Kyle Dubas and Rob Blake cracked the seal.
With Monday’s Jake Muzzin deal going down four weeks ahead of the National Hockey League’s trade deadline, the market price between buyers and sellers has been set, and our endless appetite for player movement has been whetted.
In our annual NHL Power Rankings: Your Team’s Best Deadline Trade Chip Edition, we single out a player, prospect or pick from each organization who could realistically be dangled to advance their cause — be that “Plan the parade!” or “Lose for Hughes!”
As always, the clubs are ranked according to their current strength, but the write-ups focus on a valuable but realistic card each GM could play between now and Feb. 25.
We’re betting the league leaders sit pat this year (as a result of the Ryan McDonagh deal, the Rangers get the Bolts’ 2019 first-rounder if they win the Cup), but if Julien BriseBois wants to dig deep, there would be no shortage of interest in prospect Cal Foote.
Hardworking Brad Treliving’s big moves occurred over the summer, but he will be in the market for another goaltender and a depth defenceman. Having already spent his 2019 second-rounder, we’d be shocked if he used his first as well. Mikael Frolik appears not entirely satisfied, but the aggressive play would be to dip into the prospect pool. Emilio Pettersen is all the rage.
Due to an unavoidable cap crunch coming this summer — Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Jack Roslovic, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba, Andrew Copp, Laurent Brossoit, Brandon Tanev and Brendan Lemieux will all want raises — the Jets’ window may be tighter than you think. Now is go-for-it time. Dip into the prospect pool or spend what should be a late first-round pick to get your Paul Stastny 2.0.
Are the surging Islanders buyers now? Well, they’ve already spent their 2019 third- and fourth-round picks, so it would be surprising to see them spend a first or second as well. But Brock Nelson (UFA) may be in play considering Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle and Valtteri Filppula will also be hunting for new contracts on July 1.
San Jose would like to add a proven centre (Doug Wilson swung hard but missed on John Tavares, as you’ll recall) or a scoring wing, but with no first-round pick to spend, the club will have to get creative to add anything significant. Young forwards Kevin Labanc (RFA) and Dylan Gambrell would fetch interest.
David Poile was already poking around to boost his power play with net-front presence, and now that Austin Watson is suspended indefinitely, the pressure to add a forward has ramped up. With Nashville all-in, you have to believe Poile’s first-rounder is in play.
Kyle Dubas is going for it, and we’re not convinced he’s done. There is no longer a first-rounder to spend, but if he wants to add one more defenceman or a gritty forward (Wayne Simmonds, Micheal Ferland), he could pull from the roster. Rival GMs have reportedly been told no go on Kasperi Kapanen, but what about RFA Andreas Johnsson? The big play, however, would be to sell defence prospect Timothy Liljegren and bank on Rasmus Sandin.
Toronto’s acquisition of Muzzin should inspire Boston to stock up on artillery heading into the playoffs. In need of secondary scoring to complement the best line in the East, the Bruins could dangle a prized prospect like Urho Vaakanainen, Peter Cehlarik or Trent Frederic if they opt to sacrifice the future for the present.
When Vegas is healthy, it looks as deep and inspired as any team. GM George McPhee has three picks in the third and fifth rounds of the 2019 draft he could use to tinker with the fringes of his lineup (another established goalie, perhaps?), but we believe he’s content with his core.
To trade or not to trade? Jarmo Kekalainen finds himself facing a double-headed conundrum with stars Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, when it appears clear neither will remain in Columbus beyond June. We thinks he holds his cards, but the blockbuster potential here is high.
Prudence has won the day in Montreal, with GM Marc Bergevin publicly stating that he’s not spending a first on a rental. More likely: He uses one or more of his extra 2019 second-, fourth- and fifth-round picks to reward a room that has exceeded expectations.
The defending champs have hit a swoon, but the Metro is jump ball. They are considering dealing the inconsistent Andre Burakovsky, but there’s a chance the skilled 23-year-old’s best days may still lie ahead. Also: Will they spend a first-rounder in their effort to go back-to-back?
13. Minnesota Wild
I’m very curious to see what happens with Eric Staal, just months away from hitting UFA. The veteran centre is precisely the type of player who could push a true contender over the edge, and Minnesota is, as always, on the bubble. Will the Wild rent him for futures?
Jim Rutherford’s curious dealing of Jamie Oleksiak back to Dallas has us wondering if he’s clearing cap room for something bigger. Middle-six centre Derick Brassard is in play, and with Justin Schultz nearing a return, don’t count out the slumping Pens.
Anyone not named Sebastian Aho or Teuvo Teravainen should be fair game, and under its new ownership, Carolina is no longer shy about shaking things up and hunting for scoring. Despite another round of trade rumours for Dougie Hamilton, we see Micheal Ferlund as the Hurricanes’ most valuable chip right now. The left wing carries a cap hit ($1.75 million) that can slide under anyone’s cap, he’s producing points at a career-best rate, and brings an element of nasty everyone covets in the second season.
