Discussing hot-topic players from the West who are creating an NHL trade deadline buzz
Once you subtract the two weeks for Sochi, we’re really only talking about just over a week of action left before the March 5 deadline. Last week I delved into the trade status of Anaheim, Calgary, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Edmonton and Nashville heading into the cut-off date; providing my insights into who potentially might be dealt (sellers) or targeted (buyers).
With injuries occurring in the past week to the likes of Johan Franzen, Vladimir Sobotka, etc, we may see even more of a hesitancy to make any deals before the conclusion of the Winter Olympics. GMs are likely to be decreasingly willing to take a risk on a stud going overseas and wait until the NHL resumes to see what is what.
Minny is currently holding down a playoff spot, however the perennially overachieving Coyotes remain just three points back with two games in hand. However, as much as a healthy goalie will determine how far the Wild can go in the postseason, their offense should be able to do enough to get a playoff birth clinched. Zach Parise has returned to the lineup from injury with a bang, notching seven points in his last pair of outings.
Meanwhile, blue-chipper Mikael Granlund has found a permanent home in the NHL, smashing home five points in his last two and is riding a four-game streak. However, the Wild lack the veteran expertise needed for a deep run. When Dany Heatley and Matt Cooke are the only men on your roster who have been battle-tested, you may be in a pickle. Steve Ott might be a perfect fit here, as he possesses both offensive inclinations and grit - qualities Minny could use more of.
Phoenix is fighting for a playoff spot, sitting right on the brink of propelling themselves into the top eight. However, ultimately they do not have enough gusto to get them in. Problem is ownership will be reluctant to sell as they are doubtful to drop too far back by the time March 5 rolls around and may even look at adding some depth to put them over the top.Personally I’d like to see Don Maloney sit back and not to anything to drastic. If they are going to make a depth move, it will likely be for a player with remaining term, with a look to strengthen for next year too.
Phoenix is well under the current salary ceiling, much less next year’s massive NHL team cap increase. However, their financial situation will curb them away from any top targets. Expect tire kicking for players that are surplus to requirements elsewhere—similar to how the Leafs were able to haul in Peter Holland, due to Anaheim’s depth down the middle. A great example would be Linus Omark from Buffalo. The guy deserves a shot in someone’s top nine already! Tomas Fleischmann would be ideal, if his price tag was less than $4.5 million. Taking back a lesser bad contract may make this possible though.
The Nucks will absolutely be players in the market with a swelling nursing ward. Kevin Bieksa, Mike Santorelli, Chris Tanev and Andrew Alberts are all out long term, while Henrik Sedin and Yannick Weber are out day-to-day. Someone like Scottie Upshall or Brad Boyes would be nice fill-ins, especially the latter, who’s on an expiring deal. Boyes is leading the Panthers in scoring despite being one of the lowest paid on the squad. So the value in trading for him would be enormous and they wouldn’t be tied to him for next year.
The hiring of Paul Maurice, (the NHL’s youngest ever coach, once upon a time) has proved to be a major boon to the formerly struggling Jets. They stand 8-2 since his arrival. It remains to be seen if his effect on the boys has permanently changed their fortunes for the better. Typically the new-coach effect can do wonders for a team, but the lasting impact is usually with limitations. Of course, the raised play from Tobias Enstrom and rookie Jacob Trouba, as well as the return of Zach Bogosian has massively improved their blueline efforts.
Although, Winnipeg are still facing an uphill battle to make the playoffs. If they continue this pace through to the end of the season they’ll surely get in, but the pace is unsustainable. That being said, similar to my suggestion that Pheonix was a team that should look to add a body on a multiple-year deal, Winnipeg has the cash to spend to retain big contracts for the future. Michael Ryder or Fleischmann again (having an off year) might be ideal candidates to add to the squad. It will always be easier for Winnipeg to trade for players and extend them rather than pitch them as free agents.
If the Jets decide to become sellers, they will play from a position of strength. They have plenty of puck-moving defensemen (and more in the pipeline), as well as third-line type of scoring depth. With Devin Setoguchi set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, he could be a candidate to move.
We’ve all been down this road countless times, but perhaps this will finally be the year for San Jose. They’ve shown they can beat the best and have managed to maintain their early season dominance, leaving out the second half collapse thus far (albeit its still early). However, they’re also deeper than they’ve ever been. It took an injury to rookie Tomas Hertl to rescue Olympian, Joe Pavelski from the third line! The Sharks have a little bit of cap space to play with. A David Legwand-type may be looked upon to fill that third line role.
The long-term loss of Vladimir Sobotka is concerning. However, even though he’ll be missing Sochi, he should still return to action by the end of winter; just in time to joust for playoff seeding. The short-term fix, utilizing an in-house option from the Chicago Wolves should do the trick. Long term, the Blues are set up to go far in spite of being devoid of a true 'elite' scorer. Sure, Alex Steen is having a superstar-like season, but we need to see that a couple years in a row before handing over the 'elite' tagline. That being said, don’t expect much from this all-around, solid Blues squad.
As for the offense coming from the back end, St.Louis is unrivaled. Both Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk are scoring at a clip projecting for nearly 60 points, while Jay Bouwmeester is on pace for nearly 50 himself! That production coupled with a solid team defensive system, leave few holes. A Steve Ott-type again becomes perfect depth piece to fill in for Sobotka in the meantime and occupy his ideal third-line role once Vladimir returns to the lineup.
The 2011 champions shouldn’t have too much trouble staving off an aging Vancouver from stealing the ‘third-place-in-the-division’ status they currently occupy (I can’t seem to get used to this new playoff structure) Jonathan Quick has done a lot to silence his early season critics. So much so,that they felt they could offload one of the best netminders in the NHL this season, Ben Scrivens, given the strong showing by third stringer Martin Jones.
Jeff Carter still leads the team in goal scoring by a healthy pace, despite missing three weeks of action. So don’t expect that well to dry up anytime soon. Especially since Carter has always thrived on the big stage (World Junior Championships, Olympics and Stanley Cup Final), you can count on him to intensify his efforts down the stretch and into the playoffs. His nose for the net is a major asset, as his shots per game are among the league’s elite. Thus scoring is not an issue.
The top six is still excellent. However, Mike Richards has suffered immensely since mid December, with points in only six of his past 25 games. They will be counting on him to shake this slump over the next couple months. The snub of his role reprisal on team Canada was a glaring result of his recent lack of production. However, GM Dean Lombardi is plenty confident in him and will stick with his gritty proven winner through to the end. Barring unforeseen injuries in the coming weeks, expect LA to largely stay put, unless a big move for a (former King) Mike Cammalleri-type can be pulled off.
(~~ Follow Anthony Lancione on Twitter @Anthisdaman)