Much unlike last season’s trade deadline spectacle when a series of seismic trades were made weeks before the actual deadline date of February 28th only to result in a quite uneventful trade deadline finish, this season has been quite the opposite where no major trades have been conducted in the weeks leading up to this year’s trade deadline which is scheduled for February 27th at 3 P.M. Eastern Standard Time (EST).
A primary reason for this year’s underwhelming activity may be due to having so many teams still in contention for a playoff spot, something commonly referred to as parity. Except for the Columbus Blue Jackets’ date with destiny, nearly cementing the NHL’s worst overall record and positioning themselves for a chance at the number one overall pick this June’s NHL Entry Draft, all of the other teams still have the opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Another reason may be due to having so many players reputed to be ‘on the block’ who possess No Trade Clauses (NTCs) as well as having contracts which not only are expensive as to annual salary but particularly have extensive remaining years on their contracts remaining – i.e. contract term.
And while notable National Hockey League (NHL) General Managers (GMs) such as Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke have expressed their disdain for the lengthy contract terms of highly coveted players such as the Blue Jackets Rick Nash and Jeff Carter, a lot of such comments are purely jockeying and methods to drive down the value of a coveted player for the team considering an offer.
So while this year’s trade deadline frenzy may become a last-minute flurry of deals, or possibly much ado about nothing, there are quite a few intriguing players whose names are being bandied about in the NHL’s rumor mill.
Here are the top ten players who are considered ‘in play’ and what the trading partner might wish to provide or offer in exchange for the valued players (in no particular order):
Given the Blue Jackets myriad of issues – possessing the NHL’s worst record in spite of having one of its largest team payrolls, issues with accountability, organizational culture, mounting pressure from the fan base and a lack of direction – what was once considered the unthinkable is now quite regularly being discussed – ‘The Elephant in the Room’. Nash, who has struggled this season as has all of the Blue Jackets, could be a tragic figure if he remains through what appears to be a long-term rebuild so it could pose as a relief to one of the NHL’s elite players as well as serving as a catalyst for rebuilding the Blue Jackets via a blockbuster trade. A player of Nash’s caliber would fetch a bountiful return, something to the effect of a rising young star, the partnering organization’s premier prospect and their first pick in the upcoming draft or something in addition to that. Nash does have a NTC but has stated that he’d consider waiving it to the benefit of the Blue Jackets.
It’s quite safe to say that the Blue Jackets’ acquisition of Jeff Carter this past June for forward Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier who was slated to be the Blue Jackets eighth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft was a disaster as Carter and Rick Nash have not meshed and Carter has not appeared to get over the disappointment and shock of being traded from the Philadelphia Flyers who previously signed the elite sniper to an extensive long-term contract term of 11 years. Carter’s remaining contract term of ten years and rumblings of his off-ice antics and inability to be a stabilizing force in the locker room have caused one reputed GM to provide a seemingly insulting offer although no GM is owning up to being the culprit of the offer. Carter no longer has a NTC option in his contract and while the off-ice issues and contract term are definitely major issues to his potential trade value, a player of Carter’s ilk should draw a solid young NHL player and possibly a high draft pick or highly-ranked organization prospect.
The Carolina Hurricanes have struggled this season yet are still in the playoff chase although their window may be closing fast. Ruutu, who is slated to become an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) at season’s end, can provide a playoff-contending team with some solid offensive support as both a finisher and a playmaker. But injuries have always been a bit of a concern with Ruutu due to his edgy, agitating style of play. As a player who would strictly be a rental for a playoff run, Ruutu can draw Canes GM Jim Rutherford a higher round draft pick or a young, emerging player who can be part ofCarolina’s rebuilding plans.
James van Riemsdyk
JVR is currently on injured reserve due to the result of a concussion suffered in mid-January. As his near-term return appears to be in some doubt, trade interest from other NHL teams may be dwindling. However, the former 2nd overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft provides a stellar combination of speed, size and skill as well as a desirable offensive arsenal. But if van Riemsdyk continues to suffer the effects of a concussion, interested teams may hold off at trying to obtain the burgeoning elite winger until the off-season.
