It is no surprise: the Montreal Canadiens are expected to be sellers at the upcoming trade deadline, but a few important things have changed in the past few weeks on the market.
On Monday, TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie was asked what kind of return Habs general manager Marc Bergevin could get for centre Tomas Plekanec. And the answer is not going to please the Canadiens, or any other team looking to shop pending free agents prior to Feb. 26.
The famous NHL insider has noted that an oversaturated market could drive down the cost of rentals.
“We haven’t seen any rentals move here. And the rental market fluctuates year from year, and I haven’t sat down and gone through the previous years with a fine-tooth comb. But if anything, and I could be wrong on this, I’m going to guess that the rental prices are going to continue to drop, that rentals are not going to be as popular as they have been in the past," McKenzie explained on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.
“And I guess sometimes it’s just the basic law of supply and demand. But it sure seems like there are a lot of potential rentals out there, especially scoring wingers more so than checking or depth centres. I mean, Edmonton has got Mark Letestu, who could be in the same sort of conversation as a guy like Tomas Plekanec. I haven’t sat and gone through all of the teams to see what other guys might become available in that regard."
The over saturation of the market might even have an impact on potential big blockbuster trades out there.
“But the (Evander) Kane and Rick Nash rentals will probably drive the rental market in terms of setting a price. And right now the Sabres are looking for three elements - a first-round pick, a player off the roster, a prospect. I think that might be overly-ambitious. Because as we’ve talked about before, if you look at what Martin Hanzal did or didn’t do for the Minnesota Wild and the owner coming out afterward and saying, ‘I wish we hadn’t done that Martin Hanzal deal,’ I think with things being as tight as they are and teams not even guaranteed a playoff spot – are they going to give up a first-round pick and a prospect for a player and then potentially miss the playoffs. People usually don’t pay rental prices to get yourself into the playoffs; you do it to push yourself over the top if you think you can win the Cup, and that’s the rationale for giving up as much as teams like the Rangers and Buffalo, the asking price for those guys."
Plekanec has heard his name in trade chatter in the past weeks, though he is not listed on the TSN Trade Bait board despite his expiring contract. As TSN notes:
"The list does, however, feature two centres on expiring deals in Letestu and Derek Ryan. The market is flooded with left wingers with six pending free agents in the top 13, including Kane and Nash."
But what kind of returns teams will be able to land if the market keeps getting oversaturated with expiring rentals?