Every Friday, a trio of SI.com staffers sits down for a discussion of the hockey world’s hot-button issues. With the trade deadline coming up on Monday, Michael Blinn, Sam Page and Al Muir name the teams that have to be involved, ponder the fates of Eric Staal and Jonathan Drouin, and wonder whether the deadline itself is set at the wrong time of year.
Let’s talk trade deadline, boys. Give us one team in the East that can’t afford to stand pat and let us know which player would solve its most pressing need.
Michael Blinn: Boston is a pretty obvious choice here, and watching the Bruins struggle with the decision is turning my hair gray(er). Instead, let’s go with the Penguins, whose banged-up blue line was exposed by the B’s earlier in the week. With Ben Lovejoy out long-term and not a whole lot of reliable internal options to replace him, Kris Russell could make some sense coming over from Calgary, though his shortcomings have been detailed at length. He’s not a long-term solution for anyone’s top-four, but could be a decent stopgap in a wide-open East.
Sam Page: The East is weird. You've got contenders—Boston, Tampa Bay, New York Islanders—looking at trading away NHL pieces at the deadline for one reason or another. So I’ll take a stab here and say the Rangers could use a forward. I mean, they could really use an amnesty buyout for Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, but another forward wouldn’t hurt either. Lee Stempniak, maybe?
Al Muir: How about the Panthers? What they’ve done this season was totally unanticipated, so they’re basically playing with house money at this point. But they have a chance to do more here than just take a playoff round or two. A bold in-it-to-win-it move could fire up a fan base that’s been neglected for the better part of two decades. And what about Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo? They’re not going to be around forever. Add another scoring winger (Loui Eriksson, maybe?) and a depth defenseman and these Cats could make a lasting impression.
Same question for the Western Conference.
MB: The Kings need to fortify their front lines while Marian Gaborik heals up for a possible playoff return. Teddy Purcell has put up some decent numbers with Edmonton (11-21-32 in 61 games), comes at a palatable asking price and has done pretty well skating on top lines with talented players before (see his days riding shotgun with Steven Stamkos). Of course, a $4.5 million cap hit isn’t too great for a guy who’s better suited to the bottom six.
SP: I’m going to say the Blackhawks need to make another deal to ensure they can beat the Stars. The blueline is thin—you can’t have Trevor van Riemsdyk on the second pairing. Dan Hamhuis makes sense for the left side.
AM: They don’t have to worry about beating the Stars. The Stars are going to beat themselves if they keep playing the way they have been lately. So let me take them. Dallas needs serious help on the back end, someone who can make safe, smart plays and chip in on the penalty kill. That’s probably Hamhuis. And like the Panthers, this is an organization that owes something to fans who’ve suffered through a lot of bad hockey during the past few years. A big trade says something about the Stars’ intentions ... and it might take some of the sting out of that season-ticket price increase for next season.
Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said this week that he’d like to move Jonathan Drouin before the deadline. Taking him at his word, where do you think the malcontent winger end up?
MB: Be honest with me here. Has anyone spent any time actively thinking about Drouin in recent weeks? He’s been a bit of afterthought, and I think that’s all part of Stevie Y’s plan. Yzerman knows what he wants, and knows he can’t really get it while Drouin’s value is this low. I don’t see the star potential translating to a piece that will help the Bolts win now, so I’m sticking with what I said a few weeks ago: He’s staying put until at least the draft.
AM: Makes more sense to me that Yzerman waits until the off-season, too, but now that he’s said this, I guess anything’s possible. Say, for example, he happens to be in Denver this weekend for the Stadium Series alumni game and he lines up for a face-off across from Avs GM Joe Sakic. Maybe one of them points out that Nathan MacKinnon had some pretty sweet chemistry with Drouin back in Halifax, and maybe the duo could find that spark again in Colorado. Hey, it's a lot easier to get business done face-to-face, right? If it happens this weekend, watch out for Colorado.
SP: I love to double down. That’s why they call me the double-downer. I said in this space over a month ago that Drouin would go to the Ducks. I have no new information to make me think that will happen—in fact there’s new reasons to believe it won’t—but I’ll stick with my gut feeling from Jan. 8.
The most intriguing name heading into the deadline might be Carolina center Eric Staal. Does he ask to remain in Raleigh to finish out the season, or does he waive his no trade clause to facilitate a trade? If so, where do you see him landing?
MB: I think he’s resigned himself to being traded at this point, or at least made peace with the idea. I think Florida would be a pretty nice fit, though his words from earlier in the week make it seem like he’s not going anywhere he’s not comfortable. That leads me to think the Rangers, where he’d have a built-in friend in brother Marc, would make the most sense. Of course, the bigger question here is, what do the Rangers have to offer back?
SP: For the sake of disagreeing with Mike, I’ll say he stays in Carolina. He sat through last year’s disaster and now they’re only two points out of a playoff spot. If Carolina can’t get a first-round pick back for him, going for it might seem more attractive.
AM: I don’t think that dealing Staal would mean they were running up the white flag on the season. You brought up Marian Gaborik before, Mike. You remember the Blue Jackets went 11-6-2 after shipping him to the Kings back in 2014? And that sort of post-trade success isn’t unusual. Losing a top player like Staal can galvanize a room. I guess that’s a longwinded way of saying the Canes can’t think about a short-term goal like the playoffs here. Trading Staal now and pocketing whatever assets they can for the future is imperative. It would be a massive failure by Ron Francis if he doesn't get it done.
With parity allowing teams to remain in the playoff mix longer, do you think it might benefit the league to push the deadline deeper into March?
MB: For the last month, 20 or so GMs have been playing the wait-and-see game. What happens if you push up the trade deadline to early February? I’ll tell you: anarchy. Savvier GMs know what they have in the locker room, and I’d be interested to see how many of the ones that don’t are gutsy enough to pull the trigger or be left with a few extra weeks of second-guessing their choices.
SP: Geez, Mike, you went way off the board there! I’ll just say keep it where it is. I understand the argument, but I’m not sure this year’s parity is sustainable. After all, we’re just one season removed from the Blackhawks cementing their dynasty and half the league tanking.
AM: There’s an obvious trade-off here: More time ahead of the deadline means less time for a new player to acclimate himself to teammates, systems, a city and all that. That deserves consideration, but that said, I wouldn’t mind if it moved another week or so forward. That would open up more time for managers to survey their options and give fans more time to engage in idle trade gossip. Hey, havin' fun!