It's believed there are more sellers than buyers ahead of the NHL's trade deadline, a reality that will affect the price on even the most premium assets in the market. However, there are a few players that should still command a high price if traded over the stretch run.
Mattias Ekholm, one would imagine, would be among the players who can still bring in a small bounty. And whether it's considered a discount or not, it seems there might be a fixed price established for the veteran defenseman from the Nashville Predators.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman suggested on the 31 Thoughts podcast that Ekholm could be purchased for a return similar to what the Toronto Maple Leafs paid two seasons ago for Jake Muzzin. It cost the Leafs two prospects — Carl Grundstrom and Sean Durzi — in addition to a first-round selection to acquire the key foundational piece on their blue line.
Like Muzzin, Ekholm is an established top-four defender with one season remaining on a modest contract beyond this season. Ekholm's already considerable value could be boosted even more if the Predators are willing to retain a portion of his $3.75 million salary for this season and next.
Ekholm priced at, say, less than $2 million would be one of the most team-friendly non-entry-level contracts in the entire NHL. Whether the Predators have the desire to retain salary is a question in itself, but $1 million in change could be the difference between certain suitors being interested, and others not.
Friedman lists the Maple Leafs as potential suitors, even if Ekholm's fit may not be perfect with Morgan Rielly and Muzzin holding down the left-side responsibilities in the top four. He also suggests the Winnipeg Jets, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers as teams discussed with possible interest.
Competing for the No. 1 seed in the North Division, Winnipeg jumps off the page in terms of fit. General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has suffered a significant talent loss on the back end since the departures of Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba before the beginning of last season.
Meanwhile, Boston and Philadelphia may not feel the need to load up given their positions in the highly competitive East Division, while Montreal could have renewed interest now that Ben Chiarot is scheduled to miss significant time with a fractured hand.
Ekholm has four goals and 10 points in 21 games. His shot- and scoring chance-based metrics remain very strong, underlying numbers that belie Nashville's clear on-ice issues.
Whether or not Ekholm is dealt, expect the Predators to be one of the busier teams before the April 12 deadline.
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