Reality is, I was never going to be right on all 40 of my trade deadline predictions.
It’s a real guessing game this time of year, trying to dream up deals that teams may or may not be contemplating based on facts, rumours and hunches. There are always surprises that nobody saw coming and it seems anything is possible — see Dion Phaneuf to the Senators — but I’ll be wrong more often than not. Much more often than not.
If I get so much as one trade right, I’ll be fist-pumping. Two right and I might attempt a backflip off my desk. Three and I’m going streaking . . . fortunately, the latter almost certainly won’t be happening.
I’d be pretty stoked even with a few smaller victories — be it player(s) to the right team for the wrong return, or the right return for player(s) from the wrong team. In total, I had 160 assets on the move — 102 players, 34 prospects and 24 draft picks — so if I’m right about 20 per cent of them, I’d be proud of my efforts. That would equate to 32 of my named assets actually getting traded, regardless of team and/or return. Don’t get me wrong, though, I’d love to get at least one bang-on.
In saying that, after responding to 140 comments here at THW and sifting through hundreds more scattered over eight pages at HFBoards.com, I’m not feeling too confident about my chances. Further, I’m feeling like a fool over a handful of my predictions.
With a week to stew on them — and no shortage of feedback pouring in — here are five deals that I’d like to take back, with reasoning for each.
To San Jose Sharks = Tyler Bozak, Peter Holland, Martin Marincin and Stuart Percy
To Toronto Maple Leafs = Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Mirco Mueller
REASONING: The Sharks get unfairly fleeced here and I apologize for that. Bozak was supposed to be coming in as a replacement for Patrick Marleau, who I was shipping off to the Rangers. Perhaps San Jose could acquire Bozak to plug that hole — I’m not ruling that out — but the return would look nothing like this. Meier wouldn’t be moving unless James van Riemsdyk was the key piece coming from Toronto. Labanc could be in play for Bozak, and maybe it’s a fair trade if you take out Meier and Holland. That would make it Bozak, Marincin and Percy for Labanc and Mueller. I could see both teams seeing value in that five-player deal, but it’s still a long-shot. The Sharks probably don’t see the point of swapping those defencemen — even as a 2-for-1. None of this happens without Marleau leaving San Jose and that’s still far from a certainty. I’d say this is one of my most lopsided proposals based on Meier’s presence and thus deserves to be on this list of shame. I feel like Bozo the Clown for this bogus Bozak trade.
To San Jose Sharks = Chris Neil, Alex Chiasson and Patrick Wiercioch
To Ottawa Senators = Raffi Torres, Chris Tierney and Dylan Demelo
REASONING: Poor Sharks fans, I swear I wasn’t trying to troll you with these predictions. I do think you’d be getting the better of this one, but it’s just a bad trade as a whole — almost as if I threw the San Jose and Ottawa rosters into a bingo machine and these were the balls that popped out. Nobody is going to want to touch Torres with a 10-foot pole, so throwing his name out there was silly. The three players moving from Ottawa’s side are probably available, especially if the Senators are selling. If the Sharks are buying, they could have interest in any or all of those guys. A Sharks fan asked if I honestly felt Chiasson had similar value to Tierney? It’s not that far off, in my opinion. Chiasson is a bigger body and a winger, thought to be a key part of the return that Ottawa got from Dallas for Jason Spezza. There is some upside to Chiasson — much like there is to Tierney, a more skilled centre. I don’t think the Sharks would do that deal as a 1-for-1 swap, but if Neil or Wiercioch were included, making it a 2-for-1, then Doug Wilson would have to give it some thought. The Sharks could seemingly trade Tierney for any two of those three from Ottawa, but as a six-player deal involving Torres, it doesn’t make any sense at all. I’ll admit that, in hindsight.
