Potential NHL Trade Proposals: Pacific Division
With the trade deadline less than a month away and many teams having an idea of where they stand this season, now is a great time to start looking at some trades that would make a lot of sense. It has been a trend in the NHL to start making trades earlier and some dominoes have already fell. An arms’ race is shaping up among the top teams in the West and some unexpected teams have found themselves still hanging around the playoff race. What is maybe the most interesting so far this season is there are multiple teams who are loaded with young talent and playing better than expected and multiple teams who have talented veterans that are likely to be sellers.
In this article series, I have chosen five teams from each division who I believe could look to make a trade to solidify their roster for this season and maybe beyond. I started with the Atlantic division, predicting the Jake Muzzin trade back in December, and have worked my way through the league. None of these trades have been pulled from thin air. I have looked at where the teams are weakest in their “advanced metrics.” I then filtered players by specified criteria and looked at whether they would make sense for a given team. I will attempt to put a price on some targets but may not be entirely accurate. I will also add this disclaimer: I am much more familiar with some teams’ farm systems than others so please forgive me if I am vaguer with some teams than others. For previous articles, stats were gathered on December 12th, 2018. Since I have not had time until now to complete this series, I have recollected the statistics for this article.
The Pacific Division is interesting. The San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, and Vegas Golden Knights should be very active at the deadline. The Vancouver Canucks find themselves much closer to the playoffs than many anticipated, but they have done a nice job of accumulating future assets that they shouldn’t be looking to trade away. Even though the Canucks are in a position to potentially add, I will not predict any trades for them because I think their smartest move would be to stay the course. The Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers probably want to buy but maybe should be looking at making “hockey trades” or sell. I have previously written about many players I think the Los Angeles Kings should move and since I only focus on the buyers here, they will not be included. Finally, the Arizona Coyotes are looking like they will miss out on the playoffs but I think they will be pretty quiet come deadline day.
Potential Need: Depth Upgrade
I’ve been high on the Flames all season as I predicted in August that they would be the top team in the Pacific. They are probably one of the most complete teams in the league as they rank in the top ten everywhere that I deem important. They are tremendous during 5v5 play, have the best power play, in terms of expected goals, have a strong penalty kill, in terms of expected goals against, and their goaltending hasn’t been a major issue as a whole. This puts the team in a perfect position to look for marginal upgrades on their roster. Anyone they potentially add also would keep them away from the other top teams in the West.
If you have read the other three installments in this series, you should already be familiar with many of the players that I think would be quality depth upgrades. You will also be familiar with my policy of not predicting a player to go to more than one team. Many of the players I have previously predicted in trades would be tremendous fits with any of the top contenders. However, I have already predicted the likes of Kevin Hayes, Chris Krieder, Gustav Nyquist and Mark Stone to be moved to other teams. I think any of them would be a nice addition for Calgary as well (if they can make the salary work). For Calgary, I looked for a player who improves their team’s possession and expected goals ratio while they are on the ice. The players above all fit these criteria.
However, there are some other players that I have minimally touched on or have not mentioned at all. I think the top player on the list here is Mats Zuccarello. I think he would be a tremendous depth add for Calgary and the Flames could fit him his salary cap hit without moving any cap hit out. The Rangers should look to take advantage of what appears is starting to shape into a seller’s market and load up on future assets to continue to build a quality young core. In my piece on the Central Division I floated the names of Blake Coleman and Miles Wood. I will maintain that I’m not sure the Devils will be overly eager to move either of those players and the price could be a little steep. Like Zuccarello, I think Coleman would be a great for Calgary.
The Buffalo Sabres have had a disastrous last two months and have went from being in a clear buy position to a borderline sell position. They are a team probably looking more to make a hockey trade instead of just shipping players out for futures but they have a couple players who are having sneaky decent seasons that could be quality depth additions for a playoff team. The first player is Jason Pomenville, who has not yet been asked for a no-trade list, but still could. The other is Conor Sheary, who I doubt the team is actively looking to move but also probably wouldn’t hang up a call asking about him. Despite the Sabres’ struggles, both players have improved the team when they have been on the ice in both shot control and expected goals.
Predicted Trade: Calgary acquires Mats Zuccarello in exchange for a 2019 first-round pick and a mid to low level prospect.
San Jose Sharks
Potential Need: Better goaltending or depth upgrade
The Sharks have some tough decisions to make between now and the trade deadline. If they’re being completely honest with themselves, they should look for an upgrade in net. Their backup, Aaron Dell has been a perfectly fine backup, saving basically the amount of goals expected. Their biggest problem is Martin Jones, who is under contract for the next five seasons for $5.750,000. Jones’ incredibly poor play this season, allowing 16.5 goals more than expected, which is second worse in the league to Devon Dubnyk. The Sharks’ greatest hurdle in the playoffs is likely going to be their goaltending. The question is are they going to do anything about it? I don’t really see how it’s possible so I think the team will look to make a depth move instead. They don’t really need to but any marginal upgrades or insurance in case of injury might be a wise move. If they don’t address their goaltending, they should make sure they have no other roadblocks, including injuries.
The Sharks have been and should continue to be all-in. Their biggest challenge at the deadline will be meeting the price for a high-profile target. They don’t own a first-round pick the next two years and probably can’t trade their 2021 first-round pick as there are conditions attached to it from the Erik Karlsson trade. They do own Florida’s 2019 second-round pick and their own in 2020. Further, outside of Ryan Merkley, the team doesn’t have any prospects that are likely going to spark major interest. I wouldn’t move Merkley is I was the Sharks and I don’t think they will either. Even though their blueline is currently loaded, they need to make sure they have someone in the pipeline to replace one of their aging stars down the road. As such, I’m not sure the Sharks will have the capital to make a major splash. They also have $5.3M in deadline cap space to utilize so they would have to get creative to add someone on a bigger contract.
One player I like a lot for the Sharks is Jason Pomenville, a player who has shown he can play a variety of roles if asked and do so effectively. I previously discussed Pomenville in the Calgary Flames’ section. The Sharks are a really good team but I certainly wouldn’t think of them as a top speed team so adding a player like Pomenville, who isn’t the fastest player any more, wouldn’t be a major drag on their style of play. The biggest question would be Pomenville would be willing to accept a trade to San Jose. I’m not entirely sure he would and I also question if the Sabres would be willing to move him with them being close to a playoff spot themselves but he would be a tremendous addition for San Jose.
Another team that finds themselves in a similar situation to the Sabres is Carolina, who has Micheal Ferland and Justin Williams on expiring contracts. Both players would be great adds for the Sharks but, again, I’m not sure they are available. Williams would be an especially intriguing add. He like Pomenville, is having a sneaky solid season despite not putting up big scoring numbers, with his team being better in shots and expected goals ratios when he is on the ice versus when he is off. There also has to be something to be said about Williams’ tremendous playoff success. Another player who is having a decent season when looking at their shots and expected goals ratios but hasn’t lit up the scoresheet is the St. Louis Blues’ Patrick Maroon. He worked out well as a deadline addition for the Devils last season and could be a decent fit for the Sharks as well. Again, he might not be acquirable but he hasn’t worked out as well in St. Louis as they were likely hoping.
Predicted Trade: San Jose acquires Jason Pomenville in exchange for a 2020 third-round pick with Buffalo retaining 50% of the cap hit.
Vegas Golden Knights
Potential Need: Finishing Talent
Vegas is another scary, fairly complete team. However, they are the second worst team (to Carolina) in scoring versus what is expected during 5v5 play. They have scored 14 goals under what would be expected of them. This is a measure that over time should move toward zero, unless the team has talented or untalented shooters. However, at this point in the season, there have been enough games played where it is safe to draw conclusions. Vegas could use another scorer.
Vegas is in position once again to make a deep playoff run. However, this year their path through the West is going to be much tougher than last year with Calgary and San Jose looking to be extremely tough opponents. The question is whether Vegas will stay the course, make some minor tweaks, or try to make a big splash? I think they go for the big splash in hopes of making another deep playoff run. For Vegas, I have looked at targets who have at least 10 5v5 goals and have outscored their individual expected goals for. I have four players who fit the above criteria and would qualify as making a big splash. These players are Phil Kessel, Jeff Skinner, Artemi Panarin, and Matt Duchene.
Let’s start with Phil Kessel. The Penguins are struggling and have been rumored to be willing to move Kessel. Vegas is one of the few teams who probably would be willing to acquire Kessel during the season. Most teams would probably have to shuffle too much salary to make this trade possible; Vegas doesn’t. Although he is aging, Kessel is still a lethal scorer who plays a very south to north game, a good fit with Vegas. The question is whether Vegas wants to add a player whose cap hit is likely going to far outweigh the player’s production in another year or two. Maybe Vegas does want to add someone who would be more than just a potential rental. If so, Kessel would make a lot of sense. If not, Kessel is out. With Vegas already having significant salary commitments next season, I don’t think a player with term is in their plans.
Jeff Skinner would be an awesome fit with Vegas. He’s a great skater who could provide the finishing ability the team has been lacking this season. He’s also on an expiring contract. However, I don’t see the Sabres moving Skinner unless contract talks completely fall off the rails. I think the team wants to sign him to a long-term contract and that them falling out of the playoff race between now and the deadline won’t change that. Skinner hasn’t really been on a successful team in his career and a trade even with the intention of re-signing him in the offseason could backfire on the Sabres. A taste of success might deter Skinner from coming back to Buffalo. However, if Skinner can be had, I think he would be a near perfect fit in Vegas.
Panarin is a player in a similar situation as Skinner. However, it seems much more likely that he will walk as a free agent. The Columbus, like Buffalo, is fighting for a playoff spot and a trade of their star scorer will likely put a major damper on their ability to play in the postseason. I previously wrote that the team should go for it and use Panarin as their own rental but my gut tells me they will move Panarin between now and the deadline. The market appears to be shaping up favorably for sellers and Panarin would likely fetch the biggest haul. Columbus also has much more leverage than many other sellers because they can easily say they would be happy to hold onto Panarin if the value isn’t there and they wouldn’t be bluffing.
