As teams have started to pass the 10 game mark, we’ve been able to figure out some general trends and unexpected storylines from around the NHL. Some teams may want to use a trade as a bit of a roster shake-up and to try to tweak with team composition and chemistry as the on-ice performance has been lackluster. Sometimes, teams have been dealt bad hands from the injury gods and need a replacement. We’ve looked at the league and picked out 5 teams that could benefit from some time in the trade market.
For a team that many projected (including us) to take a step forward this season with some solid, veteran acquisitions and a developing defensive core, the Dallas Stars have done nothing but disappoint through their first 14 games. With a 5-8-1 record, the team may be in need of a bit of a shake-up to get things going. Although they have been slowly inching closer to .500, they need to act fast before it becomes too late, especially with a strong Pacific Division early this season.
For the second year in a row, the Stars seem to be being let down in part due to the performance of their big guns. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov. We know what these three are capable of and just how good they are. But through their first 14 games, Seguin has just 9 points (3 of which came in one 6-3 win over the Wild), Radulov has 8 points (4 of which came in that same game versus the Wild), and Benn has 6 points. Sure, some players are slow starters, but all three? Especially with how the 2018-19 season went that led to the team’s CEO Jim Lites having to publicly call out Benn and Seguin for them and the team’s poor performance through the end of December.
Maybe, and this is a hot take here, but maybe one of these players needs to be on the move? It’s a bit of a radical change in response to a slow start and there are probably other options first (such as a coaching change or a smaller-scale trade). It is made especially difficult if not impossible since all three have no-movement clauses, however. Not to mention the difficulty in moving a cap hit the size of Benn or Seguin’s. Radulov’s $6-million is more moveable though.
Sometimes, the team’s composition just is not meshing and for a team who should be competing for division titles on paper, and is only getting better as players like Heiskanen and Hintz get better, they cannot be having these types of troubles to start every year.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been struggling so far this season. The team has been jumping up and down in the Atlantic, currently sitting in the second wild card spot as of the posting of this article, and are scoring a ton of goals. But, they are defensively a disaster and there are many questions being asked in regards to on-ice grit/physicality, team leadership, coaching, and team composition. With the Leafs in the middle of their supposed Cup window and dealing with major issues fitting their roster in the salary cap, they cannot afford (literally) to have so many question marks floating above the lineup.
This past offseason, the team underwent major changes and saw significant turnover resulting in a higher-than-normal amount of new faces on opening night. Additionally, they have lost many of the gritty, physical players they’ve had over the past couple of seasons.
Kyle Dubas seems to be fully on board his plan of filling the roster with offensive talent at the expense of defensive prowess and physicality. How exactly he is identifying targets is a mystery, but I have to imagine that it involves a lot of analytics and advanced stats focusing more on production (which could be one reason why the bottom half has so much turnover, as those players are more ‘common’ and more easily replaceable around the league than Matthews or Marner types).
But with Zach Hyman returning from injury soon, the Leafs need both a roster spot for him as well as a bunch of cap space that they do not have. $2.25 million, to be exact. How will they accomplish this? Well, they could just try and put players like Nic Petan, Jason Spezza, and Dmytro Timashov through waivers and hope no one claims them. But another option is trading some of them for draft picks. Martin Marincin has reportedly recently been made available for trade, which could help save the risk of one waiver pickup.
The Maple Leafs making a small trade involving a bottom half player is likely inevitable in the upcoming roster shuffling.
Cap hell is fun, isn’t it?
Many people’s early pick for most improved team going into 2019-20 was the Florida Panthers. With the addition of big-name (and big-moustache) Joel Quenneville as head coach and Sergei Bobrovsky in net, the team was well-poised for contention for the playoffs.
Unfortunately, the Panthers have been going through some growing pains. They’ve picked it up a bit and are now sitting in the Atlantic’s third playoff position, but with 51 GA in 13 games, the team might be looking to make some small tweaks to prepare for what lies ahead.
They have already solidified the bottom six forward depth with the addition of veteran centre Brian Boyle. But now, Florida might be interested in shoring up the defense a bit. Sergei Bobrovsky has not been the elite goaltender he normally is. And, from the looks of shot data and scoring chance quality, it mostly falls on a poor start for Bobrovsky. But the team may be more inclined make a smaller trade to try and improve their defensive depth in the meantime. Adding a good, bottom pairing defender could go a long way to helping the depth of the team and improving playoff chances.
A very appealing target for the Panthers to do this would be Minnesota, as the Wild have a few high-quality depth defenders that may bide the Panthers some time for Bobrovsky to find his game.
Let’s face it, the Wild aren’t doing anything significant standings-wise this season, and it would be in their best interest to begin a full rebuild under a new GM and (eventually) new coach. The first step they should take with it is selling high on whatever assets they can. Unfortunately, former GM Paul Fenton kinda blew it with lots of the team’s forward depth (Granlund, Coyle, Niederreiter) and has left the cupboards bare. Except for some aging and/or excessively expensive players that would be nearly impossible nor would they be worthwhile to trade.
The Wild do have something going for them at the moment, however, and that would be their defensive assets. Brodin and Spurgeon are highly reputable around the league for their defensive play and could fetch a solid return of draft picks and prospects. Brodin, due to less term remaining on his contract, could be the more appealing rental. Soucy and Hunt are having an excellent start to the 2019-20 season and are candidates for the ‘sell-high’ part of the rebuild I mentioned earlier. A potential trade partner for one of Soucy or Hunt is the Florida Panthers, as I feel they may be interested in adding a bit of defensive depth and competition.
Also of note is the recent news that Bill Guerin has made Kevin Fiala, Ryan Donato, and Joel Eriksson-Ek available for trade. Fiala and Donato have been majorly disappointing this season. Fiala has been injured and a healthy scratch. Donato has underperformed with only 2 assists in 11 games. Eriksson-Ek has stalled a bit in his development, or maybe his ceiling won’t be as high as his original draft projections, but could still be useful as an addition for a mid-line forward on a team with less depth.
The types of trades the Wild will be making are most likely as sellers at the trade deadline. They would be best served by waiting, anyways, so help drive up the value for what they have available.
St. Louis Blues
With recent news that star forward Vladimir Tarasenko will be out for 5 months recovering from shoulder surgery, the St. Louis Blues may be looking to add some offensive talent on a rental basis to help them get through the season. Luckily for the Blues, David Perron, Jaden Schwartz, and Brayden Schenn have started the season strong. However, if some younger players (Sammy Blais, Robert Thomas, and Robby Fabbri) cannot step up into bigger roles, a trade could be a better option to help with the depth of the offensive lineup.
I feel they will be looking for proven scoring, rather than younger project player with high potential, so the price they may have to pay could be high. But, the cost of losing and not replacing Tarasenko’s offense and on-ice presence for most of the season could be higher.