If I had to choose one player who will definitely, most certainly be traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs this month, it’d be P.A. Parenteau. Saying that, Roman Polak is a close second. It’s already been reported that the big, tough blueliner is on a number of teams’ radars, and while that may come as a surprise to Leafs fans who would be thrilled to flip him, you can’t underestimate the draw of grit and depth at the deadline.
Here’s the top five landing spots for Roman Polak, if (when) Toronto trades him…
The Washington Capitals
It should come as no surprise that the Capitals will be major buyers at this year’s trade deadline. The top team in the league and early favourites to come out on top in the East, Washington is deep up front but could use some reinforcements on the blueline, especially with Brooks Orpik on the mend.
Polak fits the profile. He’d add a right-handed to Washington’s third pairing and provide that toughness that playoff-bound teams just love. The Capitals could also absolutely afford to take on the remainder of his $2.75M salary, so there’s no concern there. If they want to make further moves, Washington could request that Toronto retains a chunk of Polak’s salary for the rest of the season, but I imagine there will be other teams out there that would be willing to take on all of Polak’s contract. It all depends on how much the Leafs prefer Washington’s assets over another suitor’s.
One thing to note here is that Toronto would likely much rather a prospect as opposed to one of Washington’s picks. It’s not hard to imagine the Capitals making quick work of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket, meaning their picks would fall late every round of the draft. Polak is a fit for the Capitals, but the Capitals might not be a fit for Toronto.
Potential Trade Pieces: 2017 3rd Round Pick, D Christian Djoos, G Vitek Vanecek
Potential Salary Dumps: Zach Sill (Upcoming UFA, $575K), Taylor Chorney (Upcoming UFA, $700K)
The Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks, like the Capitals, are having an extremely successful season. And just like any team with major Stanley Cup aspirations, they will be looking to bolster their lineup this coming month. That said, Chicago is in a salary cap bind this season and beyond. There’s not a team in the league that will help Chicago out of the goodness of their hearts, but Toronto could come to their rescue if the Blackhawks are willing to part with a nice enough asset.
My idea… A Roman Polak for Bryan Bickell swap. Bickell, playoff hero and regular season dud, is currently sitting in the AHL along with his $4M contract. The problem for Chicago is that Bickell is still on the books for one more season after this one, and they could desperately use that extra cash to re-sign a number of upcoming RFAs.
Polak’s contract isn’t exactly pennies, but he does come off the books at the end of the year, and could provide Chicago with some depth on the blueline. If they were willing to part with a good enough asset, then maybe Toronto would be willing to take on the final year of Bickell’s salary? Toronto will have some cap space, especially with the number of ELCs that should debut with the team next season, so there shouldn’t be any issues from a dollars-and-cents standpoint. Also, Bickell could become a reclamation project of sorts for Mike Babcock, and could potentially be used as a trade chip at the deadline next year.
Potential Trade Pieces: 2016 and 2017 draft picks, F Ryan Hartman, F Mark McNeill, D Trevor van Riemsdyk
Potential Salary Dumps: Bryan Bickell (One More Year, $4M)
The Boston Bruins
Dear Lord, do the Bruins have a suspect group of defenders. I mean, Roman Polak could feasibly be a top-four guy if he was sent packing to Boston. That’s essentially the angle here; the Bruins currently hold the first Wild Card spot in the east and it’s reasonable to believe they’ll stay in the playoff picture all season long. That said, they have some very obvious flaws in their lineup, primarily on their very thin blueline.
Boston can also afford Polak, which is a pretty important requirement when putting a list like this together. They also have assets, including potentially 10 draft picks in the upcoming draft and a number of mid-tier prospects. And that doesn’t even include the three 1st-rounders they drafted last year! (Just kidding.)
Potential Trade Pieces: 2016 Draft Picks, F Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, D Jeremy Lauzon
Potential Salary Dumps: Not a whole lot here… maybe Zac Rinaldo (ew) or Joonas Kemppainen?
The Dallas Stars
It seems like every year, the Dallas Stars are looking for help on the blueline. We believe they kicked the tires on Dion Phaneuf last year and, while it could theoretically be revisited, it’s more likely that the Stars will be looking for more cost-effective options at the deadline. Contracts as large as Phaneuf’s normally wait until the offseason to be moved.
Luckily, Toronto has cheaper options. Dallas isn’t necessarily weak on defence, but some additional depth and toughness just in time for a deep playoff run never hurt anybody. They’ve also got a boatload of cap space, so there are no concerns there.
As for assets, the Stars are loaded. There aren’t many high-end pieces, and Polak wouldn’t fetch you a high-end piece anyways, but they have a nice amount of depth in the cupboards and could easily part with a piece or two in order to load up at the deadline. Perhaps a little unique to Dallas is their depth in goaltending prospects, an area where Toronto could use some help especially if one of James Reimer or Jonathan Bernier is moved and Garret Sparks is promoted for next season.
Potential Trade Pieces: 2016 Draft Picks, F Remi Elie, G Philippe Desrosiers, G Brent Moran
Potential Salary Dumps: Patrick Eaves (Upcoming UFA, $1.15M)
The St. Louis Blues
The Blues don’t need to make big splashes at the deadline. Like most of the teams on this list, St. Louis is a quality team that could simply benefit from added depth. And sometimes, it’s better to trade for the devil you know.
Polak was drafted by St. Louis in 2004 and spent an entire decade in the Blues organization before being traded to Toronto for Carl Gunnarsson. They’d know exactly what they’re getting in Polak (and sassy readers will note here that this may be why St. Louis wouldn’t want him back).
The biggest issue here is that the Blues aren’t flush with cap space. They’ll want to improve, but are limited in what contracts they could take on. Polak’s $2.75M would bring St. Louis up close to the cap ceiling, but Toronto could also offer to help facilitate things by eating a generous chunk of Polak’s salary for the rest of the season. Would a $1M Polak sound that much better to St. Louis? Good enough to part with a better pick or prospect? It’s worth exploring.
Potential Trade Pieces: G Ville Husso, G Pheonix Copley, D Santeri Saari, D Vince Dunn
Potential Salary Dumps: Steve Ott (Upcoming UFA, $2.6M), Kyle Brodziak (Upcoming UFA, $900K)