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(Puck Daddy’s Josh Cooper offers some inside news on the NHL trade deadline.)
The NHL trade deadline period is in full swing with activity having picked up big time in recent days.
Some of the deadline’s biggest names have changed places with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk going to the Washington Capitals from the St. Louis Blues, goaltender Ben Bishop going to the Los Angeles Kings from the Tampa Bay Lightning and forward Martin Hanzal being dealt to the Minnesota Wild from the Arizona Coyotes.
The Capitals and Wild currently see their teams as Stanley Cup favorites and wanted to bolster their rosters for the postseason. The Kings already had a starting goaltender in Jonathan Quick, who had recently returned from a bad groin injury, but believe that Bishop can give them the necessary stops to help them make a push in the standings.
There have also been a bunch of smaller moves as teams try to add depth for a playoff push. Before the deadline, which hits Wednesday afternoon, there was a thought that this period would lack the same flurry of deals as past deadlines. This has clearly not been the case.
According to multiple sources, this prior line of thinking had in part to do with the expansion draft and teams not wanting to make trades for players with term that they could lose for nothing in June. The possibility of a flat cap has also led to difficulties for contending teams as they try to figure out how to handle their future salaries.
A league executive described this deadline as having “unique challenges” specifically because of expansion as well as the salary cap.
There was also a belief that because of the NHL’s competitive balance there were far more buyers than sellers, which would hurt the dynamic to a degree.
In advance of Tuesday evening’s games, the Eastern Conference had six teams within seven points of the Wild Card. In the Western Conference three teams were within five points of the last postseason spot.
But in some cases, this has led to some teams unexpectedly taking swings at players, like the Toronto Maple Leafs adding Brian Boyle from the Tampa Bay Lighting or the Calgary Flames picking up Michael Stone from the Coyotes.
Also, some teams have gotten creative with conditions on draft picks in trades in order to make deals happen.
We took a look at some of the big stories still out there and how they could break down.
Since the Avalanche started to nosedive in the standings, there have been rumors that the team has been shopping forwards Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. But the belief is that unless the Avs get offered a great deal now, there’s no urgency to make a move at this deadline.
Both players have term on their contracts and Colorado isn’t in a situation where they need to trade one now or risk losing him for nothing in the offseason.
Around the draft and free agency period Colorado could see an uptick of buyers, which would increase their leverage. Currently not every team is looking to make a deal, which lessens the amount of competition to pick up their services. The Edmonton Oilers took this approach with Taylor Hall last season and eventually traded him in the summer to the New Jersey Devils.
Another line of thinking is that a contending team may not meet the Avs’ asking price in order to preserve some level of chemistry heading into the playoffs, limiting Colorado’s choices to bottom feeders. Most of these teams are currently sellers and probably wouldn’t want to make a move on a veteran forward.
“Personally, I would be surprised if Duchene and Landeskog got moved to a team that’s in the playoffs,” a team source said. “I think it’s such a big piece and the asking price is pretty high. They are good players, but you put them on your team and you’re looking at them to be key components of your franchise. You have to wonder why it’s not working there in Colorado.”
Still there’s always the chance that a desperate general manager could reach Joe Sakic’s asking price and a deal would then be consummated in short order.
“If somebody gives him the home run he’s looking for he would do it,” a management source said.
And what of Jarome Iginla, the 39-year-old forward who makes $5.33 million per-year and wants a shot at the Stanley Cup? He has eight goals in 60 games played and his contract plus lack of production make a deal for him seem difficult.
“His foot speed has slowed down and the game has sped up, which is a bad combination,” the team source said. “He can still shoot the puck and he will go to the hard areas. If you can put two fast players on a line with him or maybe put him in a third- or fourth-line type of role. As long as he can live and accept less minutes, the guy can still shoot the puck and play ‘net front.’ You can’t have him with one or another two slot footed guys on the line.”
Shattenkirk’s Final Destination
Shattenkirk was seen mostly as a rental in this market. He nixed a trade to the Edmonton Oilers last summer and then reportedly couldn’t work out an extension with the Lightning earlier this season after St. Louis had worked out a deal with Tampa.
The Capitals made a swing at Shattenkirk for the ‘now’ and nothing else and he could be the piece that could finally push the team deeper into the postseason.
“A guy like that could help them get through the first or second round and get to the conference final,” the team source said.
The belief around Shattenkirk was that he pretty much had a destination in mind in unrestricted free agency, which spooked some teams who didn’t want to pay the short-term price.
“He knows basically where he wants to go I’m sure,” a management source said.
The Patrick Sharp Sweepstakes
The Dallas Stars went into the season hoping to take a shot, so they are loaded with pending UFAs who could yield a return form a contending team.
While a lot of the chatter on forward Patrick Sharp had previously revolved around the Chicago Blackhawks, the San Jose Sharks could be a team that makes sense. San Jose doesn’t have a ton of cap space, but they could try to finagle their roster to make it work if they see Sharp as a fit.
The Sharks’ core forwards of Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are pending UFAs and aren’t getting any younger, which again, has the Sharks in ‘win now’ mode. Adding a versatile veteran like Sharp with a winning pedigree could bolster their forward depth as they try to make another Stanley Cup run.
Red Wings’ Pieces
For the first time in a very long time, the Detroit Red Wings are sellers and the team has some players who can attract some interest. Detroit has already parted with defenseman Brendan Smith, which could start a domino effect within the group.
Winger Thomas Vanek has resurrected his career with 38 points in 47 games and could bolster a team’s lower lines at the cheap price of a $2.6 million cap hit.
“He could go to a decent team and do what Phil Kessel did last year,” the team source said, “He could go on lower line in the playoffs and provide match-up problems.”
Toronto’s Cap Space
Because the Maple Leafs have a few players on long-term injured reserve, they have have around $15 million of salary cap space currently. They’ve also shown that they’re buyers in this market by adding Boyle. But should they do more?
“Getting Boyle is a good idea, but at the same time I wouldn’t mortgage the future,” a source said. “If I were them I would not deviate from the plan.”
Still the Maple Leafs are currently in an Eastern Conference Wild Card spot and have a shot to make just their second playoff experience since the 2004-05 NHL lockout. They also have a bevy of assets that could yield them a veteran in return that could help them immediately. Do they take another swing or are they content with what they have moving forward?
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