The NHL Trade Deadline is looming and things are heating up. This has sparked plenty of NHL rumours, adding to the excitement of the mid-season. As long as NHL rumours remain around, Last Word on Hockey will look to keep fans up to date. Today, we will cover rumours surrounding the Edmonton Oilers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Buffalo Sabres.
Rumour: In the latest edition of ’31 Thoughts’, Elliotte Friedman noted that the Oilers aren’t willing to spend either a first-round pick, Jesse Puljujarvi, or a top-end defenceman on a rental top-six forward.
Analysis: This thinking seems fairly off. The Oilers are seemingly in more need of a top-six addition than any team in the league. The duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl has carried the team through the majority of this year. Draisaitl already has 90 (ninety…) points in 57 games, while McDavid has 81 in two fewer games. This places them comfortably as first-and-second, respectively, in the league’s scoring. It’s been a historically dangerous showing from the pair but the rest of Edmonton hasn’t been able to match their excitement.
This could easily be fixed with a big Trade Deadline deal. Names like Chris Kreider, Tyler Toffoli, or even Montreal’s new wonderboy Ilya Kovalchuk would be incredible additions. It’d be borderline-unfair to see another strong name suit up alongside McDavid and Draisaitl and would certainly be enough to push the Oilers to first place in the Pacific Division.
The team doesn’t want to give up any part of their future, though. This makes sense on the surface but the team can afford the hit. The Western Conference is lacking very many star-calibre teams this year. Aside from the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche, all other teams have been fighting just-above-average all season long. An admirable move could immediately boost the Oilers standing in the Conference, giving them a very good chance at a long postseason run. Giving up a first-round pick, or even one of the many top-calibre defensive prospects they have, seems entirely minute when there is a realistic shot at the Stanley Cup Final on the line.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Rumour: In his latest article, The Athletic’s Joe Smith discussed the Lightning’s Trade Deadline outlook. In it, he mentioned that the team is in search of a multi-year, top-four defenceman.
Analysis: The Lightning are good, to say the least. They are currently on a nine-game winning streak and have set an unbelievable 21-2-1 record in their last 24 games. After a tough first-half of the year, Tampa is finally looking like the above-all-else team they’re supposed to look like. This could only get better at the Deadline, though. Tampa’s only “weak” spot right now is their defence. Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, and Kevin Shattenkirk have all scored admirably this year but the blue-line’s point totals drop off after those three. Adding another dominant scoring threat to that trio could make Tampa that much scarier. In his piece, Smith mentioned Mathew Dumba and Josh Manson as options for the Lightning.
Of the two, Dumba is particularly intriguing. The Bolts have plenty of assets to acquire the offensively-gifted defenceman. A return package will need to consist of a first-round pick, propsect, and centre. In Tampa’s case, players involved could be, say, Tyler Johnson and Cory Conacher. While this speculatory package seems steep, it provides the Lightning with an amazingly reliable blue-line. It also allows Sergachev to move to his natural, left side, with the right-handed Dumba fitting perfectly on the second-pair-right-side. The move to the best offence in hockey will surely wake up Dumba, who has struggled to match his 50-point-usual this year. There seems to be no downside to the deal for Tampa and fans are sure to be eagerly anticipating it.
Rumour: In ’31 Thoughts’ Friedman also discussed the Sabres likelihood to move some inconsequential forwards.
Analysis: The Sabres are very much opposite of Tampa. After an exciting start to the year, they’re now squandering like everyone expected. It’s been a very eye-opening struggle for fans who didn’t notice general manager, Jason Botterill‘s, shortcomings. Now, it seems the entire fan base is calling for his dismissal.
To fix this, the GM needs to show some sort of fight come the Deadline. While many fans hope that this will come in the form of a Rasmus Ristolainen deal, it’s much easier to instead deal away bottom-six names; as many playoff teams are more likely to search for cheap depth instead of over-priced, top-line names. Friedman mentioned Johan Larsson, Evan Rodrigues, Conor Sheary, and the newly acquired Michael Frolik by name. All of these players are generally accepted to be much more than their performances lead on. A playoff team looking for offensive depth, like the Boston Bruins for example, could receive a very cheap name that would pay dividends come the post-season. For a Sabres team that, at the very least, needs to look like their trying, moving one of these names could be a good way to bring in a modest return.