NHL trade deadline: Is the Stanley Cup a must-have item?
By JEFF SELBAKERThe NHL trade window opens today with a big flurry of moves in the news cycle.
The biggest of these is the return of two of the league’s top defensemen to the NHL: Alexei Emelin and Kevin Shattenkirk.
They’re the last two unrestricted free agents to sign, and both of them are likely to command significant new contracts.
The biggest surprise was that Shattenkark is expected to be back, but the Capitals, who acquired him from the New York Islanders in a five-player deal, have said they don’t expect him to return.
The Capitals’ top center, Alex Ovechkin, also signed a new deal this summer and is expected back with them.
He’s one of the NHL’s top goal scorers, but he’s also a liability on the penalty kill, which allowed the Capitals to rank among the league leaders in penalties last season.
The Islanders also have signed forward Scott Mayfield, who played last season in the AHL for St. John’s.
He will serve as an insurance policy for the injured Josh Bailey, who is out for at least a year with a torn labrum.
The Kings and Blues are the two other teams with unrestricted free agency.
Both are likely looking to bring back their top defense pairings.
Both have top center prospects: Brandon Carlo and Nick Cousins, who are both expected to go to the Stanley Bowl this season.
Carlo, 28, had a breakout season last year with the Kings, and he signed a four-year, $30 million contract last week, but they’re expected to offer him a two-year deal worth $7 million per season.
Cousins, 21, was signed to a three-year extension last month.
They are likely expected to have a tough time convincing Carlo or Cousins to stay, but there is some excitement among the Kings about them returning to the postseason.
They also have an exciting prospect in center Tyler Toffoli, and they are expected to add to their defensive depth.
The Blackhawks also have unrestricted free agent forward Andrew Shaw, and his new deal is expected this summer.
Shaw, 23, had another solid season last season with the Blackhawks, helping them win the Stanley Championship.
But he’s not expected to play much, and the team may not want to give him a bigger contract than he can handle.
Chicago is one of several teams that could be in need of a veteran center.
The Hawks have a number of top prospects in Jake Virtanen, Brandon Bollig, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, and a number other talented young defensemen could be available at a significant discount.