The NHL’s March 2 trade deadline is bearing down, and already several big names have been moved.
Toronto swapped David Clarkson for fellow salary-cap anchor Nathan Horton, New Jersey sent 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr to the land of early-bird dinners, and Winnipeg shipped Evander Kane and his wet tracksuit to Buffalo.
Several other famous players’ names have churned through the rumour mill, and while it’s unlikely most (or any) of them will be dealt, it’s exciting to imagine them landing in more ideal locales.
Here are a few fanciful moves that would be good for the players involved, the teams that get them, and hockey fans in general.
(To make this more fun, let’s forget for a minute about what their current teams would get in return or the salary-cap feasibility. Hey, it’s our fantasy and we’ll do what we want to.)
Phil Kessel to Chicago
What’s in it for them: The Blackhawks need a top-flight scorer after losing Patrick Kane to a broken collarbone; Kessel needs a defensively sound team that can cover for his own-end lapses and free him up to do what he does best — take shots and score goals.
What’s in it for us: It would be nice to see Kessel escape the Toronto snake pit for a place where he’s not expected to carry the team and his scoring talents can flourish. Plus there’s a good chance we get to see him in the playoffs for only the fourth time in his career.
Jordan Staal to Pittsburgh
What’s in it for them: Staal scored 25 goals in his final season with Pittsburgh, but has only 29 since the Pens traded him in the summer of 2012 amid fears they’d be unable to re-sign him (rejecting a 10-year, $60-million US contract will do that). If Pittsburgh brings the strong two-way man back, he’s their No. 3 (!) centre, behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
What’s in it for us: Maybe Staal’s return helps Crosby go on a rare deep playoff run. Since winning the Cup in 2009, he’s made only one trip to the conference final, and that ended in a sweep.
Nail Yakupov to Washington
What’s in it for them: The talented but untamed youngster gets a chance to round out his game under the steady hand of coach Barry Trotz and find a mentor in fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin. The Caps buy low on a skilled 21-year-old who was the No. 1 overall draft pick less than three years ago.
What’s in it for us: Perhaps Yakupov helps the Caps advance in the playoffs and set up a meeting with the Penguins. The rivalry has reignited this season after some dormant years.
Jarome Iginla to Calgary
What’s in it for them: Iginla agreed to end his 16-season Flames tenure two years ago to chase an elusive championship, but he now finds himself on a Colorado team that, sadly, is well behind Calgary in the standings. He gets to go back where he belongs and play for a legitimate playoff contender; the Flames get a reliable (if diminished) scorer for their late-season push and an emotional boost from the return of their beloved Iggy.
What’s in it for us: Imagine Iginla’s first game back at the Saddledome. LeBron-esque. Something to look forward to in the post-deadline, pre-playoff dog days.
Dion Phaneuf to Edmonton
What’s in it for them: Phaneuf escapes the merciless glare of Leafs Nation for his hometown. The Oilers get an actual NHL-calibre (albeit overpaid) NHL defenceman to shore up their woefully thin blue-line.
What’s in it for us: We all know a few Leaf fans, no? They’d be more pleasant to be around with both Clarkson and Phaneuf out of their lives.