The 2016 NHL trade deadline is on Monday, and already we’re seeing players filtered into one of two categories like so much email spam:
Category 1: Big names we all hoped would move that actually will likely remain with their teams. Sorry, those who covet Keith Yandle.
Category 2: Significantly smaller names that will undoubtedly move at the deadline because of their current situations in contract and team fortunes. Thus begins the Dale Weise Derby.
There’s a third category, of course: Significant names that could move at the deadline, and could be game-changers for the contenders that acquire them.
Here are 10 of those players, ranked by their game-changingness.
Defenseman Dan Hamhuis is likely on the move, if they can get the pending UFA to waive his no-trade clause (most likely for somewhere in the West). Far more interesting is Hansen, who is signed through 2018 at a miniscule $2.5 million cap hit.
He’s having his best offensive season (19 goals in 55 games) and turns 30 next month. Jason Botchford makes the argument that he’s too valuable for the Canucks to deal: “He can work with the Sedins, sure, but he could also move down the lineup and carry a couple of young players if you didn’t want them to, say, drown.”
That might be true. Also true: He’d be a valuable piece for any contender that acquires him, now and for the next two seasons.
9. Scott Hartnell, Columbus Blue Jackets
He’s 33 years old and has 19 goals and 20 assists in 58 games. He’s signed through 2019 at $4.75 million against the cap and has a full no-move.
So there’s risk in acquiring him, but there’s also reward: He’s a terrific net-front presence on the power play. He’s a total pain in the ass to play against, and a total joy to have in your own room.
It won’t take much to get him, given the state of the Jackets and that trade protection. And someone could buy him out before the end of the deal if his body falls apart. For now, an interesting option. Would it shock anyone to see Hartnell head back to Nashville, who could use his skills-set in the West?
8. Jiri Hudler, Calgary Flames
So, last season was an aberration. Oh well. Fact is that Hulder can still help a good team up front, potentially in a top-six role. And he’s unrestricted after this season with no trade protection. That $4 million cap hit, pro-rated, should be manageable. David Jones and Kris Russell probably also move, but Hudler’s the most interesting.
7. Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets
The Jets gave Dustin Byfuglien his money, and then basically gave Ladd a cardboard box to collect his personal items.
His production and effectiveness (those possession numbers) have slipped, and yet his price tag hasn’t. Hard to think he won’t move – maybe a reunion with GM Dale Tallon in Florida? – it’s not going to be the first-rounder that’s the asking price for a UFA rental.
6. Mikkel Boedker, Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes offered $5 million annually with “considerable term” and were denied, so that’s probably that for Boedker in the desert. The Don Maloney pipeline only seems to flow to New York, Chicago and Newfoundland. The LA Kings, after the Marian Gaborik injury, could be in the running.
As long as they don’t listen to Matthew Coller of ESPN.com, who argues that Boedker can be considered “a bad NHL player,” writing “Arizona's winger has gotten fat on power-play scoring, with 18 of his points coming on the man advantage. At even strength, he produces only 1.0 points per 60 minutes, a similar rate to Brandon Prust and Chris Neil.”
5. Radim Vrbata, Vancouver Canucks
One gets the sense that Vrbata isn’t happy with his current lot in life, what with that minus-14 and one goal and one assist since Jan. 21.
He’s as good as gone. It’s just a matter of where. He has a modified no-trade clause and goes UFA after this season.
Vrbata. On the move.
Yeah, we’re thinking Coyotes reunion, too.
4. Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks
Eric Stephens of the OC Register thinks Andersen could be in play, mostly because they’re eventually turning the crease over to John Gibson and Andersen is an RFA that’ll look for a significant raise. So dealing him at the deadline makes sense for a team that’s suddenly looking like a contender again – and given the lack of goaltending options out there, a player like Andersen could bring back a significant return.
If, in fact, they want Gibson to operate without a safety net in the playoffs. Because Anton Khudobin is not a safety net.
3. Kyle Okposo, New York Islanders
He’s not talking to the Islanders about a new contract, and he’s not calling up Garth Snow to beg not to be traded. He has 15 goals and 30 assists this season, and he’s a pending UFA that turns 28 in April.
An important player for the Islanders, but one that generates legitimate concerns about his future due to his price tag.
Still hard to imagine him being traded, but Snow knows more about that contract situation than we do.
2. Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins
What the hell do you do here if you’re the Bruins?
Eriksson has made his case to remain in Boston on a new contract. Other than Brad Marchand, he’s been their best forward this season. The Bruins’ initial offer to Eriksson was too low in salary and term. So there’s room to negotiate with the pending UFA … unless the B’s think there’s no bridge to build there.
If that’s the case, the man who is perpetually listed among the most underrated in hockey (which, of course, makes him “rated”) could be moved to one of the 14 teams to which he would approve a trade, as per his no-trade clause.
Hey, no big deal for Don Sweeney, as this trade could mean the Bruins making or missing the playoffs.
1. Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
He hasn’t been asked to waive his no-trade clause. He wouldn’t be “crushed” if the Hurricanes move him.
Other than that, it’s anyone’s guess what the Canes do with their star center. Keep him for this getting-longer-odds-every-night playoff push? Trade him as a rental to a team like the Chicago Blackhawks or New York Rangers (oh hai Marc)?
It’s hard to imagine Staal playing for anyone else other than the Carolina Hurricanes. But as the deadline arrives, for the benefit of that team, it might be time to start.
Until of course he re-signs with them in the summer…
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