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The National Hockey League's Trade Deadline is on Monday, Feb. 24, and teams will be making decisions on whether to buy or sell and decide which players can make the biggest difference and hold the greatest value. Check out the latest trade rumours and speculation from around the NHL beat.
Time to Sell?
While the Winnipeg Jets remain in the playoff hunt, Scott Billeck of The Winnipeg Sun believes the team might be better off selling at the deadline than trading a key piece to try to acquire defensive help.
TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie reported Tuesday on Insider Trading that the Jets are in search of a top-four defenceman, adding that they may be forced to part with a roster player to do so.
"Well, challenges are nothing new to Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Winnipeg Jets," McKenzie said. "I mean if you look at this season and you go back to the off-season he’s faced nothing but challenges. But most definitely the Jets are in the market for a specific top-four defenceman. Now it could be a rental player. It could be a player with some term. They’re not ruling out anything at this point but it does get complicated when you look at some of the scenarios that hover around the organization. You still have the Dustin Byfuglien scenario, that has not been rectified yet. You’ve got the injury front which includes Adam Lowry and Bryan Little both long-term. If Little comes back into the mix with the Jets then Cheveldayoff may have to use one of his current roster players to acquire that top four piece on the blueline."
Billeck argues the Jets currently only have two top-four defencemen and while adding another would help their playoff push, the price won't justify the move. He believes the Jets would be forced to part with a top-six forward, a first-round draft pick or one of their top prospects in Ville Heinola or Dylan Samberg in order to acquire the such a blueliner before Feb. 24.
Instead, Billeck believes the Jets should keep their core intact and instead sell off assets in order to help the team load up in July to make the playoffs next season. He believes the team should look to trade pending unrestricted free agent Dmitry Kulikov for a draft pick and see if they can free $4 million from their cap moving forward by trading Mathieu Perreault. Then, the Jets could try to find their much-needed defensive help in free agency without parting with a key piece, such as Nikolaj Ehlers.
The Jets, in the midst of a four-game losing skid, are three points back of the Arizona Coyotes, with a game in hand, for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
The Argument Against
Stu Cowan of The Montreal Gazette believes the Canadiens should only part ways with forward Tomas Tatar, who is the team's leading scorer, at the deadline if they can find another proven 20-goal scorer to replace him.
Tatar, who is signed through next season at a $5.3 million cap hit, has 17 goals and 44 points in 51 games with the Canadiens this season, his second with the team.
TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun wrote last week that the Canadiens will likely listen if a team comes to them with a strong enough offer for Tatar, but Cowan argues that Montreal is already low on goal scorers and would be remiss to part with one if they intend to push for the postseason next year.
“To be honest, I don’t really listen to it,” Tatar said of trade rumours Tuesday, per the Gazette. “Those analysts, it’s their job. I think anything can happen. I guess at the end it’s always the decision with the general manager for Berg to make. But, to be honest, I’m still hoping we don’t have to have this conversation and we want to be still in the (playoff) hunt and hopefully before that trade deadline comes we will pick up as many points so that we’re still in the hunt.”
The Canadiens currently sit 10 points back of the Carolina Hurricanes for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 13 games left before the deadline.
Eligible to sign an extension on July 1, Tatar expressed his enjoyment of playing in Montreal on Tuesday.
“Personally, I feel great here,” Tatar said. “The city’s been very nice to me, the organization and same as the fans. They’ve been very supportive. I’m really enjoying it here.
“I’ve never seen such interest from people about hockey in media and everything. I would say this is the top of the top and I’m really enjoying it.”
Not Ruling Anything Out
With the Dallas Stars sitting fifth-last in goals scored this season, general manager Jim Nill admitted to TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun that he is looking into the possibility of adding offensive help ahead of the deadline.
Nill told LeBrun in an interview for The Athletic that he will, however, wait until closer to the deadline to strike, if he finds a deal worth making.
"We’re open, every day we come to work we’re trying to make changes, how do we get better? We’ll continue to do that," Nill said. "This is the healthiest we’ve been in probably two years. We finally have a healthy team other than Martin Hanzal, whose career is over due to a back injury. So it’s nice to see. We’ve got that depth now. I like our depth. We’ve got four to five kids who can come up and play different roles at forward and in the defensive group.
"I’m going to sit back and analyze the next two to three weeks and see where we are. Things can change quickly. We’re going to see what’s out there. The biggest question is what’s the price of acquisition? There’s a balancing act there. Draft picks are becoming more and more valuable in today’s game. That’s what we got to balance. … Yes we’ll be looking, is there something that fits, if the price is the right price, we’re always looking to add.
"There’s a short-term risk/reward to that and a long-term risk/reward that we always have to balance between the cap, the draft picks, that’s what we’ve got to balance. We’ve got a lot of young guys’ contracts coming up. We have to balance that also. So we’ll see once we get closer, there’s going to be some teams that start to climb, some teams will start to drop off and that’ll change the market place."
While the Stars have lacked in goal production, the team has given up the fewest goals against of any NHL team this season and Nill said he will be careful not to try to change the team's identity down the stretch.
"Yeah, I think you’re dead-on about the defensive side, that’s our identity, we’re built like probably six to seven other teams in the league, the St. Louis’, the Islanders, the Boston’s, the Vegas’, those type of teams; real sound defensive teams, heavier teams, I guess is a way to put it. That’s our identity," Nill said. "When we get away from that, the games get away from us. We know that now. We started to understand that last year.
"Now the other side of it as you mentioned, the offensive side, we need to find that fine balance. That kind of comes and goes in spurts. We’ve had good stretches of 10 games where we have scored three goals per game, and then we’ll dry up. But the biggest thing for us is to remember who we are. And that’s every team. Every team has an identity. When you get good at that, that’s why the St. Louis Blues are Stanley Cup champions. They found their identity, they stuck with it and they did a good job keeping who they are. That’s where we’ve got to get to."
The Stars, who dropped to 28-18-4 with Wednesday's 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, currently sit third in the Central Division, with a six-point lead on both the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks.