Center depth is something that many teams covet at the trade deadline. A key upgrade to balance the lineup could be a key difference-maker in the playoffs while even a useful addition to the bottom six could be helpful. Centers play the premium position up front and teams will often pay a premium to get one.
We saw just that with the recent Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan trades. Vancouver paid a high price to get Lindholm early and Winnipeg, having seen Lindholm go, was motivated to push a deal for Monahan across the finish line quickly to make sure no one else swooped in. Those two were clearly the best options on the market. What’s left among players that can play higher than the fourth line? Let’s take a look.
Anaheim’s Adam Henrique now stands alone at the top of the rental class. He’s having a decent season offensively with the Ducks, producing at a 25-goal, 57-point pace. He can kill penalties and has been above average at the faceoff dot for six straight years now. He’s not a true top-six player on a contender but he’d be a nice third liner who could move up when needed. But at a $5.825MM cap hit, that will be hard for most teams to acquire, even if the Ducks retain 50%. Still, barring an injury, he’s very likely to be dealt.
Jack Roslovic’s time with his hometown Blue Jackets has been up-and-down. At times, he has looked like a viable top-six piece and at others, his performance has been poor enough to make him a healthy scratch. His numbers this season are far from pretty (two goals and eight assists in 28 games). But the 27-year-old put up 44 points last season and 45 the year before. With this being a contract year, a change of scenery could give him a spark and with his struggles and a $4MM cap charge, it’s unlikely that Columbus could command a significant return for his services but there is some potential upside for whoever winds up acquiring him.
In terms of impact or upside plays for rental centers that are almost certain to be available, that might be it for the list. Chicago’s Tyler Johnson is at a 20-goal pace this season but he’s also playing more on a rebuilding Blackhawks team than he would elsewhere. With max retention, he could yield a later-round pick but Johnson would likely be a depth player more than an offensive one on a new team.
There are a couple of players who could be wild cards to become available depending on how things go the next few weeks and certain teams potentially fall out of the playoff picture. Alexander Wennberg hasn’t lived up to his contract with Seattle but could be an upgrade on the third line for a few playoff-bound teams although maximum retention will be needed to make his $5MM price tag more affordable. That shouldn’t be the case for Nashville’s Thomas Novak, who checks in at just $800K. He isn’t quite producing at the level of a year ago when he had 43 points in 51 games but he is above the half-point-per-game mark. If the Predators make him available, his cheap contract will make him highly sought after.
On top of these players, there are some depth pieces that will likely be moved as potential fourth line additions or reserve forwards as there are every year. But if you’re a team looking for someone with some offensive upside, the pickings were already slim and just got a whole lot slimmer. That should be good news for a team with one of those players while others may decide to look at shopping a non-rental middleman to try to capitalize on the lack of impact supply remaining on the market.
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