trade rumors

Why rebuilding teams should trade for players like Marleau

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The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos, and others have discussed an intriguing possibility that the Los Angeles Kings might trade for Patrick Marleau from the cap-strapped Toronto Maple Leafs.

On its face, that seems like an ill-advised trade. Why would the already-old-as-dirt, expensive Kings seek out a near-40-year-old who carries a bloated $6.25 million cap hit?

Yet, in the cap era, it’s a deal that could make a ton of sense for both sides, if the right deal could be hashed out.

The Kings should go even bolder

While LeBrun discusses the Kings wanting to get rid of a different, cheaper problem contract to make the Marleau trade work (sub required), the real goal should be for both teams to acknowledge their situations. The Maple Leafs needs cap space; the Kings need to build up their farm system with picks and prospects.

Instead of trying to move, say, Dustin Brown or Ilya Kovalchuk, the Kings should instead find as creative ways as possible to bulk up on futures, while accepting the (admittedly grim) reality that they’ll suffer through 2019-20, if not 2020-21 and beyond.

In fact, if I were Kings GM Rob Blake, I’d pitch sending over Alec Martinez for Marleau, with the goal of really making it costly for the Maple Leafs. Imagine how appealing it would be for the Maple Leafs to move out Marleau’s contract and improve their defense, and imagine how much more of a ransom the Kings could demand if they’re absorbing all the immediate “losses” in such a trade? Could Los Angeles land yet another Maple Leafs first-rounder, say in 2020 or even 2021? Could such a deal be sweetened with, say, the rights to Andreas Johansson?

That trade might not work, but it’s a blueprint

The Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott believes that a deal probably won’t actually work out, and that’s understandable. There are a lot of ins and outs to a would-be trade that could send Marleau to L.A., particularly since Marleau would need to waive his no-trade clause to complete a trade.

But, really, this is just one example.

Rebuilding teams should apply similar logic to any number of other situations, while contenders can be forgiven for thinking more short-term.

Of course, a rebuilding team would also need to embrace the rebuilding reality, and not every team is past the denial stage.

Potential rebuilding teams

The Kings are in a decent position to absorb a tough year or two, what with being not that far removed from two Stanley Cup wins. The Ottawa Senators have already prepared fans for a rebuild, although they also need to avoid making things too brutal after an agonizing year. The Detroit Red Wings could be less resistant to rebuilding under Steve Yzerman than Ken Holland. Other teams should probably at least consider a short pulling off of the Band-Aid, too, with the Anaheim Ducks coming to mind.

What are some of the problem contracts that could be moved? Glad you (may have) asked.

Also, quick note: these mentions are based on my perception of the relative value of players, not necessarily how their teams view them.

Marleau-likes (challenging contracts ending after 2019-20)

  • Again, Marleau is about to turn 40, and his cap hit is $6.25M. His actual salary is just $4.25M, with Cap Friendly listing his salary bonus at $3M. Maybe the Maple Leafs could make his contract even more enticing to move if they eat the salary bonus, then trade him? If it’s not the Kings, someone should try hard to get Marleau, assuming he’d waive for at least a few situations.
  • Ryan Callahan: 34, $5.8M cap hit, $4.7M salary. Callahan to the Red Wings almost feels too obvious, as Yzerman can do his old team the Lightning a cap-related favor, get one of his beloved former Rangers, and land some much-needed pieces. Naturally, other rebuilders should seek this deal out, too, as the Bolts are in just as tough a spot with Brayden Point as the Maple Leafs are in trying to sign Mitch Marner.
  • Nathan Horton: 35, $5.3M cap hit, $3.6M salary. The Maple Leafs have been placing Horton on LTIR since acquiring his contract, but with his reduced actual salary, maybe a team would take that minor headache off of Toronto’s hands?
  • David Clarkson: 36, $5.25M cap hit, $3.25M salary. Basically Vegas’ version of the Horton situation.
  • Zach Bogosian: 29, $5.14M cap hit, $6M salary. Buffalo’s said the right things about liking Bogosian over the years, but with big spending coming up if they want to re-sign Jeff Skinner, not to mention get better … wouldn’t they be better served spending that money on someone who might move the needle?
  • Andrew MacDonald: 33, $5M cap hit, $5.75M salary. Like Bogosian, MacDonald’s salary actually exceeds his cap hit. Maybe you’d get a better return from Philly if you ate one year of his deal? Both the Flyers and Sabres have some added urgency to be better in 2019-20, after all.
  • Martin Hanzal: 33, $4.75M cap hit, $4M salary. The Stars already have a ton of cap space opening up while they made big strides during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You’d think they’d be eager to get more room, earlier, and maybe make a run at someone bold like Artemi Panarin or Erik Karlsson? They were one of the top bidders for Karlsson last summer, apparently, but now they could conceivably add Karlsson without trading away a gem like Miro Heiskanen.
  • Dmitry Kulikov: 29, $4.33M cap hit and salary. Maybe the Jets could more easily keep Jacob Trouba along with Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor if they get rid of an underwhelming, expensive defenseman? Just a thought.

