NHL Teams Most Likely to Make a Trade Before the Holiday Freeze

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2016

NHL Teams Most Likely to Make a Trade Before the Holiday Freeze

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    Mike Carlson/Associated Press

    The NHL's annual holiday roster freeze begin at midnight Eastern time on Dec. 19, expiring at midnight ET on Dec. 27. No trades can be made during this period. For teams in need of some roster help, such as the Montreal Canadiens, they must act quickly to swing a deal before then. 

    Some teams, such as the Canadiens, could seek short-term replacements for sidelined players. Others, such as the Boston Bruins, could be willing to move a player or two. Some, such as the Colorado Avalanche, could use a roster shake-up. 

    In the salary-cap era, significant trades before the holiday trade freeze are rare. Still, a savvy general manager could surprise us with a substantial deal before Dec. 19. 

    Here's a look at the NHL teams mostly likely to make a trade before the upcoming holiday roster freeze, based on the latest media speculation. Feel free to express your views on this subject in the comments section. 

Ottawa Senators

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Ottawa Senators are holding their own in the Eastern Conference standings. However, they could use some additional depth among their forward lines. Injuries to wingers Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur heighten that need. 

    On Dec. 2, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported Senators general manager Pierre Dorion was working the phones in search of some help at forward. He said Dorion sought a third- or fourth-line forward.

    A week later, on Friday, Dorion told Garrioch's colleague Ken Warren that Ryan's recent return relieved some of the pressure to make a move. He admitted he's still making calls. 

    Bruins forward Ryan Spooner could be an option. He can play center or wing, carries an affordable $950,000 cap hit and netted 49 points last season. On Dec. 3, Garrioch reported the Bruins would like to move struggling winger Jimmy Hayes. It's doubtful, however, the Bruins will deal with a division rival. 

Montreal Canadiens

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Recent knee injuries to Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais depleted the Canadiens' depth at center. Both players are sidelined six to eight weeks. Though the Canadiens sit atop the Eastern Conference standings, general manager Marc Bergevin could seek help via the trade market. 

    Finding replacements for either guy won't be easy. With 23 points in 25 games, Galchenyuk is among the Canadiens' leading scorers. Desharnais has three 40-plus-point seasons on his resume. 

    Prior to these injuries, media speculation suggested Arizona Coyotes center (and pending unrestricted free agent) Martin Hanzal could be a good fit with the Canadiens. However, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun reported on Wednesday that he didn't believe the Habs showed much interest in Hanzal and isn't sure if that's changed. 

    Also on Wednesday, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman suggested Winnipeg Jets center Alex Burmistrov as a trade option. Bruins center Ryan Spooner could be available, but it's unlikely the Bruins will trade him to a longtime rival such as the Canadiens. 

New York Islanders

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    After winning their first playoff series in 23 years last spring, the New York Islanders entered this season with heightened expectations. With 27 points in as many games, however, they instead find themselves near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings

    The Isles failed to adequately replace the offense of forwards Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen, who departed last summer via free agency. First-line center John Tavares lacks skilled linemates.

    On Nov. 23, Brian Erni of Islanders Point Blank cited TSN's Bob McKenzie reporting that the Isles "kicked the tires" on Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane. It appears nothing came of it. 

    Over their last 10 games, the Isles posted a record of six wins, three losses and an overtime loss. That might ease the pressure on general manager Garth Snow to find a scoring forward. However, he could keep his eyes peeled for a suitable deal as the holiday freeze approaches. 

Vancouver Canucks

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Despite management's attempt to rebuild on the fly, the Vancouver Canucks continue to struggle. After 29 games, they have a record of 12 wins, 15 losses and two overtime losses for 26 points. They're uncomfortably close to the bottom of the Western Conference standings

    Averaging only 2.21 goals per game, the Canucks lack scoring depth. On Nov. 1, Patrick Johnston of the Province cited TSN's Pierre LeBrun reporting that general manager Jim Benning was in the market for a scoring winger. Three weeks later, on Nov. 21, the Buffalo News' Mike Harrington reported the Canucks had some interest in Sabres left wing Evander Kane. However, those discussions have cooled. 

