Home > Uncategorized > Rumours heating up ahead of NHL trade deadline

Rumours heating up ahead of NHL trade deadline

The Canadian Press Crazy rumours always fly around trade-deadline time. The latest? Ryan Kesler has requested a trade from the Vancouver Canucks, according to Louis Jean of TVA Sports. If true, and Jean has always been credible, then the Canucks have a franchise-altering decision to make possibly between now and next Wednesday, March 5. But Kesler is just one of many front-line players potentially available in what could be a busier than usual trading period.

The Canadian Press
Crazy rumours always fly around trade-deadline time. The latest? Ryan Kesler has requested a trade from the Vancouver Canucks, according to Louis Jean of TVA Sports. If true, and Jean has always been credible, then the Canucks have a franchise-altering decision to make possibly between now and next Wednesday, March 5. But Kesler is just one of many front-line players potentially available in what could be a busier than usual trading period.

Is this the calm before the NHL trade deadline storm?

Or is it the same old media — and social media — driven hubbub about nothing?

Time will tell, but there certainly seems to be some big fish in play over the next week.

Ryan Miller and Ryan Callahan were long rumoured to be on the block. But Ryan Kesler and Martin St. Louis have come out of left field, both reportedly requesting to be dealt.

With the Islanders out of the playoff picture, Thomas Vanek will also likely be on the move barring a contract extension to stay on Long Island.

Larry Fisher
Larry Fisher

Those are just five names — all big ones — that are believed to be available. Will they all end up on new teams by next Wednesday? That’s unlikely, but it is possible. And there will surely be several other smaller-scale deals, plus potential for blockbuster surprises that nobody saw coming.

However, recent history suggests the ‘Trade Deadline Day’ hype is mostly overblown.

Last year, albeit during the lockout-shortened season, there were only nine trades made on deadline day — and only three of any consequence, with Jaromir Jagr, Ryane Clowe and Derek Roy changing addresses as centrepieces.

In the 10 days leading up to that deadline, there were 11 additional deals for a total of 20 — the most notable involving Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester and Brenden Morrow.

The year prior to that offered even slimmer pickings, with the Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian swap the biggest of the bunch. There were 15 trades at that 2011-12 deadline and 16 at the 2010-11 deadline, which is about par for the course since the NHL introduced a salary cap ahead of the 2005-06 campaign.

I do think this year’s deadline might be a bit busier, just because the Olympic break afforded ample opportunity for negotiations and there really hasn’t been much movement to date due to cap restraints that may have been lessened with time.

Further, with the standings as close as they are in both conferences, I could see more buyers emerging than normal and that would bode well for sellers in terms of bidding wars over marginal talents. Teams will be lining up for ‘bit’ players that give them a leg-hair — not a leg, a leg-hair — up on the competition in the playoff race. That said, I don’t think we see any Paul Gaustad types garnering first-round picks — yes, that happened just a couple years ago.

Still, I’m sensing all this smoke will produce a decent amount of fire, and not just smoke circles. For the sake of making a prediction, I’ll say we see 22 deals on deadline day and a half-dozen more trades between now and then for a total of 28. That’s counting today’s minor move that sent Brad Winchester from Chicago to Minnesota in exchange for Brian Connelly.

Don’t expect that one to force open the floodgates, but do anticipate at least a handful of similar head-scratchers that won’t impact much of anything going forward. . . . Now watch Winchester find a grinding role with the Wild and score some clutch goals come the post-season.

Regardless, not even the most hardcore of fantasy players give two hoots about that trade.

If — or when — the aforementioned big five are moved, then that will have everybody talking.

Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images Goaltender Ryan Miller has spent his entire 11-year career as a member of the Buffalo Sabres, but he's a pending unrestricted free agent this summer and it may be time for a change of scenery.

Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images
Goaltender Ryan Miller has spent his entire 11-year career as a member of the Buffalo Sabres, but he’s a pending unrestricted free agent and it may be time for a change of scenery.

Miller is the best goaltender available now, or in the summer when he’ll become an unrestricted free agent. Buffalo will most definitely trade him if they can’t sign him by the deadline. Trade seems more likely, but the number of suitors may be limited at this point in the season.

Two teams to keep an eye on, possibly even as a three-way swap: St. Louis and Minnesota. The Blues are built to win-now and Jaroslav Halak has had past playoff success — leading Montreal to the Eastern Conference final in 2010 — but rumblings suggest St. Louis’ management isn’t sold on Halak and would rather add Miller. Halak is also an unrestricted free agent, so he could easily go the other way in a deal if Buffalo was interested, or other teams might already be kicking tires on Halak if it sounds like he could be had cheap in the event of a Miller acquisition.

