After announcing that Patrick Sharp is the Dallas Stars’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, the team sent out another piece of less inspiring news. The veteran winger will have surgery Tuesday on his hip and will be out for the remainder of the regular season. The team has called up Jason Dickinson to replace Sharp on the roster.
This ends what has been a difficult final season for Sharp in Dallas, as he heads into free agency for the first time in his NHL career. Prior to this season Sharp had only signed extensions before his contract ended, but it looks like he’ll hit the open market this summer. Once one of the most consistent goal-scoring threats in the league, Sharp failed to register double-digits for the first time while playing in more than half of the season’s games. His 18 points in 48 contests also represents the lowest mark of his career since his rookie year.
After suffering a hit from the Los Angeles Kings’ Brayden McNabb in October, Sharp was held out for much of the first half with concussion symptoms and never seemed to find his footing after his return. When his hip injury started to act up, Stars GM Jim Nill was open with other team’s around the league about the condition, telling them he wouldn’t trade Sharp at the deadline. Instead, he struggled through another few weeks of games only scoring three points in the month of March, and being held off the scoresheet in his last eight.
Sharp will turn 36 during the 2017-18 season, and if he wants to play again next year he’ll have to show a quick rehab from the surgery. As his play has declined, so likely has the interest from around the league in bringing in the four-time 30-goal man. He will have to take a short-term deal on the open market with a contender with performance-related bonuses. For a three-time Stanley Cup Champion, it is a disappointing career to his time in Texas.
When Valeri Nichushkin left for the KHL last summer after having trouble with Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff, the team lost one of its best young assets to a rival league. The former 10th-overall draft pick had put up 34 points in his rookie season, then missed most of the next year after hip surgery but came back with another solid 29 point season as a 20-year old last year. He looked like a star (pun intended) in the making in Dallas, ready to break out over the next few seasons.
Well, breakout he did, just on the wrong continent. With 24 points in 36 games, Nichushkin was outstanding for CSKA Moscow when he was healthy. He is under contract for one more season with the Russian team, but Jim Nill was on the radio today saying (via Mark Stepneski of NHL.com) that he would like to bring him back to North America eventually. The now 22-year old would be a nice addition if they could get him under contract, as they’re likely losing Ales Hemsky, Patrick Sharp and Jiri Hudler this year—not to mention Patrick Eaves and Lauri Korpikoski, who they dealt at the deadline.
- According to Stepneski, Nill also said that he likely will protect Nichushkin in the upcoming expansion draft, something that would complicate things quite a bit. Protecting Nichushkin would leave one of Antoine Roussel, Brett Ritchie, Radek Faksa or Cody Eakin exposed, none of whom the Stars could afford losing for nothing. While leaving Nichushkin exposed isn’t perfect, it would be hard to see Vegas taking a swing at him not knowing for sure if he’d ever come back to the NHL. Perhaps the Stars will work out a deal with the Golden Knights on who to take, as they currently look like they’ll lose an effective player in the draft.
- Julius Honka will be back up with the NHL team at some point, to play another 8-10 games with the big club before the end of the season. The top prospect played 10 games earlier in the season for the team, and has thrived at the AHL level for three straight years. There will be no playoff run for the Texas Stars of the AHL this season, as they currently sit in seventh place in their division with a 27-29-4 record.
It wasn’t too much of a surprise that Colorado center/left winger Matt Duchene wasn’t dealt by Wednesday’s trade deadline. Bigger trades involving players on longer-term contracts typically are now moved in the offseason. Duchene himself is certainly aware of that and told Terry Frei of the Denver Post that he thinks there’s a good chance that he’ll be moved in the offseason:
“There’s probably a good chance something will happen this summer, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. But, for now, it’s nice to be a member of this team for the rest of the year. Yeah, it sucks where we’re at, but I love all my teammates and it will be good to finish the year with them.”
The 26 year old has two years left on his contract after this season at a cap hit of $6MM. With several teams being right up against the salary cap at the deadline, it’s likely that there will be more teams who can afford to bring Duchene in during the summer.
More notes from the Central:
- The nagging injury that Stars winger Patrick Sharp has been playing through will require surgery but he’s hoping to continue to try to play through it, reports Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. Sharp was a strong candidate to be moved by the deadline but this lingering issue was enough to scare any potential suitors off. The pending unrestricted free agent has had a rough walk year as he has just 16 points (7-9-16) in 38 games while dealing with concussion problems on top of this current issue, which Sharp declined to get into specifics about.
