Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Eight high-risk trade deadline targets

With five weeks to go until the trade deadline, we’re well into the part of the season where teams need to ask themselves some tough questions. Are we really contenders? How much of the future are we willing to part with? Should we throw in the towel and be sellers? How highly do we value stability in our room? And when is the right time to make our move?

And maybe most importantly: Just how comfortable are we with risk?

We don’t talk about that one much, but it’s a key factor. We already know that most NHL GMs are risk-averse and many would rather not make any trades at all if they thought they could get away with it. But once you’ve decided to make a deal, you’ve got to figure out just how much uncertainty you’re willing to accept.

For some of the players on the market, the risk factor is minimal. If the Leafs decide to move pending UFA James van Riemsdyk, any team acquiring him will know what they’re getting — a guy who’s going to score at a 25- to 35-goal pace, just like he has for the last half-dozen years or so, this one included. Same with someone like Mike Hoffman in Ottawa. Meanwhile, a guy like Mark Letestu may not be as consistent, but he’d come relatively cheap and his contract is easy to swallow, so the risk factor isn’t high there either.

So if you want to play it safe, those are going to be the sort of players you’re calling about. But if you want to swing for the fences, you’re going to have to accept a higher degree of uncertainty. So today, let’s take a look at eight trade targets at this year’s deadline that represent high-risk opportunities.

These are the sort of trades that could earn a GM a Stanley Cup ring — or a pink slip. Who’s feeling lucky?

Max Pacioretty, Canadiens

Best case: Since the start of the 2011–12 season, only three wingers have scored more than 200 goals. Alexander Ovechkin leads the way with 286, while Patrick Kane has 202. And then in between those two there’s Pacioretty, whose 204 ranks him ahead of guys like Jamie Benn, Phil Kessel and Corey Perry.

Players like that don’t hit the trade market very often. That’s especially true when they still have another year left on an extremely team-friendly deal. But with the Canadiens struggling through another disastrous season and Pacioretty slumping for most of the first half, his name is all over the rumour mill. Marc Bergevin’s recent trade record isn’t especially intimidating, and this feels like the perfect opportunity to step in and take advantage of a team that’s in a bad place and might feel forced into selling a prime asset at a discount.

Worst case: Pacioretty’s had a rough season on and off the ice, and the stress of wearing the C in Montreal seems to be wearing on him. It’s been widely assumed that a change of scenery would see him snap back to the consistent 30-goal threat we’re used to seeing. But there’s no guarantee that happens, and it’s possible that whichever team lands him may be getting a guy who needs some time to rediscover his footing. His recent hot streak is reassuring, but it probably also moves up a price tag that should already be high.

Even if he was a bit of a bust this year, you’d still have him under contract for next season. But after that, you figure he’s going to want to get paid after years of representing one of the league’s best values, so this could still be a short-term move with a long-term price tag.

Bottom line: It’s an intriguing opportunity to land a player with a very solid track record. But are you willing to run the risk of being the GM who lost a blockbuster trade to Marc Bergevin?

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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