With the trade deadline quickly approaching, we will be profiling several players in the weeks ahead that are likely to be dealt by March 1st.
Patrick Eaves is having the best season of his career, and it’s not even close. The Dallas Stars have had the opposite luck, though. The Stars are eight points behind the Predators for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, and Nashville has three games in hand on them as well. For all intents and purposes, Dallas’ season is over. Their playoff hopes are all but dead and they should be major sellers at the deadline with a plethora of talented expiring contracts. Yet, a team that can move Patrick Sharp, Jiri Hudler, and Johnny Oduya may actually get the best return from the career grinder Eaves; he’s been that effective this season.
Eaves is on a one-year, $1MM contract. It is the third year in a row that he has signed on for one season at a time with Dallas. By the Trade Deadline, Eaves’ pro-rated cap hit will be only about $250K.
To say that Eaves is having the best season of his career is an understatement. Despite several major offensive contributors missing extensive time due to injury in 2016-17, Eaves has emerged, seemingly out of nowhere, as the top goal-scoring threat in Dallas this season. Prior to this year, Eaves’ career-high in points was 32, during his sophomore season with the Ottawa Senators, and his career best in goals was 14, during the same campaign. With 23 games remaining this year, he has topped the former and shattered the latter. Eaves is tied with All-Star Tyler Seguin in goals and behind just he and captain Jamie Benn in points. He has scored 50% more goals than his career-high already and has done so as a sniper, with a shooting percentage in the top 25 in the NHL. Eaves is also averaging about four more minutes of ice time than his career average, in a season where he has transformed from a serviceable bottom-six forward to a relied-upon top-six scorer. After a career that to this point had largely been defined by durability problems, only modest offense, and a dependence on high-energy, checking play, Eaves has capitalized on his impending free agency in a week free agent class by playing like he never has before. The only question now is whether he can keep it up on whichever team trades for him.
57 GP: 21 goals, 14 assists, 35 points, -12 rating, 147 shots, 14.3% shooting, 16:33 ATOIP
Eaves would be the perfect addition this season for cap-strapped teams in need of some forward depth. As always, the Chicago Blackhawks meet that description to the letter. The dynastic franchise has made it through this season so far with a couple of questionable pieces in the top nine, but would jump at the chance to add a 20-goal scorer at a $250K cost. One major concern about Eaves is that his numbers will drop off outside of the Dallas system, but if he’s playing alongside Jonathan Toews, there’s far less risk. Chicago has ten picks in the draft this season, including their own picks in rounds one, two, and three, and some nice forward prospects in the pipeline. GM Stan Bowman can put together a package worth Eaves and will probably enjoy the returns.
The Anaheim Ducks have very little wiggle room against the cap ceiling, but even they can afford a quarter-million accommodation. Anaheim was having trouble balancing their offensive lines, and that even before Antoine Vermette landed a long-term suspension. The Ducks are loaded with promising prospects at forward and defense and can afford to peddle away some players in a deal with Dallas. Eaves would provide a much-needed veteran scoring presence, especially on a team that has just one 20-goal scorer so far.
Cap space might not be a problem for the Ottawa Senators, but they’ll still have interest in acquiring the affordable Eaves and he may enjoy the idea of a return to his NHL roots. The Senators are surprisingly very much in the Cup hunt and adding another goal-scorer is at the top of their deadline wish list. Eaves would bring a veteran presence and some energy to a young forward corps than could sometimes use a bit more intensity.
Likelihood Of A Trade
The Dallas Stars have no reason not to trade Eaves. Yes, he may be a product of the system in Dallas and they may want to bring him back next season on a multi-year deal. No one is stopping them. Traded or not, Eaves is not foolish enough to not test the market after the season he’s had, even at age 32. By trading him, the Stars can get a good return to help make up for what has been a huge disappointment of a season, and could still join the bidding for his services this summer if they so choose. As much as GM Jim Nill might look at his roster and think it’s a contender, he’s missing some major pieces in all areas of the ice, including a true starting-caliber goaltender, a reliable top-four defenseman, and some youthful depth at forward. All of those problems won’t be solved by whether or not the team can re-sign Eaves, but adding some trade capital could.