No matter where teams are in the standings, the NHL trade deadline is a pivotal point in the season. Top contenders have a chance to add the final piece to the puzzle that is their roster, while bottom feeders can stockpile draft picks and prospects to fuel their rebuilds. Some general managers look at the deadline as a great opportunity to patch holes while others, like Carolina’s Don Waddell, see it as “one of the most dangerous days in hockey”.
Late February is normally when the final transaction buzzer rings, but this year’s deadline falls on Monday, March 21 at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. It’s been a season of surprisingly few roster exchanges to date — Tyler Toffoli to the Flames being the lone major one — but the action is bound to pick up as the date draws nearer.
So with that, let’s take a look at the news, rumors and speculation that have been bubbling up around the NHL.
- After a few weeks of dead phone lines, the first domino fell on March 14, with Anaheim trading defensive defenseman Josh Manson to the Colorado Avalanche for second round pick and prospect Drew Helleson.
- While there may not be a true “big fish” target on the market like in past years with Kevin Shattenkirk, Matt Duchene and Taylor Hall, Flyers captain Claude Giroux is undoubtedly the cordon bleu. The Panthers, Bruins, Rangers and Avalanche are all rumored to have eyes on Giroux, who will fetch no less than a first round pick and top prospect.
- The San Jose Sharks and general manager Doug Wilson have a decision to make on center Tomáš Hertl. The silky-smooth goal scorer is a pending unrestricted free agent, and the bottoming Sharks could certainly pick up a haul if they moved him. Wilson’s desire to keep Hertl has him walking the fine line between contract and trade negotiations.
- If there’s one wild-card team to watch on Monday it’s the Dallas Stars, who must make a decision on the fate of Swedish defenseman John Klingberg amid its bid to make the postseason. General manager Jim Nill already extended veteran forward Joe Pavelski, but whether the Stars will be buyers or sellers is yet to be seen.
- North of the border, there’s increasing angst between the pipes. Toronto’s Petr Mrázek has struggled mightily with starter Jack Campbell injured, and the Oilers’ Smith-Koskinen tandem wore out its welcome long ago. Ottawa’s Anton Forsberg and Arizona’s Karel Vejmelka highlight the slim pickings of goaltenders on the block.
- Nearly all the top teams have next-to-zero salary cap space, making transactions harder to execute. Look for the have-nots of the league to help facilitate trades by taking on lucrative contracts.
- As Waddell alludes to, the deadline can put organizations in deep trouble down the road. Of the 16 teams that will compete in the playoffs, only one wins the cup, meaning the overwhelming majority of additions will go for naught. But teams won’t stop searching for their own Blake Coleman or Barclay Goodrow: two deadline pickups by the Lightning that played major parts in their back-to-back Stanley Cup runs.
Enjoy Monday’s blockbuster trades and all the action in the coming week!