As the April 12th NHL Trade Deadline Approaches, many teams will have decisions to make. Some clubs are certain to be sellers; other organizations need to determine how much they are willing to spend for a playoff run. Many franchises in tight standings races will have to choose whether to sell off their soon to be free agents for a long term gain, or hold on for a short term postseason run. As 3 p.m. on that Monday approaches, let’s take a look at buyers, sellers, and the in between.
Buffalo’s season has quickly turned into a dumpster fire. After a disastrous March, the Sabres finally picked up their first win in 18 games, but they still find themselves well at the bottom of the league. They’re certain to be sellers come deadline time and have already traded center Eric Staal to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a 3rd and 5th round pick. It’s likely that nearly everyone will be on the table, especially winger Taylor Hall. Hall surprisingly signed a 1 year, $8 million deal during the offseason. Despite his reputation as a top line winger, things haven’t necessarily gone to plan, as Hall has just 2 goals and 18 points in 36 games. Even with his offensive slump, the Sabres are still looking for a prime return, likely a first round pick and/or a top prospect. It could be especially enticing if Buffalo can not just retain part of Hall’s salary themselves but involve a third team to help them do so. Also keep an eye out for defenseman Brandon Montour, who has 12 points in 34 games, and can add a bit of offensive depth to a team’s back end.
Detroit Red Wings
Detroit has plenty of free agents-to-be on their roster; the biggest question revolves around which players have enough value to flip at the deadline. Veterans such as Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm, and Patrik Nemeth are unlikely to gain much, if anything in a trade. The Red Wings’ biggest value lies in netminder Jonathan Bernier, who has been excellent this season with a .918 save percentage despite Detroit’s poor record. While they probably won’t be able to manage a first round pick for Bernier, a second and a decent level prospect is doable. Center Luke Glendening, who leads the league in faceoff percentage, will get some calls for teams looking to add bottom six depth and a penalty killer. Finally, Bobby Ryan, Marc Staal, and Sam Gagner are also expected to be on the move. Teams looking for goal scoring depth should inquire about Ryan, who should be far less expensive than a winger such as Taylor Hall. Staal and Gagner are depth pieces who should garner a mid to late round pick.
New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils don’t have many trade assets on their roster, however, a player like Kyle Palmieri could gain some attention. A reputable goal scorer, Palmieri’s offensive has dropped a little with just 8 goals in 33 games, but the Devils should be able to find a suiter. Also of note is Travis Zajac, a versatile veteran who has put up a solid 15 points in 30 games. He’d be a a good fit for a team looking to add a third line defensive presence, although New Jersey has been mum on if they want to trade the longtime Devil. Depth defensemen Ryan Murray and Sami Vatanen could also get looks from teams wanting to add to their back end.
Toronto Maple Leafs
It’s no secret that the Maple Leafs are looking to add impact players ahead of a playoff run. Reportedly, they’ve poked around on Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm, and have also shown interest in trading for a top six winger. They could also be in the market for a goaltender with Frederick Andersen still injured. Some of the players mentioned above, such as Hall or Palmieri, might be a good fit. Toronto certainly won’t be opposed to parting with a first round pick, which would likely be a late one; General Manager Kyle Dubas has also made it known his willingness to trade a top prospect in order to gain a high end rental, so look for the Maple Leafs to make some noise come April 12th.
New York Islanders
After captain Anders Lee went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Islanders could be in the market for a top six winger to replace him. Hall has been a name linked to New York; the Islanders, like Toronto, are probably willing to part with a first round pick to acquire him. Pairing Hall up with top line center Mat Barzal could be a perfect match for the struggling winger, and may just pay off if the Islanders have to pay a steep price. New York was willing to pay such a price (a 1st, 2nd, and conditional 3rd) to acquire center JG Pageau during last year’s deadline, so don’t be surprised if they do it again.
Decisions to Make
A handful of weeks ago, it looked as though the Nashville Predators were primed to be sellers at the deadline, and nearly everyone was available. Previously mentioned defender Mattias Ekholm was at the top of many ‘trade bait’ lists, as he was both a top pairing defenseman and had a year left on his deal after this season. However, Nashville has recently turned their season around and currently sits in a playoff spot at fourth place in the Central Division. With the postseason now within reach, the Predators have many decisions to make. Ekholm would garner a big return, but losing him would be a huge loss on their back end. Forward Mikael Granlund will also receive interest, as perhaps the top center available. This next week and a half of games will determine Nashville’s plan going into the trade deadline.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus has a handful of assets that will garner interest, namely their captain, forward Nick Foligno, and defenseman David Savard. Just three points out of a playoff spot, though, it doesn’t look like the Blue Jackets want to give up on their season just yet. Savard is the more likely of the two to be dealt, since, as a top 4 defenseman, he could bring plenty of value for a team looking to improve their d-core. As Columbus’ captain, Foligno is probably a wildcard to be moved, but if the Blue Jackets receive an offer they can’t refuse, don’t be surprised if the forward is on the move. At two games under .500 with a -25 goal differential, Columbus may be more inclined to sell; a few seasons ago they went all out at the trade deadline, dealing top picks and prospects for a playoff run. Although they did upset the President’s Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning, they weren’t able to make a deep playoff run. It may be time for the Blue Jackets to go into rebuild mode and regain the future assets they’ve lost over the years.