Bold predictions for the NHL trade deadline
The boldest move at the NHL trade deadline is usually no move at all. But that means ignoring the siren’s song of trading the future for the present and the allure of finding that final piece to complete the puzzle a team has meticulously constructed for months — or at least a piece that looks like it’ll fit.
But inevitably, there will be moves made, some of them titanic and some of them tweaks. By now, we’re familiar with the names available. It’s time to play matchmaker.
Here are 31 bold predictions for the 2019 NHL trade deadline, which rolls on Feb. 25 (with coverage on ESPN2). Many of these predictions fall into the category of “informed speculation” and others can be called “gut feelings,” while the rest can be correctly termed “a blindfold, a dartboard and our best guess.”
In any case, we look forward to hearing from you when everything here turns out to be incorrect. Unless much of it actually pans out, in which case, we’ll really look forward to hearing from you.
The Bruins acquire Wayne Simmonds. This is one of those trade that has been theorized for the better part of a year because (a) it completely fills the Bruins’ need for a top six winger they attempted to address with Rick Nash last year and (b) because Cam Neely remains atop the Boston food chain and, well, might appreciate a player with Simmonds’ particular set of skills.
The deadline passes without a Jeff Skinner contract extension. All indications are that there’s happy sunshine between the Sabres and Jack Eichel’s wing man, which is good news for Buffalo fans worried about losing him for nothing. But if you’re Skinner, why sign before the final offensive numbers on your career year roll in? And if you’re Buffalo … well, it doesn’t matter if you’re Buffalo because Skinner has a full no-move.
The Red Wings hang onto Nick Jensen. One of the most unexpectedly coveted pieces on the team, and current analytics darling, the 28-year-old defenseman has a paltry $812,500 cap hit. But he’s part of the solution, not the problem, and GM Ken Holland brushes away the suitors to try and keep the pending UFA in Detroit.
Jonathan Huberdeau remains in Florida. Now, this wouldn’t have been seen as a bold prediction in any sense before TSN’s stunning report that the Panthers’ second-leading scorer could be moved as part of a trade for both Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. It still doesn’t track that a player with a very friendly AAV of $5.9 million through 2023 would be on the block. So logic dictates that, unless there’s something to which we’re not privy, he won’t be.
The Canadiens are done dealing. Montreal’s power play is, by far, its biggest problem this season at No. 30 in the NHL (13.5 percent) but that’s a solution that’ll have to come from within. GM Marc Bergevin addressed his fourth line needs with Nate Thompson and Dale Weise, and will likely roll with what brought his team to a playoff seed.
Pierre Dorion has a successful deadline. Granted, with Matt Duchene, Mark Stone, Ryan Dzingel and Cody Ceci available, it’s difficult to envision a general manager not having a successful deadline in a league where the buyers outnumber the sellers so dramatically at the moment. But this is Pierre Dorion we’re talking about here, who held on to Erik Karlsson too long last season and blew better deals before landing on San Jose’s offer (with respect to Dylan DeMelo). So yes, bold prediction: The Senators will be seen to have done well for themselves.
The rich get richer. The best team in the NHL doesn’t have a discernable flaw — first in the league, first in power-play efficiency, first on the penalty kill, and stacked in nearly every position. But they might have the deadline cap space in their all-in season to add one more piece, preferably up front. What about adding Kevin Hayes or Mats Zuccarello from the Rangers? To, you know, the rest of the Rangers they have there?
The Leafs acquire Micheal Ferland. The chatter about an increase in toughness and tenacity has swirled around the Leafs for most of the season, and Ferland’s the kind of pain-in-the-keister with offensive pop that would fit well on the roster as either a rental or a keeper … as well as in a playoff series against either Boston or Montreal.
The Hurricanes hold on to their defense corps. They’re getting scouted regularly by teams thirsty for players like Brett Pesce, but Carolina keeps the defensemen on the roster until the summer when they make a big play for offensive help. As for Dougie Hamilton, he’s starting to play the way they hoped he could when they traded for him.
