A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. This week’s column should be up for the Hart, Selke, Rocket.
1. With all due respect to the Vancouver Canucks’ dismal start, we’re counting just four teams that should already be considered undisputed sellers in advance of the NHL’s April 12 trade deadline.
In light of 2021’s truncated schedule and delayed player availability due to mandatory quarantines (see: Dubois, Pierre-Luc), there’s good reason for buyers and sellers to start dealing sooner rather than later.
Problem is, among the four cellar-dwellers — Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings — the rental pickings are slim.
Here are the notables on expiring UFA contracts, some of whom have already cleared waivers and most of whom are purely depth options…
Buffalo: Taylor Hall, Eric Staal, Brandon Montour, Jake McCabe, Matt Irwin, Tobias Reider, Riley Sheahan, Carter Hutton, Linus Ullmark
Detroit: Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula, Luke Glendening, Bobby Ryan, Sam Gagner, Marc Staal, Patrik Nemeth, Jon Merrill, Jonathan Bernier
Nashville: Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Pekka Rinne, Brad Richardson, Luca Sbisa
Ottawa: Derek Stepan, Ryan Dzingel, Erik Gudbranson, Mike Reilly, Braydon Coburn, Artem Anisimov, Matthew Peca
Seven rapid thoughts on the standouts from this group:
• Hall, the biggest name here by a mile, is eligible to sign an extension with the Sabres as early as March 12. His camp will entertain that idea… the same way Hall entertained the idea of re-signing in Arizona. If you’re Kevyn Adams, you need Hall’s signature by April 11 or you need to find a way to move him. A one-year, $8-million rental for a lottery team is disastrous asset management. The no-move clause here seems very risky.
• Stepan, who’d prefer to move back to the U.S., may be miscast as a top-six forward at this stage but could improve a playoff team’s 3C spot. Strong underlying numbers on a bad team. Provided the price is low, Haula is another option here.
• Montour, a minus-7, is only 26. Surely the right-handed defender has better days ahead?
• Eric Staal can submit a 10-team no-trade list. Centres are always in demand, and a $3.25-million cap hit could be workable.
• Need a dependable, stay-at-home defender? Make Steve Yzerman an offer on Marc Staal.
• Mikael Granlund, 28, could have more success sheltered on a good offensive team’s third line than trying to produce on a bad offensive team’s first line, as is the case now.
• If the Leafs are willing to take risk on Alex Galchenyuk five years removed from his 30-goal season, surely someone will add Dzingel two years removed from his 26-goal season.