Thursday, February 11, 2016

Give Up, You're Dead, Sell At The Trade Deadline (Part II: West)

Yesterday, I examined which pending free agents would make the best trade deadline rentals from the Eastern Conference (link here). Today, let's look at the Western Conference, where I've determined that the Predators, Wild, Jets, Coyotes, Canucks, and Flames are all dead.

So, let's look to the West to see who can join Eric Staal, Loui Eriksson, Kris Versteeg, Sam Gagner, Jean-Michael Liles, Andrei Markov, and Evgeny Medvedev at the top of the trading block.

Western Conference

Nashville Predators

We'll start with a team that is, admittedly, maybe not dead. They currently have the top Wild Card spot in the conference, so obviously they aren't terrible.

But their first round series is either going to go through Chicago or Los Angeles, and this team is just flat out not good enough to beat either of those teams.

So, they don't need to tear it all down, but they could ship out some expiring deals to improve their future outlook. After all, the core of Neal-Fisher-Smith-Johansen-Forsberg-Weber-Josi-Ellis-Rinne is all under contract until at least 2018 (and most are on the books beyond that).

Nashville has forwards Paul Gaustad and Cody Bass expiring. Gaustad, to be honest, probably is not worth a whole lot. I guess it makes sense to try to get something for him as a veteran presence, but this seems to be the group for the Preds.

Minnesota Wild

The Wild are in an almost identical situation as the Predators. They aren't a bad team, as evidenced by the fact that they're currently just 2 points out of a playoff spot. But, like Nashville, they're either going to have to go through Chicago or LA and they just aren't good enough to win there.

Also like Nashville, they have a core in place for a long way into the future. They'd be best served by shipping off some pieces this year to make sure they aren't terrible when Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are old and overpaid.

And, finally, like Nashville, they don't really have a whole lot of ammo for the rental market. I think their best best is to offer up Niklas Backstrom (their backup goalie) and hope that another team's GM thinks they're stealing the actual Nicklas Backstrom from Washington.

Winnipeg Jets

Now that Dustin Byfuglien is locked up long-term, the obvious trade candidate here in Andrew Ladd. And oh boy is he a great rental candidate. At age 30, he's not too old. He's due around $2 million for the rest of this year, which is just a sliver of the salary cap. He has 13 goals and 17 assists this season, including his contributions on the power play.

Most importantly, though, he's won Stanley Cups in Carolina and Chicago.

If you're a team looking for a top-six winger for a deep playoff run, Ladd should be the guy at the top of your wish list.

Arizona Coyotes

It's an interesting time to be a Coyotes fan. They have a young core of Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and it seems like everyone else on the roster is either an expiring veteran or a young guy on a restricted contract.

Nobody that's currently above the age of 24 is on the books past 2018, and only Brad Richardson's $2.1 million is on the books for 2017-18.

The 'Yotes have had a lot of years of solid draft picks, and they're getting ready to make it to the NHL. As it stands, though, there are a bunch of guys that would qualify as rentals to expand that prospect pool. Mikkel Boedker is probably the best of the bunch, and I'm sure Arizona would love to flip him like they flipped Keith Yandle last year.

Captain Shane Doan will likely end his career after this season, and I get the sense he doesn't want to play in a different jersey. Defenseman (and Former Flyer) Nicklas Grossman should probably end his career after this season, though he wouldn't be worth much in a trade anyway.

Vancouver Canucks

I don't know what to say to Canucks fans. But, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie, Vancouver's GM is "adamant about seeing how the next week or two plays out."

You're dead! Shut up and be dead!

Radim Vrbata, Dan Hamhuis, and maybe even Matt Bartkowski could fetch picks or prospects before the deadline. Alex Burrows is expiring after next year, so they can ship him out as a rental a year from now.

As it stands, their two franchise cornerstones are aging and overpaid, and their best prospect was on the cover of the local newspaper as the reason Canada got sent home at the World Juniors.

Get a fucking grip, Vancouver. You're dead. Be dead, and be smart about it.

Calgary Flames

The Flames' under-25 group is a great one: Gaudreau, Hamilton, Brodie, Monahan, and Bennett should all fit nicely into their long-term plans. By the time those guys are all in the 25-28 range, they'll have another 2-4 years of prospects to play with them.

To add some extra juice to that prospect pool, the rental market over the next few years should be very friendly to the rebuilding Flames:

  • 2016: Forwards David Jones (31) and Jiri Hudler (32) are both expiring $4 million contracts, as are 28-year old defensemen Kris Russell ($2.6 million) and Jakub Nakladal ($800k). None of those guys are going to light the world on fire, but they should be made available because any draft pick is better than losing them for nothing. 
  • 2017: Forward Brandon Bollig (will be 30) will have his $1.25 million contract expiring, and he'll be joined by defensemen Dennis Wideman (33/$5.25 million), Ladislav Smid (31/$3.5 million), and Deryk Engelland (34/$2.9 million). 
  • 2018: Just before Captain Johnny Gaudreau's age-25 season, the Flames will be able to put forwards Mikael Backlund, Matt Stajan, and Lance Bouma on the rental market. 
The Flames are in a good place. They have blueliners Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, and TJ Brodie locked up until at least 2020, and their forward group should develop in a way that allows them to compete for at least a couple years with those three d-man in the lineup. 

Because none of their rental options are really impressive, the Flames may end up having to take back a bad contract to get the prospects or picks they want. But overall, the future is bright in Calgary. 

East Against West

The starting five of rentals available at the deadline in the East was:
Loui Eriksson - Eric Staal - Kris Versteeg/Sam Gagner
Jean-Michael Liles - Evgeny Medvedev

In the West, it seems to be:
Andrew Ladd - Paul Gaustad - Mikkel Boedker/Radim Vrbata
Dan Hamhuis - Matt Bartkowski/Kris Russell

Regardless of how you feel about the players involved, it's going to be a fun few weeks for Hurricanes, Jets, Canucks, and Flyers fans. 

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