This is the last Fantasy Nuggets that I'll be writing before the trade deadline, but I will be running a live blog for Rotoworld Hockey on Monday to chronicle the deadline day. In addition to that, we'll obviously be doing player posts on every trade as they happen as well as report on anything else that happens throughout the day as we always do.
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It will be interesting to see how much activity there will be in the next few days though. In the week leading up to the 2015 trade deadline - not including deadline day itself - there were 18 trades. Starting with Feb. 22nd 2016, there's been four trades at the time of writing, so the NHL general managers have some catching up to do if they are to keep pace with what happened last year.
One potential wrinkle this year is cap space as there's a lot of potential buyers this season that don't have much of it. Per General Fanager, Washington, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and San Jose will all have less than $2 million in cap flexibility left for the rest of the season as of Feb. 29th. Then there are other teams like the Florida Panthers, who have plenty of space but might be restricted by their own internal budget.
That being said, the fact that the current CBA allows teams to retain up to half of a player's remaining contract makes trades much more workable now than they were under the old system. Who knows if, for example, Washington would have taken Mike Weber from Buffalo if not for the fact that the Sabres were able to retain half of his contract. In that vein, the New York Rangers might not have been reasonable able to acquire Keith Yandle last year without Arizona retaining half of his cap hit.
Still, the lack of cap space is a potential sticking point if Carolina ultimately shops Eric Staal or Cam Ward. Even Radim Vrbata's $5 million annual cap hit might be a consideration, although the Chicago Blackhawks are reportedly interested in his services and they are expected to have roughly $4.7 million in space by the deadline (keep in mind that Vrbata's hit would only be for the rest of the season and obviously not the full $5 million).
The cap crunch also likely wouldn't be enough to prevent a trade of Andrew Ladd ($4.4 million annually), but it sounds like Winnipeg's asking price for him is pretty high as the Miami Herald's George Richards reported it as a first rounder and a top prospect. Just keep in mind that teams might be more flexible with their asking prices come Monday. Winnipeg might simply be testing the waters and be willing to settle for less if they can't find a suitor at that price.
One player that's likely not to be dealt though, despite his trade request, is Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic. His request, which he cited family reasons for, was made known back in November, but he's made himself too valuable to the Islanders for them to be able to part ways with him now. Instead, they'll likely revisit the issue during the summer.
On the subject of trade requests though, Jonathan Drouin remains a big X-factor in all of this. He remains suspended indefinitely for refusing to play in the AHL, but Lightning GM Steve Yzerman still hopes to part ways with him before the trade deadline. Drouin has so much upside and a fresh start could be what he needs, but at this point rust might be a factor and any franchise he goes to might want him to shake off that rust in the minors before summoning him.
Yzerman wants to acquire a player for Drouin that would help them in their quest to win the Stanley Cup this season. And that ties back to the initial point about the cap crunch because if you'll look at the list above, you'll see that the Lightning are part of the group of potential buyers with less than $2 million in cap space. So while it remains uncertain what the Lightning could expect to get in exchange for Drouin, they have the added complication of having to find a way to get the player(s) they acquire in under the ceiling.
All of that and more will make for an intriguing deadline day and perhaps make the days leading up to it hectic as well. Despite the cap considerations, it certainly wouldn't be surprising if the moves we've seen over the last few days were just the tip of the iceberg.