It’s rarely the home-run trade deadline acquisitions that determine Stanley Cup champions. Sometimes it’s the afterthought deals. For every Ron Francis blockbuster, we’ve seen a bunch of Michal Handzuses over the years.
The trade pond’s bigger fish will receive lots of ink over the next month, with the 2017 deadline arriving March 1. Kevin Shattenkirk, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ben Bishop and Marc-Andre Fleury should attract oodles of interest, as should experienced Cup winners Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya if the Dallas Stars slide out of contention. But what about the sneaky pieces who could put teams over the top? Bookmark these 10 names so you don’t shrug them off if they’re dealt on the same day as the marquee stars March 1.
Alexandre Burrows, RW, Canucks
Burrows hardly would’ve qualified as a low-profile addition a few years ago, but he’s faded into the shadows in Vancouver. He hasn’t been a good goal scorer since the 2012-13 season, and he no longer plays on the Sedin twins’ right side. Burrows, though, has plenty to offer aside from scoring. He’s a world-class agitator. He’s battled through a deep playoff run, helping Vancouver reach Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in 2011. He’s been a positive possession player for most of his career, with a lifetime 5-on-5 Corsi relative mark of 3.9 percent. He could join a contender and help anywhere from the second to the fourth line. At this point in Burrows’ career, he’d almost be like what Maxim Lapierre was to the Canucks when they nabbed him at the 2011 deadline. That’s plenty useful.
Marcus Foligno, LW, Sabres
Foligno, 6-foot-3, 228 pounds and a mean customer, is the type of blunt tool that makes contending teams salivate come deadline time. There’s no question he could toughen up pretty much any team during a period of the season when the plays slow down and trench warfare matters more. Foligno can also play. He has eight goals this season and currently toils on Buffalo’s top line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.
Would Buffalo even be smart to move Foligno? It’s hardly a given. He’s useful player and still youngish at 25. But the Sabres will have tough decisions when the expansion draft arrives. Whether they opt to protect seven forwards and three defensemen or eight skaters remains to be seen, but we know Eichel, Reinhart, Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Rasmus Ristolainen and Jake McCabe are safe. The odds favor Murray protecting Foligno over some pricey vets like Evander Kane, Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis, each of whom could be trade bait should the Sabres remain out of the playoff picture. But wouldn’t Foligno command a better return? His cap hit of $2.25 million makes him an affordable acquisition, albeit he’s a restricted free agent this summer. He might attract a nice offer, perhaps a second- or third-round pick, and the Sabres still seem far enough out of Stanley Cup contention that they can seek future assets. Center Zemgus Girgensons is another younger Buffalo forward who could draw trade interest.
Ron Hainsey, D, Hurricanes
Hainsey has spent so much of his career in small markets, from Columbus to Atlanta to Carolina, that it appears he chose hockey as a form of witness protection. He’s a useful minutes eater, though, averaging at least 21 minutes a game in 10 of his past 11 seasons. He can do a bit of everything, from block shots to work a power play in a pinch. He’s a fine bottom-pair addition who can climb up a depth chart in the event of an injury. Odd fact: Hainsey has never been traded. That should change barring a February charge up the standings from Carolina. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent.
Jordan Martinook, C, Coyotes
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more anonymous NHLer. Martinook, a second-round overage draftee in 2012, bloomed late and finally became a regular NHLer last season at 23. He can play the wing or center and possesses a heavy enough game to slot nicely on a checking line. He’s the modern incarnation of an NHL grinder, capable of moving his feet and chipping in the odd goal. The Coyotes, armed with many elite prospects in their farm system, don’t need to keep Martinook in their long-term plans.
John Mitchell, C, Avalanche
Get a barf bag handy. Now look at Mitchell’s stats: 40 games, one goal. Ouch. Give him a pass, though. This Avalanche team trends toward historic ineptitude, on track for the most regulation losses since the expansion Atlanta Thrashers of 1999-2000. Heck, even All-Star Game invitee Nathan MacKinnon has just 11 goals. Mitchell is only a year removed from four straight seasons of 10 or more goals and 20 or more points. He’s a decent faceoff man and can kill penalties, though he’s had that role scaled back in 2016-17. He’s still a fine fourth-line rental who will cost next to nothing as a pending UFA.
Jay McClement, C, Hurricanes
A rich man’s Mitchell, perhaps? McClement has long been an elite penalty killer, and the Hurricanes rank first in team efficiency this year. He’s a no-brainer add for a team seeking a defensive forward. McClement’s possession stats are always ugly, but that’s not surprising when he’s almost a zero in the offensive department and matches up against opponents’ top forwards. Per corsica.hockey, he starts 33.89 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone, which leads all Hurricanes forwards and even tops all their defensemen, save for Hainsey.
P-A Parenteau, RW, Devils
Parenteau likely would’ve been a trade deadline chip last year had he not sustained a minor injury right before the Toronto Maple Leafs could shop him. Now he’s a gun for hire with the New Jersey Devils. He’s a strong possession player, posting a Corsi rating higher than his team’s average every season in his career, with a career-best 5-on-5 Corsi relative rating of 6.9 this season. He has 20 goals in his stick most years. You can trot him out on the power play if need be. He’s not a high-end scorer, but he’s a decent add for a playoff squad’s second line.
Devante Smith-Pelly, RW, Devils
I’ve heard zero trade rumors involving Smith-Pelly out of New Jersey, so I’m mentioning his name merely as an idea. The Devils are years away from pursuing a Stanley Cup. Losing Smith-Pelly would have no impact on their future. He might yield a draft pick that could, though. He’s a heavy banger and also a notoriously streaky player who has enjoyed some of those streaks in the playoffs. He sniped five goals in 12 games for the Anaheim Ducks in the 2013-14 post-season. A team landing Smith-Pelly at the right moment could stumble into a true playoff X-factor. He could also be a flop, but it wouldn’t cost a ton to find out.
Drew Stafford, RW, Jets
It’s safe to say Stafford never scores 30 goals again, as he did in Buffalo. Stafford still has a good blend of size and scoring touch, suiting him to a contending team’s middle-six forward group. In 2015, the last time he was part of a stretch-run trade, he arrived in Winnipeg rejuvenated and racked up nine goals and 19 points in 26 games. That surge in offense came partially because the Jets committed to using him on a scoring line. He could enjoy a similar spike, temporary as it may be, if a new team gives him the opportunity. His current upper-body injury doesn’t seem like it’ll linger too far into February.
Michael Stone, D, Coyotes
Stone is 26 and a pending UFA. The Coyotes have shown this year they’re still years away from relevance in the Pacific Division. It’s practically GM John Chayka’s duty to get something for Stone in the coming weeks. He’s 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, he hits plenty, and he blocks lots of shots. Any team could use that skill set for its bottom pair. Stone has played higher than that on Arizona’s depth chart but would be a major asset as a contender’s No. 5 or 6 blueliner. He’s a right-handed shot to boot. Because the 2017 deadline market lacks impact defenseman after Shattenkirk and perhaps Oduya, Stone could even yield an overpay that nets Chayka a prospect or a pick in the top two rounds.