With less than one week until the trade deadline passes, NHL Insider Bob McKenzie’s Wednesday evening appearance on the NBCSN pregame show of the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers was squarely focused on trade talk.
Fans want to see some deals in the coming days, Bob.
“The National Hockey League trade front has never been more quiet than it has been this season, and that may well continue right up to the deadline,” began McKenzie. “But it will get busier. We know players are going to move. But the sense I get from talking to general managers around the league is that it’s mostly rental players – guys on expiring contracts – that the flat cap, that the impending expansion draft, are all things conspiring against contract players trading.
“That said, there is some potential out there for blockbuster big things that could still happen – but they’re less likely than more likely to happen by the deadline.”
Two of the biggest contract players out there on the potential trade market are Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog.
Duchene carries a $6 million cap hit and has two seasons left beyond 2016-17 on his five-year, $30 million contract. He does not have any trade protection in his contract.
Landeskog is in the third season of his seven-year, $39 million contract. His cap hit is a shade under $5.6 million, and his modified no-trade clause doesn’t kick in for another few seasons.
“The Avalanche season has basically gone down the tubes,” said McKenzie. “I mean, they’ve got 35 points. I think they’re on pace for 49, 50 points on the season; which, when you think about the Buffalo Sabres the year that they tanked to try and get Connor McDavid, they ended up with 52 points or whatever. So that gives you some idea of how bad that season has been.
“So they are looking at a reset. They are looking at a reload. That might mean moving Matt Duchene and/or Gabriel Landeskog. But the impetus to do that may not be as great by deadline day as it is in the summer when there maybe could be more interested in those particular players.
“Put it this way: If Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche get the perfect fit and the perfect deal by the deadline, they won’t hesitate to move one or both of those players. But my sense of it is they’re more likely to get the perfect fit at the draft or before the expansion draft than they are at this deadline.
“But they’re keeping all of their doors open.”
The Anaheim Ducks entered Thursday evening in third place in the Pacific Division, and certainly appear headed toward another playoff berth.
The Ducks are one of the few teams around the league with an abundance of assets that every other franchise covets – defensemen.
“You’re right, they’ve got lots of depth on the blueline – both on their roster and in their system,” said McKenzie. “They need some help up front offensively where they sometimes struggle to score goals. General manager Bob Murray has played it pretty close to the vest and teams want to know, ‘Are you going to trade a roster defenseman?’
“The sense right now in terms of Cam Fowler or Hampus Lindholm – and to a lesser extent Sami Vatanen – that those roster players are not likely to move anytime soon. But because they’ve got other guys – they’ve got Josh Manson, they’ve got Brandon Montour, they’ve got Shea Theodore, they’ve got Jacob Larsson, who’s playing in Sweden right now – they’ve got a lot of depth at that position. So if they decide that there’s the right deal for a forward there, they could act on it.
“But again, I go back to the same premise as before – this deal doesn’t absolutely have to happen by the deadline. Although it really would be nice for the Ducks to have another gun up front if they could get one.”
Jim Rutherford still has not pulled the trigger on a deal involving Marc-Andre Fleury, which will need to happen before the summer’s expansion draft.
“My very strong sense right now is that the preference of the Pittsburgh Penguins at this moment in time is to not trade Marc-Andre Fleury by the deadline,” said McKenzie. “That in a perfect world, they would like to go back into the playoffs with both Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray –to have that strong tandem to give them their best possible shot at winning the Stanley Cup.
“Now, what could change between now and the deadline? Well, No. 1 they have to assess the mindset and the attitude of Marc-Andre Fleury. With Matt Murray continuing to be the No. 1 goaltender, how if Fleury going to react. Does that become a negative or a distraction at some point. They’ve got to get a read on that.
“The next thing that I would look at would be what are they being offered? Do they need cap space, for example.
“But I really think, given their druthers, the Penguins would like to hold onto Fleury. They’ll worry about the expansion draft and post-season after they take another run at the Cup with both goaltenders.”
Fleury is in the second campaign of his four-year, $23 million contract and carries a cap hit of $5.75 million. He has a modified no-trade clause, as well as a no-move clause.
To McKenzie’s point, it really seems like it’ll be in Rutherford’s best interests to hang onto Fleury until the summer. The goaltending trade market has been incredibly dry, and any asset Rutherford recovered in a trade likely wouldn’t help the Penguins’ Cup cause as much as would having Fleury around for insurance.
The main counter to that argument would be if the Penguins could move Fleury simply to free up that cap space, as McKenzie alluded, which would allow Rutherford financial freedom to acquire another forward or defenseman to push hard for that back-to-back Cup.
The next section of McKenzie’s segment focused on the three biggest rentals that could hit the market. McKenzie listed Kevin Shattenkirk, Martin Hanzal, and Ben Bishop.
The Blues have dropped their past two starts, but had won their prior six games.
Is the likelihood improving then that Shattenkirk might be staying on past the trade deadline?
“Not necessarily,” said McKenzie. “They are on the rise. They’ve played much better. But I still think Doug Armstrong, the general manager in St. Louis, recognizes this year’s team is not as good as last year’s team. That it made all the sense in the world last year to not trade Backes and Brouwer at the deadline and hold onto them for a run. That made sense then.
“But I think at this point, because the Blues have a lot of depth at the position, that maybe Shattenkirk isn’t the difference between going deep or not going deep, and that it’s better to try and get some assets. And he is a obviously sought-after rental defenseman.
“So I think it’s more likely than less likely that Shattenkirk will be dealt at the deadline. It really depends on the prices. But I’ve got to believe that somebody is going to ante up something that Doug Armstrong is going to look at and say, ‘Yeah, that makes sense to help us in the rebuilding of this team and the reloading of this team down the future.’
“So yeah, I would put Shattenkirk in that category of more likely to be traded. Maybe Patrik Bergund, who’s in a similar situation as another rental, they might hold onto because they feel like they need him more because they don’t have the same depth at that position as they do at the blueline.”
In addition to the asset price, Shattenkirk would cost the acquiring team what’s left on his $4.25 million cap hit.
Hanzal is finishing up his five-year, $15.5 million contract. His cap his is $3.1 million and he has a modified no-trade clause, which names seven teams to which he can’t be traded.
How eager are the Arizona Coyotes to send Hanzal out the door?
“I think pretty eager,” said McKenzie. “I mean, general manager John Chayka the other day mentioned, ‘Well, maybe we could re-sign him,’ but quite frankly, they’ve had that opportunity in the off-season and all season long and they haven’t really gone down that road to any great degree. So I fully expect Hanzal to be traded.
“He’s a 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6 center who’s going to be in high demand. They’ll try to get an action going and he should move by the deadline.”
The Tampa Bay Lightning has collected a 5-0-2 mark in its past seven outings, and Bishop seems to have found his game.
A trade could potentially still be in the works before March 1 though.
“I think if they get the right offer they wouldn’t hesitate,” said McKenzie. “It might free up cap space to do something else. It may simply make sense to get something for him.
“But you’re right, right now they’re on a roll and one of the reasons they’re on a roll is because he’s rediscovering his game. And right now the coaching staff seems to have more confidence in him than Vasilevskiy. But ultimately Steve Yzerman knows that Vasilevskiy is their goaltender of the very near future and long-term future, so if they get the right deal for Bishop I don’t think they’ll hesitate to move him.”
Bishop has a cap hit just under $6 million and has a no-move clause.
His two-year, $11.9 million contract will expire this summer.
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