- The Canucks continue to receive trade interest in defenseman Ben Hutton, Rick Dhaliwal of News 1130 reports (Twitter link). The blueliner has been a frequent healthy scratch of late and has another year left on his contract after this one at a $2.8MM cap hit which is a bit pricey for someone who is on the outside looking in at playing time. In a separate tweet, Dhaliwal adds that Vancouver has inquired about the asking price for Coyotes center Max Domi and winger Tobias Rieder but notes that the price is quite high.
The Florida Panthers are in a strange spot with the NHL Trade Deadline fast approaching. Few have considered the team to be a playoff contender at any point this season, but quietly Florida has climbed into tenth in the Eastern Conference in points percentage and only trail the Carolina Hurricanes by seven points with four games in hand. However, their playoff odds may not have much of to do with their deadline strategy anyway. The Panthers have just one impending unrestricted free agent on the NHL roster and, based off his performance thus far in 2017-18, his presence won’t make much of a difference down the stretch or in the postseason.
That player is Radim Vrbata who, despite having over 600 points in more than 1000 NHL games, has been a complete failure in Florida this season after signing with the Cats this past summer. We recently took a closer look at Vrbata and came to the easy conclusion that if any suitors made an offer for Vrbata, the Panthers would be likely to accept, regardless of their current playoff predicament. A potential deal came another step closer today, with Vrbata submitting a list of ten teams that he would accept a trade to in the next week and a half. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun was the first to report that Vrbata had made his decision, after the Panthers requested the list back in January.
LeBrun also notes though that Vrbata’s poor production and lack of play time this season – 13 points in 36 games – may limit the number of teams interested in his services. Vrbata has often run into trouble finding good chemistry fits with certain teams over his career, leading many to believe that he can only perform in Arizona. The Coyotes are certainly not looking to buy at the deadline, though that’s not to say that Vrbata didn’t put them on his list. However, as for the other nine or ten possible destinations, it’s always possible that a team can take a chance, especially when it comes to a well-respected veteran with a low price tag.
With the trade deadline fast approaching, we will be taking a closer look at the situation for each team. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs? Next up is a look at the Arizona Coyotes.
Despite a new coach and the belief that if they trade for a number of quality veteran players like Derek Stepan, Jason Demers and Niklas Hjalmarsson, the Coyotes could break their string of inept seasons and find themselves moving up in the standings with their core of talented young players. Instead, little has changed as the Coyotes boast the worst record in the NHL and now have to wonder what the next step in building a contender will consist of.
13-32-9, sixth in Pacific Division
Deadline Cap Space
$74.7MM full-season cap hit, 1/3 retained salary transactions, 50/50 contracts per CapFriendly
2018: ARZ 1st, MIN 2nd, ARZ 3rd, ARZ 4th, ARZ 6th, ARZ 7th
2019: ARZ 1st, ARZ 2nd, ARZ 3rd, CAL 3rd*, ARZ 4th, ARZ 5th, ARZ 6th, PIT 6th, ARZ 7th
*- Pick becomes a 2019 second-round pick if the Calgary Flames make the playoffs.
With the team unlikely to move defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson at the deadline, the Coyotes don’t necessarily have a big name to move as in previous years. There have been rumors the team might be willing to trade Max Domi, the young 22-year-old center who has regressed since a solid rookie season. However, unless the team can get equal value for Domi, its unlikely the team just wants to dump him for little in return.
One legitimate possibility would be winger Brad Richardson. No, the 33-year-old won’t provide any of the potential buyers with offense as Richardson provides little. He has just three goals and seven assists this year. However, Richardson is a quality fourth-line player who could add defensive skills to any team’s bottom line and can play the center position. His penalty killing skills might be valuable as well to any team that might want to prepare for teams like Pittsburgh, San Jose, Winnipeg or Tampa Bay, whose power play units are deadly.
1) Impact Players: The team has learned that they need a mix of veterans and youth to make this team into a winner. Despite acquiring Stepan, Demers and Hjalmarsson, the team hasn’t improved, but the team still needs more impact players who aren’t necessarily in their 30’s to help lead the team and can work with some of the young players. The more veterans on the team that are producing, the more likely the youth can step in and begin helping.
2) Draft picks: The team also must continue to develop youth in hopes of developing more youngsters. They have quite a few, most of which have struggled to establish themselves into stars like Clayton Keller, Christian Dvorak and Domi, among many. However, picks will continue to streamline those players in, so the more they have, the better.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- Craig Morgan of Arizona Sports spoke with Coyotes GM John Chayka regarding a report from last week that center Max Domi is available. Chayka clarified that they are not shopping the 22-year-old but that he would “listen on anything”. Domi is in the midst of his worst season with just three goals in 54 games but it’s hard to imagine that Arizona would be willing to sell low on him at this point.
With the trade deadline approaching, we will be profiling several players in the weeks ahead that have a good chance to be dealt by February 26th.
The last time that the Florida Panthers went out and added a veteran Czech forward, it worked out perfectly. Jaromir Jagr was an All-Star and the Panthers were Atlantic Division champions. GM Dale Tallon may have been hoping that lightning would strike twice when he added Jagr’s countryman, Radim Vrbata, this off-season. It didn’t. In fact, Vrabta’s tenure in Florida has been an unmitigated disaster, as the 36-year-old is on pace to have the worst offensive season of his long, successful NHL career.
Nevertheless, Vrbata has shown time and time again to be a lethal weapon when he finds the right line chemistry and, despite what they say, even on teams other than the Coyotes. Vrbata’s decline in production could be a sign of his age, but some teams may gamble on it instead being a product of his surroundings and will look to acquire the experienced scorer at a bargain price. The Panthers are not as far out of a the playoff picture as some might think – six points back with two games in hand as of this writing – but that won’t stop them from entertaining offers on several players, especially Vrbata. The veteran forward hasn’t worked out in Florida and wouldn’t be much of a loss for the Cats, so a trade could wind up as a win-win for both sides.
Vrbata signed a one-year deal with Florida this summer that carries a $2.5MM base salary, his cap hit for the year. Vrbata can earn an additional $1.25MM in performance bonuses and, interestingly enough, a trade to a contender could trigger one of them; Vrbata earns $250K if his team makes the playoffs this season. He also earns $250K each for 10 goals, 15 goals, 20 goals, and 45 points. With just 5 goals and 13 points thus far, he realistically has a shot at only $500K in bonuses for 10 goals and a playoff berth. This overage would count against next season’s cap.
The myth surrounding Vrbata has always been that he doesn’t perform outside of Arizona. While past campaigns in Colorado, Chicago, and Vancouver have indicated otherwise, this season in Florida has only added fuel to that fire. Vrbata has skated in 35 games for the Panthers this season, missing five games due to injury, five to illness, and another six (and counting) as a healthy scratch. Even when he’s been on the ice, Vrbata has been invisible. He’s outside the top ten in goals, assists, and points among Panthers and his impressive power play production has dried up, reduced to just four points on the year. On top of that, Vrbata has the third-worst plus/minus on the team and, as he has his whole career, plays with little physical or defensive ability. As a result of his poor play, the 16-year NHL veteran is seeing the least ice time of his career. The Vrbata experiment in Sunrise did not work out and will soon be over, either via trade or the end of the season.
35 GP: 5 goals, 8 assists, 13 points, -8 rating, 14 PIM, 78 shots, 13:05 ATOI, 44.3 CF%
So who would want to trade for such an uninspiring asset? Unfortunately for Vrbata, the Coyotes aren’t an option as they are as far from a deadline seller as any team could be. However, Vrbata has found success elsewhere before in his career and he can do so again. Especially at this point in his career, Vrbata is the perfect deadline depth acquisition: a hired gun who doesn’t need to be relied upon to be a team’s best player. With the right fit, Vrbata can score in bunches down the stretch and in the postseason. Several playoff-bound teams are known to be looking for a scoring winger, including the Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues, and San Jose Sharks. All three teams have the infrastructure where Vrbata could settle in to a middle-six role depending on which personnel he fits best with. Top contenders like the Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning – if the Bolts are willing to bring Vrbata back for a second go-round after his disappointing prior stint – could also use the luxury of bringing in a veteran winger, but could also survive if he doesn’t work out and ends up a frequent scratch.
However, where Vrbata is likely the best fit is not with a bona fide playoff team, but instead a fringe team looking to make a minor addition in hopes of increasing their odds of seeing the postseason. The Calgary Flames, who won’t trade away any high draft picks, might be happy to take a look at Vrbata if the price is a late pick or low-end prospect. The Colorado Avalanche, the team that drafted Vrbata, and New Jersey Devils have both stated that they won’t derail their long-term plans by chasing expensive rentals, but could pursue the affordable Vrbata, while the Anaheim Ducks and Carolina Hurricanes could also be options if they are closer to a playoff berth come deadline day.
Likelihood of a Trade
Predicting whether Vrbata’s 2017-18 performance will outweigh his career production in the eyes of this year’s buyers is impossible. There is a clear need for a veteran winger with a scoring touch on many teams, including some not even mentioned, but whether they target Vrbata over any number of other options (even including Panthers teammate Colton Sceviour) remains to be seen. If anyone does come calling though, it would be a surprise to see Florida turn down the best offer. The Panthers will continue to push for a playoff spot of their own, but Vrbata won’t play a real part in that plan whether he is traded or not. The signing was a failure, but Florida can still turn it into a positive if they are able to get something back in return for trading Vrbata.
The Carolina Hurricanes were one of the few NHL teams in action yesterday, but weren’t able to put up much of a fight against the San Jose Sharks, losing 3-1. After the game, head coach Bill Peters had a lot to say about the effort of his team, and Luke DeCock of the News & Observer encapsulated the comments in a scathing review of the club.
Whether Peters’ angry exclamation that the Hurricanes “can’t put that group out again after that” will actually spark some movement from GM Ron Francis is unclear, but the team certainly isn’t satisfied with how they’ve played. Carolina has lost two in a row but still find themselves only one point out of a wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. If there was ever a time to push some chips to the middle and try for a playoff push, now might be it.
- The Nashville Predators are one of the deepest teams in the NHL, and will only improve in that regard when Mike Fisher returns to the lineup at some point over the next few weeks. Still, that isn’t stopping GM David Poile from looking around for another forward. Adam Vingan of the Tennessean reports that Poile could still go after a top-six winger, and points out that the Predators have a ton of cap room to fit in even the most expensive players.
- Though his short NHL stints haven’t gone perfectly, Dylan Strome continues to impress in the minor leagues. The 20-year old Arizona Coyotes forward is leading the league in points-per-game with 41 in 32 games, and will look to continue that dominance tonight against the San Jose Barracuda. Strome, the third-overall pick from 2015, has just two points in 18 NHL contests but is still a big part of the Coyotes future plans. If Max Domi truly is on the block in the desert, Arizona will need Strome to take the next step before long and help fill some of the offensive burden that Domi has struggled with at times this season.
After a full slate of games Saturday, the NHL only has a three-game schedule on Super Bowl Sunday, the most interesting of which is the early game which matches up the Vegas Golden Knights with the Washington Capitals. With most teams having played last night, there may be quite a few roster moves made today to get ready for the new week.
- The New Jersey Devils announced they have assigned goaltender goaltender Ken Appleby to the Binghamton Devils and recalled goaltender Eddie Lack. Appleby was recalled back on Jan. 20 on emergency loan after backup goalie Keith Kinkaid went on injured reserve and starter Cory Schneider went down with a groin injury. Appleby played well in his three appearances as he had a 1.45 GAA and a .945 save percentage in that time. While Kinkaid has been activated, Schneider is still not skating yet. Lack, who has been injured recently, finally returned to Binghamton’s lineup and stopped 28 of 30 shots, and might be the preferred backup until Schneider returns to the team.
