Spector on NHL: Trade speculation heats up

From left: Ryan Whitney, Keith Yandle, Jarome Iginla and Dustin Penner.
March 22, 2013, 10:05 AM

Jarome Iginla will be the metaphor for a 2013 NHL Trade Deadline that’s stacking up to be the most complicated deadline in a long while.

Think about it: How difficult is it to take on significant salary in a year when the cap is due to fall nearly $6 million to $64.3 million next season?

Couple that with the fact that, after the trade deadline, there are about 10 regular season games left for most teams. That’s not much time for, say, the Pittsburgh Penguins to work an Iginla into the lineup.

If a team is willing to make the deal for an Iginla — assuming he’ll be available — but isn’t hell bent on signing him this summer, how much are you willing to give up for him? Because you know that should the Calgary Flames and Iginla succumb to moving the face of their franchise, they’ll want to justify it to Flames fans by acquiring a hot prospect and a nice draft pick.

“It’s very difficult to give up roster players at this point of the year if you’re a good team,” a Western Conference exec said. “More often than not it’s young players and draft picks.”

We’re predicting less movement than the hockey world is used to on April 3, but that shouldn’t stop us from talking about the names that will fill the conversations between NHL general managers between now and then.

Is Coyotes’ Yandle on the block?

Now that Oliver Ekman-Larsson has his six-year, $33 million deal, is Phoenix Coyotes defenceman Keith Yandle available? The answer is, yes, but not in a fire sale.

The belief is that the Coyotes are at their league-imposed salary ceiling, but they’re not being forced to dump salary. They’d trade Yandle — not because of money — but because the Coyotes’ offence is so weak even coach Dave Tippett’s defensive style can’t support an offence that was recently shutout three games in a row.

So any Yandle deal would be like the Colorado-St. Louis deal of two years ago, when Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk and a second round choice (Ty Rattie) went to the Blues, while the Avalanche got Erik Johnson, Jay McClement and a first-round pick. Salary coming and going would have to be nearly equal for Phoenix, and so would relative value of the players.

An easier acquisition from Phoenix would be Steve Sullivan — he’s been a bust there with just five goals, scoring in just three of 27 ‘Yotes games.

Would Penner garner interest?

Same with Dustin Penner in Los Angeles. He walks the line between that big body that might be useful in the playoffs, and a lazy teammate that the coach struggles to play ahead of other guys who work much harder. We’re sensing that Darryl Sutter has had enough.

Canucks searching for centre

The toughest trade this deadline will be getting that quality roster player in return for a draft pick, with so many teams believing they’re still in the hunt. That will make Vancouver’s search for a centreman difficult, because the Canucks would rather not give up a roster player to make themselves better.

Goalie issues

As for the Roberto Luongo trade, all we know is that GM Mike Gillis has been unable to find what he considers fair value all season long. And if a team asks about Cory Schneider, the price is guaranteed to be much higher, as Schneider comes with no burdensome contract and is six years younger.

Is anyone taking on that Luongo contract, with the cap on its way down?

Well, having a Ben Bishop on the market, or a Jonathan Bernier, makes it a lot harder to fathom. They’re both younger, cheaper, and both Bernier (.923 saves percentage) and Bishop (.921) are stopping more pucks these days than Luongo (.904).

Bishop is most likely to move, as it is believed Ottawa would do that deal for a pick and a prospect, whereas Los Angeles requires a roster defenceman to fill the breech left by injuries to Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene.

Flyers eyeing defenceman

The wildcard out East is always Philadelphia, where Flyers GM Paul Holmgren always has the itchy trigger finger. He needs a defenceman, and the most logical appears to be Buffalo’s Jordan Leopold. Holmgren will look in Edmonton, where the Oilers aren’t trading pending UFA Ladislav Smid (though they could be a lot more proactive in signing Smid), but might wheel Ryan Whitney.

Oilers in thick of the race

Like so many clubs though, the Oilers are right in the thick of the race. Whitney’s playing better, and losing him would lessen Edmonton’s playoff chances. So they might think twice about a deal that seemed a no-brainer a month ago.

“It all depends on a few teams,” said our exec. “Everyone realizes what happened the last few years — if you get in anything can happen.”

That makes the decision in Calgary so important. There might ever be a better year to hold a fire sale, with so few sellers.

If they join the exclusive group of Florida, Buffalo and Washington, the Flames could improve their future on April 3.

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