The NHL trade deadline is fast approaching, which means the chatter and whispers surrounding various players is at a season high as teams look to position themselves for greater financial flexibility or a run at the Stanley Cup.
While there aren’t likely to be any major blockbuster deals in the pipeline, the latest crop of rumors in advance of Monday’s deadline suggests there are missing-piece deals to be made. While many teams in the postseason hunt are looking for rentals at this point, the more talented available players might just be the ones who have long-term contracts in place.
With that in mind, let’s take a look a look at three of the latest trade rumors from around the league.
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
Canadian winger Joffrey Lupul has had more than his fair share of ups and downs since joining the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2010-11 season after a little over a year with the Anaheim Ducks (his second stint with that franchise).
A shoulder injury truncated a magnificent 2011-12 season, in which he garnered his only All-Star game appearance and scored 67 points in just 66 games. More injuries followed, most notably a forearm fracture in early 2013, but Lupul has still found time to show off his considerable skill in Toronto.
Alas, his stint with the team may be coming to an end. SportsNet590.ca’s Andrew Walker noted on Feb. 22 that the Maple Leafs were shopping Lupul, although nothing has come of the report since then.
However, there may be one team finally ready to bite on Lupul it seems, per Comcast Sportsnet New England’s Joe Haggerty:
One name I’ve heard pop up in last few days as RW trade possibility for the Bruins? Joffrey Lupul. Useful offensive player when he’s healthy
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) February 27, 2015
The trade rumors haven’t quite been a welcome development for Lupul.
“This isn’t the situation I thought I’d be in at all,” Lupul said, per James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail. “But I don’t think this team is as bad as we’ve shown the past couple months. I think there [are] some really, really positive pieces and some young guys playing better.”
Lupul has scored a respectable 19 points in 34 games this season. Health will always be a concern, considering his difficult times in Toronto, a possible deal-breaker amplified by his current contract situation. Lupul is on the books for a $5.25 million cap hit each season through the 2017-18 campaign.
The Bruins, with roughly $3.2 million in cap space this season, would have to move a player from the current roster to complete this deal. The Maple Leafs don’t have much cap room of their own, so pulling off this deal will take some financial consideration for it to make sense for both teams.
At 31 years old and with his noted inability to stay on the ice, any team dealing for Lupul will have to weigh up the pros and cons. However, the slick-passing forward has the experience and chops to give Boston’s wavering playoff status a significant boost.
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press
The Chicago Blackhawks could very well be overhauling their goaltender situation this season, as backup stopper Antti Ranta may be on the trading block, per Sportsnet.ca’s Mark Spector:
Remember Antti Raanta, the best goalie not in the NHL from 2013? He can be had from CHI now. They like Scott Darling more.
— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) February 27, 2015
Indeed, Scott Darling seems to have usurped Raanta as the No. 2 ‘keeper of choice in Chicago. Darling has a shiny new two-year contract extension with the Blackhawks, and Satchel Price at Second City Hockey notes that the team has done more than just wrap up Darling for the time being:
Antti Raanta has been the primary backup to starter Corey Crawford throughout the season, but this move would seem to signal the organization’s preference for Darling, who impressed during a stint in goal earlier this season while Crawford was injured.
Earlier on Sunday, following the team’s ugly 6-2 loss to Boston, the ‘Hawks reassigned Raanta to Rockford in order to free up a spot for Darling. That move, along with the extension, could be geared towards maximizing the team’s cap space going forward.
Raanta is only 25 years old and has put up excellent numbers this season, sporting a .936 save percentage and 1.89 goals-against average in 14 total appearances, per NHL.com. Both of those numbers are major improvements over his 2013-14 season stats—it’s quite possible he is yet to reach his full potential.
If he truly is on the block, don’t be surprised if multiple teams come calling for the Finnish netminder. The Blackhawks may be set at the back with Corey Crawford and Darling, but ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun notes that they may be interested in bringing in some help in attack:
Don’t sense the Blackhawks are close to a trade for a forward right now but they are certainly working on it …. they’ve got time.
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) February 28, 2015
While Chicago certainly can’t bluff other teams into thinking Raanta is a prized, much-needed piece after reassigning him, they could at the least try to land a decent rental option at forward in exchange for the goalie.
Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images
Despite having already traded left winger Sean Bergenheim to the Minnesota Wild, the Florida Panthers’ cull of left-sided attackers might not be at an end. LeBrun notes that Czech winger Tomas Fleischmann could be on the move and names the Anaheim Ducks as a potential fit:
The Panthers are in a playoff race but also don’t want to lose Fleischmann for nothing July 1, so he’ll likely be moved.
I wonder about Anaheim as a potential fit, given that Fleischmann played well under Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau back in the Washington days.
Fleischmann put up excellent numbers in his first two seasons with the Panthers, but he’s declined over the past couple of campaigns, and it appears his best scoring days may be behind him.
It’s been a bumpy ride since the start of 2013, but Fleischmann’s production has ticked upward lately, notching three points in his last five contests. The 30-year-old also consistently puts in strong shifts on the defensive end of the ice.
He may be an unrestricted free agent, but with Bergenheim out of the picture, Fleischmann might be worth holding onto until the end of the season and then perhaps persuading to return as a free agent in the offseason.
As a rental, he would seem to be a solid option for the Ducks, although they may not be so quick to bring in another left winger after acquiring 22-year-old Jiri Sekac from the Montreal Canadiens.
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Anaheim has over $9 million in cap space, and Fleischmann’s cap hit is just $4.5 million. That gives the Ducks plenty of room to maneuver in a potential deal, as they wouldn’t have to give up a roster player should a deal of that nature prove difficult to push through.
All player and team salary info courtesy of Spotrac unless otherwise noted.