- NHL.com’s Brian Hedger writes that the Columbus Blue Jackets have assigned defenseman Cameron Gaunce to the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL after having been recalled Saturday. He did not play in last night’s game and still hasn’t made his NHL debut this season. The 27-year-old blueliner has two goals and 10 assists in 36 games for Cleveland. The assignment suggests that defenseman Ryan Murray might be ready to return for Columbus.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins swapped goaltenders today as the team has recalled Tristan Jarry from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette’s Jason Mackey. The team also assigned Casey DeSmith to their AHL team. Jarry has played 18 games for Pittsburgh this year, backing up Matt Murray. The 22-year-old has a 2.44 GAA and a .919 save percentage. DeSmith has also fared well in just seven appearances for the NHL club. He owns a 2.24 GAA and a .926 save percentage.
- The New York Rangers announced that they have recalled forward Vinni Lettieri from the Hartford Wolf Pack. Lettieri was assigned to Hartford on Jan. 26. In 10 games for the Rangers, he has one goal and three assists. He has fared well in Hartford as he has 14 goals and 23 points in 35 AHL games. Lettieri should fill the roster spot for forward Jimmy Vesey, who isn’t expected to play Monday after taking a hit from Nashville’s Filip Forsberg.
- The Boston Bruins announced they have assigned forward Austin Czarnik to the Providence Bruins Sunday. The 25-year-old forward was recalled on emergency loan Saturday. The diminutive forward did play in last night’s game, picking up an assist in 9:07 of playing time in the Bruins 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- The Arizona Coyotes announced they have assigned goaltender Adin Hill to the Tucson Roadrunners Sunday. He was recalled as an emergency replacement on Friday after starter Antti Raanta was in a car accident. Raanta wasn’t hurt, but was held out for precautionary reasons. Hill didn’t see any time. He has played in three games for Arizona, but has struggled with a 3.76 GAA. The 21-year-old has fared better with Tucson as he has 2.59 in 20 appearances.
- NHL.com’s Alex Stepneski tweets the Dallas Stars have assigned goaltender Landon Bow to the Texas Stars of the AHL. Bow was recalled Saturday after starter Ben Bishop took a puck to the head. A concussion had been ruled out, but the team removed him for precautionary reasons. Bow’s assignment suggests Bishop will be ready for their next game.
- In the same article, Brooks also writes that he’s heard the Arizona Coyotes are offering young center Max Domi to teams for the right price. The 22-year-old former first-round pick in 2013 has been struggling in his third season in the NHL. After a solid rookie year in which he put up 18 goals and 34 assists, his numbers have declined as he put up just 38 points in 59 games last year and currently has just three goals in 52 games. The team already moved on from winger Anthony Duclair a month ago as the Coyotes are trying to find the right balance of youth and veterans to start winning some games.
Earlier this week, The Athletic’s Tyler Dellow went to work trying to figure out how the Ottawa Senators could maximize their trade return (subscription required) for Erik Karlsson, should the team decide to move the all-world defenseman prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on February 26th or at least before the 2018 NHL Entry Draft on June 22nd. Dellow surmised that in order to get anywhere near a fair return for Karlsson, Ottawa would need to acquire draft picks that could give them the best chance of finding a “franchise cornerstone” to replace him. The best-case-scenario for the Sens would obviously be to land the #1 overall pick in the lottery and the opportunity to draft the consensus top pick, Karlsson clone Rasmus Dahlin – a scenario that would not even require moving Karlsson. However, with the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres likely having better lottery odds and another 12 teams having a chance at the top pick as well, its unlikely that the Senators choose first overall. Dahlin’s generational talent also means the lucky team that lands #1 isn’t moving it, even for Karlsson. So what then is the chance of finding a superstar in the draft? Dellow’s analysis produced these results:
- First pick: 90 percent,
- Second pick: 60 percent
- Third or Fourth pick: 15 percent
- Picks 5-20: 5 percent
- Picks 21-30: 2 percent
- Picks 31-60: 1 percent
- Picks 61+: .07 percent
While there is a considerable drop-off from the first pick to the second and the second to the third, it’s clear that picks #2 and #3 still hold immense value. Dellow goes on to describe the infrequency with which those picks are moved, citing Alexei Yashin-for-Jason Spezza and the drafting of Henrik and Daniel Sedin are rare recent examples. Dellow’s thesis continues that the current Vancouver Canucks could be a rare team willing to part with a high pick, if it meant landing Karlsson.
