Jaromir Jagr (Getty Images)
Jaromir Jagr, Joffrey Lupul and Antoine Vermette are coveted forwards approaching the NHL trade deadline. Here are some mock deals for them that could work.
Better rush to get this blog up before every name in the headline above finds a new team.
The writing on the wall is pretty much in perma-Sharpie for right winger Jaromir Jagr and center Antoine Vermette. Left winger Joffrey Lupul has a decent shot at changing addresses before March 2's trade deadline, too, assuming the Toronto Maple Leafs eat some of his $5.25-million cap hit.
Admit it: one of the funnest things to do this time of year is speculate on deals and propose some of your own. Let's take a crack at it in this space with a few plausible swaps for each on-the-block player.
Without giving too much away about THN's upcoming Future Watch, in which we rank all 30 franchises' development systems: the Devils' prospect pool is weak. That's partially because New Jersey has graduated the promising quartet of Adam Larsson, Jon Merrill, Eric Gelinas and Damon Severson to the NHL. The blueline's future looks strong (Steven Santini is another to watch). New Jersey desperately needs offense up front, however. The likes of Stefan Matteau, John Quenneville and Reid Boucher don't project as scoring champs. General manager Lou Lamoriello, then, should move Jagr for (a) a mid- to high-round draft pick to use on a forward or (b) a mid-range forward prospect.
To Pittsburgh Penguins: Jaromir Jagr
To New Jersey Devils: Beau Bennett
Bennett, 23, went 20th overall at the 2010 draft. It just hasn't happened for him in Pittsburgh. He can't stay out of the infirmary, he's been a healthy scratch on and off, and he's a pending restricted free agent. Still, Bennett's 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame is tempting. Maybe he just needs a fresh start. And the Devils sure need scoring forwards.
With all due respect to Blake Comeau, Jagr would fit perfectly on Evgeni Malkin's right side. And the Penguins are already one of Jagr's most commonly rumored suitors. Originally I had a second-rounder as a possible return from Pittsburgh, but the Pens already burned one to get Daniel Winnik.
To Chicago Blackhawks: Jaromir Jagr
To New Jersey Devils: 2015 second-round pick
As Elliotte Friedman astutely pointed out, Patrick Kane's long-term injury gives the Hawks some cap relief, meaning they can afford a trade deadline rental, but it must be someone with an expiring deal. Enter No. 68.
Chicago strikes me as less likely to surrender a mid-range prospect such as Ryan Hartman or Nick Schmaltz for Jagr, as GM Stan Bowman will need some entry-level contracts in the coming years to protect the team from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane's new $10.5-million cap hits.
To New York Islanders: Jaromir Jagr
To New Jersey Devils: Sebastian Collberg, 2015 fourth-round pick
Collberg went to the reloading Isles at last year's deadline. Now that they're a first-place club, they can spare a skill guy like Collberg, who is just the type of player New Jersey needs. He's a small but talented forward who has begun to cut his teeth in the AHL after coming over from Sweden. It would be neat to see Lamoriello make a play for Josh Ho-Sang instead, but that's probably too much for a few months of Jagr.
Lupul openly wants to stay in Toronto and help shepherd a retooling of the roster, but multiple reports suggest the Leafs are actively shopping him. It's not the easiest sell considering Lupul, 31, has an alarming injury history and three years left on his deal at a $5.25-million cap hit. Trading him requires creativity (and generosity, a.k.a. a willingness to eat some salary). Luckily for Toronto, however, plenty of teams need a top-six winger.
To Washington Capitals: Joffrey Lupul, $1 million in salary relief
To Toronto Maple Leafs: Michael Latta, 2015 second-round pick
The Caps seek a winger to join Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on a dynamite top line, as they've deemed youngsters Wilson and Andre Burakovsky not quite ready for full-time duty there. Lupul and Ovechkin can each play either wing, so chemistry wouldn't be a huge problem. Could the Leafs pry a Tom Wilson? Probably not. They're not in a position of power. But the Caps could spare a lesser prospect like checker Latta.
