NHL Rumors: 5 Players That Should Be Traded to Contenders
We don’t normally see major trades in the National Hockey League before Christmas, but maybe the dominoes will fall a bit earlier this year with several teams already looking like they’re headed towards rebuilding mode.
First and foremost in that category is the disappointing Montreal Canadiens. Thanks to an anemic attack that has seen them score 2 goals or less in 15 of their first 23 games, the Habs have lost nearly twice as many games as they’ve won this year (8-12-3) and sit just 1 point ahead of the Florida Panthers for third-last in the Eastern Conference.
The rumor mill is always churning in hockey-mad Montreal, but it’s now working overdrive as the Canadiens apparently consider tearing the roster down and starting over again. It’s a strategy that has certainly paid off for the rival Toronto Maple Leafs, who are 1 of the top Stanley Cup contenders this season less than 2 years after drafting Auston Matthews first overall.
Here’s a look at 2 Canadiens players that could significantly bolster a Stanley Cup hopeful’s chances if they’re acquired from Montreal, along with 3 other valuable pieces that could be changing addresses soon.
1. Carey Price, Goalie, Montreal Canadiens
Goaltending can make all the difference in a Stanley Cup run, and there’s no better netminder likely to be available on the trade market this season than Price.
Sure, his numbers stink right now, with Price owning a 3-7-1 record, .877 save percentage and 3.77 goals-against average through his first 11 appearances this year. But Price may have been playing through a lower-body injury that has resulted in him missing the last 3 weeks. It also doesn’t help that he basically needs to be perfect for the low-scoring Canadiens to have a chance to win games.
The better way to measure Price’s potential value to a Cup contender is by looking at the much larger sample size of his career, and it’s an impressive one. Highlighted by an MVP season in 2014-15, when he went 44-16-6 with a .933 save percentage and 1.96 GAA, Price boasts career numbers of 273-182-56, .919 and 2.43.
He’s got a no movement clause in his contract, but I don’t see why Price wouldn’t waive it if he had an opportunity to chase a Cup. He might also be sick of playing in the most intense hockey market in the league, where his wife had to that she has threatened to divorce Price unless he gets traded out of Montreal.
Edmonton, which began the season as the Stanley Cup favorite but has plummeted down to +3300 odds on Bovada’s Cup futures after a brutal start to the year, looks like the perfect suitor for Price’s services. The Oilers seem to be losing faith in #1 netminder Cam Talbot, and Edmonton has a few young talented forwards that Montreal would be interested in. The Oilers will score goals eventually with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl up front, so shoring up their defense and goaltending should be their top priority.
The New York Islanders (currently +4000 to win the Cup) should also be interested. The Isles score a ton of goals, and having an elite netminder might make the difference in a deep playoff run that might convince superstar John Tavares to sign a contract extension. And though I don’t see the Habs trading Price to an Atlantic Division rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs (+700) and Ottawa Senators (+3300) would both upgrade their goaltending significantly with the acquisition of Price.
2. Max Pacioretty, Forward, Montreal Canadiens
Pacioretty is another player that the Canadiens could get a healthy return for if they decide to commit to a rebuild. The Montreal captain has scored 30 goals in 5 different seasons and would bring leadership and scoring depth to any team looking to make an upgrade in both departments.
I see the Anaheim Ducks (+2200) and San Jose Sharks (+2500) as good landing spots for Pacioretty. They’re out of Montreal’s conference, limiting the damage that Pacioretty could exact on the Canadiens in future years, and they’re both veteran teams who are in win-now mode.
Anaheim and San Jose also need a bump in scoring, especially the Sharks. San Jose has allowed the fewest goals per game in the league, yet the Sharks are just 11-8-1 through 20 games because their offense and power play both rank 29th in the NHL. Pacioretty could be a really nice fit alongside 1 of the best passers in the league, Joe Thornton, who has recorded just 8 assists and 11 points so far this year.
