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Just like everything COVID has decimated in its ravaging spread, the NHL trade deadline has been affected in turn. The virus has taken hold and essentially crippled the organization in the short term. While we all want everyone to get through this crisis unscathed, the Canucks situation can ripple out to the rest of the North division.
Segregated by the border and a mandatory quarantine period makes trading players for immediate help more difficult. Pierre-Luc Dubois and Eric Staal are prime examples – and did Staal ever make an impact in his Habs debut. I would have expected clubs looking to acquire players from across the border to be consummated earlier to get the quarantine period out of the way, but then cap crunch considerations are necessary. We often see clubs wait for the last possible moment in order to maximize the cap savings before pulling the trigger.
Oilers at Senators
Canadiens at Maple Leafs
As the eerily quiet deadline crawls into a single hand full of days, there are still distinct needs by contending teams, despite the restrictions, the border, the limited cap space – and real dollars as the pandemic continues to ravage gate revenue.
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Elliotte Friedman Jeff Marek’s 31 Thoughts Podcast had on Chris Johnston of Sportsnet to essentially continue the ‘Saturday Headlines’ featured on Hockey Night in Canada between the second and third periods of the Sportsnet broadcasts. I find this intermission feature fascinating – although not as cutting edge as its predecessor and original ‘hot stove’ that didn’t have to contend with the likes of Twitter and instant news gratification.
The podcast featured a role call through every team, labeling whether they were buyers or sellers and team needs where they could be identified. They filtered through some of the available players and what some surprise teams may try. It’s a great listen that augments the regular news updates available here on NBC Sports Edge, and the master list itself, available via the TSN Trade Bait List.
The team with a significant effect on the market is the Nashville Predators. All but dead in the water and out of the playoffs … until they weren’t, resurrected like an Easter miracle. In a dogfight for the fourth and final playoff spot, names like Filip Forsberg, Mattias Granlund and Mattias Ekholm that were featured to be relocated are likely not, and the music city may keep these players for the playoff run, if they intend to keep their on-ice instruments finely tuned.
I wanted to take a deeper look as some of the more notable names available at the deadline but the three top names on the TSN trade bait list offers unique advantages for teams trading to acquire them. The focus is on what these players give to their new team, not the return they are likely to garner.
The former Oilers draft pick has been kept out of game play, as a condition to remain healthy as the deadline creeps. Buffalo won on Tuesday night as a result – correlation does not equal causation is the disclaimer here. It’s somewhat unfair to associate the Sabres collapse with Hall’s ability or how he immediately improves a forward devoid of scoring. Buffalo has been in a free fall with circuit breakers going off for many seasons. The only question is, how did Hall end up in Buffalo – even if it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I’m trying to find the right metric for this and a 2.3% individual shooting percentage at 5v5 is probably the starting point. How about 1.1 goals above replacement (ranked 382nd in the NHL) despite averaging 10.42 during his career? **Data courtesy of EvolvingHockey.com
That metric (GAR for short) means if the Buffalo Sabres had pulled Hall and dressed a replacement level hockey player – a call up from the AHL, or a press box regular – they would have only 1.1 less goals over the course of the season. With all that said, a change of scenery should not only be rewarding, Hall can instantly transform the look of an offence, his GAR be damned.
Similar to GAR, the WAR (wins above replacement) have been similarly affected (offering 0.2 WAR after a 1.94 career average). Hall has performed to offer 0.2 wins for the Sabres, in comparison to offering 1.94 wins per season during his career. The table below summarizes his single level metrics for his career.
Coyotes / Devils
A team like Boston seems to be an obvious fit here, needing some scoring depth to ease the pressure on the first line, as does Toronto to add more scoring bite – border quarantine be damned. An underestimated destination could be the Florida Panthers, trying to boost their scoring presence on the heels of a devastating loss of Aaron Ekblad.
It seems like an all-out given that the blueliner will be moved before the deadline with Columbus sliding further away from playoff contention and being set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The 30-year-old has never been able to replicate the 11-goal, 36-point career high in 2014-15, but still has enough to offer as a second pairing defenseman that can play different situations. He’s split time this season between Vladislav Gavrikov, sandwiching a small stint with Gabriel Carlsson.
Columbus is an offensive chasm, and Savard’s results are reflected in the club’s inability to find consistent scoring.
Savard is scoring at the same pace as 2019-20 and has generated a career worst shots/60 – a commentary on the more serious issues plaguing the team overall offensively, rather than Savard’s individual impact. He’s been linked to the Tampa Bay Lightning, shoring up the back end to defend their Championship crown, but Florida with the loss of Ekblad could use an extra body.
Linking back to the single rating metric, Savard has posted career worsts in GAR (-2.3) and WAR (-0.4), not exactly enticing, but in line with the expected goals above replacement metric on the player page at EvolvingHockey.com.
Just like Hall, the Devils star is being held out of games in anticipation of a potential move out of New Jersey. The 30-year old has nine points in 450 minutes at 5v5, and is scoring at his career worst pace (1.2 Pts/60), while firing above career average at 8.1 shots/60. He’s generated 9.85 individual scoring chances per 60, the third best of his career – the Devils just have trouble scoring goals and have suffered as a result. The team that is looking at his measly box socre results this season without getting deeper into the shooting metrics may be missing out on an opportunity here. The table below highlights some of the shot based metrics and how they compare to his career.
Individual statistics aside, while on the ice, despite his individual contributions, the Devils were firing 6.05% - the worst on-ice shooting percentage in his NHL career.
Similar to Hall, the Bruins would be an ideal destination here, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see one or the other land there should the first player be moved elsewhere.
We are likely to see a lot more movement closer to and on the Trade deadline, but I’m not expecting the type of volume as in the past – and not as many impact trades. This screwy season continues with the deadline before hitting the NHL’s fourth quarter and playoff stretch drive.
Stay tuned here on NBC Sports Edge for your trade Deadline coverage.