The All-Star break is over and the second half of the season has officially begun; this means we’re officially less than a month from the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline o February 25.
Teams at the top of the standings are looking to shore up some perceived weaknesses for the two month trudge to the Stanley Cup, teams on the bubble are looking for that one big move to solidify their chances at the big dance, and the teams looking to the future are opening up shop and naming their prices.
For a fan, this is one of the most fun times of the season. The constant stream of rumors and whispers of what teams are offering for what prices is one of the best parts of trade season, as is fantasy GMing. Making bold predictions based on an incredibly volatile market is one of the best things you can do as a fan and the bolder the prediction, the better.
With all that in mind, why not jump the gun and make some bold predictions weeks before we have any real solid rumors. We gathered everyone up at Blueshirt Banter and had some fun answering for very simple questions:
What is your most realistic prediction for the Rangers on the Trade Deadline?
Shayna: There has to be a balance between blowing the team up like last year, and moving enough players to get the necessary assets to continue the rebuild. Kevin Hayes and Adam McQuaid I think are the two ‘locks’ to be traded; Mats Zuccarello’s also in the top tier of players to be moved. I’d put Vladislav Namestnikov just below them in the next tier, Jimmy Vesey’s in the following, and then Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast after that. Those are my ~players to watch~ at the deadline for the Rangers. In return, at this phase in the process, I think they’ll aim to add more NHL ready young players or almost-NHL-ready players, along with prospects and draft picks.
Tom: Hayes, Zuccarello, McQuaid are definitely moved as impending UFAs. I think there’s the potential for Namestnikov to move on too, but it all depends on how the market is — but by no means should the Rangers sell short, because there’s the potential for him to rebuild his value and be dealt at next year’s deadline or way before that at the upcoming NHL Draft.
Mike: Jeff Gorton doesn’t trade Kreider, but he deals Hayes, Zuccarello, and McQuaid. Of that group, Hayes will bring back the largest return. Zuccarello will bring back a package that is only a small step above what the Rangers got in return for Grabner last year, and McQuaid will bring back less than what the Rangers acquired him for.
Joe: The best bet here is that Zuccarello and Hayes are gone by the time the deadline rolls around, and you might see Namestnikov added into that as well. (Sources have confirmed to Blueshirt Banter the Rangers and Avalanche are discussing Vlad, with Shane Bowers being a target by the Rangers). I believe the Rangers want to have McQuaid moved by the deadline as well, but I’m not sure what value he currently has on the market. That said, if Gorton sells short — think a 5th round pick or worse — he’ll probably find a home. The big question marks are guys like Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Kreider, and I think it’s fair to say both of them will be on the team post-deadline.
Evan: I think the safest bet is that at least one of Zuccarello, Hayes, and McQuaid gets traded. All three are UFAs this summer, and all three could reasonably not re-sign with the Rangers. If I had to guess which one is most likely to be traded, I’d say Zuccarello based on his age, his comments prior to his return to the Rangers after his injury, and the immediate value he could bring to a team. Most people think his value is somewhere around a second round pick plus a prospect, and I think that’s reasonable. I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that he could net a first round pick if a team wants him badly enough.
Adam: The Rangers straddle the line between selling like rebuilders while not fundamentally blowing it up. Hayes and Zuccarello will be goners and they’ll listen to any other non-fundamental players.
Scott: Zuccarello gets traded to a cup contender as a rental. He’s a UFA and while there are arguments to be made to keep Kreider, Zibanejad, Hayes, etc., there’s no excuse for Zuccarello to remain with the club past the trade deadline. To where he’ll go is a lot less certain, but to make my prediction more specific I’ll say to the Nashville Predators.
Phil: The team’s more valuable UFAs — Hayes, Zuccarello, and McQuaid — will all be moved for varying levels of return. I think it’s also fair to assume that someone like Namestnikov, with another year left on his deal, could also get flipped to a contending team looking for a little more stability in their “rental.”
Kevin: As everyone said above; Hayes and Zuccarello are both on different teams by the end of the deadline. The return for Kevin Hayes will be fascinating to see and I think the only guaranteed part of the return is going to be a first round pick. As for everyone’s favorite Norwegian, I think he gets the same return as Grabner (second round pick and a mid-tier prospect) and no one will think it’s enough. As for other roster players; I think Namestnikov and McQuaid are also very high on the tradeability list and will garner a lot of interest from the top contenders looking for depth.
Which team, outside of the Rangers, will have the biggest impact (make the biggest move, move the biggest player) on the deadline?
Shayna: It has to be Ottawa at this point, right? Pre-Peter Chiarelli firing, I think Edmonton would have been the highest on this list — and not that I have any faith in Keith Gretzky to do the right thing — he just isn’t Chiarelli and I wonder if there’s pressure to not sell off more of their future assets after depleting as many as they have. I think they still want to go for it, but we won’t see as radical of moves from them at this year’s trade deadline. Having said that... I go with the Ottawa Senators. I don’t think Pierre Dorion is a good general manager by any means, so I think he could easily be fleeced via trade (again). Matt Duchene is probably the most likely to be moved, and I think the goal is to extend Mark Stone so he stays (but really, who knows if that will happen), plus there’s Bobby Ryan and his contract, Ryan Dzingel, and others that could be flipped. While we’re talking about big names that could be moved, everyone has to keep an eye on Columbus, who has both Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky who could be flipped. If either of them are moved, they’ll almost definitely be the team to move the biggest player.
Tom: I think the Senators will be active as there is so much uncertainty in terms of their impending free agents. Signing or not signing Mark Stone and Matt Duchene will have a huge impact on every other player slated to be available.
Mike: Either the Oilers or the Senators are going to steal the show with a blockbuster move (or two or three) leading up to the deadline. There’s a lot of potential for both of those teams to really stir up the market leading up to deadline day. Stone and Duchene are both pending UFAs and the Oilers are about as predictable as a wolverine covered in pre-ignited fireworks in a dark room.
Joe: Ottawa is likely to be the answer across the board, simply because they wield two of the league’s biggest rentals in Duchene and Stone. If Duchene is re-signed it removes another center rental from the market and makes Hayes the top rental for his position. Stone is an obvious elite player who would be the primary winger rental for any contender, but Zuccarello does represent a cheaper option for teams that don’t want to pay the freight on an elite-level rental. The Blue Jackets will be named here because of Panarin, but there’s no way they’re selling Panarin in the middle of a playoff season, so it’s Ottawa all the way.
Evan: The Senators for sure. Stone, Duchene, and Dzingel are all UFAs this summer, and I’d be surprised if any of them re-sign with the Senators. By nearly any number you can come up with, Stone is an elite 1st-line forward, so, if he’s traded, he probably nets the highest return of any player traded this deadline.
Adam: I think Winnipeg is going to try to make something big happen which will separate them from Nashville in the Central Division. Winnipeg has assets to play with and, more importantly, Patrik Laine’s and Kyle Connor’s entry-level contracts expire at the end of the season while Jacob Trouba also becomes a restricted free agent. While their window is hardly closing, this is definitely the time to go for it before the salary cap forces them to make some tough choices.
Scott: I would say the Colorado Avalanche. They look primed for a move as they have the cap space and roster opening to add a top forward (like Hayes) and have plenty of draft picks to spend (they have their own first through third round picks, and the Senators’ first and third round picks).
Kevin: Ottawa is the obvious, and probably right answer here but I’m going to go with either San Jose or Carolina. Both are both incredibly good teams and both are hurt by percentages; Carolina can’t buy a shooting percentage bump and the Sharks can’t make a save. The Hurricanes already made a move to rectify this by adding Nino Niederreiter from Minnesota but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark Stone found his way down south. As for San Jose, they need help in net and I expect them to go hard after someone like Cam Talbot from Edmonton to secure the blue paint as they look to push towards the playoffs.
What is your boldest prediction for the Rangers at the Deadline?
