NHL: Trade Deadline Primer – Eastern Conference

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Credit: The Canadian Press

By: Rossy Pasternak

The NHL Trade Deadline is just 13 days away, which means it is the perfect time for us at SportsNak to preview the moves that we think should, and could, be made this year. Today is the Eastern Conference Preview, and in the next couple of days, the Western Conference Preview will be available. All contract info is via the great hockeybuzz.com.

The NHL Trade deadline is shaping up to be either the most entertaining or most boring deadline in recent years. There are a lot of top players that could be available for trade, but more likely than not, most of this years trades will be depth and support pieces instead of stars. The Dion Phaneuf trade, which we will cover more in depth in our next Brother Banter feature, has kicked off the trade season. In my opinion, that trade could go down as the biggest trade, not only in size but also in impact, of the deadline. Nevertheless, here is my opinion on the strategies and needs for each Eastern Conference team.

Boston Bruins – Add Depth

The Bruins have fared better than expected after GM Don Sweeney’s interesting summer, but they are not cemented in a playoff spot. Sweeney could go either way this deadline, either buy or sell, as he has an aging core with diminishing chances of competing for a Stanley Cup, and a flawed team. In my opinion, Boston could look to add cheap depth while still selling, getting the best of both worlds.

Trade Targets: 

Juri Hudler, C/RW, Calgary Flames – UFA at end of the year, cap hit of $4,000,000.

Dan Hamhuis – D, Vancouver Canucks – UFA at end of the year, cap hit of $4,500,000.

Sami Vatanen – D, Anaheim Ducks – RFA at end of the year, cap hit of $1,262,500.

Cam Atkinson – RW, Columbus Blue Jackets – 2 years left after this year, cap hit of $3,500,000.

Trade Ammo:

Loui Eriksson, LW – UFA at end of the year, cap hit of $4,250,000.

Zdeno Chara, D – 2 years left after this year, cap hit of $6,500,000.

Malcolm Subban, G – Entry Level contract.

Analysis: 

If the Bruins decide to be buyers at the deadline, they can use an average farm system and full load of picks to get what they want. However, they have only around $1.4 Million in cap space to spend, so they would need other teams to retain salary, or to take back salary, in a deal. What is likely to happen is a trade of Loui Eriksson for depth NHL pieces, which would be a rare “hockey deal” at the deadline. Personally, I think a deal where the Bruins swap Eriksson for Sami Vatanen would be beneficial to both sides, as the Ducks need a winger to play with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, and the Bruins need a young defenceman who can eat minutes. I think the Bruins stay put at the deadline, but if they do make a move, it will involve Loui Eriksson in exchange for either a young NHL defenseman, or prospects and picks.

Buffalo Sabres – Sell Expiring Contracts

The Sabres made a bold move acquiring Evander Kane at last years deadline, but nothing like that will happen this time around. GM Tim Murray has shown he can be smart and creative at the deadline, but it seems like this year, he will be limited to trading away depth pending UFA’s for picks and prospects.

Trade Targets:

Picks, prospects – Next!

Trade Ammo:

David Legwand, C – UFA at end of season, cap hit of $3,000,000.

Carlo Colaiacovo, D – UFA at end of season, cap hit of $900,000.

Chad Johnson, G – UFA at end of season, cap hit of $1,300,000.

Analysis:

Buffalo will be lucky to get more than a 3rd round pick for any of these three players at best, and will more than likely have to settle for less. It will be a quite deadline for the up-and-coming Sabres, who will look to make their move during the offseason.

Carolina Hurricanes – What to do with Eric Staal?

Carolina is in an interesting position, as they are on a bubble team in the race for the playoffs, but also a team with very attractive expiring contracts and trade chips. The main decision to be made for GM Ron Francis is whether or not he wants to trade Eric Staal. The eldest Staal brother hasn’t produced at a level deserving of his contract since the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup, and that contract expires at the end of the season. What Francis does with Staal will likely set the market for the whole league. Francis could decide to leverage Staal into a player with more term that fits the roster better as well, such as a trade for either Sami Vatanen or Kevin Shattenkirk

Trade Targets:

Sami Vatanen – D, Anaheim Ducks – RFA at end of the year, cap hit of $1,262,500.

Kevin Shattenkirk – D, St. Louis Blues – 1 year left on deal after this season, cap hit of $4,250,000.

Picks, Prospects.

Trade Ammo:

Eric Staal, C – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $8,250,000.

Jordan Staal, C – 4 years left on deal after this season, cap hit of $6,000,000.

Jeff Skinner, LW – 3 more years left on deal after this season, cap hit of $5,725,000.

Kris Versteeg, RW – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $2,200,000.

Nathan Gerbe, LW – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $1,750,000.

Cam Ward, G – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $6,300,000.

Analysis:

Carolina is the rare team that has a plethora of rental players available, but also needs those players to help develop their young prospects on the roster. Eric Staal, in my opinion, should be traded. The Hurricanes should be able to get a big package, or at least a player with term that fits the roster better, for the big centre. A trade of the eldest Staal brother does not mean he cannot return this offseason as a free-agent also. Other than Eric Staal, the Hurricanes have a lot of potential trade-bait if they decide to sell. An obvious candidate is Kris Versteeg, a player with a lot of playoff experience that will be able to help a team like the Islanders, Blues, and Sharks, who have struggled in the playoffs in the past. Cam Ward is also an interesting trade target, as he is an overpaid, overvalued goaltender, but can provide experience and solid-at-best goaltending for a team with that need who can afford him. The Hurricanes posses one of the best farm systems in the NHL, and adding to it would hust solidify their exciting, promising future.

Detroit Red Wings – Stay Put and Get Healthy

The Red Wings are a team with enough scoring, defense, and depth that they do not need to do anything at the deadline. GM Ken Holland has done a magnificent job at beginning this team’s transition from older stars like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to young studs like Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist. Holland is fortunate that he does not need to do much to improve his team, and why mess with a good thing. Nevertheless, this is a trade deadline preview, and it would be counterproductive to say that a team shouldn’t do anything at the deadline. Therefore, here is what I think the Red Wings can do to further improve their team.

Trade Targets:

P.A. Parenteau – RW, Toronto Maple Leafs – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $1,500,000.

Kris Russell – D, Calgary Flames – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $2,600,000.

Trade Ammo:

Evgeny Svechnikov, LW – Entry Level deal.

Anthony Mantha, RW – Entry Level deal.

Ryan Sproul, D – Entry Level Deal

Analysis:

The Red Wings likely don’t want to give up any of its top prospects, which is what they would need to do in order to get a star on this year’s trade market. Also, the Wings are in cap trouble already, so they will be unable to add substantial salary to their books. I think they make a play for Russell if the Flames fail to re-sign him, and I think they could get him for a 2nd and 4th round pick, which is close to what the New York Islanders got from the Flyers for Andrew MacDonald in 2014.

Florida Panthers – Get Healthy and Add Depth Up Front

The Panthers have been bitten by the injury bug lately, losing Barkov, Bolland, Pirri, and Mitchell. Luckily for them, they are one of the deepest teams in the NHL, and have many reliable players to get them through this stretch. They won’t be huge buyers this deadline, but if they can pull off a deal without significantly harming their farm system they will do it.

Trade Targets: 

Andrew Ladd – LW, Winnipeg Jets – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $4,400,000.

Mikkel Boedker – RW, Arizona Coyotes – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $3,750,000.

Kris Versteeg – RW, Carolina Hurricanes – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $2,200,000.