Jarmo Kekalainen can’t pull off the “sell but also buy” flex. The latest rumblings around the Blue Jackets are that if they choose to trade Artemi Panarin and/or Sergei Bobrovsky, they want immediate help as a playoff contender this season. That could come in the form of a player sent the other way or through reallocating the assets they get from these trades for another deadline move. That’s a heck of a juggling act, and the Jackets aren’t going to be able keep those balls in the air. But a move for, say, Derick Brassard isn’t out of the question.
The Devils move Marcus Johansson. Frankly, the idea the Devils would give up anyone with a pulse and discernible offense might be jarring, but Johansson is a pending UFA and hasn’t been able to stay healthy in his two seasons with the Devils. When he plays, he’s effective, and he’s heating up at the right time. Someone out there might ante up a second and a prospect for a player who can play effective top six minutes, and hopefully it’s someone on MoJo’s limited no-trade list.
The Islanders trade for Artemi Panarin. Lou Lamoriello’s scouts have been following the Blue Jackets like groupies for the last while, so something’s cooking. This move makes great sense for the Islanders, who could use Panarin in several line configurations (but, mostly, we’d love to see what he and Mat Barzal could accomplish). It might also make sense for Panarin if living in New York City is ultimately what he’s after, as has been rumored, since the Islanders could then offer him an eight-year deal.
The Rangers trade someone with term left. Yes, Kevin Hayes, Mats Zuccarello and Adam McQuaid are gonzo as pending free agents. But the Rangers dip a little deeper into roster for the rebuild and trade away a player with additional contract years. The hockey world hopes it’s Chris Kreider. It’ll probably end up being Vladislav Namestnikov.
The Flyers trade Wayne Simmonds. It’s obvious Simmonds would like to remain with the Flyers. It’s also obvious that, thanks to Carter Hart, the Flyers are much closer to the playoff bubble than anyone thought they’d be in the second half of the season. It’s further obvious that Simmonds is already at the start of his decline; and while he’s been a nice fit with Nolan Patrick, the return as a deadline bounty will be even nicer for a forward who shouldn’t necessarily be in GM Chuck Fletcher’s plans.
The Penguins stand pat. OK, maybe not totally pat, if they go for a depth defenseman now that Olli Maatta’s out. But the Nick Bjugstad and Tanner Pearson trades are the biggest moves Pittsburgh’s going to make this season. Otherwise, they’re rolling with what they’ve got.
Andre Burakovsky remains a Cap. There was plenty of speculation, and plenty of calls from other teams, when he was scratched earlier this season. And, frankly, the notion that a change might do Burakovsky some good isn’t a stretch. But Washington isn’t moving him if there isn’t value coming back, and they might find the best move is to ride it out into his RFA summer.
The Blackhawks trade Artem Anisimov. The writing is on the wall for the 30-year-old center: His ice time is down and his trade protection — he has a 10-team no-trade list — vanishes this summer. He’s got value, with two years left at $4.55 million against the cap but only $7 million in actual dollars.
The Avalanche stand pat. I know, really bold, what with the options being they (a) make the playoffs and have a top lottery pick courtesy of the Senators’ incredible shortsightedness or (b) miss the playoffs, have their own lottery pick plus another top lottery pick courtesy of the Senators’ incredible shortsightedness. (For the record we think it’s Option B.)
The Stars trade for Gustav Nyquist. Would the Red Wings forward waive his no-trade clause for GM Jim Nill, who ran prospect development for Detroit during Nyquist’s formative years? If the answer is yes, then this could be a solid rental (and potentially more) for a Dallas team that’s starved for goals (2.58 per game through 55 games).
