The Feb. 25 trade deadline is less than three weeks away. With the rumor mill in full swing, it’s only fair to wonder what Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee has up his sleeve. Will he remain aggressive and gear his team up for another deep playoff run?
As of right now, it’s hard to say. McPhee has a poker face unlike any other. But based on his previous trade deadline maneuvers, it’s hard to imagine the Knights not making at least some sort of move.
Of course, in order to acquire a player, an in-house asset must be relinquished. And when looking at the Golden Knights’ current roster, several players stick it as potential trade chips.
Miller is one of Vegas’ most valuable assets on the blue line. Despite missing 13 games due to injury, the 26-year-old defenseman still ranks second among all Vegas defensemen with 22 points on the season while remaining a consistent point producer on the man advantage (he currently leads all Knights defensemen with 11 power-play points).
Though Miller has been a key cog on the Golden Knights’ blue line since being selected in the expansion draft, the return for a player of his caliber could be significant. A talented right-shot defenseman on a team-friendly contract worth under $4 million per season could be enough to garner considerable value as the trade deadline looms. And with dynamic young blueliners Erik Brannstrom and Nic Hague in the pipeline, finding an in-house replacement for the offensive-minded defenseman will not be all that difficult.
Eakin is no game-changer, but he does provide some legitimate value as a middle-six center. He can make an impact on the scoresheet — he ranks fifth on the team in points (27) and goals (14) — and also play big minutes on the penalty kill when called upon. At 27 years old, Eakin is in the apex of his career. And when partnered with competent linemates, he can kick his game into another gear.
With one year remaining on his contract (worth $3.85 million against the cap), a team looking for depth down the middle could come knocking on Vegas’ door for a serviceable 200-foot player like Eakin. The return may not be gargantuan, but he could definitely serve as a nice cherry on top in a package deal.
Merrill has had plenty of ups and downs this season. His recent play has been a pleasant surprise, but it’s not hard to understand why he’s spent a good amount of games sitting in the press box. Shockingly, though, Merrill leads all Golden Knights defensemen with a downright superb 57.51 Corsi For percentage at 5-on-5 since Nov. 21. He is also Vegas’ top-ranked defenseman in 5-on-5 HDCF% (59.38) during that span.
While Merrill is far from a perfect player, he does have plenty of upside that other teams may find compelling. He is a regular contributor on the penalty kill and is actually on pace to set a new career high in shots on goal. He comes at the cheap price of $1.375 million with one year remaining on his contract and can serve as a quality bottom-pairing defenseman for team needing depth on the blue line.
It’s mind-boggling that Pirri has had such a hard time sticking in the NHL. After all, this is a player who scored 22 goals in just 49 games for Gerard Gallant’s Florida Panthers back in the 2014-15 season.
Once again, Pirri is proving that he deserves to have a full-time role as an NHLer. While he has cooled down significantly as of late (he was a healthy scratch Thursday night against the Detroit Red Wings), the 27-year-old has registered eight goals and 13 points in 17 games with the Golden Knights this season. Though he is streaky, the former second-round draft selection is clearly a dynamic producer in the offensive zone.
If the Golden Knights continue to experiment with Valentin Zykov, the AHL’s reigning goal-scoring king, Pirri may end up being a solid piece in a package deal at the trade deadline. And as a rental making just $650,000 this season, it wouldn’t be surprising if teams do end up asking about the Toronto native.
All statistics courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.