Trade Ammo:

Lawson Crouse, LW – Entry Level deal

Mike Matheson, D – NCAA

Ian McCoshen, D – NCAA

Rocco Grimaldi, C – Entry Level deal

Analysis:

The Panthers will most likely stay put at the deadline, with the possibility of making a small deal for someone with playoff experience. I think Kris Versteeg is the best fit for them, as he is familiar with the organization from his time there between 2011 and 2014. Versteeg will likely come cheap as well, which is vital for the Panthers. The secondary scoring he will provide is much needed, and the Panthers will benefit greatly from a deal. I think he could be had for a 4th round pick and mid-level prospect.

Montreal Canadiens – To Buy or to Sell?

The Canadiens are facing a very difficult, confusing, and interesting situation. Star goaltender Carey Price is likely out for the rest of the season, and the Canadiens have struggled without him. What is most interesting about the Habs’ struggles is that it has come from the lack of scoring, not from giving up too many goals. The return of Brendan Gallagher has helped, but they could use more help on the front-end. The Canadiens could choose to sell as well, as they have a few attractive expiring pieces they could trade. GM Marc Bergevin is a smart hockey mind, and I think he will choose to buy cheap depth pieces.

Trade Targets:

Mikkel Boedker – RW, Arizona Coyotes – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $3,750,000.

Radim Vrbata – RW, Montreal Canadiens – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $5,000,000.

Kris Versteeg – RW, Carolina Hurricanes – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $2,200,000.

Cam Atkinson – RW, Columbus Blue Jackets – 2 years left after this year, cap hit of $3,500,000.

Trade Ammo:

Tomas Plekanec, C – 2 years left after this season, cap hit of $5,000,000 this season, and $6,000,000 the next two.

Tom Gilbert, D – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $2,800,00.

Dale Weise, RW – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $1,025,000.

Nikita Scherbak, RW – Entry Level deal

Zachary Fucale, G – Entry Level deal

Analysis:

The Canadiens are in such a weird, unexplored situation that there is no “right move” for them to make. In my opinion, they really never had a team that was capable to win without Price. The Canadiens are too small and fragile, and play a system that isn’t focused on puck possession, which is the new focus for NHL teams. The Canadiens can choose this time to add size to their front-end, or to sell and retool around its core of P.K. Subban, Carey Price, Alex Galchenyuk, and Pax Pacioretty. If they decide to shake things up, they could get a big return for Tomas Plekanec. Selling Plekanec now would be selling him low however, so I don’t think Bergivin will do that. It’s really hard to tell what the Canadiens are going to do at the deadline, which will make them one of the most interesting teams to watch.

New Jersey Devils – Buy Buy BUY!

The Devils have surprised everyone this season, and instead of being at the bottom of the standings as expected, they are in the thick of the playoff race. Corey Shneider has quietly been one of the top-5 goalies in the NHL since his trade to New Jersey, but the Devils, as always, have had struggled putting pucks in the net. The Devils should be looking to make a splash offensively to help support Kyle Palmieri and Mike Cammalleri.

Trade Targets:

Cam Atkinson – RW, Columbus Blue Jackets – 2 years left after this year, cap hit of $3,500,000.

Andrew Ladd – LW, Winnipeg Jets – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $4,400,000.

Mikkel Boedker – RW, Arizona Coyotes – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $3,750,000.

Radim Vrbata – RW, Montreal Canadiens – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $5,000,000.

Kris Versteeg – RW, Carolina Hurricanes – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $2,200,000.

P.A. Parenteau – RW, Toronto Maple Leafs – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $1,500,000.

Jonathan Drouin – LW, Tampa Bay Lightning – Entry Level deal

Trade Ammo:

Pavel Zacha, C – Entry Level deal

Adam Larsson, D – 5 years remaining after this year, cap hit of $4,166,666.

Damon Severson, D – RFA after next season, cap hit of $605,833.