The Wild become surprise sellers. There’s every chance Minnesota gets on the right streak at the right time and ends up making the playoffs, as Bruce Boudreau teams are wont to do. But the (terrible) Nino Niederreiter was the opening salvo in what will quickly become a series of moves to reshape what GM Paul Fenton will convince owner Craig Leipold is a roster in need of something more than “tweaking.” Eric Staal, Eric Fehr, Jason Zucker and/or Charlie Coyle — stay by your phones.
The Predators don’t make a splash. Look, this team does feel like it’s one significant offensive piece on the wing away from “best in the West” status. Their secondary scoring was second only to Pekka Rinne’s meltdown as their biggest playoff determent last season. But GM David Poile has spoken in the past about “the rental thing” not always being a great situation. Maybe they add some pieces in the tradition of recent additions Brian Boyle and (for some reason) Cody McLeod. But Poile’s biggest swings have been for players with term (or in Kyle Turris’ case, players Nashville sought to sign). Outside of Mark Stone, we’re not sure if there is a rental who fits the bill, and he’ll cost significantly.
The Blues are buyers, which isn’t exactly the boldest statement since they’ve rocketed from worst-to-the-wild card in just over a month. But here’s the bold prediction: They don’t buy anything. They stand pat with the team that Doug Armstrong built and can, for the moment, say has clicked.
The Jets don’t go all-in for Matt Duchene, but do dabble in Kevin Hayes, who could be had for a first-rounder and a decent prospect as a rental. He’ll help in the middle and help bolster a middling penalty kill. And while the Jets making deadline moves for UFA centers who then leave in consecutive seasons might seem to fit the definition of madness, Hayes could be a “final puzzle piece” guy.
The Ducks re-sign Jakob Silfverberg. Wish there was something bolder to put here, but there isn’t for two reasons: The trade protection and high cap hits for their veteran core, and the fact that GM Bob Murray is now GM/head coach Bob Murray for the purposes of evaluating this roster. So, one assumes his biggest moves will occur after the season.
The Coyotes stand pat. They’re close enough to the wild card where they’re not sellers, which is a weird flex for GM John Chayka. Most of his previous deadline action has been as a seller, and he’s done well at it. Unless someone wants to really ante up for Richard Pánik, the Coyotes don’t have much to sell. Will they buy? Why should they? With Christian Dvorak, Michael Grabner, Brad Richardson and Jason Demers on the mend, they Coyotes will get a bolstered lineup without shipping out assets.
Alex Chiasson is the only Oiler to move at the deadline. Edmonton has other assets to move on expiring contracts and ones with term, but Chiasson’s cap hit and playoff experience with the Cup winning Capitals make him the only desirable acquisition. The Oilers are like a buffet with one tray of off-brand mac-and-cheese and the rest of it is weird Jell-O.
Ilya Kovalchuk remains a King. Yes, Los Angeles will move a forward, most likely Carl Hagelin to someone who needs speed, penalty killing and a goal every financial quarter. But it won’t be Kovalchuk at $6.25 million AAV through 2021 on a 35-plus contract.
The Sharks acquire Marcus Johansson from the Devils. A 200-foot forward that’ll cost the Sharks their second-rounder and a prospect, but one that’ll fill out the Sharks’ forward group in an all-in season.
The Canucks stick with the process. Maybe there’s a small move for a forward, but any big swings will come this summer. (Alas, the injury to Brandon Sutter eliminated one of the more intriguing trade options, but they’ll revisit it when his no-trade clause goes modified this summer.)
The Knights trade for Ottawa Senators winger Mark Stone … and Ottawa Senators center Matt Duchene. You want bold? You got bold. The Golden Knights have the assets the Senators would seek — and ones that Dorion’s familiar with, after the Erik Karlsson flirtation last deadline — including a first, a second and three third-rounders this June. They have the cap space, and will have the cap space this summer to potentially keep Stone in Sin City. And they have the insatiable hunger for a championship after last season’s run — we’re talking a Gollum-and-the-One-Ring level obsession here — and an owner in Bill Foley who wants to win by any means necessary. Fortune favors the bold. And while those are famous last words in Vegas … let’s go.