My guess is Buffalo would rather take back Jake Allen, a former first-round pick and top prospect who could be a nice fit for the Sabres’ ongoing rebuild. Two other St. Louis prospects of interest would be forwards Dmitri Jaskin and Ty Rattie, both overachieving second-rounders that could have an NHL impact as early as next season.

Enter Minnesota. The Wild got off to a great start thanks in large part to the goaltending of Josh Harding, but he’s been sidelined for all of 2014 due to complications with his multiple sclerosis medication. Longtime Wild starter Nicklas Backstrom, who was signed to a three-year extension last season, has also battled injuries throughout this year and despite the strong play of rookie Darcy Kuemper in holding the fort, it is unlikely Minnesota will ride him into the playoffs. Watch for the Wild to be a frontrunner for Halak if Miller goes to St. Louis, even if Minnesota only views Halak as a rental.

Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Ryan Callahan is the New York Rangers' captain, but without a contract past this season and with negotiations going nowhere on that front, it appears Callahan could be going somewhere else sooner than later.

Kevin Hoffman/USA Today
Ryan Callahan is the New York Rangers’ captain, but without a contract past this season and with negotiations going nowhere on that front, it appears Callahan could be going somewhere else sooner than later as the trade deadline quickly approaches.

Next up, Callahan. He’s a heart-and-soul leader of the Rangers, but also a pending UFA and contract talks have stalled. It’s no secret Callahan is consequently being shopped and a lot of teams will be inquiring about his services. One rumour has surfaced sending Callahan to Tampa Bay for Martin St. Louis in a swap of captains — the Rangers would probably have to add a pick or prospect as St. Louis is signed through next season. But that just seems strange, especially with both teams in the playoff picture. It’s possible, but I’m not sure how plausible it is.

Something tells me a California team will swoop in and land Callahan, but which one is anybody’s guess. The Rangers would probably prefer that option as well, preventing an early-round playoff showdown. The Los Angeles Kings seem to have a hole alongside Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, and Dustin Brown — a similar player to Callahan — could be on the outs in Hollywood, so that swap probably makes more sense than Callahan for St. Louis. The Kings are always active at the deadline, so don’t rule them out.

By the same token, the Anaheim Ducks just might make a push for Callahan after seeing the success of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry with Jamie Benn at the Olympics. Callahan might not have Benn’s shot, but he plays a pretty comparable game and would be an upgrade over Dustin Penner or Jakob Silfverberg on Anaheim’s top line. The Ducks could offer a package including Kyle Palmieri or Emerson Etem, maybe Sami Vatanen or a goaltending prospect of which they have plenty and the Rangers have few.

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St. Louis and his boss, general manager Steve Yzerman, were all smiles during this pre-game ceremony. However, reports indicate their relationship soured when St. Louis was initially left off Team Canada's roster for the Sochi Olympics, for which Yzerman was also the architect. When Tampa teammate Steven Stamkos was ruled out (broken leg), St. Louis was tabbed to take his place and Canada went on to win gold, but reports persist that St. Louis wants to be traded — preferably to the New York Rangers — and he hasn't exactly denied those claims in declining to elaborate on his conversations with Yzerman regarding his future.

Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St. Louis and his boss, general manager Steve Yzerman, were all smiles during this pre-game ceremony. However, reports indicate their relationship soured when St. Louis was initially left off Team Canada’s roster for the Sochi Olympics, for which Yzerman was also the architect. When Tampa teammate Steven Stamkos was ruled out (broken leg), St. Louis was tabbed to take his place and Canada went on to win gold, but reports persist that St. Louis wants to be traded — preferably to the New York Rangers — and he hasn’t exactly denied those claims in declining to elaborate on his conversations with Yzerman regarding his future.

When it comes to St. Louis — the player, not the city — it sounds like his heart is set on New York and he has a no-trade clause thus can dictate to some extent where he goes (and, obviously, if he goes). But do the Rangers really want St. Louis? They already have a pint-sized forward in Mats Zuccarello as their leading scorer, although he’s currently hurt from the Olympics.

And what if the Lightning don’t want Callahan either, or the Rangers could get more for him elsewhere? What would Steve Yzerman want in return for St. Louis, his leading scorer and captain? With Steven Stamkos due back in the near future, St. Louis’ offence might be replaceable from within, especially with rookies like Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat hitting their stride. I could see Yzerman preferring a defenceman in return for St. Louis, either Dan Girardi — who is potential trade bait if not soon signed to an extension — or Marc Staal.

I could also see Yzerman trying to find a better fit for St. Louis that is still near New York. The Pennsylvania teams immediately come to mind, with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers both being possible suitors. Yzerman would probably take Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn from Philly, while Pittsburgh could afford to part with Brandon Sutter and Simon Despres.

Mike Stobe/Getty Images Thomas Vanek's stint with the New York Islanders could be short-lived. If he's not signed to an extension by next Wednesday morning, he'll likely be traded with the Islanders out of the playoff picture.

