With six teams within six points of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and four teams within the same distance of a postseason berth in the West, the 2017 NHL trade deadline presents a challenging conundrum for most franchises.
With the majority toeing the line on becoming buyers or sellers, there is plenty of buzz surrounding some of the league's notable players. Throw in expiring contracts and the impending expansion drafts, and general managers are certain to pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal or two before Feb. 28.
Let us take a look at the latest reports on the big-name players who could soon be on the move.
St. Louis Putting High Price on Shattenkirk
Perhaps no player over the last year has garnered as much trade speculation as Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, and the buzz is warranted.
The 28-year-old blueliner ranks second on St. Louis with 42 points, as the team is now back in a playoff spot despite a slow start. Shattenkirk also already secured his fifth 40-point season in the last six years, with the lone down year coming during the shortened 2012-13 season. This also includes the 2014-15 season, in which Shattenkirk was limited to just 56 games due to injury.
The Connecticut native is clearly one of the NHL's premier offensive defenseman, and he is a major weapon on the powerplay. Yet, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reported that Shattenkirk is asking for roughly $7 million annually on his next deal. With St. Louis' cap situation unable to accommodate that hit, and Shattenkirk being a commodity, he is squarely on the trading block.
Per Garrioch, the asking price is steep, with St. Louis looking for a top prospect, a first-round pick and another quality component. Unsurprisingly, Garrioch reports that the New York Rangers are among the Shattenkirk suitors.
The Blueshirts traded first-round picks in the past for the likes of Martin St. Louis and Keith Yandle, and they would have to do so again to acquire Shattenkirk. The team needs some juice from its defense from someone not named Ryan McDonagh, but taking on Shattenkirk would be a major risk.
Here are Rangers with expiring contracts in the next few years:
|Rangers Notable Impending Free Agents|
|Player||Current Cap Hit||Contract Ending||Free Agent Type||2016-17 Points|
|Mika Zibanejad||$2.625 Million||2016-17||RFA||22|
|Rich Nash||$7.8 Million||2017-18||UFA||29|
|J.T. Miller||$2.75 Million||2017-18||UFA||46|
New York has roughly $2 million in cap space, meaning it would have to trade a roster player to take Shattenkirk in addition to trading a first-round pick and a high-quality prospect like Pavel Buchnevich. The Rangers are in the East's second tier behind Pittsburgh and Washington, and potentially renting Shattenkirk may not be worth mortgaging the future if it means a second-round playoff exit.
Given what Shattenkirk is reportedly asking for in the future combined with his expiring contract, St. Louis will likely have to lower its asking price to get a deal done. Shattenkirk is an elite offensive defenseman, but a smart team will not derail its future to bring him in for potentially half of a season.
Could Calgary Reel in Marc-Andre Fleury?
The Calgary Flames are in the Western Conference playoff hunt thanks to top young forwards like Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, along with a solid defense led by T.J. Brodie and Mark Giordano.
However, goaltending woes plagued the team for the past three seasons. From 2014 until this season, the Flames allowed 3.13 goals per game, which is good for seventh-worst in the NHL. The team tried using Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo, and it then brought in Brian Elliott when that did not work.
Elliott, who is a pending free agent, is sporting a sub-.900 save percentage while Chad Johnson as been OK with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage. Neither is part of the franchise's future, and it may look to bring in a proven stalwart in Marc-Andre Fleury.
Per SportsNet's Nick Kypreos (via SportsNet's Luke Fox), Calgary is interested in bringing in the Pittsburgh netminder.
"I still hear [Calgary is] kicking tires on Marc-Andre Fleury," Kypreos said on Hockey Central at Noon on Feb. 16.
Fox also notes that Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford is open to moving Fleury, as he is set to play behind Matt Murray for the foreseeable future.
The Flames do not have much financial flexibility to bring in Fleury at the moment, as the team ranks second to last in available cap space in the NHL. This could force Calgary to move a quality player like 26-year-old Mikael Backlund just to create enough space to take on Fleury's $5.75 million cap hit.
The Flames have plenty of prospects to lure Pittsburgh, including dynamite forwards Emile Poirier and Hunter Shinkaruk. Yet, that may not be enough.
Calgary just cannot afford to fix its goaltending issues with Fleury this season due its cap situation. The team will see Elliott, Deryk Engelland and Dennis Wideman hit free agency at the end of this season, which frees over $10 million in cap space.
If Fleury is still available this offseason, expect Calgary to be a major player. However, there is a chance Pittsburgh could trade him before the Flames find the capability to make such a move.