2011 Trade Deadline Question: Where Will Jason Arnott Land?

Jason Arnott's return to New Jersey might not have worked out as well as he had planned thanks to the team's performance in the first half of the season. Now he could be heading out next season.

When the Devils traded a 2nd rounder and Matt Halischuk to the Nashville Predators to acquire Jason Arnott, they were expecting that Arnott would be an important part of a contending Devils team as the team's second line center. Fast forward to February, and the trade doesn't look so great for the Devils, mainly because the Devils aren't contenders right now, they've got literally no chance to make the post season (and if they did, they'd go up against the Philadelphia Flyers that beat them in the first round last year) and Arnott has found himself bumped down to the 3rd line because of Dainius Zubrus' play with Patrik Elias and Brian Rolston. Due to Arnott's expiring contract, his name has been thrown around as a potential player that some teams might want to acquire at the trade deadline. ILWT User Cherno77 made a fanpost about this topic, and it was mentioned in a previous post by John about the deadline. I'm going to take a more thorough look at Arnott and where he might end up.

First off, a look at some of the other centers who'd play a similar role to Arnott with expiring deals this season, as well as some of the centers w/ expiring deals and are slated to become UFAs. 

Player(Contract Expiry Year in Brackets)

GP

Goals

Assists

Cap Hit

BRAD RICHARDS(2011)

56

24

39

$7 800 000

JASON ARNOTT(2011)

59

13

11

$4 500 000

TIM CONNOLLY(2011)

43

8

17

$4 500 000

MICHAL HANDZUS(2011)

59

8

15

$4 000 000

DAYMOND LANGKOW (2012)

-

-

-

$4 500 000

PATRICK SHARP(2012)

57

30

22

$3 900 000

R.J. UMBERGER(2012)

58

19

24

$3 750 000

JARRET STOLL(2012)

59

16

18

$3 600 000

OLLI JOKINEN(2012)

57

13

29

$3 000 000

MIKHAIL GRABOVSKI(2012)

57

24

20

$2 900 000

SAKU KOIVU(2012)

59

13

20

$2 900 000

 

In comparison to most of these forwards, Arnott's numbers aren't that great. MacLean didn't really have much of an effect on Arnott's numbers, mainly because he wasn't shooting below his career shooting %, and he was centering the only Devil who was producing under MacLean: Patrik Elias. Out of all these forwards, a lot of them are durable- the only player to miss significant time in that group is Connolly, and he is known for his history with injuries. Arnott has yet to miss a game this season, but over the previous three seasons in Nashville he had to deal with various minor injuries as well as three concussions. With Arnott, health might be a concern, but he's managed to stay healthy this season and has yet to miss a game, which is good news for prospective buyers. Now, for a quick rundown of the teams interested. First, the teams who are considered the favourites to land Arnott.

Washington- Why might they be interested? 

When people think of the Capitals, they think of a weak defensive team, mainly because of their young goalies and a defense that features Mike Green, who's considered to be a terrible defender. One problem that is often ignored is their lack of a solid second line center. Right now, it would likely be either rookie Marcus Johansson or youngster Mathieu Perrault in that spot. Arnott would provide an instant upgrade for the Caps at the spot, giving experience, scoring ability as well as size and some physicality in that spot. If the Caps want to make a splash in the playoffs this year, it might be better for them to do it with a veteran center who's won a Stanley cup than an inexperienced youngster.

Montreal- Why might they be interested?

It all boils down to two things- the fact that they've got somewhat of a weakness at center despite having the skilled Tomas Plekanec centering the top line. The other remaining centers include youngsters like David Desharnais and Lars Eller, grinder Tom Pyatt and Scott "Benedict" Gomez. But more importantly, the Canadiens acquire something that they need- size. The Habs have been mocked for their size- being called the smurfs as well as creating a twitter hashtag #growhabsgrow (a parody of their "go Habs go" chant). Arnott fills that void in a big way with his 6'5 220 lb frame. Additionally, Arnott gives the 2nd line a veteran center with experience, which like with Washington, is much better than having an inexperienced kid like Desharnais or Eller as your 2nd line center. Or having someone as inconsistent as Gomez in that spot.

Pittsburgh- Why might they be interested?

Their injury problems at center is the main reason why they're interested: with Sidney Crosby still out with a concussion and Evgeni Malkin's season ending knee injury, their offense from the middle has been essentially decimated. Jordan Staal and the likes of Craig Adams, Maxime Talbot and Dustin Jeffrey are their centers as of now (and if anyone was wondering "Who are these guys?" when you saw this list, I wouldn't be surprised if you were wondering who they are). Adams and Talbot combined have 24 points, and Jeffrey's a callup from their farm team. Arnott would be a significant upgrade offensively from the rest, though I doubt he'd be able to replace Malkin's production.

A few other teams that might be interested

Calgary- Their group of Centers is somewhat weak- evidenced by Olli Jokinen being their top center. Matt Stajan is their 2nd line center and Daymond Langkow is still out. While they could use an upgrade down the middle, they don't have any good prospects to trade and because of that I don't think they'd be willing to part with draft picks right now.

New York Rangers- They've got a decent group of forwards, and while they have survived all sorts of injuries, they could use a bit of extra scoring (especially now with the recent injury to Marian Gaborik). The Rangers might be willing to move some picks or prospects to help them secure a playoff position, but it all depends on if the Rangers and Devils are finally willing to make a trade with each other.

What if Arnott remains a Devil past February 28th?

Like many of you know, Arnott has a NMC. With the Devils strong play of late and winning tendencies, he's recently considered staying with the Devils. With 23 games left and 10 points back of 8th place Carolina, it seems unlikely that the Devils will make the playoffs unless all the teams ahead of them collapse. If Arnott is willing to take the risk and potentially spend his spring watching the Playoffs, it's his problem. Lamoriello hasn't brought up waiving the NMC when they have talked about this situation, so it's ultimately up to Arnott if he wants to leave. Even if Arnott does stay, I doubt the Devils would be willing to keep Arnott around after this season, mainly because of his age and history with injuries.

Who would replace Arnott if he was traded?

With Arnott off the roster, the Devils could promote one of the 4th liners to the 3rd line. It's not the best option however, as Mair and Pelley aren't exactly third line material. Dainius Zubrus could be demoted to the 3rd line, but I doubt Lemaire would want to break up the team's most effective line. However, the Devils do have some options in Albany. Jacob Josefson, who's played 7 games for the Devils this season could center the 3rd line, but It would be better if he stayed in Albany just because of his ELC, which has one more slide year. Adam Henrique however, doesn't have any slide years left. From what Tom had to say about Henrique's performance in the AHL, I would feel confident with him taking Arnott's spot in the lineup if he's traded. He might be a risky option, but he'd be a much better option than having Mair or Pelley in that spot.

What would be the expected return for Arnott?

Personally i'd expect a similar type of deal like the Langenbrunner trade, with a pick that will improve based on the team's performance. Considering the amount of high draft picks that have been moved (St. Louis, Nashville, Boston and Philadelphia have moved their 1st rounders in recent deals), I think he might get

With all that being said, where do you think Arnott will end up? Montreal? Washington? Somewhere else? Who do you think will replace Arnott if he gets traded? Feel free to discuss your thoughts on Arnott's future in the comments.

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