John Quenneville, C – Entry Level deal

Analysis:

I think Zacha is almost untouchable, so any bigger deal the Devils make would have to include at least one of Quenneville, Severson, and Larsson. Larsson is the most attractive piece that the Devils can offer, in my opinion, because of his experience in the NHL, as well as his size. A potential package for Ladd or Drouin would be one of those three, plus a first rounder and a mid-level prospect. If the Devils don’t want to pay that price, they could opt for Vrbata or Boedker, who both would come much cheaper, and actually fit the Devils’ two-way game much better. A trade for either of those two would be expensive, but would probably not cost them Larsson, Zacha, or Severson. If they want to keep their prospects, P.A. Parenteau or any of the Leafs’ rentals could be had for cheap, probably costing them a 3rd or 4th round pick.

New York Islanders – Add Depth

The Islanders are pretty set both on offence and defence. In my opinion, the Islanders don’t need to do much to this roster. It’s not a Stanley Cup champion roster, but it also can’t realistically get much better by adding one player. The one need that the Islanders have is getting a speedy winger to play with Captain John Tavares. Kyle Okposo is a UFA at season’s end, and that situation will have to be cleared up. An option would be to trade him for a player with more term on his contract as well as picks and/or prospects to sweeten the deal.

Trade Targets:

Mikkel Boedker – RW, Arizona Coyotes – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $3,750,000.

Radim Vrbata – RW, Montreal Canadiens – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $5,000,000.

Cam Atkinson – RW, Columbus Blue Jackets – 2 years left after this year, cap hit of $3,500,000.

Dan Hamhuis – D, Vancouver Canucks – UFA at end of the year, cap hit of $4,500,000.

Sami Vatanen – D, Anaheim Ducks – RFA at end of the year, cap hit of $1,262,500.

Trade Ammo:

Kyle Okposo, RW – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $2,800,000.

Travis Hamonic, D – 4 years remaining after this seaosn, cap hit of $3,857,143.

Josh Ho-Sang, LW – Entry Level deal

Analysis:

I don’t think the Islanders trade Kyle Okposo or Travis Hamonic due to the fact they are contenders in the East to make a playoff run. They could add to the roster, and someone like Boedker makes sense, as he would come at a decent cost, and be in a situation to up his production while playing with Tavares. I think that they trade for Boedker, sending out troubled prospect Josh Ho-Sang, as well as a 2nd round pick.

New York Rangers – Stay Put

The Rangers are currently second in the Metro division, and look like they are going to finish in the same spot. With strong goaltending from King Henrik, as well as good scoring and defence, the Rangers have nothing to worry about – this year. Keith Yandle is a UFA at season’s end, and will likely command a raise. Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, and Kevin Hayes are all RFA’s at the end of the season, and they will all be in for substantial raises as well. The Rangers should start planning on shedding older players with big salaries, such as Rick Nash, but those type of moves come in the offseason. For the deadline, I expect the Rangers to stay put or add a very minor piece.

Trade Targets:

P.A. Parenteau – RW, Toronto Maple Leafs – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $1,500,000.

Shawn Matthias – C, Toronto Maple Leafs – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $2,300,000.

Trade Ammo:

Keith Yandle, D – UFA at end of the season, cap hit of $2,625,000.

Analysis:

I could see the Rangers acquiring one of the Leafs’ UFA forwards to add to their depth, as both of them would come at a cost somewhere around a 4th round pick. Other than that, or a Shane Doan trade, which is pretty much impossible due to the cap, the Rangers should stay put.

Ottawa Senators – Make Another Splash?

The Senators have kicked off trade season in the NHL with their acquisition of Dion Phaneuf, but do they have enough in the farm to get more help? Ottawa is on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff race, and would need, in my opinion, a miracle for the second straight year in order to make it. One rumour that has been swirling around is that they are the most serious contender for Jonathan Drouin. I agree that they are the most likely destination, and I actually think it is the perfect situation for him. He would have someone who has gone through the same process in Kyle Turris to guide him, and would also have a prominent role on the team. I expect that Drouin ends up here, either at the deadline, or during the offseason.

Trade Targets:

Jonathan Drouin – LW, Tampa Bay Lightning – Entry Level deal

Eric Staal – C, Carolina Hurricanes – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $8,250,000.

