The NHL trade deadline is three days away, and many teams will be looking to acquire players to make the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup.
Calgary Flames forward Jarome Iginla was the biggest star who was rumored to be available before the deadline, and he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. This trade has strengthened the Penguins quite a bit, and it will be interesting to see how many of the top Stanley Cup contenders react to this trade by making moves to improve their rosters.
The problem for teams looking to add talent at the deadline is that there might not be a lot of sellers since very few teams are completely out of the playoff race, which will drive up the asking prices for the players who are available.
Let's take a look at 10 burning questions heading into the 2013 trade deadline.
After acquiring right-winger Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames, left-winger Brenden Morrow from the Dallas Stars and veteran defenseman Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks over the last week, is Pittsburgh Penguins general manager finished making trades before the deadline?
Shero addressed this topic shortly after he acquired Iginla (via Robi Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review):
It wouldn't be surprising if Shero makes another move or two, especially since his roster still has some weaknesses to address and $4,438,746 of salary cap space (via Capgeek).
Since No. 2 defenseman Paul Martin could be out for over a month with an injury (via Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), and top defenseman Kris Letang has played in one game since March 17 with two different injuries, finding another shut-down defenseman must be a priority for Shero.
Acquiring a forward for the third or fourth lines who can help the team's penalty kill should also be on the Penguins' "to-do" list.
Despite all of the additions that Shero has made thus far, upgrading the talent/depth on the Penguins blue line needs to happen if this team is going to win its first Stanley Cup championship since 2008-09.
The NHL owners wanted a lower salary cap as a result of the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) from the most recent lockout, and they got their wish.
With the salary cap ceiling going down about $6 million to $64.3 million in the 2013-14 season, general managers will be very hesitant to acquire players at the trade deadline who are under contract beyond next season. No GM will want to put his team in a situation where it will be difficult to re-sign his important players.
According to Capgeek, 12 teams have under $13 million in cap space for next year, and seven of them have just 17 or fewer players under contract for 2013-14. After teams re-sign their UFA and RFAs, many of them won't have too much cap space.
The Vancouver Canucks have only $3,896,667 with just 14 players signed for next season, while the San Jose Sharks have $10,573,333 with 13 players under contract. Both of these teams could be buyers at this year's deadline, but might need to stay away from major trades because of their salary cap situation for 2013-14.
The lower cap ceiling for next season will likely result in very few, if any, players with contracts extending beyond 2013-14 that have salary cap hits larger than $6.5 million being traded before April 3.
If trade deadline day turns out to be boring with no blockbuster trades, next year's cap number will likely be the main reason why.
So many Stanley Cup contenders need a top-four defenseman for increased scoring production from the blue line and more defensive depth for the physicality of the playoffs.
The best blueliners who could be moved are Dan Boyle of the San Jose Sharks, Jay Bouwmeester of the Calgary Flames and Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes, who are 36, 29 and 26 years old, respectively.
All three players are puck-moving defensemen, excellent power-play performers, great skaters, capable of scoring 35-plus points in a normal 82-game season and playing 20-plus minutes each night against the opposing team's top line.
The asking prices for these players will be enormous because they each have terms left on their contract, which means there is no rush for their teams to trade them before the April 3 deadline.
Here is the breakdown of each defenseman's contract situation, via Capgeek.
- Keith Yandle: Three more years remaining with a $5.25 million salary cap hit
- Jay Bouwmeester: One more year remaining with a $6.68 million salary cap hit
- Dan Boyle: One more year remaining with a $6.66 million salary cap hit
If one of these guys is traded, it could have a huge impact on the outcome of the playoffs, because they could be the final piece to a contending club's championship puzzle.
San Jose Sharks winger Ryan Clowe is a rental player for teams to target at the deadline, but there are serious concerns about his struggles with injury this season and lack of offensive production.
The 30-year-old power forward has zero goals in 28 games and a shoulder injury has bothered him for the majority of the season, which has also forced him to miss six games.
Clowe is a physical player with a lot of playoff experience and could contribute on the penalty kill, but trading for him when he's been battling an injury all year is a big risk for teams.
