The NHL Trade Deadline is four days away. Puck-moving defenseman Nick Leddy should be the Red Wings’ best trade chip. He’s a veteran, puck-moving defenseman with a Stanley Cup on his resume. But he has struggled at times this season. His plus-minus is a league-low -33. His offensive production is off. Last season, Leddy posted 31 points in 56 games. This season, he has 16 points in 55 games. His salary is $5.5 million. Even if the Red Wings retain half of his cap hit, a team must squeeze $2.75 million under its salary cap.
Talking to folks around the league, the projected return on Leddy is a third-round pick. The Red Wings gave up a second to get him from the New York Islanders last summer. If he is dealt, it will be to a general manager who can see beyond this season and trust his body of work. Nick Leddy has been an effective transition defenseman for a long time. Even this season, the Red Wings have seen glimpses of his skating and puck-moving knack.
Two defensemen have already been moved: The Colorado Avalanche acquired Josh Manson to give their blue line more bite and the Florida Panthers traded for shutdown defenseman Ben Chiarot. The Avs gave up a second-round pick and a quality prospect. The Panthers gave a first-round pick, a fourth and a top pick.
The teams we know that are still looking for a defenseman: Rangers, Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs (right-shot), Nashville Predators, Carolina Hurricanes (right-shot), St. Louis Blues and possibly the Calgary Flames.
Enough teams are looking for D Men to suggest Nick Leddy should be able to move, but do enough teams trust in his ability this season?
Here is a ranking of the top defensemen available in the marketplace:
1. Jakub Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes
This is an oranges to apples comparison because he has this season and two more remaining on his contract. Everyone else on this list is a potential UFA or RFA. Chychrun is also 23. He’s big, strong and boasts an offensive touch.The teams that are interested in Chychrun want him (Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, etc.) because they envision plugging him into their team for an extended period. The reason he’s on a list for rentals is because if a team acquires him it will no longer be looking to sign a rental. It would impact Leddy’s desirability.
2. Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks:
Clearly the best of the rentals. He’s 28 and he’s a proven two-way defenseman. The negative: theDucks would still like to re-sign him. It could happen. The Rangers and Bruins are considered front-runners, but don’t rule out the St. Louis Blues or Nashville Predators.
3. Mark Giordano, Seattle Kraken
He’s 37, the perfect age to be an elder statesman in a playoff dressing room. Can still play an efficient two-way game. Most of the contenders have inquired about him. His one negative is a salary cap hit of $6.75 million. Even if the Kraken retain, a team is looking at trying to shoehorn $3.875 under their cap.
4. Justin Braun, Philadelphia Flyers
There’s a shortage of right shot defenseman. Thus, right-hand shot Braun’s stock, already high, rose when the Rasmus Ristolainen re-signed in Philadelphia and the Avalanche traded for Manson. He’s a reliable defenseman with a salary of $1.8 million. Easy to fit into a salary cap, especially if the Flyers retain salary.
5. Jacob Middleton, San Jose Sharks
Can’t explain why the Sharks would be willing to trade him. He’s a safe, hard-nosed, 6-foot-3 defenseman who has been consistently impressive all season as Erik Karlsson’s partner. Here’s the kicker: his salary is $750,000. He’s going to be a restricted free agent. The Sharks should hang onto him. But by all accounts, he is available for the right return.
6. Nick Leddy, Detroit Red Wings
Can still skate the puck out of trouble and run a power play. His first pass is usually sharp. Helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2013. Durable player.
7. Colin Miller, Buffalo Sabres
He’s not flashy, but can get the job done. Has the right temperament for postseason hockey. Some teams might have ranked higher than Miller, depending upon what they need. Miller doesn’t have the offensive potential that Leddy commands.
8. Robert Hagg, Buffalo Sabres
Teams are interested in the physical side that he brings to a team. He’s 6-foot-2, 210 and packs a wallop. His salary cap hit is $1.5 million.