- In a reader chat, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch discusses if defenseman Jay Bouwmeester might be a fit for the Golden Knights in the expansion draft. The veteran doesn’t have a no-move clause and while his offensive numbers have tailed off in recent years, he can still log a lot of minutes which would certainly be enticing to the expansion team. It’s far from a guarantee that the Blues would leave him unprotected but with a cap charge of $5.4MM for two years after this season, exposing him could free up a good chunk of cap space heading into the summer.
The NHL Trade Deadline has come and gone, and while it wasn’t the most exciting deadline day in recent memory, there were quite a few notable moves. Here are the winners and losers of the “wild” Central Division:
- Acquired Tomas Jurco from Detroit Red Wings for 2017 third-round pick
- Acquired Johnny Oduya from Dallas Stars for conditional 2018 fourth-round pick and Mark McNeill
Of course the Blackhawks are winners on deadline day. Did you expect any less? Although they didn’t make any major moves, Chicago brought in two players via trade that can help them immediately. Oduya, a former Blackhawk, is still familiar with the system and has played with many of the current players. Oduya should be able to step in right away, play major minutes, and form a shutdown pair with Niklas Hjalmarsson (when he’s healthy). Just like the good ’ol days. Meanwhile, like nearly any forward, Jurco has a skill set that will fit in well with Chicago’s star forwards and for just the cost of a third-rounder, could represent a long-term fit with the Blackhawks.
- Acquired conditional 2017 second-round pick from Anaheim Ducks for Patrick Eaves
- Acquired 2017 fourth-round pick and Greg Pateryn from Montreal Canadiens for Jordie Benn
- Acquired conditional 2018 fourth-round pick and Mark McNeill from Chicago Blackhawks for Johnny Oduya
- Acquired Dillon Heatherington from Columbus Blue Jackets for Lauri Korpikoski
The Stars are a tough team to place at the 2017 deadline. They are in the midst of an unforeseen epic collapse of a season and have done well to trade their impending free agents. If Patrick Sharp, Ales Hemsky, and Adam Cracknell weren’t all hurt, Dallas would be a deadline loser for not moving them. As it stands, they did hold on to Jiri Hudler, but traded their three other healthy upcoming UFAs. Eaves earned them great value in return and Korpikoski, a late off-season addition, nets a promising young defenseman in Heatherington. Even McNeill and a fourth-rounder for Oduya is a pretty good deal. So for those three moves anyway, GM Jim Nill did well. With that said, the Benn trade was ill-timed and doesn’t make your team better. Benn still had term on his contract and was the team’s best defensive defenseman and, of course, captain Jamie Benn’s older brother. Dallas will likely regret that move. The Stars are teetering on the edge of winner and loser, but they’ve been through enough this season, so we’ll call them winners.
Mar. 1: Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports reports that Sharp’s injury is significant enough that it will stop him from being traded today.
Feb. 28, 4:00pm: If you’re a fan of the Dallas Stars and you hate that they’ve begun to sell off expiring assets this year, you may be in luck. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet is reporting that team doctors will meet with Patrick Sharp at the conclusion of the Stars game against Pittsburgh to discuss a nagging injury. Though he is able to play through it—he played two nights ago and is expected to be in the lineup tonight—it may keep him off the trading block.
Friedman says that Stars GM Jim Nill has been very up front with teams who have inquired about the pending free agent. Though this doesn’t by any means guarantee that he won’t be moved, any team looking for an immediate impact in their top six may look elsewhere.
Sharp is in the last year of a five-year, $29.5MM deal that he signed with the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2011 and is easily one of the most decorated scoring threats on the rental market. With eight 20+ goal seasons (including four in which he scored at least 33) he presented an opportunity to get a player who could provide a real impact with top-line players for the remainder of the season and in the playoffs.
We profiled Sharp a month ago and listed no less than seven teams that could have been interested in the three-time Stanley Cup winner. The fact that he has 47 goals in 142 playoff games and is only owed an actual salary of $5MM this season was just icing on the cake. Sharp is admittedly getting older at 35 and has seen his production slip this year because of concussion problems, but when the market is paying solid prospects for Alex Burrows and second-round picks for Brian Boyle, he still looked likely to command a hefty return.
Again, this doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to stay with the Stars but it could definitely cool the market on him if he’s deemed to injured to help immediately. Teams may still acquire him if he had a shot at returning for the playoffs, but it would likely have heavy conditions on any picks sent back to Dallas. Obviously the type or extent of the injury isn’t known, but Michael Russo of the Star Tribune guesses that it may have been a collision with Nino Niederreiter on February 16th for which the Minnesota forward was given a five-minute major and game misconduct (video of hit).
