NHL teams expected to pick up trading pace over next week
DETROIT (AP) — Brendan Smith was planning to spend his bye week in Florida, trying to relax. It might be tough for him to truly get away.
The Detroit Red Wings defenseman, potentially an unrestricted free agent this summer, acknowledged he planned to keep an eye on Twitter because he may be a player the franchise moves this week ahead of the March 1 NHL trade deadline.
“If something happens, my agent will let me know or I’ll see it on social media,” Smith said Tuesday. “You guys are pretty quick on it.”
Trades have been made at a slow trickle in recent days and weeks because a vast majority of teams in the league are at least in contention for a spot in the playoffs and they don’t want to give up too soon. Clearly, buyers outnumber sellers, and salary-cap constraints make it tough for many teams to make moves.
“These next seven days are going to be crucial with what you’re looking at,” New York Islanders interim coach Doug Weight said. “And I think a lot of teams are going to sway one way or another with the next six or seven points that are available. I think it’ll be a late, active trade deadline because of the situation.”
Detroit general manager Ken Holland is expected to explore joining the minority, trying to deal at least one of his players with expiring contracts for draft picks because the franchise’s postseason streak seems to be destined to stop at 25.
The 28-year-old Smith, a feisty player, might be available if a team is willing to give up a third-round pick as Calgary did to acquire a comparable player, defenseman Mike Stone, from Arizona on Monday. Thomas Vanek, a 33-year-old winger, has 15 goals and 23 assists this season and is 5 for 5 on shootouts, possibly making him attractive to a team that hasn’t fared well after overtimes, like Washington. The Red Wings, though, may want to re-sign him and would likely balk at late-round offers for a player who has been a pleasant surprise.
Here’s a look at some other players, and teams, to watch over the next week:
KEVIN SHATTENKIRK: The St. Louis Blues are in a solid position to make the playoffs, but they seem to be willing to trade the high-scoring 28-year-old defenseman instead of risking losing him in free agency.
MATT DUCHENE: Colorado, easily the team with the fewest points in the league, is looking to rebuild and hopes to shed two players and their contracts along with one that will be a free agent this summer. Duchene, a 26-year-old center, and Gabriel Landeskog, a 24-year-old wing, each have at least two-plus years remaining on their deals and that might make them difficult to trade. Jarome Iginla, a 39-year-old wing, is easier to trade because teams will basically be renting him for the rest of the regular season.
PATRICK EAVES: The 32-year-old wing is in demand. He’s having the best year of his career, making just $1 million this season. And, he’s available because Dallas likely won’t make the playoffs. The Stars are also willing to deal 35-year-old winger Patrick Sharp, 35-year-old defenseman Johnny Oduya and 30-year-old Lauri Korpikoski.
BEN BISHOP: After losing in the Eastern Conference and Stanley Cup finals the last two years, Tampa Bay has struggled this season. Instead of losing games and assets, the Lightning are listening to offers for their 30-year-old goaltender and 32-year-old center Brian Boyle with expiring contracts.
Here are some other things of note around the NHL:
Teams are 4-12-4 in their first game coming off a five-day bye “week,” and there is talk around the league that there may be changes to the format next season. The league may have teams coming off the bye play each other, cutting down on the advantage a team in a rhythm has against a rusty one.
GAME OF THE WEEK
The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins will host the rival Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night at Heinz Field as part of the NHL Stadium Series. Pittsburgh is trying to keep pace with the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals while the Flyers are in a logjam of teams trying to earn one of the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference with 20-plus games remaining in the regular season.