To New Jersey Devils = Jeff Skinner
To Carolina Hurricanes = Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill, Blake Speers, and two 2016 third-round picks (Ottawa and Detroit)
REASONING: This trade works well for New Jersey, which would probably do it without thinking twice. Unfortunately for Ray Shero and the Devils, a deal has to be in the best interests of both teams. Turns out, Ron Francis and the Hurricanes would have every reason to reject this return. The Hurricanes have a budding blue-line with the likes of Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, Hadyn Fleury, Trevor Carrick and Roland McKeown representing the future, with the possibility of Ryan Murphy, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin factoring into that mix as well. Defence is the least of Carolina’s worries, so Gelinas and Merrill wouldn’t be targets in any Skinner trade. The Hurricanes would likely aim for a top forward prospect in return and it’s doubtful that the Devils would trade Pavel Zacha — the sixth overall pick in last year’s draft — straight up for Skinner. Both sides would be saying “thanks, but no thanks” and shopping elsewhere. Skinner’s name is out there and New Jersey does need that type of goal-scoring forward — a younger Mike Cammalleri — but the Devils don’t really have the assets to make it happen. It was a poorly thought-out trade on my part, only seeing the benefits from one side. My bad.
To Tampa Bay Lightning = Yannick Weber, Chris Higgins (salary retained) and a 2017 fourth-round pick
To Vancouver Canucks = Nikita Nesterov
REASONING: I don’t doubt that the Canucks could have interest in Nesterov, but why in the world would Steve Yzerman consider those sloppy seconds — salary retained or not? If the Canucks really want Nesterov, he could probably be had for a roster player, above-average prospect or better draft pick than I’ve proposed here. Vancouver is still pretty hurting for prospects, at least in comparison to Tampa Bay, so that option probably isn’t too appealing to either side. The Canucks do own their first-, second- and third-round picks in both 2016 and 2017, so any of those six picks could potentially land Nesterov. I would think the Lightning could do better than a third-rounder for him and I’m not sure the Canucks would go as high as a second, especially considering their pick will likely be in the 30s this year and possibly in 2017 as well if Vancouver continues to embrace this rebuild. Nesterov could be a good fit for Vancouver’s future defence corps, but striking a deal could be difficult. Would Tampa Bay have interest in Dan Hamhuis as a rental if Vancouver took back a salary dump like Matt Carle in addition to Nesterov? That might be an idea worth exploring for Jim Benning. Offer Hamhuis, if he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause, for Nesterov and Carle. Yzerman would know Hamhuis from their Hockey Canada connections, so that might be a more realistic target than Higgins or Weber. I was way out to lunch in building a deal around those two — as much as Canucks fans might have been saying “sign me up!”
St. Louis Blues = Rene Bourque
Columbus Blue Jackets = Magnus Paajarvi
REASONING: This was one of my more minor trades, but it got quite a bit of backlash and rightfully so. Bourque has been a bust pretty much everywhere he goes, and while Paajarvi hasn’t exactly broken out for the Blues, he hasn’t been a total plug either. Paajarvi to Columbus is quite plausible, but St. Louis would be eyeing a different forward in return — possibly Scott Hartnell, who would warrant a bigger package, or Matt Calvert, potentially in a 1-for-1 swap. If the Blues were willing to add Ty Rattie or Dmitrij Jaskin for Hartnell, the Blue Jackets would have to strongly consider it. Rattie has chemistry with Columbus prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand from their junior days with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, but Jaskin has more jam to his game and could better replace what Hartnell brings in the future. Paajarvi and either of those guys — Rattie or Jaskin — would be fair value for Hartnell in my opinion. The darn salary cap would probably kybosh that trade mathematically, so either the Blue Jackets would need to retain some salary on Hartnell or take back a bigger contract from the Blues. Not sure who St. Louis would consider throwing in and not sure Columbus would be too keen on retaining salary, considering Hartnell is still very serviceable at that cap hit. So if numbers get in the way of a good deal like that, it might have to be the simple swap — Paajarvi for Calvert. I could see Calvert being a better fit for Hitchcock’s system, while Paajarvi could perhaps get another crack at a scoring role with Columbus instead of being pigeonholed as a checker going forward. Regardless, Bourque had no business being a part of this trade. The Blues would take a big pass on him and just stick with what they’ve got. I get that.
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.