The NHL trade deadline arrives on Monday. As always, hockey fans are salivating at the idea of a busy day of blockbusters. As always, the reality will probably be underwhelming.
This year doesn’t even feature as many big names in play as we saw last season, when players like Martin St. Louis, Marian Gaborik, and Thomas Vanek were moved. Unless something unexpected happens, Monday’s deadline isn’t shaping up to have much star power. Even the NBA’s deadline will probably end up being more fun. Stupid NBA.
But history tells us that we’ll still see plenty of deals, and maybe even a surprise or two, between now and Monday afternoon. So here are 10 key questions as we count down the final days to the 2015 NHL trade deadline.
1. Will the Coyotes steal the show?
The Coyotes could be this year’s team to watch. They’re clearly sellers, having fallen out of the Western race early and never really threatening to climb back in. They’re ice-cold right now, having lost seven straight, so they’ve got a real shot at dropping into Jack Eichel territory. But they’re also apparently looking to add players with time left on their deals, which opens them up to doing more than just the typical rental-for-prospect trade.
And maybe most important of all, they’ve got several attractive pieces that could move. Unlike a team like Buffalo, which has largely already finished stripping down to a bare-bones roster, the Coyotes still have most of their cards left to play.
Let’s start with the names who will probably move. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek and center Antoine Vermette are both pending UFAs, and Scott Burnside says they “might be the top straight-up rentals that are available.” Michalek doesn’t put up big offensive numbers, but he’s defensively responsible and can eat minutes. Plus he’s right-handed, which these days is just about the single most important trait a defenseman can have. As for Vermette, he’s a versatile two-way center and a great candidate to be this year’s guy who gets $30 million on July 1 for reasons nobody can remember by July 2.
And then we get to the Coyotes’ bigger bait. They’ve shot down the Shane Doan rumors so often that we might as well write that idea off, but that still leaves some big names on the blue line. Keith Yandle is the guy to watch, a top-tier defenseman with another year left on a very reasonable deal. The Coyotes don’t have to trade him, but he’s the best defenseman who’s likely to be available. In fact, there’s a good chance he’s the target of so many teams that he clogs up the trade market, and that once he’s dealt, we get a rush of secondary deals as teams switch over to their backup plans.
And if the Coyotes really want to get crazy, there’s also Oliver Ekman-Larsson, a 23-year-old stud the team kinda-sorta dangled out there last month. Normally, a guy like Ekman-Larsson is exactly the sort of player a team like Arizona looks to build its future around, so a trade seems exceedingly unlikely. But every deadline needs a few wild cards, and this is a fun one.
2. Will the Maple Leafs finally blow it all up?
Much has been made of Maple Leafs ownership giving the green light to a full-scale rebuild, which occurred after team president Brendan Shanahan ventured into the bowels of MLSE headquarters to the foul lair of the Faceless Beast of Many Pockets, performed the sacred ritual of supplication, and was granted permission to actually go ahead and do the job he was hired to do.