The NHL’s holiday roster freeze kicked in on Monday, dropping the league’s trading activity all the way down to zero from its previous level of… well, zero.
NHL GMs don’t really seem to like to trade anymore; we’ve had just four since the season began, none of them especially interesting. There are plenty of theories as to what’s behind the decline of the trade — mine is that 90 percent of today’s GMs are risk-adverse wimps who’d rather mumble excuses than do their jobs — but it’s undeniable that it’s happening.
Still, there’s hope on the horizon. As of yesterday, we’re officially ten weeks out from the 2017 trade deadline. And trading does tend to pick up early in the new year, which is when we saw last year’s first true blockbuster. It’s time for NHL GMs to get to work. And we’re going to help them out.
Last week, we traded Jarome Iginla five times. People really seemed to enjoy that post — some friendly Flames fans even offered to help heat up this frigid Ottawa winter by burning my house to the ground. So today, let’s build on that success by proposing five deals that could make sense as the deadline nears.
No need to thanks us, NHL GMs. Just helping you do your jobs.
Trade #1: Ryan Miller to Dallas
We all know that the Stars need a goaltending upgrade, and it’s safe to assume that “we” includes Jim Nill. The rumor mill has linked Dallas with names like Ben Bishop and Marc-Andre Fleury, and those could make sense. But let’s throw another veteran star into the mix by sending Miller to the Stars. Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time he was part of a big mid-season trade to a Central contender. And that last one probably worked out great.
Of course, we need a few things to happen for this deal to work. The first would be for Miller to waive an NTC that reportedly lists just five teams he can moved to. Given how things have gone in Vancouver this year, that doesn’t seem unreasonable. The second would be for the Canucks to realize they’re rebuilding, and while there’s been plenty of resistance to that notion in Vancouver, you’d have to think that by the deadline they’ll be ready to bite the bullet.
The third condition might be the shakiest: We need to Stars to actually be contenders. That’s looking dicey these days; right now, they’re not only outside the playoff picture, but they’re only a few points up on Vancouver. Still, they seem like a decent bet to straighten out, especially if they can get a real goaltender.
Miller isn’t having a great year, but he’d be an upgrade on what the Stars have. And with an expiring deal, Dallas could afford his cap hit. Send some picks and prospects to the Canucks, along with, say, Kari Lehtonen with Dallas retaining salary. That gives the Canucks a boost to their future and a reasonably priced veteran backup for Jakob Markstrom for next year.
And since we’re rebuilding the Canucks, let’s make one more Vancouver deal…
Trade #2: Alexandre Burrows to Chicago
Sure, it’s hard to picture Burrows in a Blackhawks uniform. He was front and center in the great Vancouver/Chicago rivalry of recent years, even scoring the game seven winner in a classic series between the two teams. He was a Hawks killer, and a guy that Chicago fans learned to hate.
But that’s why this deal makes a weird sort of sense. Burrows is a classic “hate him when he’s on the other team, love him when he’s on yours” type of guy. It’s not hard to see the Blackhawks talking themselves into adding him as veteran depth for a playoff run, a sort of poor man’s Andrew Ladd. And it’s not hard to see him embracing the role, since it would give him a good shot at a Cup that he never managed to earn in Vancouver.
Chicago’s cap situation would make this a tight fit, and Burrows isn’t having the sort of year that would get the Canucks a windfall for his services. But you could see a fit here.
Trade #3: The Penguins’ first round pick to Las Vegas
OK, I’m cheating a bit here. The Golden Knights won’t be allowed to trade until their final payment goes through at the earliest, and that probably won’t happen until after the Feb. 28 deadline. But I’m going to slip this one through, because it could be informally agreed to before then. And because it doesn’t directly involve any players, this trade could be even be made in the days after the deadline has passed.
So here’s the deal. Let’s imagine a world where the Penguins don’t trade Marc-Andre Fleury before the expansion draft, either because they decide they don’t want to, or because they fail to work around his no-movement clause. That means they’d be forced to expose Matt Murray, who’d be a slam dunk pick by the Knights.
That’s obviously unacceptable for Pittsburgh; you can’t lose a player like Murray for nothing. So instead, they trade their first round pick in this year’s draft to Las Vegas in exchange for future considerations, where those considerations are a promise not to take Murray in the draft.
The Knights get a first rounder. The Penguins keep both goalies. Everyone wins, right?
It makes sense for the Penguins. It goes without saying that at this point Murray is worth far more than a late-round first, so they’re getting good value out of the deal. And even if the situation were forced on them by a failure to deal Fleury, having two good goaltenders is a nice problem to have.
So why would the Knights go along with the deal, instead of just taking Murray in the expansion draft? Quite simply, because that option won’t be available to him. If the Penguins can’t or won’t move Fleury, they’d trade Murray long before they lost him to expansion. And that would mean some other team would be getting a top young goaltender at a discount. If somebody’s going to benefit from the Penguins’ goalie logjam, George McPhee would have to think, it might as well be us.
To be clear, the most likely ending to the Fleury/Murray situation is still that the veteran is traded, either to one of the teams that isn’t covered by his NMC or by waiving to go somewhere that makes sense (possibly even including Vegas). But if the Penguins are looking for a plan B, this one makes sense.
Trade #4: Shane Doan to Minnesota
The Wild have emerged as a surprising contender in the West. They’re getting a great season from Devan Dubnyk, Bruce Boudreau has given them a boost and the kids are contributing. But this is still an aging team, and with the Western Conference being surprisingly weak this year, this seems like a classic case of a short-term window opening up.
So why not go all in by adding a crafty veteran to help with a playoff push?
Granted, it’s possible that Doan just isn’t good anymore. He’s 40 and has three goals on the year, so we’re not talking a first line impact player. But Chuck Fletcher wouldn’t be the first GM to talk himself into adding a grizzled warrior to put his team over the top. Heart! Grit! Leadership! GMs love this stuff at the deadline, and somebody would talk themselves into a player like Doan if the price was right.
And yes, Doan also has a NMC, and has never shown any desire to leave Arizona. But surely he’d at least think about chasing a Cup in what could be his final season, rather than waste away on a young team going nowhere.
And as an added bonus, guess who the Coyotes host on the final night of the season? Yep, it’s the Minnesota Wild. Make it Shane Dona Night, and pack the building for an emotional goodbye to a franchise legend before he goes off to chase his first ever Cup ring.
(Then re-sign him in the offseason to yet another contract, and do it all over again next year.)
Trade #5: Jaromir Jagr to Los Angeles
The Panthers are still within range of a playoff spot, and may claw their way back into the race by the time the deadline rolls around. But if not, moving Jagr and his expiring contract to a contender will be tempting for Florida’s GM, whoever it happens to be on that particular day.
Why the Kings? Jagr certainly seems like a guy who’d fit in out in L.A., and the team could use an offensive boost. Dean Lombardi has never been shy about making midseason deals; he’s won two Cups largely because of them. And the Kings have a little bit more cap room than you probably think, so they could find a way to add Jagr’s deal.
And sure, the Kings aren’t the best possible destination for Jagr. That would be Pittsburgh, where he could rejoin the franchise he started with, make up with the only fan base in the league that doesn’t already love him, and chase his third Cup (and first in a quarter-century). That’s the ideal situation.
But unfortunately, the Penguins are so capped out that it’s hard to imagine a scenario where it all works out. So we’ll go with L.A. instead, and cross our fingers for a Kings/Penguins Cup final matchup.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.