With the April 12th deadline just days away, it is time to speculate over potential deals for each team. This series will look at a trade each team should make before the final stretch of the regular season begins. In this edition, we focus on one trade every team should make in the Central Division.
*This article has used CapFriendly in order to formulate realistic trade ideas and partners.
Central Division: One Trade Each Team Needs to Make
The following order is based on points percentage standings (which is clearly the best way to rank teams within the context of a COVID-affected season.).
Shop for a Right-Handed Defenceman
Carolina doesn’t have to upset the apple cart in order to get better at the deadline. One temporary addition in order to bolster an already stacked line-up is all that would be needed.
While a rental may not be appetizing to an owner in a small market, it’s not an insurmountable problem provided there is a genuine belief that this one-time pay-out could lead to a Stanley Cup.
A gritty defenceman like David Savard surely elevates this team beyond their usual ‘dark horses’ moniker. His physicality and experience (particularly against Tampa Bay) in the postseason are two very attractive traits to consider. The Blue Jackets defenceman is currently third in the league in blocked shots (89) and 30th in hits (95).
There are also longer-term pick-ups at play here but the hesitation behind this commitment is the Expansion Draft, which looms large over proceedings like the spectre at the feast. With their offensive firepower, the Canes will surely opt for the 7-3-1 format of protection which would leave Dougie Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin and one final slot to fill on the backend.
Right-handed defencemen with term on their contracts include Josh Manson and Collin Miller. They would both slot nicely into the system but don’t quite pack the same punch as Savard (for similar money).
Tampa Bay Lightning
Buy Defensive Depth
Since the injuries to Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak and Jan Rutta, which all happened in the space of a week, the Lightning has gone 3-5-0. Naturally, most teams would struggle without three of their starting D-corps but the fact that it’s happened so close to the deadline has probably given Julien Brisebois pause for thought.
Tampa is already covered offensively with Nikita Kucherov‘s impending return, and so shoring up the defence via trade makes the most sense. Though the Lightning’s razor-thin cap margins may mean it has to dump another bit of salary to make it work.
Cheap and cheerful while adding tangible value is the balance the Lightning is trying to strike.
Buy Defensive Upgrade
The cat is out of the bag. (Pun very much intended.)
Florida’s cap-clearing trade with Chicago on Thursday is the smoking gun that proves there is something bubbling under the surface in Sunrise. No question about it, this Central Division trade is a prelude to something much greater.
As it stands, Ekblad’s injury is the obvious hole to fill and there are plenty of options given the cap space Bill Zito has recently accrued. Despite the handedness, Ekholm is the obvious blue-chip to go after as he helps to recuperate some of Ekblad’s offence while providing a solid defensive baseline. The aforementioned Savard would be another highly desirable option but he is more an out-and-out shutdown guy.
Sell Mattias Ekholm
This will likely make a small legion of Predators fans mad but the fact of the matter is Nashville is nowhere close to contending this year. As a business decision, which is effectively what the trade deadline boils down to, selling the ‘Swedish Redwood’ is the right move here.
Ekholm’s trade value is at its apex. Particularly since anyone picking him up gets two cracks at Lord Stanley with a cheap and versatile top-pair defenceman. Moreover, he is the clear number one defenceman on the market and could bring home a king’s ransom for David Poile.
A decent package for Ekholm would surely help the Predators retool an awful lot quicker than expected. The supposed asking price is a first, a good prospect plus a sweetener. I’d take your hand off for that.
Sell Carl Soderberg
In a particularly cash-strapped year, cheap centres are a godsend for any budding contender. What’s more, Soderberg comes with valuable postseason attributes. He ranks first in blocks and second in hits among Hawks forwards this season. Perhaps more importantly, he is also tied for the lead among Chicago’s regular face-off takers with a 51.1 percent success rate. (374 taken)
Sell Mark Pysyk
It’s hard to see Dallas pressing the panic button around the deadline but that doesn’t mean they can’t be prudent with their contracts. Having a whole host of personnel decisions and negotiations to make this offseason, which includes signing Miro Heiskanen to his second professional deal, means that Dallas will be hard-pressed to bring the whole gang back.
In that case, why not sell off an expendable defenceman for a pick? I daresay this won’t happen if Dallas wins twice this weekend but the likes of Pysyk are replacement-level at best right now.
Suitors: Tampa Bay Lightning is probably the only obvious trade partner. Well, we’ve already had one Central Division trade!
Columbus Blue Jackets
Loan Out Nick Foligno
If Columbus wants to keep Foligno, then why not work out a figure for his next contract while also offering him a playoff gig with a contender before he re-signs for 2021-22? There’d be a ton of interest and Columbus could surely leverage a pair of draft picks if they’d be willing to retain salary.
Detroit Red Wings
Sell off any skater over 26
I know we said ‘one trade’ but maximizing draft capital is the aim of the game for Detroit. There’s a younger corp in place now and anything else at this stage is surplus to requirement. Troy Stecher is maybe the only ‘veteran’ worth protecting but if anyone offers a first-rounder for even a couple of Detroit’s older contingent, Yzerman should snaffle it up.
Further investments could come from the Red Wings’ abundance of cap space. They have the capability to swallow some bad money for teams desperately looking to free up funds. Also, Steve Yzerman – Loan Sharks Incorporated, has a nice ring to it.
Detroit has nine picks for the 2021 Entry Draft already but only one first-round pick. Who’s up for another round of calls, Steve?
Suitors: Any buyer. For salary dumps, the Vegas Golden Knights and the Tampa Bay Lightning in particular.