Some NHL “Trade Bait” Won’t Be Going Anywhere
With the NHL’s Feb. 26 trade deadline over a month away, lists of potential trade candidates have recently popped up in the media. While I agree with most of the selections, there’s a few names that don’t belong there.
Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers. Over the past week or so there’s been media chatter suggesting the Rangers could listen to offers for several of their notable players, including captain McDonagh.
While anything’s possible, it’s doubtful the Rangers move McDonagh at the trade deadline. As long as they’re in the playoff chase I don’t see him going anywhere, especially with Kevin Shattenkirk (knee surgery) sidelined for several weeks.
James Neal and David Perron, Vegas Golden Knights. If the Golden Knights were near the bottom of the standings as expansion teams usually are, they would likely shop pending unrestricted free agents such as Neal and Perron.
Vegas, however, sits atop the Western Conference standings. Barring a stunning collapse over the remainder of the season, they’re a shoo-in to reach the playoffs.
Neal and Perron are playing key roles in the Knights’ success. Why toss a spanner in the works by trading them? Sure, the Knights risk losing both guys for nothing to free agency but it’s unlikely either guy gets peddled at the deadline.
Tyson Barrie, Colorado Avalanche. The 26-year-old Avs defenseman frequently surfaced in the rumor mill over the previous two seasons. He’s currently on injured reserve with a hand injury. While he has his defensive weaknesses, he’s also a very good puck-moving blueliner.
If the Avalanche were once again mired near the bottom of the Western Conference, I could see them dangling Barrie as part of a rebuild plan. But with the Avs surging in the standings and jockeying for a playoff spot, why would they want to move him? Once Barrie returns to action, he’ll provide an invaluable boost to their offense.
Robin Lehner, Buffalo Sabres. Though he’s won just nine of 34 games-played, Lehner’s save percentage has hovered around .910 for most of this season. That’s pretty good considering the porous defense in front of him.
Lehner’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and a year away from UFA eligibility. He might not have a long-term future in Buffalo. Indeed, he might want to get out of there as quickly as possible.
Unless Lehner’s demanding a trade, however, it doesn’t make sense for the Sabres to trade him. Yes, they have promising Linus Ullmark waiting in the wings but he’s yet to fully establish himself as an NHL starter. It might be better to keep Lehner around for at least another season until Ullmark proves himself.
Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars. He’s lost his starter’s job to Ben Bishop and is eligible for UFA status in July. But he’s graciously accepted his demotion to the backup role and seems open to re-signing with the Stars.
Given Bishop’s injury history, it’ll be worthwhile for the Stars to keep Lehtonen around as they jockey for a playoff berth in the Western Conference. Though there’s a chance he could depart via free agency in July, it’s unlikely the Stars will peddle him at the trade deadline.
Chris Tanev, Vancouver Canucks. As the Canucks rebuild continues, there’s some speculation suggesting they could shop the 28-year-old Tanev. While he’s their best defenseman and under contract through 2019-20, some observers feel he could be on the wan by the teams the Canucks improve into a legitimate playoff contender.
That’s as may be. Then again, perhaps their improvement could come faster than expected and Tanev could be an invaluable part of it. If the Canucks get a sweetheart offer they could seriously consider it. If he wants to remain part of their future, however, they’ll probably keep him.