When the NHL’s Holiday Roster Freeze comes to an end, attention will again turn to the trade market as many teams begin to address their weaknesses in the second half, leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline in late February. With Taylor Hall off the market, now a member of the Arizona Coyotes, it is no longer obvious who the top rental candidate is. There are many potential names and their values will depend on the suitor’s specific needs or the emphasis placed on certain abilities. But from an overall, objective perspective, who do you think the top rental target is?
Note: For the purposes of this poll, a rental player will be defined as an impending unrestricted free agent whose current team holds a points percentage below .550.
F Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild
2019-20: 28 games – 2 goals, 10 assists, 12 points, +2, 17:34 ATOI
2018-19: 48 games – 8 goals, 21 assists, 29 points, -2, 18:18 ATOI
Cap Hit: $5.5MM
Could this be the end for Koivu in Minnesota? The long-time Wild captain is arguably the biggest name on the rental market with Hall gone, but his best years are behind him. Last season was marked by injury for Koivu, but this year he has seen his production slip along with his ice time and has not looked the same. Even in decline though, Koivu is a good two-way center who can benefit a team on the penalty kill and at the face-off dot if not on the score sheet. His price may be hard to swallow and the Wild may be reluctant to move him, but teams will undoubtedly make calls on Koivu regardless.
D Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
2019-20: 30 games – 2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points, -22, 21:23 ATOI
2018-19: 43 games – 5 goals, 21 assists, 26 points, -1, 21:41 ATOI
Cap Hit: $5.375MM
Like Koivu, Green’s value is more in name than production at this point in his career, especially given his injury concerns over the past couple of years. Yet, Green has quietly played in 30 games with Detroit already this season and is maintaining high ice time numbers. You can pin that jarring plus/minus on the overall struggles of the team too. His scoring isn’t what it once was, but a healthy Green could be a real asset to a playoff team, if they can afford to take on his cap hit. Fortunately, that may be all that is expensive about Green, as the already-dead Red Wings will be selling any and all rentals for whatever they can get in this throwaway season.
G Robin Lehner, Chicago Blackhawks
2019-20: 21 games – 9 wins, .924 save percentage, 2.86 goals against average
2018-19: 46 games – 25 wins, .930 save percentage, 2.13 goals against average
Cap Hit: $5MM
The name with most recent history of elite play on the rental market is also the one shrouded in the most mystery. Are the Blackhawks willing to move Lehner? Is he in their long-term plans? And is there a market for a goalie of his price? The reigning Jennings Trophy winner was one of the league’s best goalies last season with the Islanders and his strong play has continued with his new team. That fact alone could entice a team with needs in net to make a play for Lehner.
D Sami Vatanen, New Jersey Devils
2019-20: 32 games – 5 goals, 11 assists, 16 points, -4, 21:29 ATOI
2018-19: 50 games – 4 goals, 13 assists, 17 points, -17, 21:44 ATOI
Cap Hit: $4.875MM
Vatanen is another veteran defenseman who has dealt with recent injury issues. Yet, this season he has returned to form, even in the midst of a poor campaign by any measure for the Devils. Vatanen has already topped his goals mark from last season and will soon do the same in assists and points. Vatanen is the most productive rental defenseman available and the Devils have established themselves as sellers and will definitely be looking to move him. With a lesser cap hit and more points than Green and others, Vatanen should be a highly sought-after blue line piece, if teams feel they can trust his defense and overlook his inconsistency.
F Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
2019-20: 36 games – 10 goals, 11 assists, 21 points, +4, 17:35 ATOI
2018-19: 48 games – 28 goals, 24 assists, 52 points, +4, 17:24 ATOI
Cap Hit: $4.625MM
Kreider may be the closest thing to a Taylor Hall left on the rental market, although admittedly not that close. An established power forward with several 20-goal seasons under his belt, Kreider is a true 200-foot player who could play a top-nine role for any team in the league, if not top-six. The real question is whether Kreider will be worth the cost to acquire him? His track record as a scoring threat boosts his trade value, but his numbers so far this year suggest that he may be declining. Kreider is on pace to fall well below his goal total from last year, as well as his overall point total, despite logging more ice time and playing on a more talented Rangers roster. Kreider certainly has value, but it may be difficult for teams to determine just how much relative to a high asking price.
F Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles Kings
2019-20: 38 games – 9 goals, 12 assists, 21 points, -4, 15:45 ATOI
2018-19: 82 games – 13 goals, 21 assists, 34 points, -16, 17:13 ATOI
Cap Hit: $4.6MM
Toffoli is somewhat of the opposite case of Kreider. He struggled last year but has shown some resurgence of late and could wind up as a great value addition at the deadline. Despite limited ice time and special teams responsibilities this year, Toffoli is already more than halfway to besting his offensive totals from last year, which had represented a major dip in his production. Toffoli, who has multiple 20-goal seasons to his credit and has been a deft penalty killer in the past, has the potential to continue his upward trajectory this season by joining a more talented team than the lowly Kings. At the right price and with the right fit, Toffoli could be a game-changer.
F Vladislav Namestnikov, Ottawa Senators
2019-20: 35 games – 8 goals, 10 assists, 18 points, -6, 15:37 ATOI
2018-19: 78 games – 11 goals, 20 assists, 31 points, -7, 15:48 ATOI
Cap Hit: $4MM
Namestnikov has already been traded once this season and it worked out nicely that time. Many speculated right away that the Senators were acquiring the UFA forward on the cheap only to flip him later for a profit, and judging by Namestnikov’s production since his arrival in Ottawa, that could very well be the case. A complimentary player whose production improves exponentially with the more talent he plays with and the greater role he is given, Namestnikov is the perfect hired gun. A dynamic asset in the right situation, Namestnikov could also flop if not placed in an ideal scenario. He could continue his 20-goal pace on one team, or completely disappear on another, as he did at times with the Rangers. How much a team is willing to pay to take a chance on Namestnikov will determine his market value.
F Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa Senators
2019-20: 38 games – 18 goals, 10 assists, 28 points, +21, 18:51 ATOI
2018-19: 39 games – 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points, -12, 17:51 ATOI
Cap Hit: $3.1MM
On one hand, Pageau has the best production this season, total and per-game, of anyone on this list. On the other hand, he has no history of producing remotely near these levels in years past. His breakout could really be a product of his role in Ottawa, leading a club with few play-makers up front. Pageau has always been a good two-way forward, but he has more than doubled his scoring output from last year’s injury-shortened season. Much of that can be attributed to an increase in ice time and responsibility, but how much? Are interested teams acquiring a player on pace for nearly 40 goals this season or will Pageau revert to a role player on a new team? The other key questions is whether or not the Senators are willing to move the 27-year-old center. Given the exodus of core players from Ottawa in recent years, they may not make this season’s breakout star available.
D Erik Gustafsson, Chicago Blackhawks
2019-20: 37 games – 4 goals, 11 assists, 15 points, -4, 20:57 ATOI
2018-19: 79 games – 17 goals, 43 assists, 60 points, -6, 22:35 ATOI
Cap Hit: $1.2MM
The only player on this list whose cap hit can be considered a true “value” based on cap hit, it can safely be assumed that the 27-year-old Gustafsson will be made available by the Blackhawks, whose hopes of playoff contention have been sunk by inconsistency and injury. Gustafsson’s numbers from last season jump off the page, especially at his price point. While he will likely finish far from 60 points this year, that can be attributed to a sizeable drop-off in ice time due to a remodel of the Chicago back end this off-season. The offensive ability is there though, and as an affordable rental addition, Gustafsson has the chance to do some serious damage on another team’s blue line. Of course, he won’t come cheap and there is not a lot of NHL experience to look back on to see how he may perform with a change of scenery, especially making the transition to playoff pace.
What do you think? Who is the top target on the post-Taylor Hall rental market?