Attention, NHL general managers: There are only four shopping weeks left to wheel and deal in an attempt to bolster your rosters for the stretch drive.
As of Wednesday, there will be exactly one month remaining before the March 1 trade deadline. And for Canada’s seven teams, much has changed since they all fell short of reaching the playoffs last season.
As of the all-star break, every Canadian-based franchise either held a playoff spot or was within three points of one. What a difference a year makes.
Keeping that in mind, what could be in store for each on the trade front?
To get a better idea of what transactions might take place, we gathered seven Postmedia hockey scribes from seven Canadian cities to look into their respective crystal balls for some insight.
BUYER OR SELLER? Buyer
CANDIDATES TO BE MOVED: D Nathan Beaulieu, D Mikhail Sergachev, D Noah Juulsen, F Mike McCarron, F Nikita Scherbak, F Tomas Plekanec
The Canadiens could really use some size at centre on the No. 2 line behind Alex Galchenyuk, and Arizona’s Martin Hanzal could fill that spot nicely. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Arizona wants McCarron and two draft picks, including a first-rounder, in exchange for Hanzal, which seems like a high price for a player who becomes a UFA after this season. The Coyotes could drop their price before the trade deadline.
If the Canadiens are willing to pay a higher price, Colorado’s Matt Duchene would look very good in bleu-blanc-rouge; he has two more years remaining on his contract with a US$6-million annual cap hit.
Along with 6-foot-6 centre McCarron, the Canadiens have three young defencemen other teams could be interested in. Beaulieu becomes a RFA after this season, while Sergachev and Juulsen were Montreal’s first-round draft picks the last two years. Sergachev started this season with the Canadiens as an 18-year-old before being returned to the Windsor Spitfires.
Forward Scherbak is another first-round draft pick — as is McCarron — for teams looking for young talent. Veteran centre Plekanec has one more season at US $6 million, which will make him hard to move.
— Stu Cowan
BUYER OR SELLER? Buyer
CANDIDATES TO BE MOVED: G Andrew Hammond, F Curtis Lazar, F Nick Paul
Pierre Dorion is one of the few GMs in the league who has actually made a deal thus far, by acquiring UFA winger Tommy Wingels from the San Jose Sharks. If possible, the Senators would like to add a little more skill up front before the deadline. They’ve kicked tires on Colorado’s Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, along with Hanzal of the Arizona Coyotes.
At this point, the asking prices are more than the Senators can stomach, so they’re going to sit tight. Don’t be surprised if they revisit all three of these players before the deadline. If the Senators are going to deal a prospect like Lazar or Paul, they’d like to get something in return.
It will also be interesting to see what the club decides to do with rugged Chris Neil, a healthy scratch last week, if he remains in out and of the lineup. As for Hammond, the Senators would just be happy to find someone to take the contract off their hands. Craig Anderson is closing in on a return to action and Mike Condon is now a solid No. 2.
— Bruce Garrioch
Toronto Maple Leafs
BUYER OR SELLER? Either, depending on what GM Lou Lamoriello determines to be the best offer(s)
CANDIDATES TO BE MOVED: D Roman Polak, D Matt Hunwick, F James van Riemsdyk, F William Nylander
Rebuild or not, Lamoriello wants to win — but not at the expense of mortgaging the future. The Leafs’ No. 1 need is a top-end blueliner, but giving up a young building block up front in Nylander, as some reports have suggested, seems to be too much of a sacrifice. The Blues’ Kevin Shattenkirk has been linked to the Leafs, with the veteran defenceman said to be open to talking to a long-term extension with Toronto.
Given the success both he and the team have enjoyed in the first half, moving pending UFA JVR would be a surprise. And while the Leafs are seen as buyers, if Lamoriello could get another second round pick for Polak like he did from the Sharks a year ago, don’t be surprised if he does it. “If you can get better, you do it,” Lamoriello said. “But you don’t do something just for the sake of doing it.”
