The All Star break is over, players raced around the rink, took slapshots and even shot pucks from the rafters of the arena. The (awful) tournament style games are done and teams are returning to the ice, with the NHL schedule starting on Monday. Making things worse, some teams like the Montreal Canadiens are coming out of their bye week, as fans and media members are chomping at the bit to see them back… either to cheer them on or to have new material to complain about.
The way things are shaping up, few teams are guaranteed a playoffs’ spot but many are in a position where they will soon have to make a decision if they’re going for it or if they start selling assets. As the deadline approaches, more teams will be joining the nine or so teams with little playoffs’ hopes, being either too far and/or having too many teams to pass in order to make it. Let’s have a look at roughly where teams find themselves at as the home stretch is upon us.
It goes without saying that there could be some surprises since as long as there’s a mathematical chance, anything can happen. This is basically “playing the odds” based on previous years. The nine teams considered as sellers all have pending unrestricted free agents (UFA) amongst them and those are often the most likely to be wearing a new uniform by trade deadline.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the most prominent pending UFA’s on the nine team catalogued as sellers in the table up above. I’ve sorted them by position to make it easier to find how the supply sits today at each position. As we know, supply and demand dictates the market and right now, there are more buyers than sellers. It will change the closer we get to the deadline of February 24th.
|TEAM||NAME||POSITION||CAP HIT ($)|
|Michael Del Zotto||D||750,000|
Looking at this breakdown, the centre position market is very thin, and teams are always looking for centres. This should drive the asking price up and perhaps even force teams wanting to buy into making more “hockey trades” than “rental trades”. There usually is a good demand for defensemen but even this early, the market seems saturated with a wide range of blue liners. There are some decent names in net for teams searching for an insurance policy in the event of an injury to a masked man.
Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin was taking advantage of the bye week to meet with his team of pro scouts and Assistant GMs in order to come up with a game plan for trade deadline. They are well positioned with Ilya Kovalchuk being so cheap, and with Nate Thompson as a centre with a good faceoffs’ percentage. Marco Scandella is a good defenseman but the return might not be what we had hoped for due to sheer numbers of players available at that position. As for Dale Weise, the Habs will likely have to eat half his salary in order to make teams interested. He has been playing some good hockey since being called up. Expect the unexpected, we are always told. While playoffs’ hockey seems unlikely this season, this should be an exciting time of year regardless. Go Habs Go!