With just over a month left before the NHL trade deadline, teams have started scouting in earnest to see who they can add for a playoff run. Usually the deadline is filled with struggling teams unloading expiring contracts for prospects or picks, and this year looks like it will be no different.
One name that hasn’t been talked about enough, is that of Patrick Eaves. The 32-year old Eaves is in the midst of a career season, scoring 17 goals through the first 47 games, the most since his 20-goal rookie season. Thought of usually as a defensive forward, Eaves has very rarely been given the opportunity he’s received this year.
That is, to skate alongside two superstars in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn for long stretches this season. The trio have accounted for an amazing 35% of the Dallas Stars’ goals this season, with Eaves actually leading the way one ahead of Seguin. Though he doesn’t play quite as much as those two, he is logging more than 16 minutes a night, easily a career-high for him.
While the Stars aren’t nearly out of the race yet, their slow start has really made it a tough climb out of the gutter of the Western Conference. Sitting at 19-20-9 they’re chances of really making a run at the Stanley Cup is basically none, even if they were to squeak into the playoffs. At this point, selling off assets to build for the future seems prudent.
In the case of Eaves, not only is he on an expiring contract but only has a cap hit of $1MM – a prorated version of which would be possible for basically any team in the league. Though he doesn’t have a long track record of offensive success, the ability to play with high level talents like Seguin and Benn doesn’t come easily.
For a team like Chicago, who has desperately searched for winger help for Jonathan Toews, Eaves may be an inexpensive upgrade should they be locked out of the more prized deadline additions. Even if he doesn’t score another 17 in the second half, his defensive acumen and strong possession numbers would be an addition on any line.
Teams like Nashville, Edmonton and even Ottawa, where Eaves started his career, may also be interested in adding him should they choose to buy at the deadline. With other rentals perhaps commanding a hefty price, Eaves may be a sneaky addition that would help a team lengthen out their lineup. His 76 career playoff games, including a six point effort last year for Dallas in nine games, would also be attractive.
While he’s not going to make anyone a cup contender overnight, Eaves may find himself playing in another city come March 1st. He’ll definitely be an interesting player to watch in the summer, as he looks for a multi-year deal coming off this career season.