Potential Trade Proposals: Metro Division
With the holiday roster freeze ended 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 earlier and the unique way this season has played out so far and with a potential major prize to be had in the draft, with another potential superstar available some teams who have fallen well behind, might be best served to help get themselves the best odds at Jack Hughes. 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 well out of the playoff race
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 will start with the Atlantic division and work 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. Also, all stats were collected as of December 11th. You can find the Atlantic Division here.
Potential Need: Shot Suppressor
The Capitals have been rattling off points recently and have positioned themselves well for another playoff run. With the way the Capitals approached the offseason, it is not surprising that many of the same issues persisted into this season. The Capitals biggest weakness is they are giving up 60 shots per game during 5v5 play. To put that in context, the only playoff teams with worse rates are Toronto and Anaheim. Overall, there are only six teams allowing more shots than Washington.
To find a player to help Washington, I looked for players who were better than average in suppressing shots and have a positive shot differential while on the ice. The list of players who fit the criteria is quite extensive but many of the players would not be available for trade. The Capitals are tight up against the salary cap and would likely need to move some money out to make any tweaks to their roster. With the organization having appeared to sour on AndréBurakovsky, he could be a prime player to move out for some depth options. With Burakovsky still young, teams looking to rebuild could have interest in him.
There was one team with multiple players who fit the specified criteria, while being relatively inexpensive, and should definitely be looking to rebuild. That team is the Los Angeles Kings. They had Tyler Toffoli, Carl Hagelin, Kyle Clifford, Alex Iafallo, Nate Thompson, Jake Muzzin, Derek Forbort, and Drew Doughty appear on this list. Doughty isn’t going to Washington and Thompson has been too suspect in his career to instill confidence. I already have traded Jake Muzzin to Toronto and Tyler Toffoli might be a little too expensive. Carl Hagelin could be an interesting move but he is currently injured and might not provide enough value to move Burakovsky and additional pieces might be tough to include and make the money work. This has me homing in on Forbort, Iaffalo, and Clifford. If I were in charge, I would love to get my hands on Forbort to play with John Carlson, which would also allow Michal Kempny to slot into the third pair. However, I think Washington will look to bolster their forward depth instead because they have left-handed Brooks Orpik slated to return at some point. Truthfully, I’m not sure if Los Angeles would be willing to move a young player like Iaffalo but Burakovsky is younger and has a higher ceiling. Iaffalo would be a really quality middle six player for Washington. Kyle Clifford would also provide better bottom six depth than what Washington is currently fielding.
Predicted Trade: Washington acquires Alex Iaffalo, Kyle Clifford, and a 4thround pick in exchange for AndréBurakovsky.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Potential Need: Possession Driver
Columbus ranks in the bottom 12thworst in possession, 13thworst shots for, and 11thworst in shots against. Although not terrible, Columbus is currently a solid contender in the Eastern Conference and might have their best chance ever to make a playoff run. With so much uncertainty surrounding the contract situations of some of the team’s top players, now might be the time to go for it. For a team that is close, their possession numbers do not inspire enough confidence in a dominating playoff run. A second-round exit would be incredibly disappointing and that is probably the best-case scenario if they continue playing at this level. The team has two options as the trade deadline gets closer, add talent in hopes of making a run or trade Panarin and Bobrovsky instead of risk losing them for nothing in free agency. If I’m running Columbus, I’m going for it. Their division is weak and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals is a definite possibility if they can add some talent. If they get there, they need to hope the powers in the Atlantic tire each other enough to get to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Columbus has plenty of salary cap space to add with potential trade deadline cap space of nearly $32M and currently they can add around $11M-$12M. If Panarin and Bobrovsky leave this summer, Columbus will have significant cap space to work with next season and beyond as well. The biggest question is whether they are willing to spend it and if they add via trade, whether they have enough assets to acquire the level of players who will eat into that cap space. In terms of on ice performance, I looked for players who improved their teams’ offensive performance when they are on the ice. The numbers I looked at were relative shots % and relative expected goals for %. If you read my previous installment, you may recognize I had the same criteria for the Buffalo Sabres. Columbus could also potentially benefit from adding some help in net, especially someone with some term.
One player who could be on Columbus’s radar is Brayden Schenn. However, since I previously constructed a trade sending him to Buffalo, I will not consider him here for Columbus. However, that does not mean Columbus won’t talk with St. Louis regarding other players. One really interesting name could be Artemi Panarin’s good friend, Vladimir Tarasenko. If St. Louis would seriously consider moving Tarasenko, Columbus should inquire. Columbus has some really nice forwards but outside of Panarin, there is no one to strike fear into an opponent. A line of Panarin-Dubois-Tarasenko would be outstanding and arguably the best in the league. Acquiring Tarasenko could also help convince Panarin to stay and that should be Columbus’s ultimate goal. Columbus definitely would have the cap space to make this happen.
Tarasenko may not be available and would certainly come at quite the price. There are other options available that could be tremendous adds for the shorter-term. I’ll start with another Blue, Jaden Schwartz, who has term as well and would add to Columbus’s forward depth. He would be a nice add for this season and could potentially help replace Panarin next season, if he walks. Another player signed beyond this year that would fit well is Tyler Toffoli from the Los Angeles Kings. If the Blue Jackets opt for a pure rental, Gustav Nyquist from Detroit would be a nice addition to provide a little more punch up front. The downside with these three players is they provide much of the same of what Columbus ultimately has, really good middle six players but not enough top end talent. If Columbus added one of these players, they would be putting tremendous depth up against top end talent in the playoffs. It hasn’t worked out in the past for them and if I were them, I would wing for the fences.
Predicted Trade: Columbus acquires Vladimir Tarasenko and Jake Allen from St. Louis in exchange for Josh Anderson, Joonas Koripisalo, a protected 2019 first-round pick, and Sonny Milano.
