If you can’t handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen. It’s cliché, but it’s true to some extent.
So when I cooked up 40 potential deals for my annual trade deadline predictions, I knew full well I’d be getting roasted for most of them. It’s a recipe for failure and many, if not all, of my deals will go up in smoke.
Some already have, with Edmonton’s Eric Gryba getting hurt and with Calgary less likely to trade Jonas Hiller because of Karri Ramo’s injury. The salary cap snuffed out several others and roster limits will prevent a fair share too.
I did my best to humour the pitchfork gang — to the tune of 140 comments on THW and eight pages worth at HFBoards.com. I argued with some readers, agreed with others, and admitted my mistakes where I saw fit. Heck, I even wrote about five deals that I’d take back in hindsight despite the fact the deadline is still 10 days away. Now watch one of those come to fruition — albeit, highly unlikely!
I’m not backing down from every deal. Not even close. I still think at least half of them are within the realm of possibility, and I remain rather bullish on some of my ideas. After a week to reflect — and to hear out the haters — here are 10 deals that I stand by, with reasoning for each.
To Chicago Blackhawks = Kris Versteeg
To Carolina Hurricanes = Mark McNeill and a 2016 fourth-round pick
REASONING: I like this deal almost as much as the Blackhawks like Versteeg. I know the Hurricanes are hanging around in the playoff race, but I just can’t see Carolina keeping Versteeg past the deadline. Eric Staal, maybe. Versteeg, not a chance. He’s an expiring asset with plenty of playoff experience — and two Stanley Cup rings to show for his post-season efforts — so there will be interest in his services. Carolina would be wise to cash in this chip and teams are going to see value in Versteeg for his past accomplishments but also his present stat-line. He’s having a pretty darn good season in making the best of a bad situation, having been a salary-cap casualty from Chicago’s latest Cup run last year. It’s the second time that Versteeg has been in that boat, but he’d gladly get back on the ship if Stan Bowman, Joel Quenneville and Jonathan Toews were welcoming him aboard. For the Hurricanes, they’d be turning an extra two months of Versteeg — barring a contract extension — into McNeill, a big centre drafted in the first round back in 2011, and another pick. McNeill could work well with Victor Rask and help replace Staal down the road — whether he’s traded, leaves as a free agent, or eventually retires. This seems like a legitimate deadline deal, and the stick-tap has to go to our Blackhawks beat writer Kristi Loucks, who first brought up the idea of bringing Versteeg back to Chicago in a recent Facing Off column.
To Detroit Red Wings = Mikkel Boedker
To Arizona Coyotes = Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Jurco
REASONING: Both fan bases seemed receptive to this deal. Some Red Wings supporters wanted to swap out Jurco for a fourth-round pick and that demand might not be a dealbreaker for Arizona GM Don Maloney. It still seems fair enough either way, with Jurco or with the pick. Personally, knowing Detroit’s impressive track record for drafting and developing talent, I’d try to get my hands on both these budding forwards if I was Maloney. That’s assuming the Coyotes are, in fact, going to be sellers. Last night’s win over Dallas might have put negotiations like this on hold for another week. If this deal — or a variation of it — did end up going down, Boedker would give Detroit a nice boost up front, and it’s entirely possible that the Red Wings could afford to keep him long-term providing his playoff audition went well. Boedker strikes me as the kind of player who could have substantial success in Detroit. This could be a win-win, which is probably why fans of both teams like the idea. I’ll pat myself on the back for this one.
To Nashville Predators = Kyle Okposo and Michael Dal Colle
To New York Islanders = Craig Smith and Colin Wilson
REASONING: This one didn’t get a lot of love — Islanders fans flat-out hated it — but I still don’t see what’s wrong with it. As mentioned the first time around, this trade is contingent on Okposo pricing himself out of Brooklyn and Garth Snow not wanting to lose him for nothing in free agency. Snow isn’t one to sit on his hands and if an extension isn’t in place for Okposo by next weekend, then I wouldn’t put a move like this past Snow. Smith and Wilson are both underachieving this season, but they are top-six wingers already locked up to affordable contracts. Snow pulled the double once before, acquiring defenceman Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy in quick succession, albeit in separate deals. Those moves worked out splendidly for the Islanders and I think this one could too. I’m well aware that Nashville is getting the bigger names here, but Dal Colle isn’t a sure thing and would no longer be a top-10 pick in a redraft of the 2014 class. He’d probably be lucky to crack the top 20 now, in all honesty, so Dal Colle’s stock has dropped considerably from being the fifth overall pick two years ago. If the Islanders can’t afford to keep Okposo, and without any term remaining on his current contract, Snow would be selling Okposo as a rental. That diminishes his value, at least slightly as well. The Predators would be buying with the intent of keeping, but that purchase comes without any guarantees. Those negotiations have to begin from scratch, so there is plenty of risk from Nashville’s side.