Anaheim at least has an excuse for its 21st-ranked offense (23rd on the power play), since the Ducks have been ravaged by early-season injuries. When Anaheim gets Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler back in the lineup, Pacioretty could either play on the top line or give the Ducks some secondary scoring punch.
3. Mike Green, Defense, Detroit Red Wings
Green isn’t quite the player that he was in 2009, when he finished third in Norris Trophy voting for the league’s top defenseman, but he’d still be a very nice two-way addition to any Cup contender’s blueline.
He’s currently third in scoring for the Red Wings with 1 goal and 16 assists through his first 22 games, and his plus-4 rating leads the team. Green is also still capable of carrying a heavy workload, averaging more than 23 minutes of ice time per game for the Wings so far this year.
Detroit may decide to hold onto Green for the next few months as the surprisingly competitive Red Wings chase down a playoff spot in their first season at their new home, Little Caesars Arena. This is a franchise that is used to making the postseason (the before that streak ended last season), so selling off assets that would help them get back there wouldn’t sit well with the Detroit fan base.
However, Red Wings management should also be realistic. They’re not a threat to go deep into the playoffs, and a defenseman of Green’s caliber and experience could net Detroit a nice return of young prospects later this season. Edmonton has a bevy of young talent to offer the Wings in return, including Jesse Puljujarvi, and having Green at the back end would provide a nice boost for the Oilers’ sputtering (so far, at least) offense.
4. Evander Kane, Forward, Buffalo Sabres
Kane’s stock probably isn’t as high as it should be , including violating team dress code in Winnipeg, forcing a trade from the Jets, sleeping in through practice with the Sabres and allegations of harassment and assault.
However, if teams are willing to look past Kane’s past indiscretions, they’ll see a player that could give their offense a serious jolt. He’s scored 48 goals over his last 2 NHL seasons, and he’s already potted 12 in his first 22 games this year with the low-scoring Sabres. Kane might also flourish playing for a strong team and surrounded by veterans, a luxury the 26-year-old has not enjoyed so far in his career with the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise and the Sabres.
The St. Louis Blues (+900 to win the Stanley Cup at Bovada) and Columbus Blue Jackets (+1600) would benefit from having a player of Kane’s offensive ability. Both St. Louis and Columbus are already capable of putting the puck in the net, but adding a pure sniper like Kane could lessen up the focus that opposing defenses are able to put on players like the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko and the Jackets’ Artemi Panarin. They also might not need to give up much from their current roster, considering that Kane is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
5. James Neal, Forward, Vegas Golden Knights
Yes, the Golden Knights are currently 1 of the top teams in the Western Conference, opening their first season of existence with a 13-6-1 record. But we all know Vegas isn’t going to win the Stanley Cup this year, and general manager George McPhee should have 1 eye (if not both) on the future no matter how the season progresses,
The most valuable asset the Golden Knights have to secure some prospects and high draft picks is Neal. He’s scored at least 20 goals in every NHL season that he’s played more than 20 games, including a 40-goal campaign with the Penguins in 2011-12. This year, he’s already scored 11 goals and added 6 assists in his first 20 games with Vegas.
The only reason Nashville left Neal exposed in the expansion draft was his contract, and that won’t be a concern for would-be suitors now that Neal will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
Ironically, if the Canadiens decide not to blow up their team by dealing Price, Pacioretty or even defenseman Shea Weber, Montreal management might opt to address its woeful offense by acquiring Neal, . If you think that’s a way the Habs might end up going, you’d be smart to grab the +5000 currently available on the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup futures.
Defenseman Luca Sbisa and forward David Perron are other bargaining chips that the Golden Knights might decide to cash in towards the end of the year, as each will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. It will be interesting to see if Vegas (+5000 to win the Stanley Cup this year) will commit to pleasing its fan base by going all out to make the playoffs in Year 1 of the franchise, or whether the Knights will do what I consider to be the smart thing and stockpile talent for the future.