NHL Trade Deadline: Brian Lawton’s Scouting Report

Tune into Hockey Central on March 5th for wall-to-wall coverage of the NHL Trade Deadline, with Kypreos, MacLean and Co.

Brian Lawton is a former NHL player, general manager and agent. Tune into Hockey Central Trade Deadline on Mar. 5 beginning at 8 a.m. EST / 5 a.m. PST, for Brian’s full Scouting Report on the following players and more.

Ales Hemsky, Right winger | Edmonton Oilers

Hemsky is either the most overrated player in the National Hockey League, or the most undervalued player by clubs other than the Oilers. He had a six-year run from 2005-11 when he put up nearly one point a game, but since then has played in only 155 games and scored just 80 points over the last three seasons. That has created an inequity in his value as perceived by the Oilers and the rest of the league.

For any club that is willing to take a gamble on Hemsky, it is believed that he could put up strong numbers again if paired with the right centreman and a team with a strong defence that plays a lot more in the opposing team’s end rather than their own, which has not been the case in Edmonton the past few seasons.

The asking price for Hemsky has always been just more than what the market is willing to bear. This year, that price has been set at a first-round pick, but the most likely scenario will be a club giving up a second rounder at best for him.

Matt Moulson, Left winger | Buffalo Sabres

Moulson is an offensive player at the top of many teams’ shopping lists ahead of NHL Trade Deadline. His high hockey IQ combined with his skating ability allows him to keep up with an elite centre (like he did while playing alongside John Tavares in Long Island) or make his linemates better in a second-line role.

Moulson is only 30 and is coming off a pro-rated 76-point season last year, and a 69-point season the year before. He is exactly the type of player you trade for and re-sign to a long-term deal. He’s a $3.133-million cap hit, but will be seeking a new contract in the $4.5-million range when his deal expires in July. That would be a reasonable amount for a winger who is capable of playing on either of a team’s top two lines.

Jake Gardiner, Defence | Toronto Maple Leafs

Gardiner started his amateur career as a forward, and played there until he was 17-years old. This helped him to develop into a puck-handling, offensive-minded defenceman. He has great feet, but more specifically he is what you’d call a quiet skater, like Mike Modano was. He’s a big rangy guy that has amazing glide on the ice — envision his blades literally riding on top of the ice rather than digging down into the ice, making him a smooth skater because of his glide.

In addition, Gardiner is excellent at hanging onto the puck because of his confidence to avoid defenders using his quick feet and glide.

The downside to Gardiner’s quick feet and patience with the puck is he sometimes skates himself into trouble and gets into bad positions on the ice. Starting from the right positions defensively is the key to being good defensively; conversely being in the wrong places too often makes the game hard defensively. This happens a lot to Gardiner, which is why he’s found himself in Randy Carlyle’s doghouse so often.

David Legwand, Centre | Nashville Predators

Legwand is the longest-standing member of the Predators and their first-ever draft choice — second overall in the 1998 NHL Draft. He is a player who has sacrificed his offensive upside his enter career while playing under one coach in a defensive-minded system. At 33-years old, he is not as fast as he once was, but Legwand possess the skills to be a quality defensive-minded, second-line centre on a team headed to the playoffs.

With his size and grit, Legwand is exactly the type of game-changer move that could propel a seventh or eighth seed into the top tier of clubs competing for a Cup. Legwand’s $4.5-million cap hit is a reasonable number for the level of play you can expect from him. He is the club’s leading scorer and Nashville won’t part with him for anything less than a first-round pick and a prospect.

Mike Cammalleri, Left winger/centre | Calgary Flames

The diminutive 31-year old, who is scheduled to hit the open market this summer, is perhaps the biggest chip the Flames have as they continue the rebuilding process. Cammalleri is that rare small winger that plays big in the post-season — he scored 13 goals in the 2010 playoffs, leading the Montreal Canadiens to the Eastern Conference finals.

Listed at (a generous) 5-foot-9, 190 pounds, Cammalleri is fearless playing in the traffic areas, using his high-hockey intellect to navigate through the danger zone seamlessly, appearing in the right positions to rip a one-timer or bang home a rebound. He possesses a low centre of gravity, giving him superior balance against many of the bigger, stronger defencemen that are constantly pounding away on him.

The Flames have set the market for him at a first-round pick and a prospect, but at a $6-million cap hit, that asking price is going to be considered pretty rich for most teams, unless there’s a perfect fit and/or there is a strong possibility that his new team will be able to re-sign him at a more cap-friendly number.

Dmitry Kulikov, Defence | Florida Panthers

At only 23 years of age, the smooth-skating, intelligent Kulikov has been an enigma for the Panthers since he was selected 14th overall in the 2008 NHL Draft. At times, he has looked like he will develop into a consistent top-three defenceman for the Panthers, and at other times he’s been a healthy scratch.

There is a lot of concern that the Russian-born Kulikov will play in the KHL next season. Should the Panthers explore trading Kulikov, getting a decent return will be contingent upon his representatives discussing a new contract with potential trade partners. There is certainly a lot of interest in Kulikov — teams love his skill level, intelligence and potential. The belief is that he only needs a change of scenery to blossom into an elite puck-moving defenceman.

Marian Gaborik, Winger | Columbus Blue Jackets

The often-injured Gaborik, an impending UFA with a $7.5-million cap hit, is exactly the type of player you don’t want to see walk away with no return for the club. The three-time 40 goal scorer — once known as the quickest skater from A-B in the NHL — has slowed considerably since those days due to injury, but is still capable of putting up impressive numbers when healthy.

The speed has been reduced, but the shot and quick release still remain the same. For any team looking for an elite winger that can fire the puck, Gaborik is an excellent option if paired with the right centreman. The asking price has been set at a first-round pick, which is an unlikely mark given the cap hit and lack of flexibility most clubs have under the salary cap this season.

Brad Boyes, Centre/Winger | Florida Panthers

It is believed the Panthers will be aggressive sellers come NHL Trade Deadline time and one player sure to garner a lot of interest will be Brad Boyes. The former 33-goal scorer comes at a price tag of just $1 million this season, on a contract that expires at the end of the year – that’s exactly the type of player a lot of teams will covet.

He has proven in the past that he can play with elite players like Tavares, picking up 35 points in just 48 games last season with the New York Islanders. Boyes is a slick player with a strong hockey IQ — that allows him to see considerable time on the power play. He’s not a big player, but Boyes is nifty around the net because of his quick hands and anticipation in reading the play.

Martin Erat, Winger | Washington Capitals

With Erat scoring just one goal in his first 51 games with the Capitals, it is safe to say that Washington GM George McPhee would love to have a do-over on the trade that sent Filip Forsberg to the Predators. Erat has clearly been a bad fit for the Capitals, never really settling in with any line, and being a healthy scratch at times. Regardless, it is believed that the veteran could revitalize his career in a fresh surrounding.

While he’s never been fleet of foot, Erat is a defensively-responsible forward who could provide a short-term offensive boost in the right situation. It is believed the Capitals have set the asking price at a first-round selection, which is unrealistic considering how Erat has performed in Washington. It is more likely going to be a middle-to-late round pick for the risk of taking on Erat’s contract, which has one more season left at a $4.5-million cap hit and a salary of $2.25 million.

Matt Cullen, Centre | Nashville Predators

The 37-year-old veteran has been a consistent half-a-point-per-game player for over 1,000 games. This year, he simply has not fit in well as Nashville’s No. 2 centre. That’s because he really is — and has always been — a No. 3 guy with enough skill to fill in on the second power play unit and kill penalties. He’s versatile that way, but has played a different role with the goal-starved Predators this season.

Cullen is in the first year of a two-year deal that carries a $3.5-million cap hit. That’s a contract that Nashville could move for a mid-round draft choice, even if it’s only to free the team of the salary for next season. In the right circumstance, Cullen is more than capable of playing a third-line role on a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

Anton Khudobin, Goaltender | Carolina Hurricanes

The 27-year-old impending UFA is a bit of an enigma, having been constantly injured and/or playing behind other quality goaltenders so far in his NHL career. When he gets between the pipes, the numbers have been impressive with a career 21-8-1 record and .933 save percentage.

The Russian goaltender possess a lightning-fast glove and an uncanny ability to control his rebounds. Pucks hit him and stay close to his body, allowing him to smother opposing team shots.

Khudobin is considered a risky move that could pay a big reward. It is believed that Carolina would move him for a second- or high third-round pick. The team that takes that risk just might get rewarded with a guy that could be a starter in the near future.

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