This week in The Journey we examine potential prospect additions to teams who will be sellers at the NHL’s Trade Deadline.
In nine days, teams who are looking to make a strong push towards the Stanley Cup Playoffs will inevitably overpay for rental players. In most cases, picks, prospects or young players under team control for a longer term are acquired by sellers at the deadline who are looking to move out veterans that do not fit in the teams plans moving forward. Although its hard to determine individual players who will be targeted as a return for selling clubs at the deadline, we can look at what positions of need are within their current prospect groups. Since so many articles are written about the needs of buyers, lets flip the script and take a look these deals from the other side targeting what type of assets rebuilding teams may look for on February 29th.
After making the playoffs last season, the Flames have taken a step back in 2015-16. Currently 14 points back of playoff safety in the Pacific division, and 11 points back of a wildcard spot, its likely Calgary will look to offload some vets at the deadline. Kris Russell, Jiri Hudler and potentially David Jones all are players that could be valued to a playoff bound team on February 29th.
Areas of Need:
The Flames have hit on Sam Bennett and Sean Monahan from high draft positions over the last few seasons, and it’s likely that moving Russell would net a first-round draft selection (see: Sekera, Andrej in 2015). After using last years first to acquire Dougie Hamilton, the blueline seems set for the near future. The holes that would be vacated by Russell, and potentially Wideman, Smid and Engelland over the next couple seasons will be filled by draftees such as Oliver Kylington, Tyler Wotherspoon, and Rasmus Andersson. The Flames have a severe area of need at wing in their prospect group, as beyond Morgan Klimchuk and Emile Poirier (neither of which are sure bets), they do not have a ton of high-end skill in their system at that position. Andrew Mangiapane is a nice piece, but a long way from an NHL roster. Teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings have the wing depth in their system to potentially be a fit.
Talk about a team that doesn’t know what its identity should be. Vancouver is caught currently in a no-win balancing act between trying to win now while also stocking up for life after the Sedins. A step has been taken in the right direction this season by giving increased opportunity to youngsters such as Jared McCann, Jake Virtanen and Ben Hutton, but the Canucks should continue this trend with their deadline activity. Forward Radim Vrbata and defenseman Dan Hamhuis will have a market, and although less likely, there is the chance that a team takes a flyer on Alex Burrows if the Canucks make him available.
Areas of Need:
Vancouver has done a great job of drafting forward talent over the last few seasons that has already started to pay dividends in the NHL. The same cannot be said for their defensive prospect group. Jordan Subban is a nice piece, but the group lacks a stud coming up through the system. Anaheim has the defensive corps depth to move one of their young blueliners if they are trying to add a scorer. Washington could make a move for depth in their defensive corps and could be willing to part with some young talent at a chance at the cup this year.
Carolina is one of the most interesting cases of the deadline. In a year where many thought they would be closer to the number one overall pick then the playoffs; the Canes have tough decisions to make in the next ten days. Current UFA’s Eric Staal and Cam Ward have been with the team since the Stanley Cup winning season of 2006 and John-Michael Liles and Kris Versteeg have put together seasons that have made them valuable to a playoff team.
Areas of Need:
The Hurricanes are one of the rare teams that have more talent in the system on the blueline then in their forward group. Any trade including Staal would have to include a first round pick and a top level prospect, and they should be able to fetch mid-level forward prospects or picks for Versteeg and Liles. Ward will be the hardest of the four to move, given his play hasn’t been the most consistent, and there aren’t too many playoff bound teams in need of an upgrade in net. Sebastian Aho and Nicolas Roy are Carolina’s most talented forward prospects in their system, so an upgrade will help to quicken their rebuild. I haven’t understood why the Canes haven’t been mentioned more in the Jonathan Drouin conversation given their two first round picks in 2016 and their wealth of young talent on defense. Expect GM Ron Francis’ phone to be ringing quite often in the next couple of weeks.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs made their biggest deal of the season prior to the deadline when they moved on from Dion Phaneuf, but as they continue to rebuild, expect the selling of more assets before February 29th. Toronto has nine pending UFA’s, however few, if any will carry any top end value. James Reimer would be the most likely to profit the Leafs a substantial return, but it’s hard to see a team parting with much unless they are able to sign him to a contract. Players like Roman Polak, P.A. Parenteau and Shawn Matthias could be depth options for playoff teams, but are unlikely to fetch more than a mid-level prospect or pick. If the team decides sell Nazem Kadri or Leo Komorov, things could get interesting on deadline day in Toronto.
Areas of Need:
I will start by saying I love the Tobias Lindberg pickup from the Phaneuf deal. He’s the type of player that will fit in with top talents like Marner and Nylander who ooze skill. Toronto has a strong forward prospect group that will likely be bolstered even further with their top pick this season. Auston Matthews anyone? The Leafs could use upgrades on the blueline, where they have some nice pieces already but no game breakers. They could also be in-line for some goaltending depth behind Antoine Bibeau and Garret Sparks.
Which teams do you think will be sellers at the deadline? What players could you see selling teams getting back from their rentals?
Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for NHL prospect talk and happenings.
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