Regardless of when it happened, it’s bad timing for the Stars if they wanted to get anything out of Sharp at the deadline.
With the trade deadline now just weeks away, we’re going to start taking a closer look at each team. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs?
For the first time in years, the Edmonton Oilers are legitimate buyers at the trade deadline. NHL leading scorer Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot have lead the way thus far, and have the Oilers comfortably in second place in the Pacific Division. Despite the fact that the Oilers are a top-ten team in the NHL, GM Peter Chiarelli is on record as saying he isn’t “heavily interested” in the rental market, but did say the team deserves some tinkering because they’re “in the conversation.”
32-19-8, 2nd in the Pacific Division
Deadline Cap Space
Current cap space: $17.811MM
Deadline cap space: $21.375MM
48/50 contracts, via CapFriendly
2017: EDM 1st, STL 3rd*, EDM 3rd, EDM 4th, VAN 5th**, EDM 5th, EDM 6th, EDM 7th
2018: EDM 1st, EDM 2nd, EDM 3rd, EDM 4th, EDM 5th, EDM 6th, EDM 7th
A carryover from the now defunct compensation rule, the Oilers will need to surrender their 2nd round pick to Boston for hiring Chiarelli as GM back in April of 2015.
* The Oilers will receive either St. Louis’ third in 2017 or their second in 2018 in exchange for Nail Yakupov. The conditional pick becomes the second if Yakupov scores 15 goals this season; because Yakupov has just three goals so far this season, it’s likely to be a third.
**The Oilers will receive either a fourth or fifth round pick from Vancouver for defenseman Philip Larsen. It’s not known what the performance conditions are, but with Larsen sitting at one goal and six points in just 20 games, it’s safe to assume he won’t hit the required production thresholds.
While the Oilers don’t have many forward prospects, they’re fully-stocked with blue-liners. When healthy, the Oilers have 10 or 11 legitimate NHL options. They could move one of Brandon Davidson or Kris Russell for help up front. Davidson is a likely candidate to be claimed in the expansion draft and is the Oilers most notable trade chip. with the emergence of Matt Benning, there’s an outside chance that pending-UFA Russell could be traded once the Oilers get Darnell Nurse back.
The Oilers don’t have much in the forward prospect cupboard, with just Jesse Puljujärvi and Tyler Benson showing promise as legitimate NHL scoring forwards. On the back-end, Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones are dominant in the WHL, and Markus Niemeläinen is a bright spot on a bad Saginaw Spirit team in the OHL. Over in Russia, potential seventh-round steal Ziyat Paigin has played well above his draft slot.
While some teams could be willing to move first-round picks in a somewhat-weaker draft class, the Oilers are without a second round pick and therefore won’t be likely to deal their first. Despite their successful season, they’re still a building team and will look to stock up on forwards. Don’t expect the Oilers to deal prospects or high picks for rentals; if a notable asset is moved then the return will likely be a long-term solution.
Player To Watch
1) Right-handed scorer – The Oilers’ biggest need is a right-handed top-nine forward who can shoot the puck. Center Leon Draisaitl has had success playing on the right side with McDavid, but both men produce at the same level when separated. That gives Chiarelli the option of acquiring either a center or right-winger. A center would allow Draisaitl to play on the wing, while a right-winger would allow McLellan to keep his two leading scorers on separate lines. Some players who could be of interest include Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Eaves, Thomas Vanek, Brian Boyle, and Tyler Johnson. The initial asking price for lefty centers Hanzal and Boyle is out of Chiarelli’s stated price range, while the others are simply players who fit the Oilers’ needs and are on the market.
2) Backup goaltender — The signing of Jonas Gustavsson has not worked out for Chiarelli. The veteran backup is buried in the AHL after a horrific start to the year, and prospect Laurent Brossoit is currently serving as backup to the busiest starter in the NHL in Talbot. As of this writing, Brossoit is playing for Edmonton as they face the Tampa Bay Lightning on the first night of a back-t0-back. If Brossoit can show his worth, then perhaps Chiarelli holds off on spending an asset on a backup. However, an injury to Talbot would be catastrophic to the Oilers. Two players of interest could be Jaroslav Halak and Michal Neuvirth; both men have struggled in the NHL this season, but have histories as solid options in the NHL and could be had for cheap. Halak is dominating in the AHL, but makes $4.5MM this season and next. If the Islanders are willing to take back Benoit Pouliot or Mark Fayne to make the salaries work, then Halak could be an option. Neuvirth has struggled in a tandem with Steve Mason, and could be acquired as a rental for a low cost, perhaps one of the Oilers’ third rounders.