An injured player who has produced very little scoring is not the kind of player who will have a lot of value on the trade market, but there are many teams looking for more size, grit and toughness in their bottom-six, so it wouldn't be surprising if there's a lot of interest in Clowe leading up to April 3.
Right now, his value is inflated because there aren't a lot of power forwards expected to be available. The teams that missed out on Iginla and need another winger such as the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers may decide to make an offer for Clowe, because there aren't many rentals to target.
The Sharks' asking price for Clowe will likely determine whether or not he is moved by Wednesday.
If teams have to part with more than a draft pick (likely a 2013 first round pick) to acquire Clowe, don't expect him to be traded this season. It's hard to imagine a playoff contender overpaying to get the Sharks forward when he has underachieved for the entire year and has dealt with shoulder problems.
Vancouver Canucks star goaltender Roberto Luongo is one of the biggest names who could be moved at the trade deadline.
Cory Schneider, 26, has established himself as the team's No. 1 goalie of the present and future, and with Luongo still able to perform at a high level and help a playoff contender make a Stanley Cup run, he's not going to want to be a backup at this stage of his career.
The only problem is that his contract still has nine more years left on it with a $5.33 million salary cap hit. This deal won't expire until the veteran netminder is 43 years old.
Even if a team interested in acquiring Luongo didn't have to give up much value to get him, the term left on his contract is a real concern, because it limits his general manager's salary cap flexibility.
Since the salary cap ceiling is going down to $64.3 million next season, there probably won't be much of a market for Luongo, especially since there aren't many playoff contenders who need a major upgrade at the goaltender position.
Luongo is a near-lock to win 30-plus games in a normal 82-game season (he hasn't won less than 30 games since 2003-04), and it will be interesting to see if any teams make a bold move to acquire him despite his monstrous contract.
As upcoming free agents have signed new contracts during the season, the 2013 UFA class has gotten weaker and less deep. With that said, the best players who are eligible for free agency could make a lot of money in the summer, since teams will not have any better options on the market.
This could result in several upcoming UFAs being traded so their current teams avoid the risk of losing them in the offseason and getting nothing in return.
The Nashville Predators did not trade top-pairing defenseman Ryan Suter before last year's deadline, and he ended up signing with the Minnesota Wild as a UFA, thus preventing his former team from getting any value for him. The same situation happened to the New Jersey Devils with star winger and captain Zach Parise, who joined Suter in Minnesota.
Teams will not want to be in that situation this summer, so if it becomes obvious that any important UFAs aren't going to re-sign before July, expect to see several of them traded before April 3.
Here is my updated list of the top upcoming UFAs, whom teams might pursue before the deadline.
- Mike Ribeiro, C, Washington Capitals
- Jaromir Jagr, RW, Dallas Stars
- Ladislav Smid, D, Edmonton Oilers
- Derek Roy, C, Dallas Stars
- Valtteri Filppula, C, Detroit Red Wings
Goalies are tough to trade because the asking prices for the good ones are high, and most of them have large salary cap hits.
Three veteran netminders with good-sized cap hits who could be on the move are Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames ($5.83 million cap hit), Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres ($6.5 million cap hit) and Roberto Luongo ($5.33 million cap hit).
But unless a playoff contender decides to make a bold trade to acquire one of these No. 1 goaltenders, don't expect any of them to be moved before the deadline. The only legitimate Stanley Cup contender with concerns about its goaltending is the Chicago Blackhawks, but it's unlikely they make a trade to address this position when the team ranks second in goals against.
It's more likely that a few backup goalies could be traded to teams that don't have a lot of depth and are worried about their starting netminder not being able to stay healthy for the entire playoffs.
Here's a list of backups whom teams may pursue before April 3:
- Jonathan Bernier (LAK): The Kings goalie is an RFA at the end of the season. He probably won't be traded if reigning Conn Smythe Trophy-winner Jonathan Quick continues to under perform.
- Michal Neuvirth (WSH): He's played in just five games since February 1, and is not going to be the starter anytime soon with Braden Holtby playing well and signed long-term.