If you want to dig even deeper, Cap Friendly’s list is a great guide.

Two years left

Seeking contracts that expire after 2020-21 is a tougher sell, but maybe the rewards would be worth the risk of extended suffering?

  • Corey Perry: 36, $8.625M cap hit. $8M salary in 2019-20; $7M salary ($4M base; $3M salary bonus) in 2020-21. If you’re offering to take on Perry’s contract, you’d probably want a significant package in return. If the Ducks are in rebuild denial, then they’d get a fresher start if they managed to bribe someone to take Perry. Ryan Getzlaf‘s deal also expires after 2020-21 with similar parameters, though it’s less appealing to move him.
  • Kevin Shattenkirk: 32, $6.65 cap hit, cheaper salary in 2020-21. Marc Staal, 34, $5.7M cap hit, cheaper salary in 2020-21. The Rangers’ future is blurry now, as they could go from rebuild to trying to contender if they get Panarin. If they’re really gearing toward contending, maybe they’d want to get rid of some expensive, aging defensemen?
  • David Backes: 35, $6M cap hit, $4M salary each of the next two seasons. The bottom line is that Backes has been a pretty frequent healthy scratch, and the Bruins should funnel his cap hit toward trying to keep both Charlie McAvoy (RFA this offseason) and Torey Krug (UFA after 2020-21).
  • Alexander Steen: 37, $5.75M cap hit, cheaper in 2020-21. Paying this much for a guy who’s become a fourth-liner just isn’t tenable for a contender. He’s been great for the Blues over the years, yet if you want to stay in the mix, you sometimes need to have those tough conversations.
  • Lightning round: Brandon Dubinsky, Matt Niskanen, Artem Anisimov, and Jake Allen, among others. There are a lot of other, less-obvious “let’s take this off your hands” considerations. Check out Cap Friendly’s list if you want to dive down that rabbit hole.

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As you can see, plenty of contenders have contracts they should try to get rid of, and rebuilding teams should capitalize on these situations.

Interestingly, there are fascinating ideas if rebuilders would take on even more than a year or two of baggage. Would it be worth it to ask for a lot for, say, James Neal, particularly if they think Neal might be at least a little better than his disastrous 2018-19 season indicated? Might someone extract a robust package while accepting Milan Lucic‘s positively odious contract?

It’s easier to sell the one or two-year commitments, which is why this post focuses on those more feasible scenarios. Nonetheless, it would be fun for the armchair GMs among us to see executives get truly creative.

Should your team seek these trades out? What level of risk is too much to stomach? Do tell in the comments.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

McDavid shoots down trade rumors, addresses injury

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If you want an idea about how dark things can get for the Edmonton Oilers, consider that in the span of a week:

1) People were wondering if Connor McDavid would soon be on the verge of demanding a trade.

And

2) Sportsnet’s Mark Spector excitedly tweeted that McDavid attended Sunday’s exit interview while not on crutches.

Yeah, these have been trying times.

But, hey: McDavid was reasonably reassuring (to use his words, “fairly positive”) about the two most disturbing ways his season ended for the Oilers, beyond the team missing the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

McDavid noted that he still needs to get an MRI, so that “fairly positive” update could still be somewhat problematic if there’s soft tissue damage/structural damage/other bad things. That said, McDavid admitted that he feared the worst, saying that “I thought my leg was in two pieces” after Saturday’s terrifying fall:

Number 97 didn’t try to claim that he was happy with the Oilers results, stating that he’d be “a loser” if he wasn’t frustrated with the way things are gone, and that he expects changes in Edmonton’s front office. But McDavid did his part to shoot down trade rumors, stating that he wants to be part of the solution, and that he wouldn’t have signed an eight-year contract with the Oilers if he didn’t want to stay.

Now, sure, “part of the solution” is a phrase that brings back some bad memories of the Taylor Hall trade … yet it’s better than McDavid giving a non-answer altogether, right?

Also: don’t expect the speedy star to change the way he plays, even after another frightful moment. As you may recall, his other major NHL injury happened because he was tripped up while going all-out.

