As the NHL trade deadline approaches, the available players include captains, Cup winners and more depth guys than you can shake a hockey stick at. In other words, the Sabres will have company in peddling their players this week.
Whether it’s a contender seeking the right tweak or a playoff hopeful looking to make a splash, the league’s annual swap meet is filled with moves. This year should be no different as clubs try to get deals done by 3 p.m. Monday.
It looks like half of the 30-team league fits into the buyer category while eight clubs are sure to sell. The Sabres fall into the latter group. General Manager Tim Murray will try moving pending unrestricted free agents Jamie McGinn, David Legwand, Chad Johnson and Carlo Colaiacovo after sending Mike Weber to Washington on Tuesday.
Columbus, Montreal, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto, which kick-started the deadline with a deal Monday, will also look to move their UFAs for future assets.
“I will be a seller,” Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli told reporters Tuesday in Edmonton. “It just has to be the right player or future asset coming back.”
Forwards likely will be in greater demand than defensemen this year, while goaltenders are an afterthought. Stanley Cup hopefuls looking for a boost in scoring include Florida, Chicago, Detroit, Anaheim, Nashville, St. Louis, the New York Rangers and Islanders. Pittsburgh, Boston, Dallas, Tampa Bay and Los Angeles could use depth and talent on defense. St. Louis, which lost goalie Brian Elliott for a month, and San Jose could use backup netminders.
Money will be an issue. The Penguins, Red Wings, Lightning and Sharks have less than $2 million in salary-cap space, according to GeneralFanager.com.
It means GMs who can alleviate financial burdens and provide quality reinforcements will be the big winners.
Toronto set the market by moving defenseman Roman Polak (13 points, plus-8) and depth forward Nick Spaling to San Jose for forward Raffi Torres and second-round draft picks in 2017 and 2018. Torres is in the minor leagues but counted against the Sharks’ cap. Toronto took on the paycheck in exchange for better picks.
The Sabres followed suit by retaining half of Weber’s salary. They can make similar moves with plenty of cap space, draft picks and Terry Pegula’s pocket book.
Here’s a look at some of the available UFAs.
Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg: The Jets’ captain is the best catch available. He has the intangibles and gets it done on the ice with 16 goals and 38 points in 58 games. He’s a consistent point-producer who had long playoff runs with Chicago and Carolina.
Eric Staal, Carolina: The 6-foot-4 forward has been the centerpiece of the Hurricanes since being drafted second overall in 2003. His scoring has slowed (nine goals, 31 points in 60 games), but his experience in the playoffs is invaluable.
McGinn, Buffalo: He’s made the most of his top-six role with the Sabres, recording 14 goals and 27 points. He’d likely be a secondary player on a contender, and they’d love his willingness to get in front and work along the boards.
Dale Weise, Montreal: He’s having the best season of his career with 14 goals, tied for third on the Canadiens. The forward scored clutch goals during the Habs’ 2014 playoff run, which will be a big selling point.
Radim Vrbata, Vancouver: He’s eclipsed 30 goals twice, so teams in need of pop could be enticed by his history.
P-A Parenteau, Toronto: The forward has 15 goals and leads the Maple Leafs in game-winners (three) and power-play goals (six).
Others: Jiri Hudler and David Jones, Calgary; Teddy Purcell, Edmonton; Tomas Fleischmann, Montreal; Rene Bourque, Columbus; Brad Boyes and Michael Grabner, Toronto; Legwand, Buffalo.
Kris Russell, Calgary: The defenseman skates nearly 23 minutes per game and has recorded 15 points. He leads the Flames with 174 blocked shots, an average of 3.4 per game.
Dan Hamhuis, Vancouver: The 33-year-old defenseman would help shore up a shaky penalty-kill situation. He’s also played 62 playoff games.
Others: Matt Bartkowski, Vancouver, and Colaiacovo, Buffalo.
James Reimer, Toronto: The 27-year-old is the top goaltender on the market with a .919 save percentage. He has playoff experience, though his .923 save percentage in a seven-game series against Boston is overshadowed by a third-period collapse in Game Seven.
Johnson, Buffalo: The goalie can be a really good player as his .954 save percentage during seven starts in November showed, but he has given up four goals or more in six of his last 15 appearances.