For NHL fans, February means the league’s regular season trade deadline looms on February 26. Trading season ramps up in the coming days as general managers evaluate their team’s roster and current playoff chances. By the end of this month, we will have a clearer idea of what each conference’s playoff picture looks like as the contenders load up and the pretenders shave value off their roster in return for draft picks, prospects, and useful young talent for the future.
Here are some players that will likely be on the move this month:
Detroit’s best trading asset in the midst of a rebuild is Mike Green, in the last season of a three-year, $18 million contract. Green’s 26 points in 49 games this season earned him a spot in the All-Star game, and he’s perhaps been Detroit’s best player overall, leading the team in time on ice per game (22:38) while still chipping in the fourth most points on the team as a 32-year-old defenseman. Green’s contract status makes him a prime defense pick up for any team looking to bolster their defense for a Stanley Cup run and should be able to land Detroit at least a first-round pick and probably more.
Rick Nash has battled injuries over the last two seasons and with his contract expiring at age 33, it’s hard to imagine the Rangers want to bring him back, unless it’s on a short-term deal. If a team with enough cap space (he carries a $7.8 million cap hit through this season) wants to acquire him, he’s an experienced playoff veteran to throw in a top-six winger position that certainly won’t cost as much as prime Rick Nash would have.
Michael Grabner is another interesting rental option out of New York. He’s scored 21 goals already – tied for 15th most in the league - and is shooting at 18.9 percent, the highest of his career. That won’t hold up the rest of his career, but he’s definitely worth a look from any team looking to increase their scoring ability on the wing.
Patrick Maroon, a left shot who’s tremendously benefited from playing with Connor McDavid, will be a popular name at the trade deadline, but teams should be careful with him. Maroon scored 27 goals last season because the best young talent in the game bounces pucks off him at will, not because he’s progressing on his own at age 29. He’s a nice depth pickup, but probably not worth more than a third-round pick. If Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli can turn Maroon into more than that, it’s a win for the Oilers.
Evander Kane, perhaps the best forward available for rental this season, is on pace to match his career high in points, 57, in 2011-2012 with Winnipeg. Kane has a weird NHL history, dogged by rumors of a bad personality and poor work ethic from his younger years days. Now he’s 26, still young and playing some of the best hockey of his career in a contract season on a bad team in Buffalo. If he can move to a better team and play with the same ability he’s shown this season, he’ll be a dangerous playoff asset.
All five of those players will likely be on the move at some point in February. The following are far from guaranteed to be traded, but they may not be safe:
Some may dare speculate the Rangers would consider trading captain and star defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who would likely fetch an impressive return given his prime age (28) and the team friendly value and term left on his contract ($4.7 million through 2018-2019.) The Rangers could fetch a ton of value for McDonagh – perhaps more than any single player on the market this season – thanks to the instantaneous boost to any team’s top defense pair this season and next. It depends where GM Jeff Gorton wants to take the team; if he doesn’t think McDonagh is worth bigger contract than he just gave Kevin Shattenkirk this past offseason, he could likely acquire a quality younger defenseman and draft picks in return. If he trades McDonagh though, that’s a poor sign for a man who committed $26.6 million to Shattenkirk last summer.
Similarily, trade rumors thrive in Ottawa just a year after the Senators took Pittsburgh to double overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Owner Eugene Melnyk isn’t too keen on spending to the salary cap ceiling, and as a result, Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, and Mark Stone have become the subject of trade rumors. None of the three need to be traded right now - Karlsson and Hoffman both have at least next season on their contract, and Stone is an RFA under team control - but if the Senators decide it's time to clear house, they could bring back a lot of talent and drafrt picks by trading away those players.