Shayna: The Rangers take on a bad contract to get rid of Brendan Smith. Smith clearly isn’t a favorite of Quinn, and the Rangers have a lefty waiting for a call up in John Gilmour, if not Ryan Lindgren, Libor Hajek, and Chris Bigras. Maybe it’s from a contending team that needs to send an expensive contract (plus a prospect) for Smith (plus some salary retention), or from another bad team with a bad contract that they’re trying to get rid of. I don’t think this is necessarily a bold take, but I think the Rangers have too many defensemen, not enough room, and are regretting the Smith extension (although, I still grade this/last season on a curve for basically every defender as long as Lindy Ruff is behind the bench). They’re going to want to wiggle out of that one any chance they get and maybe they make it happen this year. If they move him and McQuaid, then they’re down to six defensemen and can rotate in kids.
Tom: I don’t think there’s a chance this happen, but a bold prediction would see the Rangers trade Mika Zibanejad for a massive return and extending Kevin Hayes shortly after that.
Mike: My boldest prediction is that the Rangers find a suitor for Kevin Shattenkirk by retaining some of his salary. I’m not sure where he’d make a good fit, and it is important to remember he has a 10-team no-trade list, but I don’t see how he fits into the organization’s rebuild plans. If Marc Staal (and/or Brendan Smith) weren’t here, things would look different. But they are here. There are a lot of young defensemen coming up through the pipeline and space has to be made somehow.
Joe: Realistically, there’s nothing “bold” that would be a surprise. I think something like Mika Zibanejad getting traded and Hayes re-signing would be something bold. If I needed to pick a bold move that is somewhat realistic I’d say Shattenkirk getting traded. There are a slew of teams who could use a defenseman of his class, and with two years left after this one there’s no rental tag on him. A team like Edmonton, say, might be willing to pay a lot more for him to keep him around. That said, I don’t see Shattenkirk going anywhere — and not just because the team would be selling low on him at this point.
Evan: My really bold — and unlikely — prediction is that Kreider gets traded this deadline. He has one more year left on his contract after this season, and then he’s a UFA, so if the Rangers legitimately think he’s unwilling to re-sign with them, they might try and sell him now at what will likely be his highest value ever. And if Kreider is traded, I don’t even know what to expect for the return. A first round pick plus a top prospect seems reasonable considering how much teams desire a player with his skillset.
Adam: Adam McQuaid is still on the team when the deadline passes.
Scott: My boldest prediction is that the Rangers trade Kreider. It’d be tough parting with him, but his value will probably never be higher. Combine that with the fact that he’ll need a new, big-money deal at the end of next year by the time he’s almost 30, and you have the perfect storm to trade him now and maximize the value of your asset.
Phil: Sorry to Price is Right you, Adam: McQuaid isn’t just here still, he’s been given a multi-year extension.
Kevin: The Rangers are going to make a decision between Tony DeAngelo and Neal Pionk either as a sweetener to take on Brendan Smith in return for a second or third round pick, or in a smaller deal for a later round pick or two. If they can’t move Smith, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin Shattenkirk heads to Toronto or Colorado in return for a prospect and pick.
Which team will be the biggest winner (your definition) after the deadline?
Shayna: The Tampa Bay Lightning are such a good team already, that I won’t be surprised if they make a few moves to bolster their chances even more. The San Jose Sharks could be the biggest winner after the deadline with some tweaks and maybe an Erik Karlsson extension (although, I think their biggest problems are in net and I’m not sure they fix them). If Kevin’s right with predicting the Sharks look at Cam Talbot, who the Oilers will almost definitely sell low, then they really could come out the biggest winner. Another sneaky team is the Carolina Hurricanes. Winning the Stanley Cup makes any team a winner, but I think there can be (albeit, smaller) wins besides that; for the Hurricanes, a team that has struggled over the years, making the playoffs at all would be a win, for now. They have a core that is good right now and will be for years to come, and some great prospects. Plus they’ve come out winners from some of their more recent trades. With a little work at the deadline, maybe in net, they could come out one of the biggest winners if it helps them step into the postseason.
