One look at the bunched-up NHL standings suggests that there won't be as many pure sellers at the April 3 trade deadline this year as in years past. A 48-game season will do that. When asked to estimate how many he teams he thought would be traditional sellers, an NHL GM took a look at the standings and guessed "five or six."
That alone doesn't make for a very exciting trade deadline and it's quite possible there's less movement this year because of the lack of sellers along with teams' preference for signing their own potential free agents rather than trading them. It's also quite possible that general managers look at what happened last year to New Jersey and Nashville, who lost franchise players for absolutely nothing, and decide that it can't happen to them.
"You can't let players walk," said one NHL source. "If you're going to lose players, you have to get something."
Those are the tough decisions NHL GMs will be facing when their team is fighting for contention and contract talks are stalled.
With that in mind, here's a look at the top 20 potential trade rentals and their estimated market value with this philosophy from an NHL exec as the trade return standard: "A good rental for the most part, and I'm not talking a [Marian] Hossa, the market has been a second-round pick. That's from a serviceable top-six defenseman to a guy who can play in your top nine."
A rental is defined as any player with an expiring contract after this season who can become an unrestricted free agent (salaries per CapGeek.com). Not all of these players will be dealt between now and the deadline but their teams will no doubt have a conversation about their future, especially if contract talks stall.
1. F Corey Perry, Ducks
Contract: $5.3 million
This is also a placeholder for Ryan Getzlaf because it's going to be a challenge for GM Bob Murray to sign both of his high-priced forwards. Murray is in a tough spot and the nightmare of losing Justin Schultz is still fresh in his mind. The problem, of course, is that the Ducks are one of the best teams in the Western Conference and Anaheim is experienced enough that they could go on an extended playoff run. "Will be interesting to see," said one NHL source, sharing the opinion of every team's front office.
Reasonable asking price: This is your Grade A premium rental. Murray can get a bigger return if he allows interested teams to make a call to Perry's agent to talk about a possible extension, but there's risk in that as well if that conversation doesn't go far. Either way, acquiring Perry will cost an NHL roster player, first-round pick and good prospect.
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