- Category: The Wild West
Discussing hot topic players from the West who are creating an NHL trade deadline buzz
This year’s March 5, 2014 deadline may seem like it’s still quite the ways away. However, with the looming Sochi Games - NHL break and the condensed schedule before and after, the drop dead trade date will come faster than a cheetah narrowing the gap on its prey. Once the players return from Russia, it will be February 26, which is exactly one week from the deadline. In recent years, many deals have gone down a month earlier than the madness of deadline day or more. This is simply due to GMs around the league finally beginning to understand that you can get more value before the bidding wars inflate unrealistically on TDD.
However, this year could be an exception to this new trend, with Sochi getting in the way. I feel as if though many GMs will be wary to make a move for a Sochi-bound player until they return from the tournament - healthy. They will be stuck with newly acquired players injured overseas with little salary cap remedies available to add a replacement player as well.
Therefore, I believe many GMs will shelve wink-wink deals which will be ratified post-Olympics. There may well be a two week flurry of significant moves right up to March 5, as opposed to six weeks of sporadic major ones, followed by a myriad of bottom-six depth moves at the end.
This week and next week we’re going to do a tour of the Western Conference teams and discuss hot topic players who may be on the bubble (sellers) or of interest (buyers).
After losing 4-2 to the defending champs on Friday night, DucksNation was dealt a reality check. Yes, they’ve been the best team in the NHL, however when push came to the shove in the battle of the two most productive teams of 2013-14, the Ducks came out on the bottom. Definitely look for them to add another piece come deadline day—ideally in the backend where they are fairly young after Francois Beauchemin. A veteran defenseman such as the experienced Stephane Robidas might be the perfect addition to shore up the Ducks second pairing, moving the impressive Hampus Lindholm to the third pairing so he can apprentice how to get the job done on the big stage against the best. Robidas is skating again after recovering from a broken leg. So yes it would be a risk, but he’s ahead of schedule and should be back shortly after the deadline. He blocks shots with the best of them, yet is still offensively inclined. Because he’s on an expiring contract, there’s a medium-risk, high reward target.
Brian Burke certainly better have learned his lesson from both his Leafs head honcho era as well as a successor to the Feaster regime. A rock-hard stubborn insistence on keeping intact the Iginla-Kiprusoff-Bouwmeester core despite an annually depreciating product, cost them years in their rebuilding efforts. When Iginla’s value plummeted by the time he was actually dealt and Kiprusoff’s once sky-high value was left to evaporate completely, the infusion of young talent and top picks were not attractive to upper brass as they saw themselves as a team in line for a retool instead of a very apparent need to rebuild. Burke very likely will find appropriate deals for Mike Cammalleri, Dennis Wideman and hopefully Jiri Hudler. This core needs to be stripped bare for a strong upper-end youth infusion.
The defending Champs need not look far for reinforcements, as last year’s playoff hero, Bryan Bickell has still yet to resurface in a meaningful way after getting paid this offseason. There’ still plenty time for him to get into a groove and would almost serve as a mid-season acquisition in his own right once he gets his game going. Backup netminding was once a concern with the flailing Khabibulin, anything but a ‘Bulin Wall’ these days. However, the rise to relevance of Anttii Raanta during Crawford’s recent lay off, has eased those concerns. Don’t expect the champs to do anything significant. They’ve clearly already got what it takes and proved such in shutting down the hottest team we’ve seen in years, Anaheim.
The Avs are badly in need of experience up front. At this point, barring a Maple Leaf-like collapse down the stretch, Colorado is poised to pull off the surprise season and make the playoffs without ever being in doubt. The addition of stud, No.1 overall pick, Nate ‘The Great’ MacKinnon (#TooSoon?) has given excellent strength to the top six and will only continue to thrive. Unfortunately though, with the retirement of lifer, Milan Hejduk and oft-injured former Av champion, Alex Tanguay always seemingly hurt, veterans will certainly be targeted. Ray Whitney and his expiring contract might be a perfect fit for this squad.
Dallas had their fifteen minutes of fame between November and December when they made a lot of noise after string of phenomenal performances by the Tyler Seguin-Jamie Benn-Valeri Nichushkin line (especially the former two). However, the fact remains they belong nine points out of the playoffs. Even though the postseason is two and a half months away, nine points this late in the season can be quite the hurdle to overcome without a renaissance final 40% of the season. Unfortunately, I believe they will remain on the outside looking in, becoming sellers. The aforementioned Robidas will be shopped as well as greybeard, Ray Whitney, who can offer a nice second power-play presence. I don’t think there will be a market for Erik Cole, with another year at a ridiculous $4.5 million remaining, but Jim Nill should look to take on a lesser bad contract to move Cole’s contract.
The streak of consecutive No. 1 overall picks came to and end at three last season. However, the new run of consecutive years with a top 5 pick may get stretched to five for Edmonton this year. They’ll definitely surpass Calgary, with the latter destined for the West basement, but with Winnipeg now being given a real kickstart with Paul Maurice, the Jets too will be hard to catch. Anything value they can get back for a non-core piece should seriously be looked at, regardless of remaining term. Yes, that means that even newly inked, Sam Gagner should be at least considered moveable, as well as Andrew Ference and of course the much-maligned, Ales Hemsky.
Nashville is another franchise going nowhere in a hurry. Its time for a cleaning of house here as well. Franchise Legend David Legwand is a nice place to start. Dependable in his own end of the ice, he can chip in at a moderate rate for a contending squad’s third line. Somewhere like Vancouver might be ideal for him as he can win faceoffs, something Vancouver still isn’t settled with in that department. Henrik Sedin, at this point in his career is still being debating on by management, as to whether he should take faceoffs. Legwand is a relative gem in that skillset. Mike Fisher is yet another Jack of all trades that can be used by any squad’s bottom six. Although, his wedlock to country singer, Carrie Underwood, may pose a problem here.
(~~ Follow Anthony Lancione on Twitter @Anthisdaman)
|Shaken Not Stirred Part #2 (2014)|