This trade season is one like never before. The addition of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18 and the Expansion Draft that goes along with it add a whole other layer to trade-making this year. With each and every transaction, the expansion draft protection formula can change. Even in 2000, when the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets were welcomed into the league, the expansion rules were not a strict and general managers did not have to be as paranoid about their moves. This time around, everything is different. What does it all mean? For fans, there is a real possibility that this could be the quietest Trade Deadline in recent memory. Buyers interested in impending free agent rentals may not have to worry about the draft implications, but the sellers potentially taking back roster players with term certainly do. Trading is hard enough, especially in a season with very few teams significantly out of the playoff race, and expansion will only increase those barriers. Luckily, there are several teams that need to make moves prior to the deadline or they could risk being in very sticky situations when the Knights get ready to make their selections. With teams like the Minnesota Wild, Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Anaheim Ducks, who have so much talented, veteran depth at multiple positions, there is really not much that they can do; they’re going to lose a good player. For others, a sensible contract extension can solve all of their problems. However, for these teams, making a trade before it’s too late may be exactly what they need. We’ve looked at the defense conundrums of the Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes and the goaltending scenario of the Philadelphia Flyers, but there a quite a few more teams with problems up front that need solving:
Luckily for the Blackhawks, it’s hard to remember a deadline where GM Stan Bowman didn’t add a veteran forward. This year they may really need one though, regardless of their Cup run condition, to protect young scorer Ryan Hartman. The 22-year-old winger has 13 goals and 10 assists in his first full season with Chicago, and if nothing changes it would likely be his last season in Chicago. In setting their protected list for the Expansion Draft, the Blackhawks must protect Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Artem Anisimov due to their no-movement clauses. They would, of course, have protected those four anyway, but other than that group, the team has only two other players that meet the draft criteria of having two unprotected forwards that have played in 40 games this season or 70 games over the past two seasons and have term remaining on their contract: Marcus Kruger and Hartman. Kruger is not a great loss, but retaining Hartman is a major priority as the deadline approaches. The ‘Hawks could simply re-sign 30-year-old Andrew Desjardins or 34-year-old Jordin Tootoo, who both hit the 40/70 benchmark, but are impending free agents. However, the pair have combined for one point in 63 man-games this season and may not strike Bowman as players worth keeping, since they are nearly guaranteed to not be selected by Vegas. Richard Panik and Dennis Rasmussen are both restricted free agents who would also qualify if given an extension, but the team might think twice about exposing either player when they don’t have to. If push comes to shove, Chicago would surely rather lose Rasmussen or have to re-sign Desjardins if it means that Hartman is safe, but acquiring an affordable, serviceable forward with years remaining on his contract prior to the deadline may be the easier move for Bowman and company.
Despite their performance this season, the Stars are very much built like a team trying to make one last run at a Stanley Cup. Only five players on Dallas and on the AHL’s Texas Stars have both two years of professional play under their belt and term remaining on those contracts. The rest of the team is composed of impending unrestricted free agents and the AHL squad is mostly restricted free agents. Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza have no-movement clauses and are obviously safe, as is All-Star Tyler Seguin. However, without any further moves, Dallas would have to leave 25-year-old center Cody Eakin and team enforcer Antoine Roussel exposed in the draft. With the likes of Radek Faksa, Brett Ritchie and (probably) Valeri Nichushkin needing to be protected as well, the Star’s may have to leave one or the other on the table, but certainly not both. Roussel is having a career year, on pace to beat his career-high 29 points while also skating a career-best 15 minutes per game. Eakin, who missed time earlier this year and has been held to just six points in 33 games, is regardless coming off of three straight seasons of 35+ points and is just entering his prime. If they want to protect one or both, moves need to be made. Dallas is not short on extension options, with UFA’s Patrick Sharp, Patrick Eaves, Jiri Hudler, Lauri Korpikoski, Adam Cracknell and even the injured Ales Hemsky meeting the 40/70 criterion. However, if the Stars want to make up for their disappointing season, trading several of those players for picks and prospects at the deadline seems likely may eliminate some choices. In the process of moving out that trade capital, it may simply be easier for GM Jim Nill to add one or two qualifying forwards along the way.