— Mike Zeisberger
BUYER OR SELLER? Combination of both— mostly a seller, though
CANDIDATES TO BE MOVED: G Ondrej Pavelec, D Paul Postma, D Mark Stuart, F Drew Stafford, F Chris Thorburn, F Mathieu Perreault (unlikely, but possible given the expansion draft)
With four of their next five games coming against Central Division opponents, it won’t take long to see if the Jets, who are three points out of the final wild card spot in the West, to figure out if they can stay in the race. The Jets have some players on expiring contracts who are pending unrestricted free agents and could be moved, plus a few guys on the bubble they might not be able to protect for the expansion draft they might try to get something back for.
There’s depth up front, but Jets have an organizational need to add a third-pairing defenceman. However, because of the upcoming expansion draft, it’s unlikely the Jets bring somebody in on the back end they could lose several months down the road.
The Jets may have the ability to retain some salary, given their salary-cap flexibility, but they’ve had a lot of players on injured reserve this season and had several players buried in the minors on one-way contracts. The goaltending position might need to be upgraded, at least in terms of a backup, but that move is more likely to come after the expansion draft.
— Ken Wiebe
BUYER OR SELLER? As long as they remain in the wildcard mix, likely a buyer
CANDIDATES TO BE MOVED: G Brian Elliott, D Deryk Engelland, D Dennis Wideman
Puck-stopping remains an issue at the Saddledome — Elliott has been a disappointment so far and Chad Johnson has come back to Earth after a superb stretch. Question is, can Flames GM Brad Treliving find a goaltending upgrade prior to deadline day?
Perhaps he circles back on Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop. The Flames explored a trade for the towering netminder during the summer and even received permission to chat about his long-term contract demands before swapping for Elliott instead. With the expansion draft looming, maybe they have their eye on a current backup on the brink of a breakout.
The Flames need a second-pair defenceman — somebody to skate with TJ Brodie — but those don’t come cheap. Up front, there have been whispers they could target Coyotes centre Hanzal, who would add some skill and also allow struggling sophomore Sam Bennett to be shifted to the wing.
— Wes Gilbertson
BUYER OR SELLER? Buyer
CANDIDATES TO BE MOVED: G Jonas Gustavsson, D Griffin Reinhart, F Matt Hendricks (UFA)
The Oilers’ biggest needs heading down the stretch: a third-line centre and a backup goalie to workhorse starter Cam Talbot. They have rookie Drake Caggiula playing third-line centre and he’s doing a good job, but he’s a raw rookie. Adding experience at that spot would be vital in the Oilers’ push for a playoff spot. They would love Hanzal of the Coyotes, one of a handful of teams that appear to be poised to sell.
Edmonton has been auditioning farmhand Laurent Brossoit as the No. 2 goalie to Talbot, but if he fails, a veteran backup would definitely be on the wish list. I’d say Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec is in their sights.
— Jim Matheson
BUYER OR SELLER? Holder
CANDIDATES TO BE MOVED: G Ryan Miller, D Alex Biega, F Alex Burrows, F Jannik Hansen
Having quickly assembled their deepest group of young defencemen since the 1990s, the Canucks need young forwards because Daniel and Henrik Sedin could leave gaping holes in the lineup when their contracts expire after next season. The Canucks haven’t much coming up front beyond University of North Dakota sniper Brock Boeser.
But the Canucks’ surge back to respectability and the playoff race, between the Christmas and All-Star breaks, greatly diminishes the likelihood of any deadline move other than a straight hockey trade. Trying to quiet the pre-deadline trade circus, general manager Jim Benning has said he won’t ask players to waive their no-trade clauses. His ideology is a little surprising, because the Canucks are partway through a rebuild-on-the-fly and Benning failed a year ago to get anything for Dan Hamhuis or Radim Vrbata before their contracts expired and they signed elsewhere.
Goalie Ryan Miller and veteran winger Alex Burrows are UFAs after this season and still have lots to offer. Miller, especially, could help a lot of teams. But neither is likely to ask Benning for a trade as long as the Canucks are in the Western Conference playoff fight.
— Iain MacIntyre