An Islanders fan wondered whether there was room on the roster for both Smith and Wilson, and who would be bumped from the current top-nine to slot in that extra body? Nikolay Kulemin would be the obvious candidate, but Mikhail Grabovski could draw the short straw too. Smith and Wilson would be upgrades on both of them, in my opinion. Kulemin could drop down to the fourth line with Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas, which would push Matt Martin to the press box. That’s assuming the Islanders stay completely healthy the rest of the way, which is unlikely. Injuries are inevitable, so when they strike, the extra depth would definitely be welcome.
If Okposo does become trade bait, keep an eye on Minnesota too. The Wild are playing better since their coaching change and may not be looking to shake-up the roster, but another Facing Off colleague, Dan Mount, suggested a deal around Okposo for Zach Parise. Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle could also be of interest there if Dal Colle was part of the deal. If it’s Parise heading to Brooklyn, then that might have to be a 2-for-1 with Okposo and Dal Colle going to Minny. I’m still partial to this Nashville trade for some reason, but that’s just me.
To Boston Bruins = Kevin Hayes
To New York Rangers = Loui Eriksson
REASONING: This one didn’t get a ton of feedback — do you like it or loathe it? Much like Okposo, it obviously depends on the Bruins not being able to — or wanting to — re-sign Eriksson. The insiders seem to think he’s available and have actually connected Eriksson to Nashville as well. I like him to the Rangers — either for Hayes, or for Hayes’ good buddy Chris Kreider. I went with Hayes for the sake of my predictions based on the brother factor, with Jimmy Hayes already in Boston. Kevin Hayes has been playing better as of late, so the Bruins could be taking notice if they are in fact scouting the Rangers for potential returns for Eriksson. I like this trade, it’s basic, but it works — or seems to work?
To Anaheim Ducks = Lee Stempniak
To New Jersey Devils = Nicolas Kerdiles and Stefan Noesen
REASONING: The Ducks will be without Chris Stewart for one to two months (broken jaw), so Stempniak could be a nice short-term solution, capable of contributing further down the depth chart once Stewart returns. The Devils are short on forward prospects, so this return could be worth more to them than a single draft pick. New Jersey isn’t getting a first-rounder for Stempniak — I can’t see it anyway — so would the Devils take Kerdiles and Noesen over a later second, likely in that 50-60 range? I probably would. There are quite a few rental types that could end up in Anaheim, but Stempniak seems like a strong candidate and Ducks fans didn’t sound too opposed. This could be a potential fit, for both sides.
To St. Louis Blues = Kris Russell
To Calgary Flames = Ty Rattie
REASONING: Blues fans are very reluctant to go down this road again with Russell. His prior stint with St. Louis — on either side of the latest lockout — wasn’t nearly as successful as Versteeg’s with Chicago. But could the second time be the charm? I don’t see why not. Russell would still have friends on that roster — most notably Jay Bouwmeester, from the same junior club — and Ken Hitchcock’s system probably hasn’t changed all that much over the last few seasons. Russell could be a plug-and-play addition, making a seamless transition without having to get up to speed. He’s been a better player for Calgary than he ever was for St. Louis, so the Blues could expect to be getting a much-improved version of Russell. If not, he’s a free agent at season’s end and there’s no long-term commitment in taking him back as a rental. The Flames might still re-sign Russell before the deadline — they like him that much, and the feeling is mutual — but if that extension doesn’t get done for whatever reason, then Calgary would be wise to target Rattie. St. Louis fans don’t like the idea of giving up Rattie either, but the Blues could end up losing him on waivers if Rattie doesn’t crack the roster next season. That’s something for Doug Armstrong to consider as the deadline approaches. From a value standpoint, I still think this is a fair deal.
To Edmonton Oilers = Mark Pysyk
To Buffalo Sabres = Dillon Simpson and a 2017 third-round pick
REASONING: Sabres fans aren’t going to be happy to see this one make the list. I didn’t realize how high they were on Pysyk, or how much progress he’s made beyond the stat-line, so I’ll admit that this return wouldn’t be nearly enough. But I think the Oilers would be willing to offer more, possibly this year’s second-rounder — which will be in the 30s — and Buffalo’s choice of a defence prospect in David Musil, William Lagesson, Joey LaLeggia or Jordan Oesterle. Could Tim Murray still say no? Sure he could, but that would be a tempting return. It would at least get his attention, more so than Simpson and next year’s third-rounder.
Something keeps telling me that Edmonton is going to take a run at Pysyk — either at the deadline or at the draft. The Oilers would like to pair him with his old junior partner, Griffin Reinhart, as a shutdown tandem for the foreseeable future. It’s just a matter of whether Peter Chiarelli will meet Murray’s asking price whenever Pysyk’s name comes up in negotiations. I don’t see Edmonton trading a scoring forward for a stay-at-home defenceman, but I could see Justin Schultz being involved if Murray wanted to build the deal around him.
To Tampa Bay Lightning = Tom Gilbert and Devante Smith-Pelly
To Montreal Canadiens = Matt Carle and Jonathan Marchessault
REASONING: Here’s another one that seemed to get lost in the shuffle. Perhaps Montreal fans were too caught up in my idea of trading for Eric Staal and Cam Ward that they overlooked this lesser deal. I didn’t realize, when I proposed it, that there was such a discrepancy between the contracts of Carle ($5.5 million, with two years remaining) and Gilbert ($2.8 million, expiring). Smith-Pelly makes $200,000 more than Marchessault with both being restricted free agents this summer. The Canadiens would still be taking on an extra $2.5 million in salary and Carle is struggling just to stay in Tampa Bay’s lineup, let alone be impactful. He’d welcome the change of scenery and has said as much, but would Montreal take a chance on him? Carle will be 32 in September, but the Canadiens will be in the market for another top-four defender if and when Andrei Markov hangs them up. This deal would likely hinge on what Montreal’s pro scouts think of Carle. Are they watching him right now? It’s tough to say, with scouts from every team in almost every arena ahead of the deadline.
Initially, I saw this trade as a swap of struggling veteran defenders, with the younger forwards as throw-ins offsetting each other. That Carle contract could be a roadblock for the blue-liners, but would the Habs consider moving Smith-Pelly for Marchessault? That might be the more intriguing swap here all of the sudden. I think the Lightning would make that deal if Montreal was willing to offer it up.
To Detroit Red Wings = Nail Yakupov, Anton Lander and Justin Schultz
To Edmonton Oilers = Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Jakub Kindl
REASONING: This would be a real blockbuster. I threw it out there not knowing what the reaction would be. I’d say it’s been mixed so far. Some Red Wings fans were opposed to including Bertuzzi and didn’t see the point of Lander. They wanted them both removed and were willing to add a mid-to-late pick if need be. So, say Mantha, Kindl and a fourth-rounder for Yakupov and Schultz. What do you think? I could see the Oilers countering that, wanting the pick to be a bit higher — ask for a second, meet in the middle on a third — or perhaps for a different prospect to be included, maybe a guy like Mitch Callahan. But even if Detroit didn’t budge, I think Edmonton would strongly consider accepting that deal.
The Oilers would be drooling over the dynamic duo of Mantha and Connor McDavid. Mantha is more of a pure goal-scorer than McDavid’s current big-bodied linemate Benoit Pouliot, and Mantha better fits into Edmonton’s age bracket, turning 22 in September. Yakupov is only a year older, but both him and Schultz could use a fresh start away from Edmonton. Kindl comes a bit cheaper than Schultz, but the Oilers wouldn’t be expecting much from him. Kindl probably wouldn’t be a long-term piece of their puzzle. This deal would be all about Mantha for Edmonton, but it could turn out well for all parties — the players and their new teams. It would be shocking to see Detroit make such drastic roster changes, including the Boedker deal, but this could be Ken Holland’s chance to put his team over the top and cement his own legacy.
To Philadelphia Flyers = Bryan Bickell (salary retained)
To Chicago Blackhawks = Sam Gagner
REASONING: Flyers fans apparently want no part of Bickell regardless of how much salary is retained over the course of his contract. I found that a bit surprising because I think Bickell could come highly motivated and be a good fit flanking Sean Couturier, especially if he comes at a discount. Bickell is scheduled to earn $4 million again next season whereas Gagner, currently making $3.2 million, will be a free agent after this season. But what if the Blackhawks ate half of Bickell’s remaining salary? Bickell could be a bargain at $2 million in another contract year for him, meaning he’d probably take his off-season training more seriously in hopes of establishing himself as an NHLer again. Bickell is only turning 30 next month, so I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s washed-up just yet. I don’t know why I get a feeling about this trade, but I just do. I’ve always envisioned Gagner getting a chance in Chicago — he played junior with Patrick Kane and remains a close friend — but time will tell whether that opportunity comes through a deadline-day deal or perhaps an off-season signing. Of course, I could be totally wrong on this one, and all the others too. Stay tuned!
Larry Fisher is a senior writer and head scout for The Hockey Writers, having been an at-large contributor for THW since August 2014. Fisher covers both the NHL and the WHL, specializing in prospects and NHL draft content, including his annual mock drafts that date back to 2012. Fisher has also been a beat writer for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets since 2008, formerly working as a sports reporter/editor for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada from 2008-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.