- Ben Biship (OTT): If starting goaltender Craig Anderson recovers well from his injury, the Senators could trade Bishop for some more depth ahead of the playoffs.
- Nikolai Khabibulin (EDM): The 40-year-old veteran has a ton of postseason experience and would be a quality backup for a playoff contender that doesn't have a lot of depth at the goaltender position. Khabibulin is 3-0-1 in his last four starts.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are usually involved in many rumors around the trade deadline, but since they have a 97.8 percent chance of ending their seven-year playoff drought (via Sports Club Stats), there haven't been many players linked to the Leafs in trade speculation recently.
Unlike the last few years, the Leafs don't find themselves needing to make a trade or two to make the playoffs. The Leafs are a well balanced team and don't have any major weaknesses.
|Stat (NHL Rank)||GF/G||GAA||PP%||PK%|
|2013 Leafs||3.1 (4th)||2.7 (16th)||18.7 (14th)||85 (5th)|
General manager Dave Nonis has a few areas of weakness he could look to improve. Adding a defensive defenseman, a veteran goaltender to serve in a backup role and another gritty forward would bolster his roster for the playoffs, but Toronto shouldn't give up valuable prospects or draft picks to acquire these players.
The Leafs should be content with the roster they have and see how their players respond to the pressure and intensity of the NHL playoffs, which most of them have never experienced in their careers.
There might not be a lot of sellers at this year's deadline, that doesn't mean there won't be a lot of players for contending teams to target.
The three most likely sellers are the Dallas Stars, Calgary Flames and Buffalo Sabres, who all have several players who either have one more year left on their contract or an expiring deal.
These teams need to rebuild in the near future, and that process could begin this season. Because if you are going to become a seller, you might as well be one in a shortened season when there's more buyers than normal.
In this situation, you can set high asking prices and create bidding wars between playoff contenders to receive as much value as possible for upcoming UFAs.
Let's break down what the Flames, Stars and Sabres have to offer if they become active sellers at the trade deadline.
|Team||Players Who Could be Available||Notes|
|Sabres||Robyn Regehr (D, UFA 2013), Ryan Miller (G, UFA 2014)||The Sabres need to get younger and have many UFAs in 2014 who should be traded instead of re-signed. Regehr could be the best shut-down d-man available at this year's deadline.|
Jay Bouwmeester (D, UFA 2014), Mike Cammelleri (LW, UFA 2014), Miikka Kipprusoff (G, UFA 2014)
|Calgary is likely going to finish 14th in the Western Conference and should stockpile draft picks and good prospects to aid its future rebuild.|
|Stars||Jaromir Jagr (RW, UFA 2013), Derek Roy (C, UFA 2013), Eric Nystrom (LW, UFA 2013), Stephane Robidas (D, UFA 2014)||Dallas needs to get something in return for its upcoming UFAs if they aren't going to be re-signed. Jagr and Roy could have a lot of value to playoff contenders as top-six forwards.|
The veteran goaltender with the best chance to be traded at this year's deadline is probably Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames.
Kiprusoff is 36 years old, but he's still a quality No.1 goaltender who would upgrade a playoff contender's chances of winning the Stanley Cup. He only has one more year left on his current contract with a manageable $5.83 million cap hit. With the Flames headed for a rebuild, Kiprusoff does not fit in the team's long-term plans.
One reason why acquiring him makes sense financially for several teams is the fact that his base salary for 2013-14 is only $1.5 million, which makes Kirpusoff a good trade target for general managers who want to make a major goaltending upgrade without adding on a lot of salary to their payroll.
Unfortunately for any teams who might be interested in trading for the Flames star, he may not be willing to play for a different team this season (via Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet.ca):
Kiprusoff and his wife recently welcomed a new baby boy to their family, so it's easy to understand if he doesn't want to move to a new city right now.
However, if a Stanley Cup contender wanted to acquire him (such as the Chicago Blackhawks), maybe they would be able to convince him to join their team and have the opportunity to win the first championship of his career.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs in Boston. All salary information courtesy of CapGeek.