The trade deadline for the 2019-20 NHL season looms on Feb. 24, and there is no shortage of buyers or sellers. With that in mind, we tasked our panel of NHL editorial staff with coming up with a series of trades that would make rational sense for both clubs involved.
Vegas upgrades its defense
Vegas gets the kind of puck-moving defenseman it has coveted, albeit one that’s struggled with injuries and has seen his numbers trail off since scoring 65 points in 78 games in 2017-18. Ghost Bear’s stock is low enough where a roster player, who essentially plugs the hole on defense for the Flyers, and two high draft picks should get it done. (The Devils’ pick could be attractive, given their lot in life.)
Philly also gets some cap savings: Gostisbehere is signed at $4.5 million average annual value through 2023. McNabb, who isn’t all that great but brings physicality and can help out the Flyers’ penalty kill, is at $2.5 million AAV through 2022. Vegas would still need to move some money around to make it work, however. — Greg Wyshynski, senior NHL writer
Zucker helps fill the Guentzel void
Zucker was nearly traded a few times last season, including a deal with the Penguins that fell apart because Phil Kessel vetoed it. This time, I think the Penguins can get it done. GM Jm Rutherford wants to add to his group — he thinks it has a good shot to win, which it does — and a scoring winger is the top priority with Jake Guentzel sidelined. The Wild, meanwhile, aren’t necessarily shopping Zucker. However, nearly six months into his tenure as Minnesota GM, Bill Guerin is ready to start putting his stamp on the roster.
Guerin, the former assistant GM for Pittsburgh, knows the Penguins’ prospect system inside and out. The Penguins lack a lot of depth, but since Zucker has term left, Rutherford will make the deal. The Pens part with a 2021 second-rounder (since they’re already missing their second-rounder in 2020) and Filip Hallander (a second-round pick, No. 58 overall in 2018), who is one of their best forward prospects. — Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter
Bruins land another scorer
After the Bruins had great success in bringing one Boston-area native home near last year’s trade deadline, why not do it again? After the win of the Charlie Coyle trade, bringing in Boxford native Kreider makes a lot of sense. He’d provide scoring depth, size and a good dose of speed to a team that has eyes on going to the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back years. A homecoming and a chance to win the the Stanley Cup could energize Kreider as well.
Rental prices are often higher than they end up being worth, and by all accounts, Kreider is the top player available, which only makes it more expensive. With other teams likely courting the Rangers for a deal, it behooves New York to let this go a bit and see if they can maximize return. Landing a late first-round pick is only semi-helpful, as it’s harder to land an impact prospect in that range, especially this year. Meanwhile, Bjork is an NHL-ready player who is 23 years old and a restricted free agent with arbitration rights after this season. He’s a depth player but still has upside to give the Rangers’ bottom-six a boost.
The last pick is more of a sweetener that could be tied to some salary gymnastics to make sure the Bruins are cap compliant if they need the Rangers to retain some money. The Rangers get another package for the future and would have the option to re-sign Kreider in the offseason. — Chris Peters, hockey prospects analyst
Sharks fill goaltending need
Who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned one-for-one “hockey trade?” It either fills a need or alleviates a potential headache for both teams. Both players here are 24, and both are up for new contracts that’ll represent notable pay hikes from their current deals. The added benefit of making the move now as opposed to waiting until the summer is that it gives each organization a chance to bring the player in, evaluate him more closely and figure out how they fit into their future plans.
Assuming the Rangers cash in on some combination of Kreider, Ryan Strome, and Jesper Fast at the deadline, there will be a natural opening in their top-six into which Labanc slides. It also clears room for them to play Igor Shesterkin, since Henrik Lundqvist isn’t going anywhere between now and the end of next season. From San Jose’s perspective, it once again has the league’s worst save percentage and needs to do something to ensure that this catastrophic season was a blip on the radar and not the start of a total rebuild. Georgiev is used to playing behind a porous defense that surrenders a high volume of quality looks and has kept his head above water — unlike the Sharks goalies in similar circumstances. At his age and presumably cost-controlled next contract, he also provides San Jose with the type of high-upside alternative that they need, considering the sunk cost they’ve already invested in Martin Jones. — Dimitri Filipovic, hockey analytics writer
Kovalchuk heads to a contender
This season’s greatest comeback story fully deserves the added drama of a lengthy postseason run. While the top pre-trade deadline priority (mine, anyway) is Kovalchuk joining any legit playoff contender, I’d admittedly like to see if/how he fits on Nazem Kadri‘s wing and the Avalanche’s second power-play unit. The 36-year-old might provide that bit of extra boost needed in pushing the club over the summit.
In return, the Canadiens get a bonus draft pick for taking an exceptionally cost-effective, essentially risk-free chance on a formerly accused washed-up/has-been who’s turned out to be a great fit in their lineup and dressing room. Who knew? Then, not long after Colorado hoists the Cup — Kovalchuk’s first — Montreal can re-sign the (swiftly) cherished veteran for a potential push next season. Everybody wins! — Victoria Matiash, fantasy hockey analyst
Stars pad their offense
The Stars are currently sitting in second place in the Central Division, but this isn’t your Dallas team of a few years ago. No, this team rides and dies with its defense and the Vezina Trophy-caliber goaltending of Ben Bishop, not offensive prowess. In fact, the Stars’ 2.64 goals per game ranks No. 26 in the NHL, and no player has more than 15 goals. Coleman isn’t going to win the Rocket Richard or anything, but his 19 goals (and 41 over the past two seasons) would certainly help the scoring depth without breaking the bank.
The 28-year-old isn’t worth a high pick, but with another season and a half under contract at just $1.8 million against the cap, he nets the Devils a third-round pick and some for their continued rebuild. L’Esperance (ranked as the Stars’ No. 8 prospect in the preseason by our own Chris Peters) offers New Jersey’s system another asset, and Point is a high-end goalie prospect for a team that really needs help there. Dallas wouldn’t want to give up Jake Oettinger, especially with Bishop now 33 years old, but Point is expendable, has upside and checks a box for the Devils. — Ben Arledge, NHL editor