It's a buyer's market out there this year, but with the demand for defensive depth always high, might this be the position where we see the most movement at the NHL trade deadline?
Anything can happen at the deadline — especially in a year as unpredictable as this, with a handful of teams still straddling the line between contending and not. But as we near 3 p.m. ET on Monday, here's a group of rearguards we're keeping an extra close eye on.
All contract information can be sourced to CapFriendly.com
David Savard, Columbus Blue Jackets
Cap hit: $4.25 million (pending UFA)
With Mattias Ekholm (mostly?) off the board, Savard is the new belle of the blue line ball at the deadline. And as Columbus's hard luck continues with a losing streak and a string of injuries, it's all but ensured that Savard will be on the move.
Whoever lands this 30-year-old right shot pending UFA is getting his physicality and sandpaper — and lots of it. Savard plays a really tough game, eats the toughest of minutes, and could be a serious powerhouse in the post-season when it comes to making a contender particularly hard to play against. Time and time again, we see the same things: Finesse and offensive power get you into the playoffs, and toughness keeps you in 'em. And that right there is worth a lot.
Another Blue Jacket to keep an eye on: Michael Del Zotto, 30, could fill a depth role for a team anticipating a long and gruelling playoff run. His $700,000 cap hit is certainly enticing.
Brandon Montour, Buffalo Sabres
Cap hit: $3.85 million (pending UFA)
The Buffalo Sabres are open for business and motivated to sell, and should have no shortage of interested buyers inquiring about Montour. While this year generally sees more sellers than buyers, Montour could still fetch a decent return for Buffalo considering the high demand for defenders and the somewhat shallow talent pool. This is particularly true when it comes to pure rental rearguards, like Montour. With teams hesitant to take on players with term in this flat-cap, pre-expansion time we're living in, Montour feels like a sure bet to be dealt to a defence-needy team, and it's worth wondering if the Sabres drive up the price by offering to retain a little salary.
The 26-year-old right-shot is currently on the Sabres' third pairing, but we know from his days in Anaheim that he's able to play a bigger role in the right situation and can contribute offensively, too. We're seeing some glimpses of that offence of late — all five of his goals this season have come in the past month, with four of them scored in his last five games.
Another Sabre who could be on the move: Colin Miller has one more year remaining on his contract at $3.875 million per. The 28-year-old right-shot rearguard would be a strong candidate for a depth role on a contender.