Any team hoping to make a trade prior to the Vegas expansion draft will need to get it done before Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. ET when the trade freeze begins. There are more than a few teams out there facing some tough decisions around who to protect and leave exposed that could be alleviated with a swap.
For example, the Tampa Bay Lightning were in a position to lose a good forward for nothing to Vegas before they swapped Jonathan Drouin to Montreal for Mikhail Sergachev, a defenceman exempt from the expansion draft.
With the trade freeze coming up soon, we’re expecting more moves to be made and there are no shortage of rumours floating around. Here’s a roundup of some of the buzz around the hockey world.
SENATORS PROTECTING CECI?
The Ottawa Senators have reportedly informed defenceman Cody Ceci that he will be among their protected players. With Dion Phaneuf unwilling to waive his no-movement clause, this would suggest that GM Pierre Dorion will expose Marc Methot to Vegas, unless he can move Phaneuf via trade (more on that below).
BLUE JACKETS REACH DEAL WITH VEGAS
Reports say that Columbus will be sending its first-round pick (24th overall) and a prospect (not Pierre-Luc Dubois or Sonny Milano), to Vegas in order to steer George McPhee towards picking one of William Karlsson, Matt Calvert, or Ryan Murray.
This will keep forward Josh Anderson, and goaltending prospect Joonas Korpisalo in the Blue Jackets system.
MINNESOTA WILD LISTENING TO OFFERS FOR BRODIN, DUMBA
The Wild face all sorts of tough expansion draft decisions, mostly on their defence corps. Assuming the team opts to go the 7-3-1 route (and with the depth of forwards they have, that’s a certainty), two of Jonas Brodin, Mathew Dumba and Marco Scandella will be left exposed to the Golden Knights.
Naturally, the Wild are expected to make some kind of trade to recoup assets instead of losing a quality player for nothing. Beat reporter Michael Russo reported that GM Cliff Fletcher had received “quality trade offers” on Dumba (22) and Brodin (23).
A possibility exists that Minnesota could move one of these two to a team like Montreal, who needs defencemen and has been rumoured to be shopping Alex Galchenyuk (more on that below), but if the Wild simply add another forward they’d have to protect, they’d run into the same problem with their forwards that they’re currently having on their blue line.
Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville all have no-movement clauses (and there’s no word on if any of them were asked to waive) and the team would also want to protect Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. Adding another forward to that without a no-movement being waived would mean the Wild having to expose a quality forward.
Of course, there’s always a possibility that the Wild could work out a deal with the Golden Knights where they trade an asset to the new team in exchange for not picking a specific player. However, Minnesota is without its first- and second-round picks this year, and their second-rounder next.
THE DUCKS AND THEIR CROWDED DEFENCE
Like the Wild, the Anaheim Ducks have a deep collection of young defencemen that will make protection decisions tough, especially considering that Kevin Bieksa has a no-movement clause he was never asked to waive.
With Bieksa an auto-protect, the Ducks would also like to shield Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Josh Manson and Cam Fowler from the Golden Knights. But with the forwards they would like to protect also, the team is running out of room under either the 7-3-1 or 4-4-1 protection schemes to keep everyone, which has led to plenty of trade rumours around Vatanen especially.
The 26-year-old, signed for three more years at a $4.875-million cap hit, is an offensive defenceman coming off a career-low 24-point season. No doubt teams would have an appetite to acquire a controllable, puck-moving defenceman for their top-four and power play and Vatanen has been linked in rumours to Toronto, Montreal and previously Tampa Bay before the Drouin trade.
The big question around Vatanen, though, is his health. After the Ducks were eliminated in the Western Conference Final, it was announced that Lindholm would be out the next four to five months with a shoulder injury and that Vatanen would be out even longer. This could mean Vatanen will miss games into December or possibly later, which could certainly hurt his trade value.
It’s been reported that Anaheim has a deal in place with the Vegas Golden Knights, which is why they didn’t need to ask Bieksa to waive his no-move (and a buyout can’t be ruled out yet either). That deal could involve sending an asset to the Golden Knights in return for them staying away from one of these defencemen, who the Ducks could then freely expose.
RED WINGS’ GOALIE CONUNDRUM
Had Petr Mrazek followed up his fabulous 2015-16 season (.921 SP, 2.33 GAA) with a similar performance, the Wings would easily be able to protect him and feel good about their situation in net. But he struggled to a .901 SP and 3.04 GAA, which makes the position a little more uncertain.
While Mrazek is still young (25) and promising, the Wings also think highly of 25-year-old Jared Coreau, who posted a .917 SP in the AHL this season and backstopped the Grand Rapids Griffins to a Calder Cup championship.
The Wings will only be able to protect one of these two goalies and we shouldn’t expect GM Ken Holland to make a trade with Vegas to keep them from taking either player.
“I’m not prepared to pay any future assets to protect players on our team,” Holland told Boomer and Pinder on Sportsnet 960 earlier this week. “We’re submitting seven [forwards], three [defencemen] and one [goalie] and when we submit that list then [McPhee has] obviously the decision to make which player he’s going to take off our roster.”
At the end of May, Holland talked about the potential for a trade involving either Mrazek or Jimmy Howard, who is likely to be left unprotected this weekend. At the time, Holland was non-committal about which of the two he was protecting.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” Holland said. “I’ll work the phones.”
Teams that could be looking to upgrade in net this summer include the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers and Colorado Avalanche.
WILL JORDAN EBERLE MOVE BEFORE THE TRADE FREEZE?
The Oilers could potentially take advantage of the few teams looking to move a defenceman by dangling scoring, 27-year-old winger Jordan Eberle in a swap.
With two years left on his contract at a $6-million cap hit, Eberle is coming off a 20-goal, 51-point season, but has the ceiling to get back to 30 goals and 60 points that another team might find appealing.
The Oilers could look for a blue-liner in return, which could potentially put them in a position to use the 4-4-1 protection scheme. On top of the defencemen already listed above, the Oilers and Eberle have also been linked to the Colorado Avalanche (Tyson Barrie) and New York Islanders (Travis Hamonic).
WITH DROUIN IN, IS GALCHENYUK HEADING OUT?
Montreal’s acquisition of Drouin makes it more likely the team will move out Alex Galchenyuk, perhaps even before the expansion draft. As the Canadiens have hesitated to use Galchenyuk in his natural centre position, the team is quickly becoming winger-heavy with a need to improve at defence.
And there is no shortage of teams looking to move out a blue-liner for a 23-year-old centre with plenty of untapped upside (Colorado, Anaheim, Islanders, Minnesota). There’s also some speculation the Habs will at least try using Drouin at centre, where he has played sparingly in the past, thus improving that hole in their roster and making the loss of Galchenyuk more palatable.
WILL THE MAPLE LEAFS DO SOMETHING BIG?
What the Maple Leafs have going for them in this pre-expansion draft window is a lack of tough decisions around which players to protect. Their choices for protection are relatively clear, with a number of their best young players exempt from the draft. But it’s the contract situations of those players that will make this summer particularly interesting for the Leafs.
Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander will all still be on their entry-level deals next season, with the former two not needing an extension until 2019 and Nylander needing one in 2018. This level of cost effectiveness means the Leafs are in great position to make a big splash now in an effort to really make a push for the Stanley Cup, before they need to start committing large chunks of cap space to these three players.
“My guess is what we’re looking at here is we are looking at the Maple Leafs recognizing they’ve got a two-year window to do something big before they really have to start paying everybody,” Elliotte Friedman said on Sportsnet’s Starting Lineup on The Fan 590 Friday morning. “That’s why I think they’re sitting there and they’re looking at it and they’re saying, ‘What allows us to be the best team we can be for the next two years and make a charge at this?’
“It would not surprise me if they pull out something big that has us all going, ‘OK, we’re not sure if we really saw that, but not surprised it happened.'”
It’s no secret that the Leafs would be in the market for a top defenceman and have been constantly linked with one of Anaheim’s defencemen for weeks — namely Vatanen.
DION PHANEUF DIDN’T WAIVE HIS NO-MOVE, BUT A TRADE COULD STILL HAPPEN
The Senators asked Phaneuf to waive his no-movement clause this week so they could use a protection spot on another defenceman (Marc Methot), but after he declined to do so the team could look to trade him to free up a spot instead.
Phaneuf has a modified no-trade clause in which he can submit a list of 12 teams to which he would accept a trade. According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Citizen, Phaneuf submitted that list on Thursday and GM Pierre Dorion is now trying to trade the defenceman.
Though that remains a longshot, there are teams studying Phaneuf and he has submitted a new list of 12 teams to whom he can be dealth. League sources say Arizona, New Jersey, Tampa, Colorado, Calgary, Edmonton, Buffalo and San Jose are looking for blueline help and may have varying degrees of interest.
Whether or not the Senators can find a trade partner may depend on Ottawa’s willingness to keep part of Phaneuf’s $7-million cap hit. He is signed for three more seasons.