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Thomas Vanek’s stint with the New York Islanders could be short-lived. If he’s not signed to an extension by next Wednesday, he’ll likely be traded for the second time this season.

Vanek is another interesting one. The Islanders paid an arm and a leg to get him out of Buffalo, so if he’s not inked to a new contract by next week, then Garth Snow will need to recoup whatever possible assets. The Islanders aren’t making the post-season, especially not without John Tavares (knee) for the rest of the season, so picks and prospects might be more attractive to them. That said, their prospect pool is already pretty stacked, so they might want somebody closer to contributing.

St. Louis — the city this time — could dangle Jaskin or Rattie for Vanek as well, or maybe Magnus Paajarvi who hasn’t quite found a role with the Blues.

A darkhorse for Vanek might be the Phoenix Coyotes. Not many people think of them as buyers, but they are on the playoff bubble and have new ownership that would like to make a statement. Not to mention, the Coyotes are always hard up for pure goal-scorers, which Vanek is. Put him on a line with Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata and suddenly Phoenix has a legit top unit. Brandon Gormley or David Rundblad would be nice additions to the Islanders’ blue-line, especially if they also move Andrew MacDonald as planned.

The Kings also need all the offence they can get and might prefer Vanek to Callahan, but only if they can move Brown as mentioned. Tyler Toffoli and a first-round pick might be enough to land Vanek.

The Canadian Press Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis will have his hands full leading up to this year's trade deadline. For the first time in a long time, the Canucks aren't occupying a playoff spot at this point in the season and that has the rumour mill churning about who could be on the trade market. Defenceman Alex Edler was thought to be the main target, but now all the focus has shifted to Kesler.

The Canadian Press
Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis will have his hands full leading up to this year’s trade deadline. For the first time in a long time, the Canucks aren’t occupying a playoff spot at this point in the season and that has the rumour mill churning about who could be on the trade market. Defenceman Alex Edler was thought to be the main target, but now all the focus has shifted to Kesler in light of his reported trade request.

Last but not least — Kesler. This one comes as a shocker and seems to have all the “insiders” scrambling, but we shall see. If he’s moved, I’d bet that it is to the Eastern Conference much like Cory Schneider was at last year’s draft. Kesler still has two years remaining at a very reasonable $5-million cap hit, so he might be the hottest commodity.

Some early speculation has the Canucks wanting a younger forward — a potential Kesler replacement — in return. Then again, Roberto Luongo has asked to be traded a few times and yet still calls Vancouver home. So it’s evident that general manager Mike Gillis won’t be making any moves for the sake of making moves, and Kesler could very well be staying put.

If that is the asking price, the team that jumps to the front of the line is the Detroit Red Wings. They are loaded with young forwards — Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco to name a few — and their Stephen Weiss experiment as second-line centre seems to have failed. Detroit has been depleted by injuries all season but remains in the playoff mix and thus will likely be a buyer even without the services of their captain, Henrik Zetterberg. Kesler is from Michigan, so it would be a bit of a homecoming as well.

If not Detroit, then maybe the other West-to-East defector — the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are finally healthy and primed for a playoff push. Kesler played his college hockey in Ohio, so that might be another desirable place to play for him.

Vancouver would have really liked to bring B.C. boy Ryan Johansen home, but that ship has probably sailed with his breakout season. I doubt Columbus even does that as a 1-for-1 at this point. But Columbus has plenty of quality forward prospects, including Alexander Wennberg, Kerby Rychel, Marko Dano and Oliver Bjorkstrand, among others.

Don’t sleep on Philadelphia in regards to Kesler, either. The Flyers have long coveted Kesler — they signed him to an offer sheet once upon a time — and Paul Holmgren loves to shake things up at the deadline. On the flip side, Gillis would probably jump at the chance to acquire Schenn or Couturier, so that might be a good match.

That’s not to mention two blatant buyers — the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks, who faced off in last year’s Stanley Cup final.

Boston already seems so solid up front and in goal, so I’m not sure if any of these “big five” hold much appeal to the Bruins. I think they are more likely after a veteran depth defenceman, a replacement for the injured Dennis Seidenberg.

Chicago is a more of a wild-card in that they could really use an upgrade at second-line centre, but Kesler won’t likely wind up with a rival like that. St. Louis is probably too similar to Patrick Kane, and Vanek has some of the same qualities as Marian Hossa, but maybe — just maybe — Callahan could land in the Windy City. Mark McNeill could be the second-coming of Callahan, so that swap is pretty close in value.

One thing is for certain, the trade winds will continue to blow and there will eventually be movement. How much movement, and who will go where, remains to be seen. That uncertainty is, after all, what makes Trade Deadline Day so much fun. So sit back and enjoy whatever the next week has in store for hockey fans.

Larry Fisher is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, B.C. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.

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