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What Sunday and Monday’s trades tell us about the deadline market

Though the trade deadline isn’t for another week, we’ve already seen a decent amount of movement from teams who have determined where they stand in regards to buying and selling.

The Leafs started things off back in early February by acquiring backup goaltender Jack Campbell and depth forward Kyle Clifford, both impending free agents, from the Kings in exchange for Trevor Moore and two third-round picks. A few days later, the Wild started a mini firesale, sending Jason Zucker to the Penguins for the struggling Alex Galchenyuk, defenseman prospect Calen Addison, and a first-round pick in either 2020 or 2021.

On Sunday, we saw a couple of trades, both of which involved the Devils. They sent versatile forward Blake Coleman to the Lightning in exchange for Nolan Foote and a first-round pick in either 2020 or 2021. Also, New Jersey sent their captain, Andy Greene, to the Islanders in exchange for a 2021 second-round draft pick and defenseman prospect David Quenneville.

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Then, finally, last night, the Canucks acquired impending free agent Tyler Toffoli from the Kings in exchange for Tim Schaller, solid prospect Tyler Madden, a second-round pick, and another fourth-round pick if Toffoli re-signs in Vancouver.

What do these deals tell us? It looks like a seller’s market this year.

That certainly isn’t a surprise given the reality of the NHL’s parity. There are only a few teams who are obvious sellers (two of which are L.A. and New Jersey) while roughly 23 teams have a legitimate chance at making the playoffs. I would say the only teams who are totally out of it at this stage are Detroit, Ottawa, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Jose. There are a lot of teams who could go either way.

Two of the trades made over the past few days are interesting to me because they give outlines for potential deals that Ken Holland could make to improve the Oilers down the stretch.

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The first is the one made by Vancouver last night to acquire Toffoli. For better or worse, the Canucks are all-in. Jim Benning went hard this off-season, giving up a first-round pick in exchange for J.T. Miller and signing Micheal Ferland, Tyler Myers, and Jordie Benn in free agency. Now teetering on the bubble of the wildly unpredictable Pacific Division, Benning doubled down.

Toffoli is a player we had talked here about being a nice fit for the Oilers. He’s a winger with a great shot who could thrive next to Connor McDavid. The cost to acquire this rental was a second-round pick and a quality prospect. The comparable for Madden in Edmonton’s system, in my mind, is Ryan McLeod. That’s a pretty hefty package to give up for a rental, especially in a salary cap world in which continually developing quality, cost-controlled players is so important.

If that’s the price for Toffoli, a guy who has 18 goals on a bad L.A. team, it gives us a pretty good idea of what other teams are going to be asking for in exchange for their rentals. Two other names we’ve talked about are Ottawa’s J.G. Pageau and Florida’s Mike Hoffman. The former is sure to be moved as Ottawa is a non-contender, but the Panthers are a bubble team, so a hot or cold streak could alter their path with the latter.

Regardless, the package of a second-round pick and a solid prospect would be the minimum for either player, it seems. Making the playoffs this year is certainly a huge priority for Holland, but will he pay that kind of price for a rental? If not, we can take a look at what Tampa Bay paid in order to acquire a player with term.

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Blake Coleman is a very underrated middle-six forward. He plays all three forward positions and he carries a cap hit of $1,800,000 for another year, making him a perfect option for a team tight to the salary cap ceiling. Coleman also has 21 goals this year and is on pace to shatter his career-high of 22 goals set last season.

The package New Jersey got in return for a year-and-a-half of Coleman was Nolan Foote, who was a late first-round pick in 2019, and the first-round pick Tampa Bay got from Vancouver in the aforementioned J.T. Miller deal. Since it isn’t Tampa’s own pick, that pick will likely be in the middle of the first round rather than at the end.

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What this deal tells us is how valuable term and cost control is. New Jersey got themselves arguably as much for Blake Coleman as they did for a former Hart Trophy winner in Taylor Hall. So if Holland wants to avoid the rental market due to the fairly steep price he’ll have to pay for a player who could only be here for a few months, the market for players with term on their contract is even steeper.

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, of course, as it mostly validates what we expected from a seller-friendly market. What these trades the past few days tells me is that if Holland wants to avoid giving up his first-round pick this year, the rental might be the way to go. Even if a player under control adds value next season, having the first-round pick is huge for ensuring there’s a constant stream of talent working its way up the system.