Finally, we come to Matt Duchene. Unless he signs a contract with Ottawa in the coming days (I doubt it will happen), I fully expect him to be traded. Vegas was reportedly close to making a major trade with Ottawa for Karlsson at the deadline last year and could look to do it again this year. With Ottawa currently without a first-round draft pick and going into full-rebuild, the team desperately needs to add draft capital. Enter Vegas. No buyer has more draft capital than Vegas and even though they still need to build organizational depth, they certainly could afford to part with picks. Last year, Vegas’s depth down the middle was an area of weakness. In the offseason, they added Paul Stastny. However, he is an aging player who has already missed some time with injury this season. Duchene has the versatility to play center or wing, which could provide insurance in case of more injury trouble up the middle.
Predicted Trade: Vegas acquires Matt Duchene in exchange for Vegas’s 2019 first-round pick, the two highest 2019 third round picks (Vegas owns their own plus Pittsburgh’s and Dallas’s) and Vegas’s 2020 second-round pick that would become a first if Duchene re-signs or Vegas wins the Stanley Cup.
This will conclude my formal, extended discussion of the Pacific Division. For other divisions, I have wrote about five teams, all of who I expect could and should add at the deadline. I don’t think another team in the Pacific should be looking to add.
However, I do think there will be plenty of intrigue surrounding some of the other Pacific teams, but as sellers that I will do a rapid-fire write-up for the Canucks, Ducks, Oilers, and Kings. As I wrote in my introduction, I think Arizona will be quiet between now and the deadline.
The Ducks are a mess and should be looking to sell anything they can. If Ryan Miller were not injured, he may be their most intriguing rental option as he was having a phenomenal season. Jakub Silfverberg should also draw interest. However, Anaheim has been significantly worse while he has been on the ice and considering how bad the Ducks have been as a whole, that is a pretty tough thing to accomplish. If Anaheim is willing to trade anyone, teams should be calling on Hampus Lindholm, Brandon Montour, Ondrej Kase (even though he’s injured), and Rickard Rakell. I wouldn’t move any of those players unless a haul is coming back but it if Anaheim is looking to make major shakeups those pieces are going to be their most desirable.
Yikes. If I’m running the Oilers, I’m willing to listen to offers on anyone not named Connor McDavid. The price for Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, Klefbom, and Nurse would be high. I also would not be eager to move Jesse Puljujarvi. The problem is just about no one else would have much value. At some point, the Oilers are going to have to make a blockbuster and the deadline probably isn’t the time to pull that off. The fact that Alex Chiasson is the team’s most attractive rental player is a major problem. He’s played well enough to probably fetch some value but it won’t be too significant. If the Oilers are smart, they have a very quiet deadline and ride it out for the rest of the season. During the offseason, they will hopefully gut their organization and set it in a new direction.
Los Angeles Kings
I expect the Kings to be the most active sellers at the deadline. They have some very attractive pieces and appear willing to accept the fact that they are going nowhere. The two facts should equal a significant sale. I correctly predicted the trade of Jake Muzzin to the Leafs. Additionally, I have predicted trades of Tyler Toffoli, Kyle Clifford, Alex Iafallo, and Jonathan Quick. Carl Hagelin is also a prime candidate to be traded but due to his injury at the time of writing for most of the articles, I did not include him in any move. There has been talks of Ilya Kovalchuk and Jeff Carter also being available but I don’t see either of them being attractive enough options. If I’m the Kings, I would listen to offers on every player not named Anze Kopitar, though I doubt Drew Doughty would be moved, I would be willing to for the right price.
Vancouver should not under any circumstances attempt to speed up their timeline unless they can find an absolute bargain. I would even consider selling but outside of Alex Edler and Chris Tanev, I don’t see anyone who the Canucks should consider trading that will bring back decent value. One strategy Vancouver could undertake is to play facilitator. They are in a good spot with their salary cap this year and next. They could take advantage of other teams needing to a third team to help make their salary cap situation work and pick up prospects or picks along the way, much like Vegas did last year in the trade that landed Derrick Brassard in Pittsburgh.
That concludes our series on the potential trades that I predict could happen between the time of writing and the trade deadline. Should you have thoughts or wish to way in, you can let us know on Twitter, @afpanalytics, or you can tweet at me, @k_sticher. Here’s to a fun couple weeks hockey fans!
All statistics are courtesy of Corsica.hockey and salary info and draft pick info is courtesy of capfriendly.com.
KYLE STICH is the Director of AFP Analytics. In addition, Mr. Stich is a tax specialist and Director of Operations at AFP Consulting LLC, whose clientele include professional athletes performing services on three separate continents. Mr. Stich earned his Master of Science in Sport Management with a Concentration in Sport Analytics from Columbia University in 2017. He earned his undergraduate degrees in Accounting and Sport Management from St. John Fisher College in 2015, where he has served as an adjunct professor teaching Sport Finance and Baseball Analytics.