If Garth Snow had told the New York Islanders fans a couple of months ago that they might be buyers at the deadline, he’d likely be laughed out of the building. The early season struggles of the Islanders had people talking about their decisions to let Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo walk in the offseason, only to give a huge contract to Andrew Ladd. Through December 18th, the $38.5MM man had just seven points and looked like one of the biggest busts of the 2016 free agent class. The team was floundering near the bottom of the conference, and it looked like a lost season for the Islanders.
In the 20 games since, Ladd has 10 goals and 13 points, looking more like the consistent goal-scoring threat he has been throughout his career. The team has turned it around as well, and climbed right back into the East playoff race. At 62 points they’ve hopped over the Philadelphia Flyers and are just one behind the Maple Leafs for the final playoff spot.
That’s what has new head coach Doug Weight and Snow looking at possibly adding at the deadline instead of selling, according to Arthur Staple of Newsday. Weight—who is still an assistant GM after moving from the front office to the bench when the Isles fired Jack Capuano—especially seems to think they can do something, telling Staple “we’re in a position where we can really do something.”
Staple lists Patrick Sharp, Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal as rentals that could help the Islanders over the last third of the season and all three would be solid additions. Lacking secondary scoring after John Tavares and whoever he ends up playing with on a nightly basis, Sharp and Vrbata would add some ability on the wings. Hanzal, a much discussed target heading into the deadline, would solidify the center ice position and allow Casey Cizikas to move back down into a more familiar role.
Whether the Islanders decide to buy will likely depend on the next five games (one of which they’re losing 2-0 at the time of this writing) and where they sit when they shut down between February 26-March 1. If they can keep pace with the rest of the conference, they will likely decide that the window is now with Tavares and end up adding for the short or mid term. It seems unlikely that they would get into the Matt Duchene sweepstakes, but it is definitely a possibility. They do have a solid group of young defenders, the thing the Avalanche seem to covet most.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
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.
Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman made his weekly appearance on Edmonton radio, and commented on a few topics from around the NHL.
Friedman broke down some potential sellers, saying he could see “a lot of teams throwing themselves at Johnny Oduya” out of Dallas. The Stars have lost six of their last seven games, and are now seven points out of the final wildcard spot. Other names out of Dallas include pending UFAs Patrick Eaves and Patrick Sharp, and “maybe” Ales Hemsky. The latter was expected to be done for the season, but will play again this season according to Mike Heika of the Dallas News.
One of the few clear sellers, the Colorado Avalanche, has set a “very high price” for their players, according to Friedman. However, there may be a wider market than many realized. Friedman listed Pittsburgh among others as unexpected teams calling GM Joe Sakic. Citing GM Jim Rutherford’s willingness to win now and “sort things out” in the offseason, Friedman speculated that the Penguins could consider moving Olli Maatta as part of a package for Matt Duchene. To be clear, Friedman isn’t suggesting the Penguins have made an offer, simply that they’re interested and Maatta is the kind of player that the Avalanche would be interested in. Another potential suitor for Duchene could be Montreal, but GM Marc Bergevin “doesn’t like the price.”
Former Canadiens forward and Flyers UFA signing Dale Weise will be a healthy scratch in Edmonton tonight; he has just two goals and five points in 46 games after signing a four-year contract worth $2.35MM per season. Friedman pointed out that many players struggle in their first year with a new team, but the Canadiens won’t be interested in re-acquiring Weise at his current term.
Staying in Philadelphia, Friedman said it’s not just Shayne Gostisbehere who “doesn’t look like himself.” The whole team is looking for answers; after their ten-game winning streak earlier this season, they’ve won just eight games of their last 25. Friedman told Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer that several teams scouted Gostisbehere “to death” over the summer, and he hasn’t been able to adjust his style.
It remains to be seen what will happen in the next couple weeks, as the GMs are all playing “one big poker game” leading up to the deadline, according to Friedman.
Trade deadline aside, Friedman chatted about the MVP race this season. With Brent Burns sitting between Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby at the top of the scoring race, Friedman predicted a scoring title would guarantee an MVP title for Burns. However, he also said that if Edmonton makes the playoffs, then Friedman “doesn’t know how [he’s] not going to vote for Connor McDavid.”
Another consideration is goal scoring. Both Burns and Crosby are outscoring McDavid considerably, but Friedman pointed out that McDavid has clearly put the Oilers on his shoulders and elevated them to a playoff team.