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NHL trade deadline 2017: Defensemen and goalie contenders should target or avoid

Looking at available players through roles, not just positions.

2015 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The 2017 NHL trade deadline is just days away, and phones around the league are buzzing like flies around a dumpster.

Well. They should be. We hope they are. It’s good for our #brand and #website when things are happening ... and this is shaping up as one heck of a boring deadline.

But enough about us. You’re here to read about teams and players involved at the deadline. Instead of just listing out players that might be in play, we’re going a different route: Splitting up players that could be of interest by the type of player they are and what your favorite team is looking for.

Power play specialists. Stay-at-home defensemen. Backup goalie. This time of year, contenders look for players who can fill these kinds of roles, not a magical unicorn capable of fixing every one of their problems.

So let’s look at which players these teams should target. Some of these players won’t be available at all! That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be targeted. You miss 100 percent of the calls you don’t make. That’s a famous quote I just made up. Feel free to credit me for that.


So your team needs a ... playmaking defenseman

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Who they should be targeting: Kevin Shattenkirk, Sami Vatanen

Shattenkirk is one of the best in the league. Full stop. Few deadline deals can transform a team’s power play into a real weapon immediately, but that’s what a trade for Shattenkirk would do. He leads all defensemen with 20 power play points this season, and only Erik Karlsson (138) owns more power play points than Shattenkirk (124) since 2011-12.

But the cost for Shattenkirk is HUMONGOUS BIG: A first-round pick, a top (we’re talking elite) prospect, and another quality asset. Few teams will bite at that hook.

So they could settle for Vatanen, another right-handed puck-mover on the blue line that the Ducks are willing to move on from. Plus, Vatanen is under contract through 2019-20. Shattenkirk can bolt in free agency. Control is a highly valued thing in the NHL.

Who they should avoid*: Dmitry Kulikov

*Well, to a point. It depends on your expectations.

Injuries have derailed Kulikov’s first season in Buffalo, and there’s a thought the Sabres will look to trade him instead of signing him to an extension. If you target him in a deal expecting a top-four talent, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Especially if you pay the Sabres for him like he’s a top-four talent.

But if you approach a deal thinking he’d be a good depth guy? Sure. And if you can get Buffalo to accept a trade along those lines, even better. Because Kulikov is just 26 years old, and he wouldn’t be the first player to finally reach his potential after jumping from team to team. (See: Anton Stralman.)

Speaking of depth guys ...

So your team needs a ... stabilizing/depth defenseman

Detroit Red Wings v Nashville Predators Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Who they should be targeting: Brendan Smith, Kulikov, Ron Hainsey

Already mentioned my thoughts on Kulikov as a depth acquisition. But the market is kind of flushed with decent, cheap, bottom-pairing defensemen who could help round out a contender’s blue line.

Smith and Hainsey both fit that mold, for different reasons. Smith is streaky as far as consistency goes, and his ceiling might not be higher than a third-pairing defenseman; but there’s something to be said for those Jordie Benns of the world. I’d count Smith of that ilk: A solid, if unremarkable depth defender with some versatility and edge. Hard to imagine a contender not picking him up.

Perhaps over-exposed due to the youth of Carolina’s defense over the years, the 35-year-old Hainsey offers experience and a chance to make a difference if a contender slots him into a lower role than he’s been used in lately.

Pittsbugh traded a second-round pick and a prospect for Hainsey this morning. Hooray for overpayments!

Who they should avoid: Kris Russell

Look, I’m sorry. Maybe he is turning the corner with Edmonton. Maybe plays his gritty two-way role perfectly enough that he’s valuable to them.

But I’m a Stars fan, and his playoff performance last summer still haunts my dreams.

Let the Oilers sign him to an extension if they wish; after a few years of questionable decency, I think most teams would be wise to wait for a repeat performance next season before targeting him.

So your team needs a ... starting goalie

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Who they should be targeting: Ben Bishop, Jaroslav Halak

Bishop spent the first half of the season tanking his own trade value, but he’s shown a brief return to form since the All-Star break: Five wins, six goals allowed, and a .953 save percentage in five starts. He’s led the Lightning to the Eastern Conference Finals twice. He’s Vezina-caliber, and worth a shot at for a team hoping for a playoff run.

Since the Isles buried him in the AHL, Halak has gone 13-1-1 with a .931 save percentage. Either his ceiling is “really good AHL starter” now, or he’s ready to make a big impact with another team again.

Who they should avoid: Marc-Andre Fleury

Fleury keeps conceding more playing time to Matt Murray, another indication his time in Pittsburgh is coming to an end soon. Fleury’s seen just three starts since the All-Star break and delivered mixed results: He held St. Louis to one goal, but allowed three goals against the Coyotes and Jets. Nothing awful, but nothing impressive either.

Which kinds of describes his career. Let Vegas draft him.

So your team needs a ... backup goalie

Ottawa Senators v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Who they should be targeting: Scott Darling, Michal Neuvirth

The Blackhawks’ backup is the latest darling of the league. Teams took a chance on talented young goalies stuck behind elite players in the past (Cam Talbot, Martin Jones). Why couldn’t it work out again? Though that seems more like the kind of trade that happens in the summer.

And if that’s the case, chase after Neuvirth. For a goalie yet to put up a over-3.00 GAA season, Neuvirth bounces around a lot. He has a track record of cleaning up playoff messes, too.

Who they should avoid: Ondrej Pavelec

Allow Arctic Ice Hockey to explain:

Pavelec has been and will always be what he is. He had one good season with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. He is not a good goalie, yet he has had more chances to show he is a starting goalie than any other goalie in the NHL.

Hot take. But not untrue.