One thing we know is that there isn't a lot of activity going on in the NHL trading market these days. Between the salary cap, term of future contracts and even next summer's expansion draft there are more barriers than ever to making a major trade, which is a huge factor into why we haven't seen one this season.
A team that may be looking to shake things up though is the Colorado Avalanche. Multiple reputable national level journalists have been saying as much recently. Elloitte Frideman summed it up well in his last 30 Thoughts:
3. Colorado has told teams not to bother asking aboutor 2015 first-rounder . After that, it sounds like the organization is determined not to make a panic move just to mollify everyone. The Avalanche know $17 million comes off the books after the season and they will have flexibility. Right now, cap room is as valuable as diamond ore. The price on in particular would be pretty high. He’s a centre, he scores and he’s signed to a very reasonable contract. If you’re willing to discuss legit young defencemen or defensive prospects, you’re in the conversation. But teams have been told the price is steep.
4. Will anything actually happen? This week’s frustrated quote from a GM: "I don’t know why we’re calling each other. No one is doing anything." (As always, no one quoted here is used as an anonymous source.)
Pierre Lebrun also had this to say recently on the radio talking about the Avs current issue:
"And what at play is they have a terrible blueline after one or two players. You mentioned their offensive stars. Well, they’re not going to be very offensive if they don’t get the puck. So they’re just spending too much time in their own zone. Their transition game is affected by their lack of talent on the back end. They get bottled up and they’re just not allowing MacKinnon and Duchene and the rest of those guys that they do have to do their thing. Not often enough.
"What they have now doesn’t work."
From a 30,000 foot view this sounds very similar to the situation that the Edmonton Oilers were in- lots of star forwards but a poor defense that couldn't support them, so the team struggles because of that. Edmonton solved this by trading Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson.
Now, Edmonton was also absolutely roasted for this, and perhaps rightfully so. In a vacuum Hall is one of the best left-wingers in all of hockey. Larsson is a good, young, right-handed defenseman (and on a reasonable contract) but his talent level wasn't equivalent. At the same time it's worked pretty well half a season in; Edmonton's got a 20-minute a night D-man they needed and have climbed out of the league's basement. While Hall has been good, as our friends at All About the Jersey will tell you, their team greatly misses what Larsson's brought to the table and they've been worse defensively without him.
So, tl;dr - what looked like Edmonton getting fleeced did help balance them out, even if maybe they should have gotten more. Regardless of that debate, the more important fact is a market has been set that young defensemen are WAY more valuable in a trade than their forward counter-parts.
Landeskog on the move?
One name not on the "don't bother" list from above is team captain Gabriel Landeskog. The rumor mill is heating up on him, with a current google search showing a lot of traffic (out of Boston) connecting him to Bruins. Local Denver reporter Adrian Dater (yeah, I know) has another team in the mix.
Count the Penguins as a team interested in Landeskog— Adrian Dater (@adater) January 7, 2017
Well, I mean, this is kind of a no-brainer in the sense that the Penguins ought to be interested in any young player like this who's got a manageable $5.5 million cap hit for the next 4 years in what ought to be his prime:
The question then becomes, can/will the Pens out-bid teams like Boston (and all the other interested suitors)?
There's also the salary cap to consider, however the old saying of "where there's a will, there's a way" applies here. If the Pens and Avs want to pull this off, they will find a way to balance salaries and make it work, the far more difficult issue will be actually finding that shared agreement.
Pens have zero cap room though. Only D I could see Avs interested in for Landy is Maatta. (Excluding Letang presumably). Don't see it workin— Adrian Dater (@adater) January 7, 2017
Excluding Kris Letang is a given, zero chance Pittsburgh would look to move him (and he's got an 18-team no trade list that I would presume includes a bottom-feeding, Western Conference team).
Unlike the Penguins last big trade, where they got Phil Kessel while keeping Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot, if they were to be able to pry Landeskog from Colorado there's almost zero chance that happens. Remember, we're talking a Hall-for-Larsson type of deal, and the only reason the Avs are dealing a good young player (and their freaking captain!) is going to be to majorly boost their defense.
Pens fans are a little sour on Maatta, I've noticed, and his injuries in the past 18 months certainly have affected his game negatively. However he remains a good, and very young defenseman who can already play 2nd pair minutes and usually play a clean game. Toss in Eric Fehr and his $2 million salary and the cap works already, just as a quick example of how easy it would be to make the money work.
I'm not sure how much value Pouliot carries at this point, unestablished NHL players aren't going to fetch a ton, but it does seem like he's fallen out of favor with how the organization views him. Wouldn't be shocked here if Pouliot was available for a trade.
Don't swing too far
One worry I would have would be that if the Penguins acquire Landeskog, they would be too top heavy. Sure, he would add a lot to the forwards, but Pittsburgh (with a thin defense prospect pipeline at the moment) doesn't really need to trade a puck moving defenseman for a forward, lest they not have enough blueliners to help move the puck to those same forwards. If Maatta were to be traded, one would think the Penguins would have to look to keep Justin Schultz for a while and hope he could continue his solid play of late.
At this point though, who knows, nothing concrete. We've seen in the past (like Dougie Hamilton situation earlier this fall) that the Penguins are active and do their jobs to inquire about all situations. That's a good sign that the organization is in touch with what's going on around the league. 9 times out of 10 trade rumors are just that- rumors that come and go without anything more to it.
But it does look like there's plenty of smoke coming out of Denver (and not just because of recent law changes)...The Avs probably will be shaking up their core with a big trade sooner than later, since what they have isn't working and hasn't been for a few seasons. Can the Penguins take advantage and maybe make another Goligoski-for-Neal or Hall-for-Larsson type trade? Stay tuned..