As we roll into the trade deadline, rumors are going to be appearing from every possible angle. Aside from judging the source (note: HFBoards is not a source), there are a few ways to tell if a rumor is legitimate or if it is just someone blowing hot air. This Scouting The Deadline series is going to be a three part series where identify and analyze the three key steps in the trade process. Today is the first post, and it will address identifying team needs and surpluses.
If you watch a team long enough, like we have with the Rangers, it’s easy to identify where the team needs and surpluses are. For the Rangers, it’s clear there isn’t much depth on the top six, especially at left wing. Naturally, when the deadline approaches, it is a fair assumption that the Rangers will look to fill that hole. That hole was severely exposed when both Brandon Dubinsky and Ruslan Fedotenko were out of the lineup. On the other side of things, with Mike Sauer returning to the lineup soon, the Rangers are going to have a lot of capable defensemen on their hands.
Identifying other team’s needs and surpluses is a much more difficult task. This requires research (gasp). Looking at how a team is performing in critical aspects of the game is the best place to start. Taking the Ducks for example, their defense isn’t exactly anything to write home about. When you look at the structure of their blue line, the expiring contracts, and the lack of overall defense being played, it’s clear that if they are to unload a piece of their core, they will require a defensive defenseman in return. It’s why when we analyzed the Bobby Ryan situation, we mentioned that Mike Sauer might have to be an obligatory piece to ship to Anaheim.
But it’s not just about the Rangers and the Ducks. Let’s look at the Phoenix Coyotes, who are quickly falling out of the playoff race. When looking at their roster, it is clear they need some top-six forwards, as their roster is comprised mostly of grinding forwards. Only three players are on pace for 60 points on their roster. Looking deeper into the roster, you can see a need for a defenseman or two at the NHL level as well. In the ‘Yotes case, their surplus is expiring contracts that don’t have a long term future with the organization (this is true of most sellers).
But a trade isn’t made by just looking at the NHL level, so by looking at the prospects in the Coyotes’ system, you can see that four of their top five prospects are defensemen. In fact, only three of their top ten prospects are forwards. So in a trade, it is safe to assume they are going to look for scoring prospects to help retool their offensive threats. This is why when we laughed at the Shane Doan rumors, we said that Chris Kreider or Christian Thomas would have to be in that deal.
Making a trade is a two way street. Teams are looking to fill holes, be it for the immediate or long term future of their clubs. In the Rangers case, the team need is a top six LW. To fill that need, the Rangers have identified that their surplus is young defensemen, as Dylan McIlrath and Tim Erixon will also be pushing for roster spots. That’s a lot, even for the most cost-savvy of teams. If the Rangers are to make a move, it will be a move to fill their offensive needs by trading some of their younger defensive prospects.