The NHL trade deadline isn't until March 8, but we usually have several interesting rumors to analyze and debate by this point in the calendar.
But unlike last season, there isn't a flood of rumors hitting the airwaves, at least not yet. What can we attribute to that?
"Well, it was a big week for pro scouting meetings, which is an important part of the process for most teams, as they prepare for March 8," TSN's Chris Johnston said last Thursday during an Insider Trading segment. "It's when they identify targets, they go team by team around the league, looking for fits potentially for trades and it usually preempts those kinds of conversations and you know, it's not a mystery at this point in time that there's a lot of teams already looking to upgrade their teams.
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"We've seen seven players now claimed on waivers in January alone after a couple of waiver claims were made Thursday from the Calgary Flames. But the word that I'm getting is that it's jammed up because there's just not a lot of clarity in the standings. There's not a lot of true sellers. And so while there are lots of teams out there looking to add to their group it seems like it's going to be a late developing trade market."
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Johnston's point about the standings makes a lot of sense. For example, in the Eastern Conference, all but two teams are either in a playoff spot or less than 10 points away from one. In the Western Conference, all but three teams are in a playoff spot or within six points of one. It's still too early for many of these teams chasing a wild card berth to throw in the towel. So it's not a shock that few trade deadline sellers have truly formed yet.
One player who might be moved is Calgary Flames center Elias Lindholm. The Flames are four points out of a playoff spot, but if they aren't able to sign Lindholm to an extension, they could lose him for nothing in free agency this summer.
The Boston Bruins are often speculated as a potential destination for Lindholm. The B's are again one of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference and could use some more depth at center, although that need is no longer an urgent one given how well Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha have replaced Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci as the team's top-six centers.
The Athletic's Corey Pronman and Julian McKenzie recently wrote an article highlighting six teams that could make a deal for Lindholm. They crafted a fake trade proposal for each of those teams.
Here's what Pronman and McKenzie came up with for the Bruins' hypothetical package:
This seems like a fairly strong overpayment from the Bruins' perspective.
For starters, the Bruins really need to be getting a top-tier player if they are trading another first-round pick. They've picked in the first round in just two of the last six drafts, and that doesn't include the fact they already owe their 2024 first-rounder to the Detroit Red Wings from the Tyler Bertuzzi trade last year.
Matthew Poitras surprisingly made the Opening Night roster and has tallied 15 points in 33 games as a rookie. Given the Bruins' need for young centers with offensive skill, Poitras would be tough to let go, especially so early in his career.
Of course, you have to give to get, and Lindholm is a very good two-way player. But he's also seen his scoring production dip a pretty good amount since he lost Matthew Tkachuk as his best winger following the 2021-22 campaign. Lindholm has tallied 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists) in 49 games this season. Trent Frederic has 29 points (14 goals, 15 assists) in 49 games and costs far less salary cap-wise than Lindholm.
Frederic is also four years younger and his scoring production has been on an upward trend since Jim Montgomery became Boston's head coach. Frederic set career highs in goals and assists last season and is on pace to do so again in 2023-24. Frederic's 28 points at even strength are seven more than Lindholm, even though the Flames center has played around 109 more minutes at even strength.
It also wouldn't be smart for the Bruins to give up premium assets to acquire Lindholm unless he signed an extension. And even though the B's have enough cap space in the summer to make that work, does it really make sense to pay Lindholm top-line center money, which might be $7-9 million per year? No, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Lindholm would be a nice addition to a Stanley Cup contender, but if the Bruins have to give up anything close to the package that Pronman and McKenzie proposed, then general manager Don Sweeney would be wise to look elsewhere for more scoring depth.