Thursday, February 15, 2018

Six trade deadline names that aren't in play (but maybe should be)

The trade deadline is less than two weeks away, and we finally got our first major February deal with Tuesday’s Dion Phaneuf/Marion Gaborik swap. There are still plenty of names of the market, with various reports suggesting that guys like Max Pacioretty, Mike Hoffman, Evander Kane and Mike Green could be available.

But as is usually the case, the really big names aren’t in play. There was a time when it wasn’t unusual to see elite players moved near the deadline, with stars like Ron Francis, Rob Blake and Marian Hossa switching teams. But in recent years, most teams prefer to fall back on the old standby that you can only trade big stars during the off-season — or, more often, not at all.

Sometimes that makes sense. But not always. So today, let’s challenge the conventional wisdom by imagining an alternate universe where NHL teams aggressively reshaped their rosters to put themselves in the best possible position to win — and didn’t just instinctively revert to kicking the can down the road.

What would the landscape look like then? Here are a half-dozen names that reportedly aren’t in play heading towards the 2018 deadline, but maybe should be.

Shea Weber, Canadiens

We’ve been told that the Habs are finally ready to bite the bullet and rebuild, which means shopping veterans like Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Andrew Shaw. There’s even been talk of moving on from Alex Galchenyuk. But two names have been largely absent from the rumour mill: Carey Price and Shea Weber.

Price probably makes sense, since he recently signed a massive extension that starts next season. Whether you like that deal or not, it would be unusual to make that kind of commitment to a player and then trade him before it even has a chance to kick in.

But Weber? On paper, he’d be among a rebuilding team’s best bait. He’s old enough that he’s likely to be a declining asset by the time the team is ready to contend again, but not so old that a contender wouldn’t want him around for the new few seasons. His contract is an issue, but as Montreal fans constantly remind me, maybe not quite as big a problem as you might think given that the actual salary dives in a few years and the Predators would absorb any cap-recapture penalties. And whatever you think of the P.K. Subban trade that brought him to Montreal, there are tons of people in the hockey world who absolutely love Weber’s game, even today.

He’s injured right now, which complicates things (although reports were saying he wasn’t on the block even before he got hurt). Still, he’s expected back before the playoffs. Why not trade him this year, reap a windfall, and give the rebuild a major kickstart?

Potential destination: Edmonton. It’s almost too perfect. The Oilers need blue-line help, Peter Chiarelli needs to pull off a big deal to keep some of the heat off, and Edmonton would be thinking ahead to next year and beyond, so Weber’s current health status wouldn’t be a hurdle. Sure, the cap hit is an issue, but a little retained salary and maybe another injured star going the other way could largely even that out.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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