago, but it’s not as though we’ve seen trades dry up. We still see trades, and yes even the much vaunted ‘player-for-player’ trade, it’s just we tend to see them before deadline day, not on it. And we haven’t seen a great deal of trades recently, so there’s reason to be hopeful that we’ll see a lot of trade action this February.
One reason for the lack of deals thus far is because of the parity throughout most of the league. Yes, there are a few teams who look nailed on for a playoff spot, and there’s a couple at the bottom of the league that are utterly atrocious (looking at you Arizona and Colorado), but for the most part, a lot of teams look like they could go either way. So it’s tough for a young team like, say, the Toronto Maple Leafs to know if they should trade youth for some experience or just wait until next year.
Equally, teams like the Dallas Stars are hesitant to trade away some veterans because they still have a decent chance of making the postseason. In short, there’s a lot of uncertainty. But you won’t find any fence-sitting or wishy-washiness in this article! Here are 15 bold predictions for the NHL trade deadline.
15 Arizona Fire Sale
As mentioned earlier, the Arizona Coyotes have been having an awful year. While they have a solid goalie in Mike Smith and some youth for the future (like Max Domi), the Coyotes don’t have much else. And there’s not much to hinder their deal making, contractually speaking. So you should expect a fire sale. Martin Hanzal is perhaps the likeliest player to be traded, and Radim Vrbata and Michael Stone aren’t far behind.
Hanzal is a solid two-way center and would fit right in with the Canadiens or the Blue Jackets. Vrbata can add some depth upfront and would be especially good for a team fighting to get into the playoffs, as Vrbata is truly prolific in shootouts and the added 3-4 points from shootout wins down the stretch could be the difference between playoffs and golf come mid-April. The Coyotes would likely also be open to trading off their disappointing restricted free agents (RFAs) Anthony Duclair and Alexander Burmistrov.
14 Shane Doan Will Stay Put
While airplane seats out of Arizona might be filling up this month with Coyotes being traded left, right, and center (and defence, hahaha, I’m sorry), there’s one man whose profile suggests he should be traded; but he won’t be. Shane Doan is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) on July 1st, and the 40-year old veteran has never won a cup, so should we expect a Ray Bourque situation? Probably not. Doan has been with the Coyotes franchise so long that he actually predates them; he’s the last active player to have played for the original Winnipeg Jets. He’s now lived in Arizona for over 20 years and he has roots there. He hasn’t given much indication that he’s inclined to leave any time soon.
13 Islanders Will Give Jaroslav Halak (and Picks) to Buffalo
While there are some teams that might be in the market for a starting goaltender (hello, St. Louis) there aren’t a lot of teams looking for a backup. Or, at least not many teams looking to spend much money on a backup. Thus, backup goalie is perhaps the one position for which it is a buyer’s market this spring. Jaroslav Halak played great for Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey this past September. Unfortunately for the New York Islanders, he has not carried that form over into the regular season.
The deal signed by Thomas Greiss indicates that GM Garth Snow thinks he’s the man for the Isles’ future, making Halak expendable. The Islanders even waived Halak, but there were no takers. The Isles desperately want his contract off their books, so they’ll have to sweeten the pot. The Sabres have cap room and no goalie contracts on the books past this season, so Halak and a draft pick for an unremarkable prospect looks in order.
12 Cody Franson Will Leave Buffalo For Edmonton
Staying with Buffalo, the most improved team last season has taken a giant step backward this year. As such, they will be sellers, but they don’t have quite the array of names to offer as do Arizona and Colorado. They do, however, have defenceman Cody Franson. Franson is a dependable, big, veteran defenceman scheduled to become a UFA at the end of the season. With his cap-friendly salary, Franson should be getting plenty of suitors over the next month. But Edmonton makes the most sense.
The Oilers’ defense is still vulnerable and now that they seem set to end the longest active playoff drought in the league, they could certainly use a stalwart d-man to shore things up on their blueline. Franson shouldn’t cost them too much either, though his value may rise if GMs keep inquiring about him.
11 Ben Bishop for Kevin Shattenkirk
This is a case of, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. This trade has been rumored for a while now, with some speculating the two teams have cooled off on any such potential trade. However, it’s likely that as St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong and Tampa GM Steve Yzerman make calls and shop around their respective players, they might realize there’s not much of a market there. Ben Bishop has not been great this season and Tampa has seemingly decided that Andrei Vasilevskiy is their man between their pipes.
But all it takes is one horror show from unconvincing Blues net-minder Jake Allen for Armstrong to pick up that phone. We know Armstrong is already feeling the heat since he just fired head coach Ken Hitchcock. Shattenkirk has never quite lived up to his potential, but the Lightning could use another body on their blueline.
10 Dennis Seidenberg Will Leave the Islanders For Toronto
The New York Islanders are another “stick or twist” club. Battling it out in the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division, the Islanders could be buyers or sellers. They’ve been good this season, but inconsistent, and there’s just no guarantee of postseason hockey with all that competition. A poor run of games in February and GM Garth Snow might be looking to do something to save his job, and he won’t want to let UFAs go without compensation.
Defenceman Dennis Seidenberg is getting a fair bit of attention. The German is a former Stanley Cup winner and could add some veteran presence on an inexperienced blueline. And that’s exactly what the Maple Leafs need. And the Leafs should feel comfortable enough parting with the mid-round pick or middling prospect the Isles would want back. Though, like with Franson, if more teams aren’t willing to be sellers, guys like Seidenberg could see their value increase.
9 Curtis Lazar for P.A. Parenteau
While not exactly a blockbuster trade, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau for Curtis Lazar makes a lot of sense, but it also implies a bit of a gamble on both sides. Ottawa is in good shape, but still faces a tough fight to make sure they get into the playoffs. And they’d hate to lose their spot to the rival Leafs. If the Leafs do indeed make a deal for Seidenberg or somebody else, Senators GM Pierre Dorion might be spurred into action. Parenteau is a UFA with a very manageable cap hit, so the former Leaf might be just the guy the Sens need to stave off their Ontarian rivals. Do they want to give up Lazar though? He hasn’t wowed anybody and his exit wouldn’t hurt them. But he’s still only 22, so the Devils would probably be fine with taking a gamble on the former first round draft pick.
8 Brian Gionta Returns to Montreal
As mentioned earlier, the Buffalo Sabres are one of the few teams who are unreservedly sellers. One of their key pieces of trade bait is Brian Gionta. Gionta could offer some depth scoring and veteran leadership for a team hoping to go far in the playoffs. However, Gionta is the Sabres' captain, so they would have to think seriously before moving him. Gionta also has a modified no-trade clause and is essentially playing for his hometown team, having been born in Rochester. Add to that his moderate cap hit of $4.25 million and it begins to look like Gionta might stay put. Gionta already has a Stanley Cup ring, so he’s unlikely to want to go to just any contender. But what about Montreal?
Gionta’s a pending UFA, so he could come back to Buffalo in the off-season if he wanted and he obviously knows Montreal, being their former captain. What’s more is that he offers exactly what the Habs are looking for to bolster their lineup. It seems like a perfect fit.
7 Patrick Sharp Returns to Chicago
In another “veteran forward returns to his old club” possibility, the Chicago Blackhawks are believed to be interested in Patrick Sharp. As ever, the Blackhawks are close to the cap (though not as close as in previous years) so they have to be thrifty in whoever they add. The ‘Hawks are believed to be looking to add an experienced forward, and Sharp fits the bill given all his experience with the ‘Hawks. The Stars are in a tough position, though, and are hesitant to sell off players when they’re still in the playoff mix. But Sharp will be a UFA come July 1, and he hasn’t been lighting the world on fire in Dallas, so letting him go for the right offer would be smart.
Chicago could reasonably expect Sharp to do better when he settles back in with the Blackhawks come the postseason and they can probably afford his rather hefty cap hit of $5.9 million (but only just). The only questions is, what would Dallas want in return? If they stumble throughout February, they’ll be looking for assets for the future as opposed to help for right now.
6 Thomas Vanek Will Leave Detroit For L.A.
The longest consecutive postseason qualification run in major professional sports is about to end. Barring some dramatic collapses from the teams above them, the Detroit Red Wings will not make the playoffs for a 26th time. That puts GM Ken Holland in the unfamiliar position of seller come the deadline. The likeliest player to be traded is UFA Thomas Vanek. The Austrian winger has experienced something of a resurgence this season and there are a lot of teams looking for a boost in scoring. Perhaps no team is more desperate for a goalscorer than the L.A. Kings. Their offence has dried up and it is thanks only to their strong defense core and the unlikely heroics of deputizing starting goalie Peter Budaj that the Kings are even in the playoff picture.
Given this, they’re likely to be willing to pay the highest price for Vanek. What’s more, such a trade would nicely echo the Gaborik trade that paid off for them so well in 2014. A mercurial, European, goal-scoring winger, Dean Lombardi?
5 Jarome Iginla Will Return To Alberta... But Not To Calgary
If Brian Gionta and Patrick Sharp do indeed both return to Montreal and Chicago, respectively, will Jarome Iginla head back to Calgary and make it a hat-trick of returning favorites? ...No. There certainly has been talk of such a move. Iginla has perhaps been the most vocal of any player about wanting a move away come the deadline. And he would fit in well in Calgary, giving them some depth up front and making everybody feel warm and fuzzy. Everybody except Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli. Chiarelli has shown he is not at all afraid to make a big move, having traded Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson (a trade that looks a lot better now than at the time) and also shipping out Nail Yakupov.
What better way to make a splash than to grab your hated rival's erstwhile longtime captain? Not to mention that the young Oilers could also use a veteran presence up front. They’ll probably be in the playoffs whereas the Flames are more of a question, and Iginla is actually from Edmonton. Brace yourselves Flames fans, this one looks probable.
4 Jonathan Drouin Will Leave Tampa For Anaheim
Points wise, the Lighting are not far from a playoff spot, but they have to deal with a resurgent Leafs, a Boston team that should be better than they are, and a Panthers team that might finally get healthy. GM Steve Yzerman might be forced to look to next year when, hopefully, Stamkos will finally be healthy. But Yzerman is also facing a cap crunch. He has three RFA forwards to re-sign: Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Jonathan Drouin. Drouin could be the odd man out simply for causing Yzerman such headaches last year. However, we know Drouin can deliver in the playoffs and the Ducks would love to add some scoring. Now, Anaheim has no cap space, but Drouin only has a cap hit of under $900,000 as it’s the last year of his entry-level contract.
If Anaheim really thinks this could be their year, perhaps Yzerman could convince them to give up one of their young d-men, John Manson or Brandon Montour. Shea Theodore is likely too highly prized by Ducks GM Bob Murray to be traded.
3 Marc-Andre Fleury Will Leave Pittsburgh For Calgary
This is a trade that simultaneously seems unthinkable and inevitable. Fleury playing for another team? The Pens trading away their longtime goalie and former first overall pick right before the playoffs? But face the facts: the Pens need to jettison Fleury before the summer and everybody knows it. Because of Fleury’s no-movement clause, the Pens would be required to protect him in the expansion draft; thus leaving their number one goalie, Matt Murray, open to be plucked by Las Vegas. Pens GM Jim Rutherford can’t let that happen, so he has to trade Fleury. Now, he could do that between the end of the playoffs and before the expansion draft, but now seems a better time. The Flames don’t have any goalie contracts beyond this season and they might well see Fleury as an improvement on either Chad Johnson or Brian Elliott, who have been unspectacular in sharing goaltending duties. But either of them could make a decent backup for Murray, so a goalie for goalie switch, perhaps with a few accoutrements, makes sense for both teams.
2 Tomas Plekanec (And More) for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
As discussed before, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli loves a good trade. And in Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, he might meet his equal in that regard (P.K. Subban for Shea Weber, anyone?). Plekanec is having a down year and is not the lynch-pin of the Habs offence as he once was. He also has one more year remaining on a $6 million/year deal, so there are reasons to trade him. The Oilers would love Plekanec’s experience and leadership, though, and he has shown he can bounce back from off-years before, so the 34-year old Czech center isn’t a write-off.
But could Peter Chiarelli be convinced to trade away a third first overall Oilers pick in Nugent-Hopkins? Nugent-Hopkins hasn’t shown much progression over the years and he does cost the same amount as Plekanec --only on a contract that doesn’t end until 2021. Still, he’s only 23, so Bergevin will see an upside. Plekanec, a pick (2nd or 3rd round) and a young roster player for Nugent-Hopkins is very doable.
1 Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog Will Leave Colorado For Boston
It bears repeating how truly horrendous this season has been for the Colorado Avalanche. From the moment head coach Patrick Roy left in the offseason, it’s been nothing but abject failure for the Avs. So if you’re an Av not named “Nathan MacKinnon”, be prepared for a trade. Both Duchene and Landeskog have received interest from teams looking for scoring (Kings, Blackhawks, Bruins). While certainly possible, it’s unlikely Avalanche GM Joe Sakic would want to trade both young wingers. Though, at 26, Duchene is not that young, and costs about $500,000 more per season than the Swede. Duchene’s deal ends earlier, too (2019) and Landeskog is their captain, so perhaps Duchene is the likelier to go (even though his numbers are slightly better).
Ultimately, though, it’s whatever they can get for them that counts. Being in a different conference, Boston might have an edge on making a deal here, and they were rumored to be sniffing around for Landeskog earlier. Expect Bruins GM Don Sweeney to make a draft pick and prospect offer for one of these wingers.