It’s January, hockey fans. This is an important month for hockey players and fans alike. January marks the month of the NHL All-Star Game, in which players can take a week off from their usual schedule to have some fun, relax, and heal some bumps and bruises received throughout the season. January also marks the halfway point of the season, and every point from here on out is crucial for teams to make the playoffs. But as every day in January goes by, the NHL Trade Deadline on February 24 gets closer.
The Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens both made splashes in the trade market on January 2, the first significant trades to be made since the Taylor Hall blockbuster on December 16. The Canadiens acquired Andrew Sturtz and a 5th round draft pick from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for defenceman Mike Reilly. Later in the day, the Canadiens acquired Marco Scandella from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a 4th round pick, and the Sabres then immediately flipped that 4th round pick to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Michael Frolik. With the dust from these trades now settled, and the involved players having now reported to their new teams, we can’t help but ponder the question, which players could be next to be traded? Here’s a look at the top three NHL players on the GCSN Trade Block:
It’s obvious that Chris Kreider and the New York Rangers have not been performing as well as they would have liked. The Rangers currently sit six points back of a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with a 20-18-4 record, and are on the outside looking in. Kreider could bring a decent return to the Rangers if he were to be traded. The 28-year-old forward currently sits at 13 goals and 14 assists for 27 points in 42 games, and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Kreider would be an excellent second or third line forward for a playoff contending team, giving them more stability at making a legitimate cup run. However, Canadian teams that were hopeful of landing Kreider can cross him off their list. Kreider has an 11 team no trade clause, and all seven Canadian teams are rumoured to be on it. With a cap hit of $4.625 million per season, it will be interesting to see what the return for Kreider would be, and Rangers GM Jeff Gorton will surely keep that in mind. With playoff contending teams like St. Louis, Boston, Pittsburgh and Colorado all rumoured to be in the running to land him, Kreider would give any one of these four teams the depth they need to make a serious run at a championship this spring.
There’s no question that Matt Murray has been clutch for the Pittsburgh Penguins in recent years. The 25-year-old goaltender is already a two-time Stanley Cup champion, and Murray was the goalie the Penguins chose to protect in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, a draft that saw franchise goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury picked up by the expansion team, Vegas Golden Knights. But now, in the middle of Murray’s third season with the Penguins since Fleury departed, he tops our list as most likely to be traded. There is zero debate that he is the hottest goaltender on the trade market. This is due in large part to the exceptional play of 24-year-old Tristan Jarry, who assumed the full-time goaltender duties after Murray went down with an injury. Jarry has made the most of his opportunity, posting a 14-6-1 record to go with a league best 2.04 GAA and 0.934 save percentage. With numbers like this and with Jarry gaining more and more confidence with every game, Murray is left as the backup goaltender, even though he is still very capable of performing starting duties. He could be a huge name for teams looking to get into the playoffs, and could provide some more consistent goaltending for teams like the Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames. Murray is a proven cup winner who has performed extremely well in the playoffs as of late, and could give any one of these teams that are the playoff hunt that extra push to be playing hockey past April.
The Ottawa Senators are in the middle of another dreadful season, one which sees them 30th in the league behind only the even-more-dreadful Detroit Red Wings. It’s pretty safe to say that Jean-Gabriel Pageau, the hometown boy who has been one of the best players for the Senators so far, should be given a fair shot at going to a playoff contending team. Pageau currently has a cap hit of $3.1 million, and is set to be a restricted free agent come July 1. The 27-year-old has 19 goals and 11 assists for 30 points in 43 games so far, and, like Kreider, could add some great depth on the second or third line of a contending team. It also helps that Pageau is a relatively cheap player that could be a great fit with teams that are tight on the salary cap; it would give these teams a deep third-liner without giving up a lot in return to make room for his salary. One thing that has been hitting the rumour carousel is the thought of a possible back door deal with Pageau, meaning Pageau would be traded to a contending team for the rest of the season, and then re-sign in his hometown of Ottawa in the summer. Pageau is also explosive on the power play, and possesses a release that could definitely help teams for the better. It is just a matter of where Jean-Gabriel Pageau gets dealt, if he even gets dealt at all.
With these three players topping the trade market right now, it’s only a matter of time before at least one of them gets traded. General managers will have until February 24 to try to swing a deal, but for some teams it might be better to secure a deal sooner rather than later. It will definitely be worth watching to see all the trades that happen between now and the deadline, and whether or not those trades involve any of the three players mentioned above. It’s just a waiting game now.
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