Andrew Ladd – LW, Winnipeg Jets – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $4,400,000.

Trade Ammo:

Thomas Chabot, D – Entry Level deal

Andrew Hammond, G – 2 years remaining after this year, cap hit of $1,350,000.

Colin White, C – NCAA

Cody Ceci, D – RFA after this season, cap hit of $894,167.

Analysis:

Truthfully, I think the Senators are done trading for the year unless they get someone in return who either has term on their contract, or is going to re-sign in Ottawa. The Senators don’t haven much to give up – at least that they are willing to give up – which means that they won’t be able to get much in return. I think that if they do make a deal, it will be Cody Ceci and a 3rd round pick in exchange for Drouin and a 5th rounder.

Philadelphia Flyers – Time to Sell?

It is finally time to sell in Philadelphia. The Flyers are up against the cap, and have not seen the results to merit that spending. Unfortunately, a few of their most expensive contracts, Andrew MacDonald, Michael Del Zotto and RJ Umberger, are nearly un-tradable. However, the Flyers still have a few attractive pieces to sell, even after trading Luke Schenn and Vinny Lecavalier to the Kings.

Trade Targets:

Young, affordable prospects; picks.

Trade Ammo:

Mark Streit, D – 1 year remaining after this season, cap hit of $5,250,000.

Michael Del Zotto, D – 1 year remaining after this season, cap hit of $3,875,000.

Sam Gagner, C – UFA after this season, cap hit of $3,200,000.

Analysis:

The Flyers are in the middle ground as the deadline nears. They are close enough to the playoffs to buy, but they are also close enough to the basement, as well as the cap ceiling, to sell off all of their assets. Unfortunately for the Flyers, most of their players are locked into long-term deals, most of them bad. This means it will be exceptionally hard to make a trade for them. I predict that the Flyers stay put unless they are able to rid themselves of one of their horrible contracts.

Pittsburgh Penguins – Do Nothing

The Penguins are right up against the cap, have a top-heavy lineup that struggles to play defensively, and one of the worst farm systems in the league. What does that all add up to? A team that is on the bubble of the playoff race that can’t add to the team because they don’t have any prospects or picks to leverage into immediate help. When you have a team with Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, that really doesn’t matter. I think the Penguins will make the playoffs, and will be one of the scariest teams to face when they do. For the deadline however, they are one of the most boring, predictable teams.

Trade Targets:

Roman Polak – D, Toronto Maple Leafs – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $2,750,000.

P.A. Parenteau – RW, Toronto Maple Leafs – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $1,500,000.

Trade Ammo:

Jordan Sprong, RW – Entry Level deal

Brian Dumoulin, D – Entry Level deal

Derrick Pouliot, D – Entry Level deal

Analysis:

The Pens stay put at the deadline.

Tampa Bay Lightning – The Jonathan Drouin Saga

 Just like the Penguins, the Lightning are capped out. To make matters worse, they will have to re-sign Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov, and the rest of the core in the next 2-3 years. Although it’s a great problem to have, it still is a problem for Steve Yzerman. The Lightning will most likely stay put at this years deadline, with the exception of trading Drouin.

Trade Targets:

Cody Ceci – D, Ottawa Senators – RFA after this season, cap hit of $894,167.

Sami Vatanen – D, Anaheim Ducks – RFA at end of this season, cap hit of $1,262,500.

Trade Ammo:

Jonathon Drouin, LW – Entry Level deal

Steven Stamkos, C – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $7,500,000.

Analysis:

The deadline is simple for the Lightning to navigate. They have to find a solution to the Drouin problem – my choice would be a trade with the Senators for a package centring around Cody Ceci. Yzerman has already come out and said he will not deal Stamkos, and the Lightning are capped out, so a deal involving big salaries and names is very unlikely.

Toronto Maple Leafs – Sell to the Highest Bidder!!