Potential Need: Goaltending
In actuality, Pittsburgh looks like one of the top teams when considering some of their more advanced metrics. I am sure they will look to add some roster depth but the reality is they have no major weaknesses outside of their goaltending. Matt Murray has not been good since the two magical playoff runs and I’m not sure it would be wise for Pittsburgh to rely on the combination of Murray, Tristian Jarry, and Casey Desmith to contend for another Stanley Cup.
Pittsburgh is known to swing big so I expect them to potentially be linked to some of the big names available around the trade deadline. However, I think they should turn their primary focus to goaltenders available. I think there will be three big name goaltenders that will be on the available at the deadline, Detroit’s Jimmy Howard, Los Angeles’s Jonathan Quick, and Chicago’s Corey Crawford, depending on his health. I think Howard would make the most sense for Pittsburgh as he will be a free agent after this season and not impact Pittsburgh’s future cap, which will continue to be an issue for them as long as they stay in “win now mode.”
A trade for Howard would be complicated unless Detroit or Pittsburgh moves salary before the trade as Pittsburgh would need some of Howard’s retained of would have to send salary back to Detroit. However, Detroit does not have any additional salary cap space as they are utilizing Long-Term Injured Reserve to exceed the salary cap. Detroit definitely could move Nyquist prior to any Howard trade and then potentially retain salary. I’m not sure salary matching would make a lot of sense for either team.
Predicted Trade: Pittsburgh acquiresJimmy Howard in exchange for a 2ndround pick and Detroit retaining15% of salary.
Potential Need: Someone who can score goals
This is probably the easiest team need to write. Carolina does so many things incredibly well but they can’t score. Their goaltending could be improved but scoring is their biggest problem. They have scored 30 less goals than expected this season! If they scored as expected, they would have scored an extra goal in every game they have played. How much higher would they be in the standings had they done that? Yes, Carolina needs goal scoring and they could move some of their extra defensive talent to acquire what they need.
I filtered players based on who are currently outperforming their expected goal totals. To me this means they have some sort of finishing talent. Although this is not perfect logic because my criteria could mean that the players are due to regress. There are plenty of players who fit this criterion. The problem is many of these players aren’t likely to be traded. One player on this list who would make a lot of sense if Jeff Skinner. Oh wait! Carolina already had him and traded him. Oops! There are still plenty of intriguing names on this list including Anthony Mantha, Nikolaj Ehlers, Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Gustav Nyquist, Mikael Granlund, Chris Kreider, Kasperi Kapanen, Tomas Tatar, Alex Steen, and Robby Fabbri. I think the most interesting names here are Mantha, Ehlers, Hoffman, Stone, Nyquist, Kapanen, Tatar, and Fabbri. I do not know the appetite of any of the teams to move these players but Carolina has some really good defensemen signed to extremely reasonable contracts that should be tempting.
I already discussed Toronto in my previous installment and had them acquiring Jake Muzzin. As such, I’m not going to predict a Kapanen trade here. Florida might be willing to move Hoffman but I’m not sure one of Carolina’s defenders is going to be a great fit there. I don’t think Carolina would be willing to trade a defender with term left for Mark Stone, who can become an UFA this summer. The same goes for Nyquist. I would also imagine they are looking for a longer-term solution than a rental. This leaves Mantha, Ehlers, Tatar, and Fabbri. I strongly prefer one of the first two players and if Carolina were to dangle Brett Pesce, I would think Detroit and Winnipeg would have to think long and hard about it.
Detroit needs help on their backend and someone cost controlled would be great. Winnipeg is loaded at forward and currently have a decent backend, but not great depth going forward. I think Tucker Poolman could be a nice piece going forward but probably doesn’t project as a high-end player. With tremendous uncertainty around Jacob Trouba’s future with Winnipeg and the likely departure of Tyler Myers, the Jets have 33-year-old Dustin Byfuglien and Josh Morrissey as defensemen they can definitely count on going into next season. For a team whose cup window is now, the Jets should look to shore up their blueline.
Predicted Trade: Carolina acquires Nikolaj Ehlers in exchange for Brett Pesce and Warren Foegele.
Potential Need: Goaltending
When I started this project, the Flyers still had decent odds at making the playoffs. They have struggled recently and I considered replacing them with the Islanders. However, I think as the New Year gets rolling, it will be the Flyers potentially surging and the Islanders falling off (these are what their advanced metrics potentially indicate). I also think it is far more likely the Flyers make a move to shore up their roster than the Islanders do. With this in mind, the Flyers’ biggest need, to no one’s surprise, is goaltending. Although Carter Hart looks promising, the Flyers would still be wise to have another viable option and right now, they don’t appear to have one. The Flyers are hovering around giving up nine more goals than expected.
The Flyers need to look to find a longer-term solution to not rush Hart in the short-term and provide a viable backup option when Hart takes over. This player’s name has already been linked to Philadelphia and I think he is who the Flyers should ultimately hone in on. That player is Jonathan Quick. Is Quick going to be the missing piece of the puzzle? Probably not. The Flyers will probably need to do some other tweaking. Is Quick going to be a top tier goalie if he were in Philadelphia? I wouldn’t bet on it. However, he would provide some stability and serve as a bridge to Hart taking over full-time. He does have a somewhat reasonable cap hit and the price tag in a trade probably won’t be overly high. The Kings are in a position where it might be smart to move Quick for future assets so they can clear the way for Cal Petersen. Petersen may not quite be ready but the Kings are in no position to make the playoffs this season so allowing Petersen to grow might be a wise move.
Predicted Trade: Flyers acquire Jonathan Quick in exchange for a 2ndround draft pick and a mid-level prospect
Statistics courtesy of Corsica.hockey and contract data 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.