Monday, April 12: the NHL trade deadline. The day where contending teams acquire “rentals” from non-playoff teams on expiring contracts and a few players with terms left on their contracts are traded. Draft picks and prospects are traded, contending teams prepare for the stretch run and through a few head-scratching trades, general managers occasionally unknowingly submit an implicit letter of resignation. Let’s take a look at the market and craft a preview of how likely players are to be moved, where they might end up and what future assets might be exchanged.
Locks to be moved
Taylor Hall (left wing, Buffalo Sabres):
The 2018 Most Valuable Player is on an expiring contract on the NHL’s biggest dumpster fire and is the lock of all locks to be traded. Given that the Buffalo Sabres can only eat 50% of his $8 million salary, the list of suitors will largely be determined by the short list of teams that can actually afford to add $4 million and remain under the salary cap.
Expect the Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes to be hot in pursuit with the Toronto Maple Leafs seeing if they can somehow move money to make it work. Yet above all, the New York Islanders are perhaps the frontrunners with the hole and cap room opened up by star forward Anders Lee’s injury. Hall is unlikely to cost a first-round pick in return with his contract up at the end of the year, but a second-rounder and a mid-level prospect or additional middle-round pick are well within reach.
Kyle Palmieri (right wing, New Jersey Devils):
A bonafide top-six forward with a great shot on an expiring contract for a team that will miss the playoffs, Palmieri is in a similar boat to Hall. Expect the same group of teams to be interested, with the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders having been linked to Hall extensively in the past.
David Savard (right defenseman, Columbus Blue Jackets):
If the surging Nashville Predators stand pat and hold onto Mattias Ekholm, Savard becomes the top defenseman available as teams like the Winnipeg Jets, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes look to add a right-shot defenseman. Winnipeg, in particular, would seem to jump out as the top landing spot for Savard given that they have a stacked forward group and may very well be one competent defenseman away from being a top-tier Stanley Cup contender. With the Columbus Blue Jackets likely to miss the playoffs and set with young defensemen on the team, expect the long-time Blue Jacket to get traded.
Bobby Ryan (right wing, Detroit Red Wings):
A very affordable forward who has rebuilt his value on a one-year deal on the non-contending Red Wings, Ryan fits the bill of a low-risk, low-cost add for a contending team. Expect a contending team with even the slightest salary cap room and any questions about their forward depth to send a low draft pick to Detroit for Ryan.
Jonathan Bernier (goaltender, Detroit Red Wings) or Ryan Miller (goaltender, Anaheim Ducks):
While neither is a big name, both are established, experienced netminders who can be stabilizing insurance policies as backup goaltenders for a playoff-bound team. With backup goalie Pavel Francouz injured for the foreseeable future, Colorado is widely considered to be a lock to add a capable backup goaltender, and Bernier and Miller would fit the bill. Given the youth and inexperience of their current goaltending duo, Washington has also been linked to veteran goalies. However, with no money to spend under the salary cap and the young duo’s impressive performance, expect them to stand pat at the goaltender position this trade deadline.
Likely to be discussed
The Nashville Predators roster:
The Predators were widely believed to be the team that would blow open this year’s trade deadline until they started winning games and looking like they might sneak into the playoffs in the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division. With the exception of franchise defenseman Roman Josi, it seemed that the team might be heading for a rebuild where everyone else isn’t untouchable. However, after putting together a nice streak of wins, the Predators are now in contention for a playoff spot, making them a bit of a mystery team approaching the trade deadline.
Teams would likely be interested in pending unrestricted free agent forwards Erik Haula and Mikael Granlund, with the Toronto Maple Leafs reportedly coveting Granlund as the potential impact forward they desperately want to acquire. Star left wing Filip Forsberg seems to be quite unlikely to be traded and would cost a haul of assets to acquire, but that certainly won’t stop teams from inquiring as to his availability.
However, outside of Forsberg, the potential top prize of the deadline would be their defenseman Ekholm. He is widely viewed as a top-notch number-two defenseman for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations on an extremely team-friendly contract, paying him $3.75 million per year for this year and next. The price is understandably steep: a first-round pick, top prospect and a third consequential asset to even get the conversation started.
Teams like the Winnipeg Jets and Boston Bruins would undeniably love to add Ekholm. However, considering expansion draft concerns and the Predators' recent surge, it seems unlikely Ekholm will be moved before the trade deadline and more likely that his name will appear in rumors this offseason.
Rickard Rakell (left wing, Anaheim Ducks):
The cost-controlled two-way forward is under contract for this year and the next on a young Ducks team that is unlikely to contend for a championship in that time period. Teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins understandably appear to be interested.
The problem is Anaheim’s asking price seems to be problematically high, rumored to be an NHL-ready prospect and a first-round pick. While Rakell would be a great add for any contending team, and it’s unlikely that his value would get any higher, it seems likely that the Ducks’ asking price will be a little too high for any team to make a deal.
Nick Foligno (left wing and center, Columbus Blue Jackets):
The Blue Jackets’ long-time captain may very well not be traded, but he is a pending unrestricted free agent, and his services would certainly be in high demand if he is indeed available. Not unlike Hall and Palmieri, he completely fits the bill as the type of player the Bruins or Islanders would acquire. This situation is a little more complicated given Foligno’s well-earned place in the Blue Jackets' history as a franchise, so it will be interesting to see if he is indeed traded.
Alex Goligoski, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jason Demers (defensemen, Arizona Coyotes):
The trio of Arizona Coyotes defensemen are all on expiring contracts in a market with few defensemen available, yet many teams are seeking defensive upgrades. Sure, Arizona is in the running for a playoff spot and would hurt its odds by trading any of the three, but Arizona was fined significant draft picks for last year’s prospect-testing scandal and is desperately seeking to restock its draft pick cupboard. Trading Goligoski, Hjalmarsson and Demers could help further this goal by bringing back several mid-round picks.