The Maple Leafs have one goal for this season: accumulate as many draft picks and prospects as possible while obtaining the best shot at the #1 overall selection. That means that this roster will see a huge turnover at the deadline. Expect at least 5 players to be traded away by Lou Lamiorello, at least. He has already started the trade season with a bang, trading Dion Phaneuf in a blockbuster deal, and will now be looking to trade away smaller pieces. The Leafs could also potentially swing a deal for a young player who has fallen out of favour or become expendable.

Trade Targets:

Sami Vatanen – D, Anaheim Ducks – RFA at end of this season, cap hit of $1,262,500.

Brian Dumoulin – D, Pittsburgh Penguins – Entry Level deal

Derrick Pouliot – D, Pittsburgh Penguins – Entry Level deal

Travis Hamonic – D, New York Islanders – 4 years remaining after this seaosn, cap hit of $3,857,143.

Cam Atkinson – RW, Columbus Blue Jackets – 2 years left after this year, cap hit of $3,500,000.

Trade Ammo:

Michael Grabner, RW – UFA at the end of this season, cap hit of $3,000,000.

Leo Komarov, LW – 2 years remaining after this season, cap hit of $2,950,000.

Shawn Matthias, C – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $2,300,000.

Nick Spaling, C – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $2,200,000.

P.A. Parenteau, RW – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $1,500,000.

Mark Arcobello, C – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $1,100,000.

Brad Boyes, RW – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $700,000.

Roman Polak, D – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $2,750,000.

Jonathan Bernier, G – 1 year remaining after this season, cap hit of $4,150,000.

James Reimer, G – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $2,300,000.

Analysis:

All of the Leafs’ moves in the past year has been to position themselves for a rebuild. Selling all of your tradable assets for picks and prospects is definitely a way to do that. The Leafs will want to make sure they do not become the Philadelphia 76ers and have a team without a veteran or two to guide the young guys. Luckily for Leafs’ Nation, it seems as if Lou and Shanny have a solid plan in place, and the front office is one of the best in the league. Trading all of the expiring contracts, all of whom do not seem to be pieces of importance for the rebuild, is the way to go for the Leafs. When it comes down to trading ‘Uncle’ Leo Komarov, the decision is harder. I think the Leafs hold on to him, as he sets a great example for the younger players with his hard work. The goaltending situation is a curious one, as Reimer has taken over the starting role, but Bernier has an extra year on his contract and there probably isn’t a lot of interest in him. I think the Leafs stay put with their goalies, and evaluate the situation come the offseason. Look for a lot of picks and prospects coming the other way in exchange for anyone the Leafs trade.

Washington Capitals – Add A Defenseman

The Capitals have a 5 point lead over the rest of the league so far this season, and much of that is due to the ridiculous depth up front, and of course the stellar goaltending by Vezina favourite Braden Holtby. The Caps, surprisingly, have enough cap space to add to their already deep lineup. one position of need is on defence, where they have Nate Schmidt on their first pairing.

Trade Targets:

Roman Polak – D, Toronto Maple Leafs – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $2,750,000.

Kris Russell – D, Calgary Flames – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $2,600,000.

Shane Doan – RW, Arizona Coyotes – UFA at end of this season, cap hit of $5,300,000.

Trade Ammo:

Ilya Samsonov, G – European League

Madison Bowey, D – Entry Level deal

Analysis:

I think the Capitals strike a trade for Polak, most likely for a 4th round pick and a mid-level prospect. If the Capitals would like an upgrade on forward as well, I could see them adding Shane Doan, if he is willing to move on from Arizona in likely his final year in the NHL. All-in-all, the Capitals are my Stanley Cup favourites at this time of the season, and look unbeatable as-is.

Do you agree with the proposed moves and needs of each team? Would you like to see something different happen? What are your dream trades for your favourite team? Tell us what you think in the comments section and remember to tune in for the Western Conference Trade Deadline Primer in the near future!

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