The NHL trade deadline is fast approaching. In fact, it’s just a little over three weeks away, on April 12th, that the last call will be made on trades where players can be used in the playoffs. Traditionally, it is the busiest day for players changing address after, perhaps, the NHL Draft day and the Free Agents’ Frenzy in July. For fans which teams are looking at competing in the playoffs, trade deadline, or the days leading up to it, can feel like Christmas. Knowing that their GM is shopping, knowing what you want but not knowing what he will get you, if anything. Then, BOOM! An announcement, followed by your reaction (good or bad) based on if you like the present or not, or you feel he overpaid for it.
This being a very unusual year, it’s difficult to predict how much action there will be. Yes, there are several teams looking at selling assets, but contrarily to previous years, there are very few playoffs’ teams have the necessary cap space to accommodate taking a salary. Further, as explained Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin, the cap is predicted to stay stagnant for the next few years. To complicate things, the Seattle Expansion Draft is coming up in the off-season. GMs have to rely on their management skills more than ever and their “capologists” are key people on which they’re leaning on heavily.
The Canadiens have glaring needs as we explored recently. But Bergevin is doing his best to temper fans and media expectations. He knows that this isn’t a usual year. Everyone wanted him to spend to the cap ceiling and he’s done it. Now fans and media see the issue with it, having no room to add players, even after the team losing one of its top defensemen to injury for six to eight weeks.
With that being said, GMs have always found ways to be creative and Bergevin will have to use that skill in order to help his team. He has a few trade chips at the NHL level, that he can also use as salary dumps to ease the arrival of new salary. Artturi Lehkonen, Joel Armia, Paul Byron and Victor Mete, at the NHL level, could be used as trade chips. Using Tomas Tatar would be pushing it as he’s a key part of the offense.
The Habs wouldn’t be getting any impact players with the above-mentionned names. What they do have however is the sweeteners to make a deal happen. Since 2017 or so, Bergevin has been piling up draft picks. The team has drafted 10-14 players a year recently and the prospect pool is stacked with numbers and quality. Further, the Habs have another 14 picks at the upcoming NHL Draft. Often, trade deadline sellers are looking for those young prospects and/or draft picks.
Potential targets on left defense
As my followers are well aware, I’ve been quite vocal about the need for Bergevin to acquire Mattias Ekholm, who is said to be available. I see no reasons why the Canadiens can’t make that work even if it means overpaying a bit. He is exactly what the team needs as a defense partner for a struggling Shea Weber. That said, one of my Twitter follower asked me last night who else I could see as potential targets by the Habs if the Ekholm deal wasn’t to be had.
I decided to do a bit of research this morning and I pretty much only looked at the team finding themselves pretty much out of playoffs’ contention today, to see what left-handed defensemen they might consider parting with. As you can imagine, there are some decent and not so good choices. I tried to stick with players with over 18 minutes of time on the ice per game. Here’s what I have found:
|DET||Jon Merrill||UFA - $925k||25||0||4||4||20:02|
|DET||Patrik Nemeth||UFA - $3M||30||2||2||4||18:58|
|DET||Marc Staal||UFA - $5.7M||31||2||4||6||18:25|
|NAS||Mattias Ekholm||1 yr - $3.75M||23||5||8||13||22:18|
|DAL||Jamie Oleksiak||UFA - 2.14M||26||3||3||6||19:30|
|NJD||Dmitry Kulikov||UFA - $1.15M||26||0||2||2||19:20|
|NJD||Ryan Murray||UFA - $4.6M||19||0||4||4||18:58|
|ANA||Ben Hutton||UFA - $950k||25||1||2||3||18:30|
|ANA||Hampus Lindholm||1 yr - $5.2M (LTIR)||18||2||4||6||22:02|
|ARI||Alex Goligoski||UFA - $5.475M||30||0||2||2||22:25|
|ARI||Jordan Oesterle||UFA - $1.4M||29||1||10||11||19:07|
|ARI||Niklas Hjalmarsson||UFA - $5M||27||0||4||4||17:55|
|PHI||Erik Gustafsson||UFA - $3M||20||1||9||10||17:21|
Unfortunately, the Ducks announced that Lindholm will miss six weeks with a fractured left wrist so we can scratch his name off. What Alex Goligoski has lost on offense, he picked up defensively where he’s much improved. Playing over 22 minutes a game, the Coyotes rely heavily on him but his salary is a huge issue. Perhaps the Habs could look at Jordan Oesterle instead? I also kind of like Oleksiak in Dallas, or one of Merrill or Nemeth in Detroit. While the Flyers are far from out of contention, they don’t play Gustafsson much.
So there you have a few folks. Which ones are your choices, if any? I still think that the Habs are in an excellent position to get their hands on Ekholm (if still available, of course) and we know that David Poile is not afraid of pulling the trigger on big trades as he’s done a few years ago with Bergevin. It should be an interesting next couple of weeks. Go Habs Go!