However what if Karlsson isn’t traded by the Draft – a situation that is far more likely than the media would make it out to be – would the normally untouchable top three picks be back off the table? Obviously, the results of the draft lottery matter immensely and the #1 pick will surely not be moved this year. More likely than not, #2 is going nowhere as well. Yet, the status of the 2018 draft class leads to much intrigue over the #3 pick, which historically has a 15% chance of landing a superstar. Unlike past years, there is no consensus second-best player in 2018. In some order, Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick were going 1-2 in 2017, as were Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine in 2016, and no one was going right behind Connor McDavid other than Jack Eichel in 2015. This year’s crop offers a situation unlike the last few seasons, wherein Dahlin is guaranteed to go first overall – and will be off the draft board of everyone but the lottery winner before the draft even begins – but the following picks are unpredictable. At #2, it could be Russian sniper Andrei Svechnikov, sleek Czech forward Filip Zadina, big, skilled Americans Brady Tkachuk or Oliver Wahlstrom, or a D-needy team with the second pick could even go off the board for a defenseman.
The decision on the second overall pick in 2018 will undeniably result in the top player on many teams’ board being selected, but the top player on many other teams’ board falling to #3. If that team at third overall was hoping to take the player selected at #2, now things could get interesting. According to Dellow’s results, the team at #3 has now lost a 45% chance of finding their next franchise player, but could trade out of the pick and still end up with one (or more) top 20 pick(s), each with a 5% chance of becoming a star, as well as possibly an established pick or player. If you put trust into a model like Dellow’s, a deal like this becomes much more about math and odds than simply taking the risk of trading back out of disappointment with the draft order.
Going back to the Karlsson-to-Vancouver hypothetical, imagine that the Canucks land the #3 overall pick while the Senators have a pick in the 5-20 range, either by the lottery or an additional pick from an upcoming trade. Vancouver hypothetically wanted Zadina, who went #2, while the top player on Ottawa’s board was Tkachuk (or maybe a defenseman like Adam Boqvist). Vancouver could, as Dellow proposes, offer the Sens the third pick – and a 15% chance at a star – and a prospect like Olli Juolevi, the fifth overall pick in 2016 – who holds a 5% chance of becoming a star himself – as part of a larger package for Karlsson and a first. Ottawa nets a 20% chance of adding a cornerstone player, including at least one potential replacement on the blue line, and Vancouver holds onto a 5% chance of finding a star of their own with the later first rounder. The 10% loss for Vancouver is more than made up by the gain of a bona fide star in Karlsson. Could a deal like this happen? For sure. Will it? Probably not, but Dellow’s analysis of draft pick values and a seemingly volatile draft board in 2018 helps to illuminate the possibilities of some fascinating, unprecedented deals early on at the 2018 Draft.
11:00pm: Morgan reports that Raanta was involved in a car accident on the way to the game, and was given the night off for precautionary reasons. The goaltender is unharmed.
8:25pm: The Arizona Coyotes are back in action tonight, and were expected to have Antti Raanta back in net as they take on the Dallas Stars. Instead, Scott Wedgewood took the net at the last minute without an explanation. Craig Morgan of AZ Sports reports that the move was not disciplinary, that he hasn’t been traded, and that Raanta was supposed to still be the backup for the game. Oddly though, he isn’t on the bench yet.
Raanta has been included in trade rumors since the Coyotes dropped out of contention, but GM John Chayka has recently said that he didn’t plan on making any big moves, including trading his starting goaltender. Instead, this move might be related to an illness or some other injury.
Still, it’s intriguing to follow Raanta as we close in on the trade deadline. The goaltender is on an expiring contract after being acquired in the offseason, and could represent an upgrade for several teams around the league. The 28-year old has a .919 save percentage on the season even as he’s battled injuries, and could get a large raise in the summer to become a full-time starter in either Arizona or elsewhere around the league.