Sports

The Teams Most Likely to Sell Ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline

The Avalanche and Coyotes are the obvious ones. After that, it's not as clear, but Down Goes Brown identified a number of clubs that should probably be sellers.
February 21, 2017, 6:58pm
Photo by Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports Canada.

We're now just over one week away from the annual NHL trade deadline. Any and all deals involving NHL roster players must be done by 3:00 ET on Wednesday, March 1. And with just eight days to go, the market is heating up.

We hope. Please let it be heating up. Because Lord, nobody's doing anything right now. When you're breaking down the big Viktor-Loov-for-Sergey-Kalinin blockbuster, you've found yourself in a sad place. Save us, Michael Stone, you're our only hope.

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But that can all change quickly. In a league infested with parity, one big move somewhere could be the one that gets all the dominoes falling. And with just eight days to go, pressure is mounting around the league to get something—anything—done.

READ MORE: Why Sidney Crosby Reached 1,000 Points More Impressively Than Wayne Gretzky

So which teams are worth keeping an eye on? Not everyone will be busy, but most of the league will do something. So over the next few days, we're going to take a look at which teams should be facing a busy week. Tomorrow, we'll look at the league's buyers. And today, we'll start with the all-important sellers.

Colorado Avalanche

Where they're at: The Avalanche aren't just bad. They're not even just "dead last place" bad. There's actually a decent argument to be made that this could be the worst team we've seen since the start of the salary cap era.

All of which makes them sellers in the traditional sense, meaning they'll be moving veterans with expiring deals like Jarome Iginla, John Mitchell and Rene Bourque. But the Avalanche are facing something far bigger. Much like the Oilers of recent years, the Avs have built a talented young core that, for whatever reason, just doesn't seem to add up to winning. It's time to move on from someone like Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog, and those deals could happen this week. GM Joe Sakic is apparently asking for plenty, but he's not being unreasonable; if he moves on of his key young pieces, he'd better hit a home run.

Sakic has plenty of trade options, including four-time 20-goal scorer Gabriel Landeskog. Photo by Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

In a perfect world: One or more of the teams sniffing around Duchene and Landeskog decide to stop playing PR games with friendly media and start getting serious, and somebody meets Sakic's price tag. Meanwhile, Iginla's reputation as one of the most respected veterans in the league overrides his middling performance this year, and Sakic is able to flip him for a first-round pick. Mix in a few smaller rentals, and the Avs come away from the deadline with a haul of picks and prospects, and the future looks bright.

But it's more likely that: Sakic plays the "it's just too hard to make a big deal during the season" card, as he's already started to do, and kicks the Duchene/Landeskog can down the road to the summer. Iginla only brings in a second-round pick (if that), and Avalanche fans come away questioning whether the team's best chance to turn a corner just slipped away.

Arizona Coyotes

Where they're at: Well ahead of the Avalanche, but that's about where the good news ends. They're going to finish 29th, missing the playoffs for the fifth straight year. Worse, they've taken a significant step back in what was supposed to be a year of progress.

As a team that's already been solidly in rebuild mode for years, there aren't a ton of big-name veteran assets here to move. But rookie GM John Chayka will need to find a way to extract some value in his first crack at the deadline. He got started Monday, sending Stone to the Calgary Flames for a third and a conditional fifth. That's not bad, but there's plenty more to do.

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In a perfect world: Captain Shane Doan agrees to waive his no-movement clause to join a contender, and gives the team enough options to stoke a bidding war. Chayka manages to get someone to meet his sky-high demands for Martin Hanzal, and also does well on deals for Radim Vrbata and maybe even struggling prospect Anthony Duclair.

Fan favorite Doan has been with Phoenix/Arizona since the team moved from Winnipeg for the 1996-97 season. Photo by Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

But it's more likely that: The Coyotes should do reasonably well. Vrbata will bring back something, and Hanzal has enough buzz around him that somebody might actually pay up even though he's, you know, Martin Hanzal.

Doan could be trickier, since he still doesn't seem completely sure that he wants to go, and could also give the team a list of destinations that's so short that all Chayka can do is find him a good home and wish him well, without much coming back the other way.

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Well, that does it for the sellers. We'll be back tomorrow with a look at the buyers. Thanks for reading!

[Editor's note: Um… when you pitched a piece on trade deadline sellers, we sort of thought we'd be getting more than two teams.]

No kidding, right? Imagine how NHL GMs feel.

[Editor's note: Yeah, we're not paying you for two teams.]

Oh hey, look at that, I just thought of a few more teams we could talk about.

Here's the thing… unlike the Avalanche and Coyotes, none of the teams below are guaranteed to be selling. But they could be, and in most cases probably should be. With the market as unbalanced as it looks right now, a smart GM could view this as an opportunity to throw in the towel, move into sell-off mode and take advantage of league-wide desperation. It will be interesting to see who actually has the nerve—not to mention the job security—to be willing to do it.

New Jersey Devils

Where they're at: Still on the playoff bubble, which is probably better than expected. But realistically, they're not making it, and it's in Ray Shero's best interest to admit that and get to work on adding some future pieces.

In a perfect world: Shero gets decent futures for rentals like Kyle Quincey, P.A. Parenteau and Keith Kinkaid. Then he pulls off a minor miracle by finding a taker for Mike Cammalleri, who has two years left at a $5 million hit and was recently a healthy scratch.

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But it's more likely that: Moving Cammalleri is probably a pipe dream, but Shero should be able to add to his stockpile of picks.

Carolina Hurricanes

Where they're at: Battling with the Red Wings for last place in the Eastern Conference. That still leaves them on the fringe of the playoff race, and they have games in hand on everyone, but hope is fading.

In a perfect world: The Hurricanes already did the big sell-off routine last year, when they moved longtime franchise player Eric Staal for futures. They don't have anyone similar in the rental category this year.

What they do have is a ton of young blueline talent in the system, which puts them in a position to potentially do something bigger. That would involve landing an impact forward who was still young and had some term, and there could be a fit here with the Avalanche. And their fans would love to see them address the goaltending as well.

But it's more likely that: Any sort of game-changing deal involving a defenseman could be done in the offseason, too, so don't be surprised if the Hurricanes ship out a few mid-range rentals and call it a day.

Dallas Stars

Where they're at: Six points out of a playoff spot with four teams to pass, which is a stunning fall for a team that was the West's top seed last year and went into the season thinking Stanley Cup.

In a perfect world: Patrick Sharp's name hasn't come up a ton in the rumor mill, but he'd be a big-name rental for some team looking for scoring help that also came with a fistful of Cup rings. Patrick Eaves is another classic rental option. And ideally, the team could even find a way to get some help for the blueline right now.

Sharp has had a quiet season, but the veteran potted 20 goals last year and comes with plenty of playoff experience. Photo by Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Also, Jim Nill fixes the goaltending.

But it's more likely that: Jim Nill does not fix the goaltending.

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He didn't do it at least year's deadline, and it cost him. He didn't do it during the offseason, and it cost him. To do it now, with the season all but lost, would seem like too little, too late.

That said, Nill has a decent track record when it comes to trading, so it wouldn't be a shock to see him do well with Eaves and maybe Sharp. Patching the blueline will be tougher, and might have to wait until the summer.

Detroit Red Wings

Where they're at: Facing reality. Their 25-season playoff streak is going to end, and Ken Holland needs to get to work on a rebuild.

In a perfect world: Detroit's cap is clogged with long deals that offered value early on, but look ugly now. The Red Wings have six players signed through 2021 or longer, and while not all of those deals are awful, that's a difficult position to start a rebuild with. Ideally, Holland could find a new home for one or two of those deals. But realistically, it's hard to imagine any scenario where that happened.

But it's more likely that: Holland will have to play the rental game. He's reasonably well-positioned to do it; Thomas Vanek has had a good season and should draw interest, and this is the time of year when someone always wants to overpay for a Steve Ott. Brendan Smith and Tomas Tatar are both younger guys on expiring deals.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Where they're at: Stunningly, amazingly, incomprehensibly, still well back of a playoff spot, and maybe it's time that we all just accept that the Lightning aren't going to make it. OK, fine, maybe it's time for me to accept that. The rest of you have probably already been here for weeks.

The bigger question is whether Steve Yzerman accepts it. Earlier this month, he was still talking about bringing in help to win now. But after a few more weeks of treading water, that no longer seems likely.

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In a perfect world: Ben Bishop is the big one here—after four years as the Lightning starter, he's a free agent at the end of the year and everyone assumes that Yzerman can't afford him. In theory, with goaltending always at a premium, that should put the Lightning in the driver's seat to make a major move. The flip side is that Yzerman may have waited too long—teams that really needed goaltending are already largely out of the playoff race, so the market may be shrinking.

Beyond that, the team is facing a well-documented cap crunch and would love to find a way to move someone like Braydon Coburn or Jason Garrison, although they'd likely have to eat salary or give up a prospect to make that happen.

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But it's more likely that: Brian Boyle seems like a sure bet to go, and Tampa should be able to get a decent return for him. But other than Bishop, that's the only rental situation that stands out, so Yzerman's options may be limited unless he decides to move one of his younger RFAs, like Tyler Johnson or Ondrej Palat. That's unlikely.

Vancouver Canucks

Where they're at: Far closer to the playoffs than just about anyone thought they'd be. You have to give Jim Benning, Trevor Linden, et al some credit—plenty of us scoffed when they suggested they were contenders, but their team has hung in there.

That said, reality has to be faced eventually. This team might be good enough to make the playoffs, but it would be no threat once it got there, and a path to a Stanley Cup in the future just doesn't seem to be there right now. Benning can get to work on changing that, but first he and Linden—and maybe most importantly, team ownership—have to get real.

Burrows has spent his entire career with the Canucks. Photo by Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

In a perfect world: Alexandre Burrows is the type of veteran rental that some team might overpay to get. Ryan Miller could be, too, although the goaltending market is tricky (especially if you assume that St. Louis wouldn't want to go down that road again).

Ideally, Benning would get a nice bushel of picks and prospects for those two, then move on to Alex Edler and Jannik Hansen. Both guys have no-trade clauses, and Benning has said he won't ask anyone to waive, but if the right deal comes along he could rely on semantics and suggest instead of ask.

But it's more likely that: The worst-case scenario is that Benning either doesn't want to sell or isn't allowed to, and the Canucks stand pat or even try to buy. That seems possible but unlikely; a more realistic scenario is that Benning finds out that the market for Burrows and Miller isn't as strong as he'd hoped, and has to settle for a minor haul that falls well short of a windfall, all while publicly claiming that he's reloading instead of rebuilding.

Other teams that could still slip into selling mode by next week: Winnipeg Jets, Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers.