As we near NHL free agency on October 9, this series will look at the VGK Top Three Trade Targets at forward, defense and goaltender.
We know there will be movement around the league, but the question remains how much? Some analysts are saying this could be one of the most active markets ever. Others think perhaps many teams stand pat and try to figure out their own situations internally. I think there are enough teams with needs and wants beyond their current asset pool that things are going to really get going this week.
As much as I’d love to see Patrik Laine in those awesome new gold uniforms, he’s not on the list. I think there are a few too many factors that make a deal for him (and some other players) a combination of too-high a price, too much money, too little term or other factors that led me to other decisions.
Also let’s keep in mind that when targeting trades, Vegas is a team that has certain needs and wants. They don’t need to hit a home run and reinvent the roster – but if that impossible dream is there then take a swing. They need to make little adjustments to a roster that has seen a lot of playoff success. It was clear the team needed one more point producer up front as scoring dried up. They also could use a versatile player who can move up and down the lineup to fill holes. A tall order to be sure, but let’s take a look at what’s around.
Trade Target: Phillip Danault – C MTL
Probably my favorite target on the board for many reasons. Danault is a very good defensive center and at 27 still has a few years of upside growth potential. He also managed 13-34-47 in the regular season for the Canadiens so checks my box for added scoring. What matters most to me about Danault is that he is a center with experience, yet young enough to have several more productive seasons.
The Deeper Dive on Danault
When it comes to stats and advanced metrics, there’s a lot to like. Last year he recorded a career-high 119 blocks. For the second season in the past three he put more than 62% of his shots through to the net. His Corsi-for is 55.1% and Fenwick-for is 54.1% despite having 56.2% of his starts in the defensive zone. Danault is a guy who can chip offensively and help lock it down on D. I could see him plugging in as a third line center and really giving the Golden Knights three solid lines that can contribute. Plus a line with him down the middle would be favored to shut down an opposing combo.
As far as possibilities go, he’s likely affordable and a realistic get. Danault carries a $3.25M cash outlay in the final year of his current three-year deal with an AAV of $3.083M.
So what name comes up if we stretch a little?
Trade Target: Johnny Gaudreau – LW CGY
Calgary itself is in flux. The organization seems caught between believing it can win with the assembled core and clamoring for something to change. From the outside looking in I’d be more concerned with goaltending and defense, but Gaudreau received a lot of blame this year as his numbers dropped significantly. Not good when you account for 8.3% of your team’s cap at $6.75M through 2021-22. Vegas would really need to clear the decks on salary to make this happen.
That said after two years of better than a point-per-game, dropping to 58 points in 70 games isn’t terrible. More concerning would be his minus-10 rating and slightly above 50% possession metrics despite 58.7% of his zone starts coming in the offensive end.
The Deeper Dive on Gaudreau
There are reasons to believe he’ll rebound this season. His 8.6% shooting percentage was well below his career 12.1% mark. Plus Gaudreau only posted 18 power play points, far below his totals from the two previous seasons. Many other stats including expected goals-for were way off for the 27-year-old left wing last year. I really believe last year will be a blip on the long-term radar. Perhaps while Calgary is in this uncertain state, Gaudreau could be pried free.
Trade Target: Kyle Palmieri – RW NJD
Palmieri is a model of mid-level scoring consistency. For the last five seasons he’s finished between 24 and 30 goals. This is the final year of his five-year deal worth an AAV of $4.65M – cash outlay $4.25M. He does have a limited NMC but it’s hard to imagine a player not allowing a trade to Vegas, especially considering New Jersey’s rebuild. That’s another reason why I think he can be picked up is that the Devils are rebuilding and would trade for younger players with more team control.
The Deeper Dive on Palmieri
This is a player where you have to agree to live by the sword, die by the sword. His metrics won’t win you over if that’s your most important measuring stick. No, Palmieri is more of an eye-test guy. You have to see the impact he has on the ice to understand his value. I look at his scoring consistency over the last five years and have to remember that the Devils have been a bottom-seven team in goals for in four of the last five seasons. In fact in his first two seasons they were dead last and third-last respectively. Only a 17th-place finish in this category three years ago breaks the chain. When you realize Palmieri scored 13.5% of New Jersey’s goals in 2019-20, his impact comes more into focus. On a team where he could be made to flourish by the weapons around him, Palmieri could be a steal in line for a nice extension from the Golden Knights.
What do you think? Which players would you go after up front? Let us know in the comments!