As Ken Hitchcock said after the Oilers received Saturday’s fairly positive update about McDavid, they’re not out of the woods just yet. If McDavid suffered an injury that inhibits his speed over his career, it would be a loss for hockey fans everywhere, not just for the Oilers and their fans. So keep that in mind, and keep your eyes on PHT for updates.

All things considered, it could still be worse, though.

(Oh, and no, McDavid didn’t think Mark Giordano made a dirty play.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Flyers are interested in Roberto Luongo

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If you thought the Roberto Luongo-to-Toronto rumors were getting hot, you might want to buckle up.

TVA’s Enrico Ciccone tweeted earlier today that the Philadelphia Flyers were interested in picking up Luongo and that rumor was confirmed by TSN’s James Duthie this evening.

What to make of all this? Not much right now other than another team apparently getting in the hunt for the likely soon-to-be Canucks star goalie. Before the lockout, rumors swirled about the Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks being involved in the hunt for Luongo, but those teams didn’t have a goalie signed to a long-term, big money deal the way the Flyers do.

Oh yeah, Ilya Bryzgalov is still the Flyers’ goalie and he has eight years left on his contract with the team at $5.6 million per year. With each team having two compliance buyouts coming after this season is over, it’s possible some team could/would buy out Bryz.

Then again, as Duthie says, the rumor doesn’t mean the Flyers will acquire Luongo, it just means they’ve asked about him. Can we get the CBA fully ratified so silly season can begin in earnest?

Update: Philly.com’s Frank Seravalli spoke with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren and his take on the rumor is pretty fantastic. “That made me chuckle. Safe to say they aren’t true. They have no basis or merit.”

Another update: Adrian Dater of the Denver Post says to not believe the Flyers’ disinterest and adds that the Canucks would ask for Niklas Grossmann in a deal for Luongo. Failing that they’d ask for Schenn. We’ll assume he means Luke Schenn. Gee, this couldn’t just be an effort by the Canucks to drive up the price for a guy they almost have to trade, could it?

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Meanwhile, Ilya Bryzgalov wants to play a lot this year

Rick Nash update: “NHL-ready forwards” are big part of asking price

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With the CBA talks taking a turn for the scary and Shane Doan’s decision put off for even longer, it seems like a decent time to take a glance at the drawn-out divorce between Rick Nash and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The latest update in the hockey game show “What does GM Scott Howson want for Nash now?” comes from TSN. While it’s likely that a couple NHL-ready forwards won’t be enough to do the job alone, that’s currently Howson’s emphasis in talks.

“If we do complete a trade, we’re trading out a 30-to-40 goal scorer,” Howson said. “Defense is probably the strongest part of our team if we look at it today, so we’re looking to get some NHL forwards back first and foremost.”

Personally, I think Howson is only half-correct about the Blue Jackets’ strength. While they’ve invested an unusually large amount of money in their defense – compared to the value they’re expected to get – stopping other teams from scoring isn’t necessarily their strongest point. Instead, their blueliners are probably most adept at filling the net. Both Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski are known more for creating offense (sometimes for both sides) than stifling it.

Interestingly enough, Howson shot down rumors about the team’s interest in highly touted Los Angeles Kings backup Jonathan Bernier. He mentioned that there might have been some interest at the draft before they acquired Sergei Bobrovsky, but it stopped there.

Either way, many must wonder if the Blue Jackets will relent from what’s widely believed to be an excessive asking price for Nash. Howson isn’t budging on his quest to squeeze every asset he can imagine from the team’s soon-to-be-ex captain, though.

“I have a value that I’ve placed on Rick and that our whole organization has placed on Rick,” Howson said. “He’s an elite player, he’s been a tremendous ambassador for our franchise and our city and we’re very comfortable with the value we’ve placed on him and until we get that value, we’re going to keep working away at it.”

More than a few GMs probably feel like saying “good luck with that,” then.

Report: Blues show some interest in Jason Garrison

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Earlier today, we passed along notes about St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong’s hopes of adding a top-four defenseman. Jeremy Rutherford reports that they have at least some interest in a guy who would fit that description: pending Florida Panthers free agent Jason Garrison.

Armstrong noted that it would be more likely that the Blues will trade for a free agent blueliner rather than signing one, but that doesn’t mean Garrison wouldn’t fit. After all, they could always acquire his rights before July 1 – which might be just fine with Florida if they decide that his contract demands are excessive.

We can debate Garrison’s merits in his own zone all day, but it’s hard not to gravitate toward his booming slap shot. He might be a mph or five below Zdeno Chara in that category, yet for a Blues team that struggled on the power play, Garrison’s shot could be quite the tonic.

Of course, it’ll all come down to the price being right – both in trade and contract terms. Still, it’s interesting to ponder. How well do you think he’d fit in St. Louis?