The NHL trade deadline hits this month and contending teams are going to be looking for cheap ways to bolster their depth for a deep playoff run.
Here are 11 depth forwards who could help bolster the roster of a contending team for a reasonable price.
11. Nick Spaling, C, TOR
Spaling is an interesting case because his season hasn’t gone well. Through 29 games he has just four points and is still without a goal. That seems like plenty to dissuade GMs from making a call on him.
However, those struggles come on the heels of a nine-goal, 27-point season, which itself came on the heels of a 13-goal, 32-point season. It’s possible a GM sees Spaling and thinks that there’s a reclamation to be had. His role in Toronto has been a bit different than he’s seen elsewhere, so it provides reasonable doubt for a GM if they’re looking for a reason he might work for their team but not for Toronto.
The other end of this is that if a team is struggling with injuries now, Spaling could provide a cheap stop gap. While his cap hit isn’t nothing at $2.2 million, his struggles should make the cost of acquiring him quite low. (Particularly with Toronto having so many players available on expiring deals. They could be driving their own prices down.)
10. Michael Grabner, RW, TOR
Grabner would be a reclamation project for a GM, assuming that his team has the kind of situation where Grabner could replicate his past success.
He’s in the middle of his second straight down year, posting just six goals and 11 points in 49 games. It’s a steep step down from the 34 goals and 52 points he posting at the height of his talent.
He’s also fallen from positive or only slightly negative possession play to a -2.7% CF%Rel. Though that’s come with reduced offensive zone starts. Nonetheless, for the price tag there may be better options out there, unless guys like Stempniak aren’t made available and other players get moved early.
9. Shawn Mathias, C, TOR
Mathias is another player that fits on the fringe of this group. He’s a player that’s shown an ability to contribute offensively, but isn’t at the peak of his prowess.
He came to Toronto a promising player, having just scored 18 goals with the Canucks. But he’s posted just five through 50 games this season and looks a little more like a 10-12 goal guy than the 17-20 goal guy many thought he could become with a bigger role. He’s capable, but needs talented guys around him.
His possession metrics have been fine, but he’s far from being a world beater and may just be a stop gap for a contender dealing with injuries. Centers are always a little more difficult to come by and there may be some added value there. Though his 31.3% win rate on the faceoff dot isn’t astounding in the right way.
8. Tomas Fleischmann, LW, MTLThe Canadiens are listening to offers on 31-year-old winger, according to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch. He’d be worth a look for many teams, but there are certainly concerns about declining production.
His nine goals this season are better than he’s posted in either of the last two, but his overall points are down and his possession metrics have dropped as well.
Additionally, teams may have concerns about how he performed after being acquired by the Anaheim Ducks at the deadline last year. He did a solid job driving possession in a very small sample, but wasn’t able to produce much offense.
The team didn’t like what they saw and started the playoffs with Fleischmann a healthy scratch. Despite the Ducks making a solid run, he found his way into just six games, unable to prove he deserved a permanent spot on the roster.
7. Kerby Rychel, LW, CBJ
The 21-year-old Rychel still has a lot to prove, but he doesn’t feel he’s getting to prove it in Columbus, where he’s requested a trade.
He’s a high-talent player and a hard worker, but it’s not clear how much he’d improve a team for a run this year. He may be best suited to a team building for the future (ahem, like Columbus).
Since that reported request he’s seen a lot more playing time, so maybe things have cooled a bit on the trade front, but he’s certainly worth inquiring about.
6. Justin Fontaine, RW, MIN
Fontaine has a lot of assets for a low-cost depth forward capable of driving play and creating offense. He’s not the subject of rumors, but he is a UFA in the summer and with the Wild reeling, they may be willing to get a prospect or pick for Fontaine.
Last season Fontaine was a possession machine, having nearly everyone on the team post improved possession numbers when they were on the ice with him. He’s never been a favorite of Mike Yeo’s though, with the coach preferring some more traditional checking line players rounding out his roster. That’s pushed Fontaine into the occasional healthy scratch the last couple seasons.
He put up 31 points last year and is capable of playing up the lineup as well. He’s posted a -2.2% CF%Rel this season while seeing better zone starts than in previous years. But his possession game was present in each of his first two seasons in the NHL and he’s a quality third liner.
5. Brad Boyes, RW, TOR
Despite being bought out over the summer, Boyes remains an effective forward, scoring 14 goals and 38 points last year, as well as 21 goals and 36 points the year before that. This year, his scoring is down, potting just five goals and 14 points through 39 games.
Those lower totals come with decreased ice time and the worst zone starts of his career. However, his points per 60 minutes of even strength play is up compared to his last four seasons. Given, rate stats get messy, but it’s notable for a team that’s looking at bringing him in.
Additionally he’s been touted as a strong possession player, even as he ages, and that’s held true this year. He’s posted a 5.6% CF%Rel despite the rough zone starts. Boyes may be a better acquisition than it seems on the surface and could really help bolster a third line.
4. Michael Raffl, LW, PHI
The team hasn’t given any indication that they’re making the 27-year-old Austrian available, but if they’re outside the postseason again come the deadline, you have to believe that they’re listening.
His production hasn’t even come close to last season, but there aren’t many GMs who didn’t notice his 21-goal performance last season. With just six goals and 12 points through 50 games this year, there are questions about which season is the fluke and which is the real player.
He’s certainly been given a chance to succeed this year, grabbing time on a line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Though that time came earlier in the year when Voracek may have been the most snakebit player in the NHL. Now he’s spending more time on Brayden Schenn’s line, which has been having a fair amount of success.
Working in his favor is that he’s been a good driver of possession in all three of his NHL seasons. Additionally, his struggles are accompanied by the lowest even strength shooting percentage of his career.
3. P.A. Parenteau, LW, TOR
A positive relative possession player in each of his last seven seasons, Parenteau has rebounded nicely from his down year in Montreal after being traded by the Avalanche. With 13 goals, 26 points and an expiring contract for Toronto, his veteran status could be an asset for a competing team.
Unfortunately, the experience factor may not be a huge selling point for the 32-year-old winger. He’s played just 15 playoff games in his career.
What may appeal most is his reasonable cap hit, his solid secondary scoring and an ability to be an asset for a contender’s second unit power play.
2. Teddy Purcell, RW, EDMThe 30-year-old winger isn’t hitting the heights he did from 2011-13 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he’s definitely rekindled his scoring touch. He’s currently sitting with 11 goals and 31 points in 53 games.
The big question for a GM considering Purcell is whether he’s really able to drive play and create opportunities or if he’s been the benefactor of playing with Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl. That answer is probably a little of column A and a little of column B.
Working in his favor is that he’s been a positive relative possession player for eight straight seasons and despite playing with good linemates on a bad team, his 4.8% CF%Rel is solid. We’ve also seen plenty of talented players get put on a line with a couple of hot players and not be able to make it work.
1. Lee Stempniak, RW, NJD
On his eighth team in 11 seasons, Stempniak may be the bargain of the trade deadline. That is, if he’s available. The Devils are competing and aren’t likely to want to tear down the team if they’re in the playoffs. However, if they find themselves on the cusp heading into the week before the deadline, it’s clear that they’re building for the future and Stempniak could bring a big return for the franchise.
He’s not only posted 15 goals and 39 points in 53 games, he’s been great on the power play and comes at a price almost any team can afford: $850,000.
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.