Earlier this month, I got a request from In Lou We Trust user Zelepukin asking about realistic trade targets. My initial reaction was straight-forward: go after Chicago. They are currently over the current salary cap ceiling; they have to dump player salaries just have enough money to qualify their restricted free agents and fill the rest of their roster. Their situation just got worse, actually. Since Jonathan Toews was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy, another $1.3 million will be added to next season's cap count according to James Duthie of TSN.
Since then, however, I've been stumped. Unless I'm not recalling something in recent history, Lou doesn't usually make a big trade in the offseason. During the season? Sure. Just look at last February for an example of a huge trade.
My point is that this is all very much hypothetical. I honestly don't expect too many deals to happen at all, much less to see Lou go out and make one. But given how much Lou plays his hand close to his chest, I'm sure he's at least thinking about available deals. While Chicago cannot literally add salary at this juncture (and so they should be exploited), there are a few teams who don't enjoy a lot of cap space and could be sellers prior to July 1. Yet, who should be traded and for what? That, I cannot answer and that's why I'm being more general rather researching certain players in depth.
I do apologize to Zelepukin for essentially punting on his request, however, I still feel it's worth discussing. My thoughts continue after the jump.Using CapGeek as a guide, let's rule out who would be unlikely candidates for a trade. Please visit CapGeek to view each team's current chart so you can see their current situation.
I highly doubt Lou would trade with an Atlantic Division rival to begin with; and I doubt these teams would want to deal with New Jersey anyway. Pittsburgh and the Islanders already have nearly full rosters with tons of cap space to fill their last few spots - they have no reason to make a trade. The Flyers have a few players who would look nice in Devils red; but neither team
If anything, if Lou wants to be real harsh and want to improve the second pairing defense, then he should consider giving an offer sheet for Braydon Coburn in Philly or a dual offer sheet for Marc Staal and Dan Girardi from the Rangers (thanks to Derek Zona for the idea) in the hopes of getting one of them. Neither team is in a great situation cap-wise and at least it would put the screws to their management to make a hard decision about matching the offer. Again, it's not like the Devils are going to be trading them anyway and what would they get as compensation? Late picks in 2011? Feel free to disagree, but I'm willing to see the Devils give up potential assets for known assets.
Of course, I'd honestly be shocked if Lou would bring out an offer sheet on anyone. If it's one thing Lou does very well, it's that he doesn't burn any potential bridges. This may mean he says things publicly that are unlikely - e.g. Rod Pelley as a third line center - but it's worked out well for the most part.
Teams with More Cap Space than New Jersey: Atlanta, Islanders, St. Louis, Phoenix, Colorado, Tampa Bay, San Jose, Anaheim.
I don't think the Devils should deal with these teams. Namely because the Devils won't have cap leverage in a possible deal. I'm not saying these teams don't have some fine players that could be had; it's just that the deal itself won't be driven cheaper since New Jersey would have less room to play with. Besides, they'll have the space to fill in who they moved anyway unless it's a position-for-position swap.
"Mirage" Teams (Teams that look ripe for deals but aren't): Los Angeles, Florida, Columbus, Ottawa, Detroit, Calgary
At first, you may see that these teams have less cap space than the Devils and think, "OK, maybe Lou can work out something with them." However, a closer look shows that either does not have a need to make a deal. Los Angeles only has 5 RFAs, a roster need to add forwards and could do so via RFAs and their prospects. If anything, they need a #2 center as much as the Devils do, so it's not like either could benefit much from a deal.
Florida, Ottawa, Columbus, and Detroit each have less than $10 million in cap space, but all nearly have full rosters. Detroit only has to add two depth forwards and even with that meager cap space they can do so via their RFAs. It appears Columbus is in the same spot as Detroit but with more cap space. Florida can use their cap space on their RFAs to their currently-19-man roster and call it a summer; ditto for Ottawa.
This isn't to say they won't make deals, it's just that I don't see where those five teams would have the urgency to move a player. Therefore, I wouldn't focus too much attention on hoping Lou can bring someone, for examples, Jiri Hudler, Nathan Horton (NTC kicks in after July 1, 2010), Fedor Tyutin (among other Jackets), or Justin Williams. Yes, I know I named a few wingers there, but again, this is hypothetical.
Calgary is actually a team pressed right up against the cap as-is, but looking at the chart, there really isn't anyone desirable that the Devils could think about making an offer for a signed Flame. Not even an offer sheet except for Ian White, but he'll surely be matched unless it's a hilariously terrible overpayment.
OK, enough about teams that wouldn't be good for potential deals, how about teams who would be? Other than Chicago? There are a few (warning: baseless speculation abounds):
While the Capitals locked up Nicklas Backstrom, they still need a goaltender, another defenseman, and four more forwards. They can qualify most, if not all, of their RFAs; but they're likely going to be up at the cap ceiling when it's all said and done. For relief purposes, they may want to consider moving an expiring contract like Brooks Laich (would be a 3rd line center) or Mike Knuble (2nd line caliber winger). Should they want to make a big move, they can drop Alexander Semin and his $6 million cap-hit that expires in 2011, but I doubt they'll move him within the conference, if at all.