Bernier has become a hot commodity for the seemingly endless list of NHL teams in need of goaltending, particularly for a team in need of landing a goaltender of the future. Bernier, the former 11th overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, is saddled with having to serve as the backup to one of the NHL’s elite goalies in Jonathan Quick and possesses all of the tools worthy of a starting NHL netminder. However, as Quick is slated to become aUFA at the end of the following season, Kings GM Dean Lombardi might chose to keep Bernier as a hedge should Quick opt to leave the NHL team that provides the least goal-scoring support. But it’s that puzzlingly inept offense for which Bernier could draw a sizable return in the form of a proven goal-scoring, veteran talent.
If there is one player who is quite used to the endless speculation regarding their future with their current organization, it’s the Maple Leafs’ talented young stay at home type defenseman. Schenn has been linked in several rumored trades over the past year or so and has heard his name mentioned as someone who has been in Leafs’ GM Brian Burke’s doghouse. But the former 5th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft possesses stellar defensive shutdown ability and leadership – comparisons to former elite shutdown blueliner Adam Foote are frequent – and can provide another interested NHL organization with a big-minute, shutdown defenseman. Schenn should be able to draw a solid if not elite veteran or upstart forward which, for a team on the bubble like the Leafs currently are, could appease their rabid fan base who are starving for a return to notoriety and relevance.
The Ducks who were once slated for the NHL’s draft lottery have recently surged over the past 10-15 games since Bruce Boudreau took over behind their bench which has mitigated some of the rumblings of offering up one of their ‘Big 3’ in Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. But Getzlaf has struggled this season and is slated to become a UFA after the 2012-2013 season. As Perry is the defending ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy recipient (for most goals in a season) and has similar years remaining on his contract and as Ryan is signed through 2015, should the Ducks begin to fall from the playoff race, Getzlaf could be the odd man out in Anaheim. At 26, Getzlaf is just entering his prime and possesses some of the most complete offensive acumen in the NHL so he should easily draw a generous return along the lines of a rising young star, the partnering organization’s premier prospect and their first pick in the upcoming draft.
Visnovsky has become a recent hot commodity in trade discussions, given the Ducks’ struggles during the early part of the season. Visnovsky possesses a blistering slap shot and led the NHL in points scored by a defensemen, last season. But Visnovsky comes with a high price tag of $5.6 million/season and, at 35, would not be very attractive to a team with a long-term rebuilding plan much less a salary cap-conscious organization. But for a team who adopts the motto that ‘the future is now’ and is actively seeking someone who can adeptly man their power play, Visnovsky could be the missing piece that allows them to accomplish that goal.
The ageless wonder many refer to as ‘The Wizard’ still ranks as one of the NHL’s elite playmakers and at 39 is still averaging nearly a point per game played. The Coyotes are still in playoff contention but given their financial woes and the endless pall of being relocated, moving a pendingUFAlike Whitney might be a necessary evil. While Whitney shows no signs of slowing down, he can be an attractive target for a team seeking a veteran with Stanley Cup championship experience and an elite playmaking touch. Whitney should be able to draw a top prospect or young, emerging NHL talent and possibly a highly draft pick.
Hemsky is highly regarded as an elite playmaker and the possessor of an effortless skating style. However, there is one major issue with Hemsky, one that causes interested NHL teams to shudder: Hemsky is extremely injury-prone. Hemsky missed 95 out of a possible 164 games played over the previous two seasons. Hemsky has not helped any potential interest from other NHL teams with his sub-standard play, this season. Hemsky is also a pending UFA, and while he provides a veteran presence and a scoring option for the young, plucky Oilers, he can also generate a serious return for a team interested in obtaining an outstanding playmaker with Stanley Cup finals experience.
Due to the overall league parity, it is quite possible that this season’s NHL trade deadline period could be quite underwhelming. However, if that situation changes and the dominos begin to fall as it relates to a flurry of blockbuster trades, keep an eye out for these highly sought-after players to be in the mix.