Our final installment of the Trade Deadline Cheat Sheets looks at the Northwest Division. We’ll take a common sense approach in reviewing each team in the division. Are they going to be a buyer or seller? Do they have cap space? What holes do they need to fill? Is management working with a lower budget mandated by ownership? Do they have assets in their pipeline?
All of these things go into any potential trades at the deadline. To make a trade, you have to have the necessary assets, salary cap space and NEED at the position where a player is available. These cheat sheets are not so serve as fuel for the rumor mongers. No, these are just here to give you some idea of the position of every team in the NHL before the trade deadline and going forward.
Each day this week, we’ll take a look at another division in preparation for the NHL Trade Deadline on March 3. Remember, if you hear something—don’t believe it until you hear it from a reputable source! Here are some things to think about when you hear about a breaking NHL trade.
Ever since the end of last season, the expectations in Vancouver have been sky-high. After a lackluster beginning to the season, the Canucks really hit their stride and have been playing the best hockey in the Northwest Division. So what are some things that they’ll be looking to add at the deadline?
Both their goals for and goals against are in the top 10 in the league. If there’s any part of their game that they need help, it might be on the penalty kill (20th in the league). Considering the fact that Willie Mitchell is an unrestricted free-agent, they might want to kick the tires on a few defensemen as an insurance policy in case he leaves during the off season. Anything management can do to make sure that Aaron Rome doesn’t play in another game this season would help the team immeasurably.
They might also want to look into getting a forward to play on the PK with Ryan Kesler. Kesler may be a Selke finalist again this season, but he can’t pay the entire 2 minutes every time the opponent has a power play. Whether they want to get a strong 2-way center to play on another unit or a winger that can kill penalties, they would like to augment one of the only weak parts of their game.
We’ve heard reports that the Leafs and Canucks have talked about a Tomas Kaberle for Cody Hodgson deal. Just remember, the Toronto media has a 17-trades-per-day quota that they have to reach—so take those rumors for what they are. Rumors. Of course the Leafs would love to add a prospect like Hodgson for their rebuild and Kaberle would provide blueline depth. We’ll find out on deadline day if there is any truth at all.
Just as important as needs of a team at the deadline, the salary cap situation is of vital importance. The maximum contract the Canucks could add is $2.5 million—not bad for a role player but certainly not enough to get a bona fide sniper. If GM Gillis is truly interested in Kaberle, remember he would have to trade away current NHLers to make room for his $4.25 million salary under the cap. It’s never quiet as simple as the rumor sites would like you to believe.
Another name that keeps popping up as possible trade bait is goaltender Cory Schneider. He didn’t see that much ice-time as Roberto Luongo’s backup and was sent down to Manitoba earlier in the season, but all accounts say that he’s ready to be an NHL goaltender. For a team that is making a run this season, GM Mike Gillis may look into acquiring immediate assets for a guy that will be stuck behind Luongo for the duration of his stay in Vancouver.
But let’s be honest. If they could trade for anything, it would be for a home game.
At the beginning of the season, I bet about 100% of the people NOT living in Colorado would have thought that the Avs would be selling off assets at the deadline. Impending free agents like Darcy Tucker, Marek Svatos, Brett Clark, Ruslan Salei and even Adam Foote were supposed to be resources that Colorado could move to help continue with their rebuild. Oh, how wrong could we be.
The explosion of their young talent onto the NHL scene has Avalanche fans talking more about the playoffs than the draft. They are incredibly strong down the middle for the foreseeable future with Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and T.J. Galiardi at center. They could use a big time scoring winger go place in the top 6 and help improve on their 20th ranked power play.
Even though they had a landslide of youth added to their team this season, there’s still help on the way. Kevin Shattenkirk looks like he might be ready to patrol the blueline starting next season. But with their strong defensive system, the forwards are just as responsible for their strong goals against average as their defensemen are.
The biggest question about the Avalanche at the deadline will be whether ownership wants to spend money to acquire a deadline talent. Colorado is currently about $8 million under the cap; which means they can add about $39 million in annual salaries to their payroll. But with the team still undergoing a perceived rebuilding year and the attendance hitting all-time lows in Denver, will Stan Kroenke give GM Greg Sherman the green light to spend more money?
If at all possible, the Avs would be looking for another Kyle Quincey for $525,000 at the deadline. Then again, so are 29 other teams.
On the list of disappointing teams this season, the Flames have certainly made their case to be the most disappointing. Fans all around Calgary thought that the addition of Jay Bouwmeester to an already strong season would mean a deep run in the playoffs. Now, with 20 games left, those same fans are just hoping for any run in the playoffs.
From an outsider looking in at the Flames, it looks like this will be a classic case of perception conflicting with reality. Just like the Avs should be buyers at the deadline because of their quality of play this season, the Flames should take a serious look at playing the role of seller at the deadline. They won’t, but let’s take a look at why they should.