Would the Devils greatly benefit with either? I don't think so. The Devils could pick up a third line winger on free agency for cheaper and they'll only need a winger if they move one in response. I don't see why the Devils would want to add $6 million, when Jamie Langenbrunner can handle the first line RW spot for half that amount. Still, I wouldn't ignore the Capitals as partners.
Les Habs are in a worse spot than the Capitals. Less cap space, and no goalies under contract. Worse, their desirable players have a NTC of some sort. Andrei Kostitsyn's $3.25 million deal expires next summer and I'm sure Montreal will want to shop that contract, but I'd stay away if I were the Devils. I don't think he has produced like his salary, despite what flashes of greatness he has shown as a forward. As far as the defense goes, I look at Hal Gill and Josh Gorges and go, "No and definitely not." The Devils would not really benefit from adding either a slow defensive defensemen or another depth defenseman to their blueline.
Weirdly, most of the RFAs aren't really all that desirable: there's a lot of depth players and, of course, Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak. The Devils do not need to pay a lot for a backup goaltender, so there's no need to go after them.
This is a bit of a stretch because it seems that the Canucks may be set for 2010-11 largely as-is. However, they may be up against the ceiling when they commit to anyone, and so the Devils can "ease their concern," so to speak. That said, there are more than a few good defenders I wouldn't mind seeing in Devils red. Kevin Bieksa and Christian Erhoff are good defenders with good expiring deals, I wonder if Vancouver would consider parting with either? I doubt Alexander Edler is all that available given the length he has left, but he could be a good addition as well. They don't have much in the way of forwards that they could move for some decent cap space.
I only put the Maple Leafs here because of one player: Mikhail Grabovski. He's a $2.9 million cap hit and is coming off a injury-shortened season in Toronto. The people at PPP are currently rating his 09-10 as "decent." Given that the Devils need a #2 center to play well behind Travis Zajac taking tough minutes, Grabovski may fit this perfectly. The only problem is that Toronto really needs to sign forwards and may not be willing to give up on Grabovski so easily. Still, he's a pretty good option for the role and it's not like Toronto has acres of space to play with this summer.
And before you ask, no, I don't think taking Tomas Kaberle and his inferior-defense-compared-to-Paul Martin would be wise at $4.25 million. Even with an expiring contract. Now, if Martin is also retained along with acquiring Kaberle, then that's a little better. Certainly the blueline would be more offensively productive. But such a move would force Lou to be cheaper up front. Depending on the deal itself, that's not ideal.
Boston's not a "mirage" like Detroit because those RFAs include Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart, and Dan Paille among others. Should Boston want to retain them, their qualifying offers for those three alone could put Boston over the limit. Therefore, they could become sellers very soon.
A FanPost was written a few days ago by user dr d)evil about whether Patrice Bergeron could be traded to the Devils. In the comments, I wasn't keen on the idea, but it's certainly a realistic possibility. The Bruins moving Bergeron means they can give more time to Marc Savard and David Krejci and it would seriously help the Devils at center for less than $5 million. I still think it's not ideal to move Zajac or Bergeron down to a second line, but that's from a salary/cap standpoint. Hockey-wise, it could work out well. Bergeron would only cost $4.75 million to the cap for next season only.
While young, I wonder if David Krejci would be available as well? Certainly, he can continue to develop on the second line; provide a lot more size in between Patrik Elias and the Lithuanian Freight Train, Dainius Zubrus. I think the Bruins would look for suitors interested in Michael Ryder ($4 million, expires in 2011), Dennis Wideman ($3.9375 million, expires in 2012), and Andrew Ference ($2.25 million, expires in 2013) before thinking about trading Krejci, though. However, when you're a seller, you don't always have the luxury of choosing what you sell.
This is ultimately scratching the surface. This is not an end-all, be-all list of teams or players the Devils should consider making trade for. I didn't think of who on New Jersey would be ideal to send away in a trade. Draft picks and prospects, sure, but in terms of players it really does depend on the other team. There are other possibilities and just because I said that most of the league would not make for ideal trade partners doesn't mean that Lou can't make something happen anyway. Feel free to make your case for who would be a good team that the Devils could trade with, and name a potential target in the comments.
Note: This does not mean posting stupid trade rumors from Hockeybuzz; or coming up with proposals that trade Devils who have NTCs and NMCs.
At the end of this punting attempt, I can't help but think the real team to target is Chicago because they truly have no leverage. Of course, when it comes to transactions, Lou and New Jersey have a tendency to surprise and sometimes amaze outside observers with what they are able to put together. I don't think we should expect a notable trade, holding your breath or demanding one isn't advisable. Still, it's certainly something to consider as free agency lurks ever closer.
Please leave your thoughts and questions in the comments, and to user Zelepukin, I hope this was an acceptable response even if it was more generalized than probably what you intended.