16. Buffalo Sabres
GM Jason Botterill has already shown an appetite for player movement early in his Sabres tenure. How tempted will he be to pull the trigger and improve for the now, trying to rally a bubble team into the dance and snuff out the NHL’s second-longest playoff drought? With three first-round picks at their disposal, Botterill has options.
17. Dallas Stars
Jim Nill already tried to improve the dressing room culture by bringing in Andrew Cogliano and re-acquired defenceman Jamie Oleksiak from Pittsburgh as Marc Methot’s season ended due to surgery, but there is a sense the GM’s job could be on the line if the Stars fail to make the playoffs. He may not be done. Winning now could mean digging into the prospect pool or spending a first-round pick if they want to make a splash.
We’re not certain Semyon Varlamov would command much interest, especially if Sergei Bobrovsky does end up on the market, but we do think it’s time for the Avalanche to move on from the inconsistent goaltender. If someone wants him, deal him. Best bet: the Avs horde all those No. 1 picks and resist getting into bidding wars.
With buzz of an Alex Edler extension ramping up, Chris Tanev represents Jim Benning’s best bet to secure another first-rounder ahead of the draft the Canucks are hosting in June. A heck of a trade chip considering he has a year beyond this one on his deal. Jake Virtanen and Nikolay Goldobin could be in play but wouldn’t fetch as much.
20. Arizona Coyotes
Low on desirable assets aside from the building blocks they need to keep (Clayton Keller, Jakob Chychrun), we wonder if the Coyotes’ recent flirtation with a wild-card spot and the buyers’ market might encourage John Chayka to use this month as an opportunity to add, especially if he’s willing to lottery-protect his first-round pick. (The ‘Yotes also have an extra third-rounder in 2019.) The smarter play would be to sell. True contenders would be interested in D-man Jordan Oesterle.
21. New York Rangers
The Rangers have a collection of forwards that could garner interest, Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarrello (foot infection) among them. But Kevin Hayes is a two-way centreman enjoying a fantastic season. His stock has never been higher, and it will go up even more if Ottawa can keep Matt Duchene.
22. St. Louis Blues
St. Louis hasn’t tumbled so far out of the picture to make the call just yet, but Doug Armstrong has options if he determines a reset is in order. Patrick Maroon and Jay Bouwmeester sould be flipped for futures, but a Colton Parayko, Alex Pietrangleo or Vladimir Tarasenko trade would register as a blockbuster and send ripples through the Blues’ room.
23. Florida Panthers
We envision the under-performing Panthers sitting out deadline season and taking a harder look at moves in the summer — they’re not a player away from contending in a top-heavy division. That said, right-shot, stay-at-home defenceman Mark Pysyk might be of interest for those in need of depth.
24. Edmonton Oilers
Part of the foul taste in Edmonton’s water can be attributed to the lack of trade chips and prospects with value. If, as they say, the No. 1 pick is off limits, would Keith Gretzky & Co. bite on a juicy offer for the impatiently developed Jesse Puljujarvi?
Renting out Wayne Simmonds — a playoff impact player destined to stir a bidding war — feels like a no-brainer for new GM Chuck Fletcher, who should be willing to at least listen on anybody not named Carter Hart. Defencemen with term like Radko Gudas and Shayne Gostisbehere make compelling targets, although we think Fletcher would be wise holding off on moving the Ghost Bear and hope his stock goes up.
26. Anaheim Ducks
Always in the mix for straight-up hockey trades, as much as he may be loathe to give away offence, Bob Murray should sell off Jakob Silfverberg if the winger won’t agree to a middle-class extension in the coming days.
If there’s any interest in Marcus Johansson, move him. But there should be significant interest in Brian Boyle among contenders. The veteran bottom-six centre has been through this before, and he brings all those little things — penalty killing, face-off prowess, experience, character, secondary scoring, modest cap hit — that playoff-bound GMs can’t get enough of.
Lots of veteran rental options in Motown — all-star goalie Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, Nick Jensen, gun-for-hire Thomas Vanek — but the most valuable among them is Gustav Nyquist. The 29-year-old forward is having his most productive campaign in five years and provides a scoring punch to your top nine as well as your power play.
Pending UFAs Chris Kunitz (who holds the old man no-move clause) and Marcus Kruger should be available as depth options, but imagine what Duncan Keith might fetch. Stan Bowman has resisted breaking up his triple-championship core, but Keith still has some tread on the tires at 35, and his cap hit ($5.5 million) is low enough that he’d have a market. Chicago needs more than a couple small tweaks.
The Muzzin trade signals that Rob Blake is ready to rebuild. Can he flip Carl Hagelin? Probably, but not for much. Jeff Carter loves L.A., but the versatile power forward has no trade protection on a deal that lasts until 2022. Carter’s trade value leaps because his actual salary dives to $3 million next season and just $2 million after that.
31. Ottawa Senators
Diamond-in-the-rough Mark Stone would fetch the most in return, but considering Ottawa has a better chance of re-signing him than Matt Duchene, the Sens’ No. 1 centre could become an fantastic No. 2 or No. 3 pivot on a legit Cup threat (Winnipeg, Nashville, Boston, Columbus, Pittsburgh). Are the Islanders buying? If so, that’s another intriguing destination.