In part 2 of “Talking Trades”, the insanely close and wildly unpreditacble Western Conference is analyzed.
Anaheim – There is some talk of Scott Niedermayer potentially being shopped if the Ducks continue to struggle. There is a good chance that he will retire at the end of this season, meaning the Ducks may try to deal him and his expiring contract to a contender in exchange for a young roster player, a prospect and a first round pick. Potential suitors could be New Jersey (his former team) and Vancouver (he’s a native of BC). Of course, there is also some talk of trading goaltender JS Giguere, but given his expensive contract, this is more likely to occur in the offseason.
Calgary – The Flames are a bit of an enigma, and there are some that believe that Calgary’s GM is preparing to “rock the boat” by dealing one of his defensemen for more scoring up front. If this is true, the names that could get the most in return are Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr. Keep an eye on this one.
Chicago – Arguably the NHL’s best team, the Blackhawks are rolling and look like a team with very few holes. Of course, with contracts for Toews, Kane and Keith basically done, the Hawks will need to trade away some salary to respect the “tagging rule”. Brent Sopel will be dealt or placed on waivers in the very near future, and it’s also very possible that one of Cam Barker, Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg or Dustin Byfuglien will be traded. At some point, they may consider acquiring some insurance in the form of a quality backup goalie, especially considering Cristobal Huet’s lack of playoff experience.
Colorado – The Avs are over-achieving right now, and a team that I would have automatically assumed would have been sellers look like they might grab a playoff spot in the West. Regardless, they know they aren’t winning the cup this year so don’t expect them to mortgage the future to acquire a high profile player. If they do fall out of contention, veterans such as Adam Foote, Darcy Tucker and Marek Svatos will become solid deadline day acquisitions for a contending team.
Columbus – The Jackets are happy with their team for the time being. They are taking the internal development route and therefore will have many of the same faces around for years to come. If, however, the opportunity presents itself to bring in an elite playmaking center for Rick Nash (like Jason Spezza), Columbus would have to give serious consideration to that possibility. With Rusty Klesla out for an extended period of time with a torn groin, the only area of concern for the short term is their depth on defense. There is a high likelihood that they will bring in a depth defenseman from another team very soon. Raffi Torres and Fredrik Modin (on IR) are players with expiring contracts that could be moved for some help on the back end. Oh; and don’t forget about Nikita Filatov. He is the one player Columbus could easily move out to bring in an impact player, and given their temporary divorce, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Dallas – The Stars are entering a transitional phase with respect to player personnel. While their defense is relatively young and very underrated, players like Marty Turco, Jere Lehtinen and Mike Modano are in the last year of their contracts and are nearing the end of the road. While none of those 3 will be dealt in the immediate future, if the Stars are out of the playoff picture come February, there is a possibility that some of those veterans will be dangled as trade bait. One player who has been a permanent fixture in the rumor mill has been Fabian Brunnstrom. With many teams experiencing injury problems, someone will bite and take a chance on Brunnstrom and his friendly cap hit.
Detroit – The Red Wings refuse to panic and will not be making any significant moves. The only players that could realistically be moved out of Detroit are Brett Lebda and Derek Meech, who are both victims of the organization’s depth on the blue line. There are always rumors of the Red Wings looking for an upgrade in goal; but Osgood has a strong playoff record, Jimmy Howard has shown flashes of being able to be a #1 down the road and don’t forget about prospects Daniel Larsson and Thomas McCollum. Expect the Detroit Red Wings to stay away from the trade market.
Edmonton – The Oilers were picked by many to be a playoff team last year and performed below expectations. This year, it’s the same expectations and the same disappointment so far. There are too many underachievers in Edmonton, and with the season ending injury to Ales Hemsky, it’s almost time to clean house. On forward; Fernando Pisani and Mike Comrie (both on IR right now) will be UFAs this summer and could be dealt at the deadline when teams are looking to add some depth and experience. Andrew Cogliano and Robert Nilsson are young forwards who don’t appear to be in the long term plans of the franchise. Those 2 could be dealt as well for picks and/or prospects. On D; if you factor in performance level and cap hit, Denis Grebeshkov and Ladislav Smid would be attractive players to add to a team that struggles to move the puck out of the zone.
LA – The Kings are a franchise on the rise that could be 1 major move or 2 away from becoming an elite team. For now, the one major decision they need to make is what to do with Alexander Frolov. Odds are if he goes to July 1 unsigned, his days as a King are over. So, they can either re-sign him or trade him. For what he could yield in return, losing him for nothing would be a shame. My money is on the latter, with the Montreal Canadiens having serious interest.
Minnesota – This is a scary franchise right now. They are at the bottom of the Western Conference, their pool of prospects is well below average, and they are so bad that Guillaume Latendresse is one of their top 12 forwards. The biggest problem is that they don’t have many tradable assets right now that could bring in high draft picks or quality prospects. Owen Nolan, Kim Johnsson and Marek Zidlicky are veteran players in the last year of their current deals that could prove to be valuable additions at the trade deadline, but the return wouldn’t be anything substantial. The best trading chip they have is goaltender Josh Harding, and he would be of interest to many teams due to his age, potential and digestible contract. I strongly believe that his days as a member of the Minnesota Wild are numbered.
Nashville – The Predators have 2 good goalies, both of whom will be free agents at the end of the year. If Nashville is contending for a playoff spot; expect them to trade one of the 2 for more scoring. If Nashville is out of it, then a pick or a prospect is the more likely return. I’ll go ahead and predict that they retain Pekka Rinne and trade Dan Ellis.
Phoenix – With the long term economic stability of the franchise in doubt, spending money to acquire players with expensive contracts will be highly unlikely. On the flip side, the cap floor will make it next to impossible to go on any kind of a fire sale. Ultimately, what you see is what you get with the Coyotes. Any trades they make will be to acquire depth players, most probably on D.
San Jose – The Sharks have very little cap room to acquire any players without giving up something substantial in return. The problem is that all of their players who have big cap hits are very important to the success of the team this year. The biggest question, of course, is Patrick Marleau. Marleau is in the last year of his contract and all signs point to him finding a new home this summer. He is playing very well this year, which would make it difficult to get comparable value in return via a trade. All that being said, if the Sharks have a bad 10-15 game stretch somewhere in the mid January to late February period, GM Doug Wilson could consider dealing the former captain to shake things up, and to not lose a valuable asset for nothing. If he does stick with the Sharks for the remainder of the season, his “signing rights” will be dealt before July 1.
St. Louis – The Blues are a team that made the playoffs last year, but have struggled so far this season. They are trying to turn the team over to their young core, so if they continue to struggle, expect them to start entertaining offers for playoff rentals like Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya. One pending UFA who the Blues will in all likelihood try to re-sign is goaltender Chris Mason.
Vancouver – The Canucks are a dangerous team when fully healthy. I really believe that the organization would love to add either an impact defenseman or a high end forward to try and put them over the top. They will need at least 1 of those components if they want to compete with the other elite teams in the West. Cory Schneider is a blue chip goalie prospect in the eyes of many, but is stuck behind Luongo. When the time is right, he will be traded to bring in some help.
About the Author
Written by Corey Krakower
I am the Director of NHL Content & Habs writer for ProSportsBlogging.com; I have spent 8 seasons behind the bench as a minor hockey coach; and I am the future GM of the Montreal Canadiens (according to my mom). I spend my days managing the Harrow Sports brand in my hometown of Montreal and I moonlight as a Hockey Advisor for Pi Athlete Management. Most importantly, I'll throw anyone under the bus for a laugh.