Part II in the series examining potential NHL trade candidates as both the Olympic roster freeze and trade deadline are fast approaching.
Updating all you die-hard Unplucked Sports readers, we know that four players from last week’s list have already been traded. Skaters Ales Kotalik and Olli Jokinen and goaltenders J.S. Gigurere and Vesa Toskala all bear new sweaters. Interestingly, each set was part of the same trade.
Now, on to the predictions:
Patrick Sharp – The Chicago Blackhawks are playing some of the best hockey in the league right now. The have consistent primary and secondary scoring lines, a two-headed goaltending monster that shuts down most opponents, and the core of their young talent locked up for the foreseeable future.
Conventional wisdom would suggest there’s no point in messing with the chemistry, but GM Stan Bowman may have to unload some salary and Sharp is a prime candidate. He’s due $4.1 million next season and carried a salary cap hit of $3.9 million.
Over the last 14 games, he’s potted 11 points with 9 assists, 44 shots, and wins and average of slightly more than six faceoffs each game. He’s a great player all around and would make an impact on any team on which he plays.
Steve Ott – Ott tends to fly under many people’s radar being a third- or forth-line center in Dallas. When the Stars were decimated by injuries last season, Ott found himself as a top-six forward and showed everyone he’s more than just a goon.
He finished that year with 46 points (12 with the man advantage) and 135 PIM. His point totals may not reach that level this year, but given another opportunity, he would add immediate grit to a first or second line.
Clarke MacArthur – Lately, MacArthur has bounced between the fourth line and press box. In the 51 games he’s appeared in, he’s amassed a mere 23 points and a dreadful -13 +/- rating. He did score in back-to-back games Jan 19th-21st and recorded an assist Feb 1 in Pittsburgh, so possibly he’s turning his game around in the second half of the season.
It seems this kid is a victim of high expectation, but it’s hard to tell why. Sure, he did score 74 points and was a +27 with Medicine Hat of the WHL, but it a rarity for players to keep up the scoring pace they did in the minors and junior. As a pending unrestricted free agent, Buffalo may jump if they receive any interest in him and his $1.4 million cap hit.
Alex Tanguay – By all accounts, Tanguay has been a serious disappointment this season. Coming off off-season shoulder surgery, he projected to mesh seamlessly on a line with superstars Vincent Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis. Fifty-four games and 29 points later, Tanguay may find himself and his $2.5 million cap hit on the trade block this week.
From 2003 through 2006, it was reasonable to assume Tanguay could reach 80 points a season. Montreal GM Bob Gainey must have felt that way when he signed him to a one-year deal in 2008. For his part, he did hit 41 points in 50 games in a season that was (for both him and the rest of the Habs) injury-riddled.
Ilya Kovalchuk - How could I resist? Atlanta Thrasher’s GM Don Waddell informed the Russian sniper that he will indeed be traded. Rumors have Kovalchuk turning down a 10-12 year deal in the neighborhood of $100-120 million. Turning it down for what? Apparently, Kovalchuk is looking for the league maximum, which is 20% of the salary cap. In 2009 dollars, that’s about $11.34 million. This is likely a ploy to get out of Atlanta and I’m sure Thrasher fans are equally ticked that their star player would rather extort than negotiate.
Either way, Atlanta is primed to receive a great package of players, much like they did with Marion Hossa, in exchange for renting Kovalchuk for the remainder of the season. (One a side note, could you imagine the Thrashers if they had kept their top talent like Kovalchuk, Hossa, and Dany Heatley? Damn!)
Where he ends up will be a hot topic until the inevitable trigger is pulled. Boston, Philadelphia, and New Jersey have popped up as the most likely of suitors, but also Los Angeles, Dallas, and Edmonton.
The nuclear option that no one seems to talk about is Kovalchuk heading back to his Russian homeland where he isn’t constrained by a paltry $11 million ceiling. If that were to happen, the NHL will need to take note so other highly regarded talent doesn’t jump the pond for the prospect of a richer pay day.
UPDATE: Ilya Kovalchuk was traded to the New Jersey Devils.