After the Dion Phaneuf trade and Olli Jokinen trades, Calgary has a little more salary cap flexibility than they did before. If they were ready to admit that they were a disappointment and don’t have the firepower to score enough goals. They have 5 guys (Chris Higgins, Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers, Eric Nystrom and Craig Conroy) who collectively don’t strike fear into the hearts of opponents; but individually could provide scoring/forward depth for contenders.
Another reason the Flames should seriously consider liquidating assets is because their prospect pool is struggling. To say it’s thin would be like saying Toyota has a few small problems right now. Mikael Backlund, Greg Nemisz and Tim Erixon all show potential to play in the NHL one day, but they will it be in Calgary.
Instead of using objectivity, the Flames will probably try to trade picks, prospects and anything else they can move to try to make a run in the playoffs this season. Remember, they don’t have a 1st round pick this year because of the Olli Jokinen trade with the Coyotes at last season’s deadline. The reality is that it’s tough to go from visions of the Stanley Cup to admitting that the season is off the rails in less than 6 months—especially when they’re still holding down the final playoff spot. If they decide to throw their hat into the bidding ring, they desperately need to find a top flight center (or two) to play with Jarome Iginla. Management hopes that newly acquired Matt Stajan will be the man to step into that role—but that doesn’t change the fact that they still need yet another center that can play a Top 6 role.
If the Wild could play every game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, they would be one of the biggest buyers at the deadline. Their 21-8-2 record at home resembles the elite teams in the league more than the 13th seed. That’s only one reason why it’s bad to be 10 games under .500 on the road.
The day before the Olympic break, the Wild traded one of their most valuable trading chips when they sent Kim Johnsson to Chicago for Cam Barker. Since Johnsson in an UFA at season’s end, GM Chuck Fletcher was moving an asset for someone who will be with the team for a while. Johnsson may be a better defenseman than Barker today; but Barker is under contract until the end of the 2013 season. Fletcher sees Barker as a piece to his blueline for the future—not necessarily only for this season.
If the Wild wanted to buy assets at the deadline, they have enough room under the cap to add a couple of talented players. Their rabid fan base helps ownership make enough money to spend on the franchise—but it doesn’t look like their position in the standings will warrant a spending spree this season.
If they plan on continuing to build for the future, guys like Owen Nolan, Eric Belanger and Marek Zidlicky are going to get a lot of attention contenders. Nolan is a veteran who has been a captain and has been deep into the playoffs. Belanger is a good two-way forward, wins face-offs and is only making $1.75 million for the rest of the season. Both guys are the ideal 2 month rental. Zidlicky might be a little stickier—both because he makes over $3 million per season and because he’s the kind of guy that teams would want to re-sign at season’s end.
Yet another guy that could be on the move is pending restricted free agent goaltender Josh Harding. Like Vancouver, the Wild have a talented young goaltender that looks to be buried behind an Olympian. Honestly, Harding is more valuable to the Wild as trade-bait than he is as a hat-wearing backup. If any team is looking for a young goaltender that is ready to make the jump to #1, they might want to give the Wild a call.
Only time will tell—but the Wild have potential to be a big-time seller on March 3rd.
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! 50% off! Everything must go! While there are some teams like the Avs and Flames in the Northwest Division that could either be a buyer or a seller, there is no mystery in Edmonton. Sell. Sell anything. If it’s not bolted to the ground, it’s for sale. If it is bolted to the ground, GM Steve Tambellini will unscrew it and THEN sell it to you.
As much as they’d love to sell off Shawn Horcoff’s contract for a bag of pucks, they had the foresight to give him a no-trade clause until the end of the 2012 season. That means his 9 goals, minus 29 (-29) and $5.5 million cap hit aren’t going anywhere for the next few seasons. Good luck with that.
Unlike Horcoff, both Mike Comrie and Fernando Pisani are going to be a little more movable. Both are in the last years of their deals and would be reasonable additions to contenders. Pisani was great in the Oilers Stanley Cup finals run in 2006 and Comrie has been through the battles of the playoffs more than a few times. I’m not in the prediction or rumor business—but I’d be shocked if either guy was wearing an Oilers jersey on March 4th.
The interesting part for the Oilers will be their decision-making process with all of their restricted free agents. Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Potulny, Denis Grebeshkov, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Gilbert Brule, and JF Jacques are all restricted free agents at the end of the season. On top of that, Patrick O’Sullivan, Robert Nilsson, Zack Stortini and Ladislav Smid are all restricted free agents at the end of next season. If they are serious about blowing this version of the Oilers up, then a few of these guys are going to be on the move. Remember, the biggest part of an Oilers’ rebuild is that potential #1 overall pick staring them in the face. If all goes well, they’ll have more than just their 1st round pick to play with at the draft in June.