Every trade made by an NHL GM involves an element of risk.
Maybe you get caught up in a bidding war and end up paying more than you wanted to. Maybe the guy you acquire blows out his knee on his first shift. Maybe that fifth-round draft pick you throw in ends up being used on a future all-star, and your fans never let you hear the end of it.
But some deals are riskier than others. And as we approach this year’s deadline, GMs looking to minimize that uncertainty will have plenty of options. Guys like Loui Eriksson or Jiri Hudler won’t come cheap, but if you land one them at least you’re going to feel pretty confident that you know what you’re getting.
That makes it easier to gauge just how much risk you’re taking on, and narrows the gap between your realistic best and worst case scenarios. Nobody’s ever a sure thing in this league, but certain players feel like safer bets than others.
On the other hand, some of the players who could be on the move over the next few days fall solidly into what you could call the high-risk, high-reward category. They’re the sort of players who could turn out to be steals, the kind of acquisitions that shift the balance of power. They could also end up being overpriced busts who get their new GMs fired.
Are you feeling lucky?
Here are five names from this year’s rumour mill who could represent big risks – and big opportunities – as we head towards the deadline.
Eric StaalBest case: Based on name value, Staal may be the biggest star available at this year’s deadline. He’s a four-time all-star who’s had a 100-point season and once topped 70 points for seven straight years. Nobody else rumoured to be on the block has that sort of resume. And at 31 years old, he’s not so far removed from his best years that it’s not hard to imagine him finding that magic again, at least for a few months.
It’s no sure thing that the Hurricanes will move him, since they’re still hanging around the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and he also has a no-trade clause. But if he was made available, teams will be interested. It’s hard to resist the idea of a change of scenery and a chance at another Stanley Cup, reinvigorating a guy who’s looked like a potential Hall-of-Famer for long stretches of his career.
If you’re a contender looking to give your Top 6 some marquee value, Staal is the swing-for-the-fences play.
Worst case: The resume is impressive, sure, but there’s a whole lot of past tense in there. Staal isn’t having an especially impressive season, recording just nine goals and 31 points. And those numbers are probably flattering. Since Jan. 1, he’s managed just a single goal to go with six assists. That’s not much to get excited about, especially when it comes with an $8.25 million cap hit and (presumably) a high price to pry him out of Carolina.
Elite talent wins championships, and Staal has been one over the course of his career. But he hasn’t looked like it recently, and it’s not hard to imagine some team looking back and regretting how they overpaid to get a big name instead of big numbers.