Unlike some buzz-seeking hockey bloggers, I do not claim to have any insight into the workings of NHL front offices. I do, however, have a computer, a modicum of hockey knowledge, and an outsized sense of self-importance. And as far as I can tell, those are the prerequisites for writing a fake trade column.
For reasons that should be fairly obvious, these trades will be centered largely in the Northeast Division in general, and on the Bruins in particular. We'll start with a whopper:
Make no mistake, the reputation of Ryan Miller exceeds the actual ability of Ryan Miller. People remember the great run in the 2010 Olympics and that sterling 2009-10 season, when in fact Miller is basically a fringe top-10 goaltender. Be that as it may, the Blackhawks would gladly take a "fringe top 10 goaltender" over the disaster they've had between the pipes this year. Corey Crawford has gone "Blaine Lacher" on the Blackhawks and Ray Emery has gone "non-2006-07 Ray Emery". Stafford is a quality winger who basically suckered the Sabres with a classic contract run and got paid at least a million per year more than he was worth. Still, you can do worse for a second line winger. Gaustad is the sort of gritty, penalty killing, faceoff Jedi Master the Hawks could use when Jonathan Toews is on the bench. Plus, with Dan Carcillo injured, they need to be able to put at least one complete prick on the ice.
From Buffalo's perspective, Miller is the city's biggest sports hero since Jim Kelly retired. They couldn't get away with trading him for a bag of prospects, even if that might be a wise move. However, someone like local boy Kane, who would instantly give them some desperately needed scoring (and star power) would likely make the fans forgive Darcy Regier for dealing their hero. As an added bonus, the Sabres gain a bit of cap flexibility in this trade. Kane isn't having his usual season and suddenly seems to have fallen out of favor in Chicago, so this one could work for two preseason contenders in dire need of a shakeup.
2. Montreal trades Hal Gill to Boston for a third round pick.
I'm not going to lie to you: this is partly because I wanted to see if I could come up with a Boston-Montreal trade that made a modicum of sense. Old friend Hal "Skills" isn't exactly what Boston needs. What the Bruins need is a star defenseman that can carry the second pair and then team with Zdeno Chara in the playoffs to shut down opposing offenses for 30 minutes per game. Alas, it sounds like the Predators are going to stick it out with Ryan Suter, and in any case, I don't see the Bruins breaking up their core for anyone, so any additions to the blue line are likely to come from the bargain bin. Gill boasts a 3.6 GVT on the year, which would put him fourth on the Bruin defense, just behind Johnny Boychuk and just ahead of Dennis Seidenberg in that department. He's a shot-smothering machine who would provide some size, toughness and some veteran leadership at the back end. For a third round pick, Gill would be a useful rental for the remainder of the season.
If the thought of reacquiring Gill, or dealing with "Les Glorieux" is something you just can't stomach, then consider the same deal to Buffalo for Robyn Regehr. I prefer Gill because: a. he's been better this year, and b. he's a cheap rental, whereas Regehr is signed for another year at $4.02 million. However, Regehr has historically been the better player and might bounce back if relocated to a team that actually gives a damn. Buffalo's perspective is simple: they need to trade anyone over 30 that has value; that team isn't making the playoffs.
3. Anaheim trades Teemu Selanne to Boston for a first round pick.
The Bruins need a finisher, and ideally one on the right wing, with Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley both hurting. I'm not buying the "Ducks on the move!" talk around the NHL. They're eight points out, with five teams separating them from the eighth playoff spot. And if they sneak in, their reward is a four or five game ass-kicking at the hands of the Red Wings or Canucks. So please, spare me the "Ducks should be buyers!" nonsense. The Ducks need to rebuild, and a 41 year old doesn't really fit into their plans. But Selanne, he of a robust 10.7 GVT this year, could be the best rental on the market if he's willing to waive his no trade clause, and it sounds as though he might. A first round pick, even a low one, is a steep price to pay for 25 games plus playoffs, but it's a price that Selanne probably could fetch. Maybe the Bruins could get the Ducks to turn it into Selanne and Toni Lydman for a 1st and a 4th or something of that nature (obviously, that would moot deal #2).
If Selanne doesn't want to waive his no trade clause, or the Ducks suffer from delusions of grandeur, then Ray Whitney in this spot would work roughly 90% as well. I prefer Selanne to Whitney because Selanne is a natural right wing, whereas Whitney is not.
By the way, unlike last year, the Bruins have no concerns about salary additions at the deadline. The Bruins are free to add a significant amount of salary at the deadline if they want to. If you seek an explanation, check out the always-authoritative CapGeek.
I like the Blues this season. If they improve on their awful power play (26th in the NHL), there's no reason they can't come out of the Western Conference, so I wouldn't want to make a major move if I were Doug Armstrong unless they can make an addition without giving up a crucial part. Admittedly, trading Halak and going with Brian Elliott and Nabokov is a risk, but one that's probably worthwhile; after all, they're going to have to pick one goalie to run with in the playoffs anyway; it's not like they will keep alternating goalies night after night like they have been. Carter and Wisniewski would immediately make the power play respectable, not to mention adding some even strength punch to a team that doesn't have a single 20 goal scorer. The Blues have a ton of cap flexibility, and are one of the few contenders that could take on the overpriced, overly long contracts of Carter and Wisnewski.
For Columbus, this deal solves their Achilles' heel: goaltending, and far more importantly, gets them out of two of the worst contracts in the NHL and allows whoever takes Scott Howson's job to have a clean slate for rebuilding. (And yes, we'll get to a slightly more famous Blue Jacket later.)
The Islanders aren't making the playoffs this year, and Nabokov's return to his old form has been a major highlight of an otherwise lost season. If they can recoup a quality goaltending prospect for his services, they've done well.
Another case of a steep price to pay for a rental goaltender, but the Leafs are having their usual problems in net, and Khabibulin is having a throwback season for an awful team, much like his countryman Nabokov. If they're going to make a run, it has to start with improvement from the goaltender. They can either count on James Reimer returning to his rookie form, or they can go with the playoff-tested Khabibulin, who's been a hell of a lot better this year.
Edmonton would surely love to recoup value for Khabibulin, be it Joe Colborne, or a quality draft pick, so they'd go for a deal like this in a New York minute. The bloom has come off Colborne's rose a bit, but he still has value, even if it's a bit less than when Toronto got him last year.
The Kings are another team that needs scoring on the wing in a bad way. In Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards, they have two fine centers, but they don't have much to work with on their wings. We've already dealt Selanne, though he would make sense for them, as would Ray Whitney. But the Kings are a young team, on balance, so they'll be looking for more than a one or two year solution to their scoring woes. Cole is 33, six years younger than Whitney and eight years younger than Selanne, so he could help the Kings this season and for a few beyond that. Cole has a 7.5 GVT on the season, and would instantly become the Kings' best scorer. It's noteworthy that Cole does have a no trade clause, but I'm guessing he would waive that to get off the Pierre Gauthier-captained Titantic.
Montreal is another team that needs to sell off anyone over 30 with some value. I don't love Cole's contract; he'll be collecting $4.5 million per year until age 36, so getting rid of that deal will help the cap-strapped Canadiens. Loktionov is an excellent prospect, arguably the Kings' best, and fits the Canadiens M.O. of refusing to employ any forwards over 5'10. Penner has no value to the Habs; he's just there to make the deal work under the cap. His deal expires after this season. Cole isn't the worst contract Montreal has, and in a perfect world, they'd find a way to spin off one of the contracts belonging to Scott Gomez, Andrei Markov, Tomas Kaberle or Brian Gionta. (They total $22.4 million this year and for the next two and generated a whopping 1.5 GVT this year.) But it's hard to imagine someone else taking those deals on without forcing the Habs to swallow an equally repugnant deal in return, or demanding that they surrender someone like P.K. Subban or Max Pacioretty in the deal.