    Benning could attempt to move veterans such as goalie Ryan Miller, defenseman Alexander Edler or forward Alexandre Burrows. Those players, however, carry no-trade clauses. On Wednesday, the Province's Jason Botchford reported Benning won't move those players unless they ask to be dealt.

    To land a scoring winger before the holiday freeze, Benning might have to part with a promising prospect or two. It will take a significant offer, such as a good young player who can help the Canucks right away, to tempt him. 

Boston Bruins

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    As the Bruins jostle for a playoff berth in the Atlantic Division, they're in need of an offensive boost. The production drops sharply beyond forwards David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and David Krejci.

    They're also among the bottom third (2.31 goals per game) in the league in scoring. It's a growing concern that must be addressed. 

    On Dec. 4, CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty reported that multiple sources claimed the Bruins were fielding offers for forward Ryan Spooner. A versatile forward who can play center or wing, the 24-year-old Spooner is struggling to follow up last season's career-best 49-point performance. He could be in need of a change of scenery. 

    Haggerty cited one source claiming the Carolina Hurricanes, Islanders and San Jose Sharks were among those with interest in Spooner. The asking price is said to be a top-six forward, though the Bruins will have to include a high draft pick or a top prospect in that mix along with Spooner to land that type of return.

Buffalo Sabres

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The rebuilding Buffalo Sabres continue to experience growing pains. With a record of 10 wins, 11 losses and six overtime losses for 26 points, they're at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

    They're in need of help at both ends of the ice. They have the league's worst offense (2.04 goals per game) and are among the worst (32.3) in shots against per game. 

    Sabres left wing Evander Kane is a fixture in the trade-rumor mill. On Nov. 21, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News reported Kane was linked to the Canucks. However, talks cooled over the Sabres' asking price, believed to be a young defenseman. 

    On Dec. 11, theScore's Cory Wilkins cited Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reporting that some teams were inquiring into the availability of struggling two-way center Zemgus Girgensons. Friedman said the Sabres weren't prepared to sell low on the 22-year-old. 

Arizona Coyotes

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka could be feeling pressure to make a move before the holiday trade freeze. After 27 games, his club has a record of nine wins, 13 losses and five overtime losses and sits dead last in the Western Conference standings

    Chayka recently made a move to shore up his depth at center, acquiring Peter Holland on Friday from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a conditional draft pick in 2018. Two days later, he claimed Josh Jooris off waivers from the New York Rangers. 

    With top-line left wing Max Domi on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, the Coyotes GM could look at a short-term replacement. Perhaps Chayka will be tempted to shop one of his pending unrestricted free agents, such as forwards Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata, Ryan White and defenseman Michael Stone.

    On Saturday, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported those players were surfacing in the trade-rumor mill. Trading any of those players before the holiday freeze signals that Chayka would be giving up on his club's chances of reaching the 2017 playoffs. 

Colorado Avalanche

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    With only 23 points in 27 games, the Colorado Avalanche are near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. A humiliating 10-1 loss on Saturday to the Canadiens could pressure general manager Joe Sakic to start shaking things up. 

    Giving up 32.7 shots against per game, the Avs are among the league's worst in that category. On Thursday, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson suggested they could land a quality defenseman by dealing left wing Gabriel Landeskog or center Matt Duchene. However, he also notes that could leave them thin at forward.

    On Saturday, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported Sakic was believed to be willing to trade almost anyone on his roster except center Nathan MacKinnon. Garrioch suggested goaltender Semyon Varlamov could fetch some young assets. 

    Enticing as Varlamov, Landeskog or Duchene could be in the trade market, they all carry annual salary-cap hits in excess of $5.5 million. Moving expensive talent usually takes place in the offseason. However, Sakic could attract more interest in those players by agreeing to pick up part of their salaries. 


    Players and team statistics (as of Sunday) via NHL.com. Salary info via CapFriendly.


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