Tom: (Writer’s note: This was written before Jake Muzzin trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs) The Tampa Bay Lightning are the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup, and they can be the biggest winner if nothing of consequence happens within the conference. Every team will be looking to improve, and the majority of top players available are within the Eastern Conference. General managers have this funny habit of trying to avoid trading within division and conference, and that’s exactly what Pierre Dorion did this summer when he dealt Mike Hoffman to the San Jose Sharks who then flipped him to the Florida Panthers. If Stone and Duchene are moved, I would think they are headed to the Western Conference, and that would be a win for Tampa who could theoretically have some what of an easy road to the Stanley Cup Final. There will be teams who may be able to test them — like the Toronto Maple Leafs — but unless a team in the East makes a major move, Tampa can be a winner at the deadline for doing little or nothing and still remaining the team to beat.
Mike: This is a tough question. I’ll go with the Carolina Hurricanes because they are already off to a great start with the Viktor Rask for Nino Niederreiter swap. Too boring? Fine. Let’s go with Doug Wilson and the San Jose Sharks. Wilson made his big move already by acquiring Erik Karlsson, so he shouldn’t do anything too splashy. If the Sharks can grab a reliable goaltender and some depth on the blue line, they should be solid. Often, the teams that do the best on deadline day are the teams that don’t overpay or try to do too much. The Sharks should be in a position where Wilson will want to bolster his roster because of Karlsson’s uncertain future, but his team is also really damn good already. It just has a few clear issues that need to be addressed, namely in net.
Joe: My definition of winning at the deadline is the team that sets themselves up for the most success moving forward. For a team like Tampa Bay that’s setting up for a Cup win, for a team like the Rangers it’s the continued growth of assets to help speed along the rebuild. And in that line of thinking, it’s the Rangers. With Namestnikov, Zuccarello, and Hayes expecting to be moved, Gorton should be looking at another spring filled with assets from three trades. Also, if you want to dig deeper, the selloff should create room for some of the kids who can’t get into the lineup right now, and allow the continued freefall for that sweet, sweet 2019 draft pick this summer.
Evan: Watch out for the Sharks. They have the makings of a Stanley Cup-winning team, but there’s something up with their defense and/or goaltending. If they can make a deal for a more consistent goaltender than Martin Jones or find someone or something that can help out Jones make more saves, they could be unstoppable.
Adam: I’m going to say Colorado, and here is why: Trading deadline moves rarely look great in hindsight. I think Colorado knows that, despite having a lot to offer in trade, this isn’t their moment. They have a hell of a core in Nate MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog, and Cale Makar plus Martin Kaut soon coming. Plus, they have a lottery pick from Ottawa plus their own first in the draft next season which could end up in the teens. Sometimes the best move is no move; or, at least, no big move. If GM Joe Sakic can avoid the temptation then I think Colorado will be set up to become a real force in the West.
Scott: It’s tough because I think that’ll largely depend on the moves being made (like if a team overpaid or got a good deal), but in general I would say the New York Islanders. There have been reports that they’re looking to make a move at the deadline and even if they overpay for a player, they’ll be bettering their roster and improving their club for the postseason. Not many expected them to have the success they’ve had this season and them even being in the position to be a major player at the deadline is a good sign for the team.
Phil: Adam is correct that a team like Colorado could very well be the winner by not dipping into their savings too early. However, the Philadelphia Flyers stand to gain even more considerably given how inexplicably poor they’ve been this season. Not only will they not buy, they’ll sell, adding to their already impressive prospect pool.
Kevin: Mike and I are on the same wavelength. I just can’t shake the feeling that Carolina and San Jose are content with where they are right now. Both teams are in a prime position to actually make a solid, deep playoff run. Both are in weak divisions and have superlative underlying numbers just waiting for that extra boost. I think I give Carolina the edge because there are clear, available upgrades to add up front and not many solid goaltending options for San Jose.
Well, there you have it. Please come back here in a couple of weeks to tell us how wrong we are and leave your predictions below.