The trade deadline, if you can believe it, is approaching. March 2 is shaping up to be an interesting day for a number of reasons, with a lot of focus on the sellers this year. There are some good picks to come in the NHL Entry Draft, namely Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid, and that’s going to put the focus on the teams in the lower end of the league.
When the draft gets underway in June in Sunrise, McDavid and Eichel are expected to go in the top two spots. Some have even been so bold as to call them the Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin of the draft, which is clearly a reference to the explosive 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
The Buffalo Sabres are obviously in the conversation when it comes to the draft. They’re also in the conversation when it comes to sellers as the deadline approaches. Right now, Buffalo is dead last in the NHL. If things wrap today, they’ve got the best odds of winning the draft lottery. They’re in the middle of a rebuild and are certainly fixed on getting returns on investments.
This means that nobody gets out of Buffalo without a return for general manager Tim Murray. Forwards Chris Stewart, Drew Stafford and Torrey Mitchell are all slated for unrestricted free agency following this season, while Andrej Meszaros, Andre Benoit, Michael Neuvirth, and Jhonas Enroth are also in that position. The Sabres could be looking at that group as possible candidates for movement.
Of all the players the Sabres have available, one has to think that the goaltenders are the biggest tickets.
This conversation would obviously be incomplete without mentioning the Edmonton Oilers, who are competing with the Sabres for the bottom of the league’s basement. General manager Craig MacTavish has even said that his top draft picks are available, which indicates that a big shakeup is in the works. The Oilers are well beyond tired of being thought of as a joke and will be looking to move mountains.
That means some big names could be in the works, like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. Both players are inked for three more seasons, while another options is Nail Yakupov. He is in the final year of his entry level deal and could be a significant bargaining chip.
The Arizona Coyotes are also considered to be sellers, especially as general manager Don Maloney noted that everyone except Shane Doan is available for conversation. This is normal trade behaviour, but it’s no secret that Maloney’s been dangling something in the water and hoping for a bite. Questions abound as to who’s involved in Arizona trade talks, as I speculated earlier, but right now the Coyotes are certainly howling about something.
And let’s not forget about Mike Green and the Washington Capitals. The Capitals are playoff bound unless something goes seriously wrong, but Green is set to become an unrestricted free agent. He’s also sinking in the depth chart and could be a serious sales option given the heft of his contract. Some have mentioning clubs like the Los Angeles Kings or the Erik Johnson-less Colorado Avalanche as potential buyers.
All in all, it should be an interesting months ahead of the trade deadline. There are a lot of potential deals in the works and it could prove to be a busy period as teams jockey for position and work to bolster their lineups.