With less than two weeks to go until this year’s National Hockey League (NHL) trade deadline, there is a great deal of speculation as to who might be moved and to where they might be moved. However, this season’s deadline could either be interesting or it could be ‘much ado about nothing’.
If you look at the last shortened NHL season – 1994-95 – the action, if that’s what you want to call it, was quite underwhelming. The only trade of any consequence was between the Montreal Canadiens, who obtained Pierre Turgeon and Vladimir Malakhov, and the New York Islanders, who obtained Kirk Muller, Mathieu Schneider and Craig Darby.
Adding to the possibility of low expectations is the variable that is a lockout-shortened season where most teams are not really out of playoff contention as was the case in 1994-95. Case in point: the Western Conference, where the difference between the 8th position in the standings – the Dallas Stars – and the last position – 15th, the Colorado Avalanche – is a mere seven points. So, it’s difficult to ‘give up on a season’ when a mere, brief hot streak can position a team right into the playoff picture.
In the Eastern Conference, the disparity between the 8th – the Carolina Hurricanes – and the 15th position – the Florida Panthers – is slightly greater, primarily due to Florida having played two more games, and there is where the intrigue and possibilities lie. The Panthers have been decimated by injuries – nine at last count, many of which are to key players – and have been a great disappointment after making the playoffs, last season. The Panthers have made no secrets that their ‘fire sale’ is on and they’re open to trades. However, with several of those marketable players being sidelined due to injury, not to mention an overall lack of trading leverage due to their playoff position as well as obtaining a slew of veteran players during the previous summer with impinging salaries and remaining contract terms.
The Buffalo Sabres are another team that appears to be on the verge of being an active participant in the trading market. The Sabres have seen a coaching change with longtime head coach Lindy Ruff being fired and some apparent discontent in the Sabres locker room, something a very generous owner in Terry Pegula and a rabid fan base has grown quite impatient of. However, one problem could be a combination of high-priced and long-term contracts and an overall lack of leverage, given their current position in the standings.
The Dallas Stars could also be a willing trading participant as their off-season moves to acquire veteran talent has not worked out as planned with veterans like Ray Whitney, Jaromir Jagr and Derek Roy struggling to score as they have in the past as well as the production slide of Stars captain Brenden Morrow and it may be time for Stars General Manger (GM) Joe Nieuwendyk to trade these veteran players, with expiring contracts in order to rebuild and obtain younger talent to allow Nieuwendyk the ability to rebuild with a younger corps of players to join emerging stars like Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson and elite goalie Kari Lehtonen.
Perhaps the most intriguing potential participants in the trade deadline discussion are the Calgary Flames who have spent the last several seasons ‘keeping the band together’ only to be one of those teams who gravitate between making the last playoff position or two or being on the cusp of just missing qualifying for the playoffs. But the downward spiral with the current cast seems imminent and a rebuild is long overdue.
So, with all of that, here are my predictions of which players would appear to be most likely ‘in play’:
The Calgary Flames captain and ‘face of the franchise’ is a player who, at 35 years of age, wouldn’t appear to be the type of player who would still be effective if the Flames are to be heading for a major overhaul. Iginla could be the type of player who could garner a serious return of prospects and in return, allow Iginla one of his last opportunities at raising the Stanley Cup in a manner similar to Ray Bourque joining the Colorado Avalanche after being the long-suffering captain of the Boston Bruins. At 35, Iginla can still contribute to a Cup contender and provides great leadership and a strong locker room presence. Iginla is scheduled to be a Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) over the summer which presents a risk for the Flames to re-sign Iginla during the summer. The likely teams vying for Iginla’s services appear to be the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings and the Boston Bruins.
Ryan Clowe – the San Jose Sharks forward is having one of the worst seasons in his career, with no goals and nine assists in 25 games played. With the Sharks struggling since their 7-0-0 start to the season to hold on to the last playoff position in the Western Conference playoff race, Sharks General Manager GM Doug Wilson, affectionately named “Deadline Doug”, needs to shake up their roster, particularly to add some goal-scoring as the Sharks are 29th in the NHL in goals scored per game. Clowe is also a UFA but, at 30, can still contribute to an organization for at least 5-6 years, if not more. Clowe is a north-south, old-school type of player who’s quite adept at checking opponents, does not shy away from going down into the ‘dirty areas’ around the net and is very strong on the puck and could be the type of player who could benefit from a change of scenery. Teams which appear to be interested are the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.
The Dallas Stars forward scored 33 goals in 2010-11 but has cooled considerably since, scoring only 16 goals in the 79 games played since that season. The 34-year old Morrow is also scheduled to be a UFA this summer and with the Stars struggling a bit recently, particularly with their veteran players such as Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney and Morrow, Morrow could be one of those veteran players who could be traded to facilitate a much-needed rebuilding effort. Morrow provides a physical presence as well as veteran leadership and could be counted on to help a team with a dearth of Stanley Cup playoff experience. Teams rumored to be interested in Morrow include the St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and Boston Bruins.
Roy was essentially traded, albeit in two separate deals, to the Dallas Stars for Mike Ribiero over the summer but has not provided the level of production that was expected of him. Roy tallied 81 points for the Buffalo Sabres in the 2007-08 season but, with an expiring contract at the end of the season, Roy can be a valuable trading chip that can garner high draft picks or young talent to facilitate the Stars’ impending rebuild. Teams which appear to be interested in Roy are the Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Ducks and a possible reunion with his old team, the Buffalo Sabres.
Jagr was signed for one season with the Stars over the summer and has performed admirably with 22 points in 29 games played. But, with the Stars recent struggles and their current position on the outside cusp of playoff contention, Jagr could be a massive trading chip and rental to a Stanley Cup-contending team. Although Jagr doesn’t score and frenetic rate of his younger days, the all-time great winger could be that final piece to help a team obtain Stanley Cup glory. Teams which appear to be interested are two of his former teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers.
This season could be the season in which the pressure to qualify for the playoffs could be the greatest for the Edmonton Oilers as the Oilers have obtained the top pick in the last three consecutive NHL Entry Drafts but have failed to show much in the way of improved play, primarily due to issues with their blueline and goaltending. Also a UFA, Whitney has struggled with injuries and inconsistent play, to the extent that Whitney has been a healthy scratch for a recent stretch of games, apparently losing the trust and confidence of the organization. Whitney, whose best season was in 2006-07 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, when he scored 14 goals and registered 59 points. However, Whitney is a big, solid puck-moving and big-minute defenseman who can successfully quarterback a team’s power play duties and is in need of a mutual split from the Oilers. Teams which could possibly be interested are the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins. However, so long as Whitney continues to be benched and not auditioning for other NHL teams, it’s a distinct possibility that Whitney might remain with the Oilers.
The San Jose Sharks veteran defenseman is still a mobile, dependable and offensive-minded contributor who could bolster a contending team’s blueline. Boyle has an additional year remaining at $6.7 million per season, which could be a big pill for a salary cap-crunched organization to absorb. However, the 36-year old has shown no signs of slowing down and can provide that oft-elusive right-handed shot from the point and is a solid character guy in the locker room. Another impingement towards acquiring Boyle could be the high asking price Sharks GM Doug Wilson will demand, believed to be a cadre of young, talented forward-line prospects and NHL-ready talent. The team most-often mentioned as being interested in Boyle is the New York Rangers.
Visnovsky is another player who is slated to be a UFA over the summer and, at 36, would not appear to be in the New York Islanders long-term plans, barring their being in playoff contention. Visnovsky could be a trading piece to another team in need of a solid, veteran power-play quarterback who possesses a blistering shot from the point, Visnovsky could be a key piece to a team entering a Stanley Cup playoff run. However, GMs with an interest in the Slovakian defenseman may be a bit wary of his injury history and his productivity beginning to wane. Teams which appear to be interested are the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins.
There will be other players whose names will be bandied about between now and the April 3rd trade deadline – some of those names are: Mike Ribiero, Ryan Miller Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Streit, Marian Gaborik, Viktor Stalberg, Vaclav Prospal, Derick Brassard and Mason Raymond; however, so long as the races remain tightened in this shortened NHL season, barring a stunning surprise deadline deal, any seismic trading activity might not occur until the Trade Deadline Day in 2014.