Pittsburgh is yet another team that needs a scoring winger, and preferably from the right side. However, the Penguins are not in a position to take on much long term salary; they've got a lot of players locked up long term, and are looking at James Neal hitting restricted free agency after this year. So, they need some cost-effective solutions. Selanne and Whitney make sense here, as well, but as with the Kings, a long-term pickup might be more important than a quick fix. Purcell, who's quietly having a fine year (6.0 GVT, 35 points and a +7 for a lousy team) would make sense for them. At age 26, and at a very reasonable $2.6 million salary for this year and next, Tampa Bay won't part with him lightly, but he's the sort of player Pittsburgh should be looking to add: good now, and likely to still be good when/if Sid the Kid returns to full strength.
For Tampa Bay, the fire sale is on. Purcell isn't the sort of guy they'd necessarily want to deal, but if they can get a first rounder and a good prospect in Despres in return, they'd have to pull the trigger.
8. Philadelphia trades Eric Gustafsson and a second round pick to Tampa Bay for Pavel Kubina.
Yes, I know, Philly just got Nicklas Grossman. Unfortunately, he sucks, so they're getting a do-over. The Flyers have a fine top 4 on defense, but it falls off badly after that; the rotating cast of characters on the third pair hasn't helped the Flyers at all. Kubina probably steps in on the second pair and gives young Braydon Coburn some easier ice time. Alas for them, this still doesn't address Philly's biggest need. Stop me if you've heard this before, but their goaltending has been terrible. But, for better or worse, they're stuck with Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky, so they'll just have to hope those guys play better than they have.
Kubina is one guy on this list that will almost certainly be moved (they've already pulled him from the active roster in preparation for a trade), and this is a return I suspect the Lightning would be happy with. Gustafsson, like Despres, isn't an A-list prospect, but he stands a good chance of becoming a quality depth player, and stockpiling draft picks is never a bad idea.
Why shouldn't Florida be a buyer? The Southeast Division is as weak as it's ever been, and if the Panthers add some scoring, they can end up as the third seed in the East. They've got a fantastic farm system, with prospects to spare, and plenty of cap room to burn. The Capitals aren't going to be down and out forever (or maybe they are; I hate what Dale Hunter is doing to that team), so strike while the iron is hot. Heatley would be a huge addition to a Panthers' offense that struggles whenever the first line isn't on the ice.
Minnesota is looking to move Marek Zidlicky, not Heatley, but I think they'd have a hard time turning down two A prospects and a solid B for a 31 year old who's likely to be well into his decline phase by the time the Wild are relevant again. It should be noted that Heatley has a no movement clause, but the guy was willing to leave San Jose for Minnesota, and has played in Atlanta and Ottawa previously, so I'm guessing he's not super-picky about where he plies his trade. And plus, look at this file photo. They must have photoshopped out the newspaper he was holding in his hands and the pistol being pointed at his head.
For the record, I tried to shoehorn Zidlicky into this trade, but it just didn't make sense; if there's one team that's not in need of a puck moving defenseman, it's the Panthers. Sorry, Marek.
Well, someone has to get Nash, and since I've already made deals for the Kings, Blues and Bruins, the Rangers are the lucky winner. Nash is a perfect fit with what the Rangers want to do: he's big, physical, and he's a finisher from the left wing. Their two best scorers, Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan, are right wingers. In the midst of their best run since 1994, I can't imagine anyone outbidding the Rangers if it comes down to it. Yes, they'll be capped out for the next two years, but that's never stopped them before.
For Columbus, it's going to take a big overpayment to get Nash, and this qualifies. A very good young forward in Dubinsky (who's locked up long term and can't flee Columbus), two A-list prospects and a first round pick would be about the best deal they could expect. And here's the dirty little secret: Nash hasn't been that great this year; his 6.4 GVT is 142nd in the NHL. It's probably just a blip on the radar, but what if Nash, who already has 649 NHL games under his belt, has already peaked and is starting a long, slow decline phase?
Now let's see if any of these deals, or anything remotely resembling them, come to fruition.