This and any other Lupul deal, of course, depends on whether the team asking for him is on his list of 14 destinations to which he'd accept a move.
An alternate proposal here: how about sending Brooks Laich, who has two years left at $4.5 million per, to the Leafs for Lupul, with Toronto netting a pick? Lupul becomes a much more attractive buy if Toronto takes a bad contract back. Laich would have to waive his NTC, though.
To Montreal Canadiens: Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak
To Toronto Maple Leafs: Christian Thomas, Lars Eller, 2015 first-round pick
Devante Smith-Pelly filled a need for the Habs at right wing but opened up a spot on the left side where Jiri Sekac played – and where Lupul can play. Why Bozak? Installing him as a No. 2 center can move Tomas Plekanec into a shutdown role, where he excels. And with Manny Malhotra centering the fourth line and David Desharnais the first, the Habs would look very strong down the middle for the playoffs.
Eller and Thomas have popped up in rumors of a multi-player blockbuster between the division rivals. Given Bozak's reasonable cap hit, though, it could take a pick to make this deal worthwhile for Toronto. It would also put Montreal over the cap, so the Canadiens would have to clear some space. How about making Toronto take P-A Parenteau?
There's a dearth of quality two-way centers who can man a second or third line available to rent as pending UFAs. That's why Vermette will command a surprisingly good return for the Arizona Coyotes leading up to the deadline. Think of him as a poor man's Patrice Bergeron. Vermette has a decent amount of offensive skill as a four-time 20-goal scorer, and he's a strong two-way presence who excels on faceoffs and kills penalties. Any team can use that.
To Boston Bruins: Antoine Vermette
To Arizona Coyotes: Alexander Khokhlachev, 2015 fourth-round pick
OR: 2015 first-round pick
I've read several suggestions of a Ryan-Spooner-for-Vermette deal, but Vermette should command a higher price, even as a rental. Remember, defensive pivot Paul Gaustad netted a first-rounder in 2012 (with a fourth-rounder going to Nashville with Gaustad). The Bruins are desperate to stay in the playoff race, and they're hurting at center thanks to David Krejci's partially torn MCL.
Meanwhile, Khokhlachev, a prolific OHL scorer, gives Arizona another high-ceiling forward prospect alongside Max Domi and Brendan Perlini. This team needs to keep injecting offense into its system.
To Chicago Blackhawks: Antoine Vermette
To Arizona Coyotes: Ryan Hartman, 2015 second-round pick
Seems pretty steep, but (a) we know the Hawks are desperate to fill the void left by Kane and (b) the reported asking price for Vermette is a first-round pick and a prospect, so this hypothetical deal involves Bowman talking Coyotes GM Don Maloney down. Vermette can play the wing if needed and, once Kane returns, Vermette would be one helluva third-line center for the post-season (since he's better on draws than Andrew Shaw, who could shift to the wing). Vermette would make a deep forward corps that much deeper.
And how about Hartman for the Desert Dogs? He's an agitating two-way forward with upside. Chicago took him 30th overall in 2013.
To Anaheim Ducks: Antoine Vermette, Zbynek Michalek
To Arizona Coyotes: 2015 first-round pick, 2015 second-round pick, William Karlsson
Michalek's concussion makes things complicated for Arizona. The steady top-four defenseman, a pending UFA, was an ideal rental for plenty of teams. If the injury saps his value, maybe he works as part of a bigger trade. The Ducks have an impossibly deep farm system and could spare a piece like William Karlsson, a two-way pivot the organization has a lot of confidence in (Bruce Boudreau was very complimentary about Karlsson when I spoke with Boudreau last summer).
You can never have enough good centers for the playoffs, and the Ducks would be almost peerless with Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Vermette and Rickard Rakell. Michalek would add one more injury headache to a depleted blueline, but the Ducks' playoff position is secure, and they'd be laughing if they got Michalek and Sami Vatanen back in time for round 1. This type of deal could put them over the top in a Stanley Cup push.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin