The first dominos of the trade market fell on Thursday afternoon, with a trio of trades being completed.
The first was Jordan Eberle to New York for Ryan Strome. The second and third were both Vegas dealing defensemen to the Eastern Conference, as Trevor van Riemsdyk and David Schlemko went to Carolina and Montreal respectively.
My initial reaction to these deals is mixed. But, we’ll take it one by one.
For the Oilers and Islanders, the logic behind the deal is obvious. Edmonton wanted to shed salary either for free agency or to re-sign Kris Russell. Trading Eberle for Strome saves them $3.5 million on the cap for next season.
As for the Islanders, this is a win-now move. Strome is under a .50 points-per-game pace for his career. Eberle, on the contrary, is nearly at .75 points-per-game for his career. Eberle and Tavares also go back almost a decade in terms of their relationship. Both player for Team Canada’s World Juniors team in the late 2000s.
The logic behind the deal is evident, but the Islanders are the winners on the surface. They are getting the more established and more consistent player. However, what the Oilers will do with the added cap space remains to be seen.
As for the van Riemsdyk to Carolina trade, it seems fair for both sides. van Riemsdyk will get a chance to thrive in a larger role in Carolina, whereas Vegas gets a second round pick back for someone that they acquired for nothing.
The deal just further exemplifies how many draft picks Vegas is stockpiling. In the first two rounds this year, they now have three first round picks and three second round picks. It is quite the head start for the league’s 31st franchise.
Lastly, the Schlemko deal is a great one for Montreal. Giving up just a fifth round pick for him is a steal.
Schlemko has three more years left on his deal at $2.1 million per. He is a fantastic skater, and, in fact, his skating is what made him so successful in San Jose last season.
Schlemko will be able to slot in anywhere between the #4 and #6 role in Montreal. He is able to play in all situations and would be a nice replacement (in a sense) for when Andrei Markov departs.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Expect many more moves to come in the next few days.
It is hard to make out how the Montreal Canadiens will be thinking for the expansion draft. There are a few guaranteed players to be protected, but after that, your guess is as good as mine.
Definitely being protected by Montreal are Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Shea Weber, Brendan Gallagher, and Carey Price. Jeff Petry, who has a no-movement clause, will be as well.
That leaves four forward slots and two defensive slots to be filled.
Andrew Shaw, Phillip Danault, and Paul Byron are three solid guesses. Shaw excelled in his first year in Montreal, albeit his points did dip from the previous year. Byron was able to break out as well and learned how to use his speed to his advantage. As for Danault, he was acquired two seasons ago from Chicago and has cemented himself in the center core of the Canadiens for years to come.
The last forward spot could go to a number of players.
It could be Tomas Plekanec, a veteran center who has, granted, lost some of his offensive touch in recent years. It could be Charles Hudon on the other hand, a center prospect looking to make the full time leap into the NHL next season.
Lastly, Alexander Radulov’s situation must be examined. Currently an unrestricted free agent, Radulov technically does not require protection. The team will want to sign him after the expansion draft, but Radulov wants a contract done as soon as possible.
Radulov will be staying in Montreal regardless, but the variable that stands is if he will take a protection spot away from Plekanec or Hudon or not.
On defense, it will be either Nathan Beaulieu or Alexei Emelin joining Weber and Petry. Due to age and contract status, I suspect it will be Beaulieu. That does not rule out him being traded later in the offseason, though.
In the end, the Montreal Canadiens could have a protection list that looks like the following:
Forwards: Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Andrew Shaw, Paul Byron, Phillip Danault, and Tomas Plekanec OR Charles Hudon
Defense: Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, and Nathan Beaulieu
Goalie: Carey Price
If Hudon is exposed, he will likely be in Vegas next season. If not, Jacob de la Rose and Daniel Carr are options.
Next team: Nashville Predators
The expansion draft is looming. Teams have been planning for this event below the surface for months, but now that we are within half a year of the actual event, more public moves are beginning to be made.