We're halfway through the season and there have been just six minor trades. Here's a look at the factors adversely affecting this season's trade market.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Anaheim Ducks made the first trade of 2017, as the Leafs dealt goaltender Jhonas Enroth to the Ducks for a seventh-round pick in 2018. It's the first move made in the NHL trade market since Dec. 8, when the Leafs shipped center Peter Holland to the Arizona Coyotes for a conditional 2018 pick.
Since the start of the season, there have only been six trades. None of them involved notable talent. The combination of few sellers, high asking prices, few teams carrying sufficient salary-cap space and concern over June's expansion draft is adversely affecting the trade market.
Since late December, Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion's been shopping around for a forward. He told the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch he thinks trade discussions are starting to warm up, but it's still difficult to make a move right now.
Only the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche can currently be considered out of playoff contention. Since November, Coyotes' forwards Martin Hanzal and Anthony Duclair have featured prominently in the rumor mill. Meanwhile, talk of the Avs shopping center Matt Duchene and left winger Gabriel Landeskog is dominating recent media speculation.
With so few clubs in sell mode, the Coyotes and Avalanche are seeking substantial returns for those players. It's believed the Coyotes want good young players, preferably at center, capable of helping them right away. The Avalanche need a significant shake-up, especially on defense. They reportedly spoke last week with the Boston Bruins regarding Landeskog, but sought promising blueliner Brandon Carlo as part of the return.
Only five of the league's 30 teams – the Senators, Winnipeg Jets, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes – have over $5 million in projected salary-cap space. That makes it difficult for the Avalanche to find clubs willing to take on players such as Landeskog ($5.5-million annual cap hit) or Duchene ($6 million).
Teams taking on players signed through 2017-18 must ensure they can protect them in the expansion draft. It makes no sense to acquire a player they could lose for nothing in June to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Some teams could look at moving out players they can't protect in that draft before the trade deadline.
It's assumed the Pittsburgh Penguins intend to ask goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to waive his no-movement clause prior to the March 1 trade deadline in order to protect Matt Murray.
Others could attempt to move out a player in order to protect a more valuable one. The New York Post's Larry Brooks points out the Rangers could lose leading goalscorer Michael Grabner unless they can ship out another forward.
During a recent appearance on Calgary's Sportsnet 960, Elliotte Friedman took note of these issues. He said several teams want to make moves now but cannot find any willing trade partners yet.
Friedman said the Tampa Bay Lightning want to do something. Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports the struggling Bolts need another top-four defenseman. Limited activity in the trade market, however, is hampering GM Steve Yzerman's efforts.
Friedman also speculated the Los Angeles Kings want to add a scorer, while the Chicago Blackhawks need a winger for center Jonathan Toews' line. Both clubs, however, are squeezed for cap space and must move salary to address those needs.
The trade market could open up by the end of January as more clubs fall further out of playoff contention. The Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks could join the sellers ranks. The effects of limited cap space, high asking prices and the expansion draft, however, will continue to be felt through the trade market leading up to deadline day.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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