The Arizona Coyotes were a surprise playoff contender earlier this season, aided by strong performances from rookies Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. They've fallen off a bit of late, and the recent strong play of teams like the Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche has forced them out of the playoff picture. They currently sit four points back of the Nashville Predators for the second wild card spot, with two teams in front of them.
Arizona's recent fallout and apparently stagnant contract talks with pending unrestricted free agent Mikkel Boedker have led many to speculate that the Coyotes may look to move their top line left wing prior to the Feb. 29 NHL Trade Deadline.
Last Thursday on TSN's TradeCentre, Pierre LeBrun said, "If they can't re-sign [Boedker], to me, he should be the No. 1 rental forward on the trade market." During the same segment, Darren Dreger speculated that Boedker would likely seek a six-year contract in free agency, with an AAV around $5.5 million. While the Blackhawks would be unable to re-sign him to such a contract, they should still strive to be in the market for him as a rental.
As LeBrun noted, Boedker could be the best available forward on the trade market in the coming weeks. His cap hit is extremely manageable at just $3.75 million, well within the roughly $4 million worth of cap space the Blackhawks have available to them at the deadline. That number is also below other potential trade targets such as Andrew Ladd (more on him here) or Radim Vrbata, who both have cap hits above $4 million.
Boedker has posted a respectable 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) in 56 games this season. His shooting percentage sits at 9.6 percent, which is the third lowest of his career. He typically has shot between 10-12 percent, and his career shooting percentage is 11.2, so his goal production could still regress a bit more toward his normal rate.
One knock on Boedker's season thus far is that his even strength possession statistics aren't great. He has posted a 45.99 CF% so far this year, which gives him a -1.18 relative Corsi. The Coyotes aren't a great possession team to begin with, so coming to a Chicago team with a better possession game and a style of play that may suit his game a bit better should help him in that regard as well.
Given his status as one of the better options available on the trade market, and the fact that he would fill a major position of need in Chicago, GM Stan Bowman should certainly look into the possibility of acquiring the 26-year-old winger. What that may cost is the question.
Given his age, skillset and production, as well as the fact that Arizona is still a team looking to build for the future, it's likely that any deal for Boedker would have to involve a significant asset -- maybe a first-round pick -- and possibly another piece as well. The first player who immediately comes to mind is Marko Dano, and if I was Bowman, I would not be comfortable trading Dano and a first round pick for a player who would be nothing more than a rental.
Another possibility is Ryan Hartman. While Hartman may not strike many as a top prospect, it is clear that he is considered one around the NHL. Last week, TSN's director of scouting Craig Button listed the 21-year old Rockford winger as the No. 46 NHL-affiliated prospect. Hartman's strong, energized brand of play has clearly endeared the 2013 first-round pick to scouts around the league, so there's a chance that a deal with him as the main return could convince Arizona to ship Boedker to Chicago.
Arizona was willing to take Chicago's first-round pick and a prospect in a deadline deal last year, though the case can certainly be made that Boedker is a better player than Antoine Vermette. Perhaps the market will end up being a bit more favorable to buyers like the Blackhawks this month, or maybe something like Hartman, a first round pick and another prospect such as Mark McNeill or Tanner Kero could get the deal done.
The Blackhawks are already going to be a Stanley Cup contender, but they may need to add a left winger to their top line in order to solidify their place a favorite to repeat as champions. A move for Boedker would accomplish this goal and could allow them to keep Andrew Shaw in the process, which would be a huge boost for the bottom six as well. While Boedker would be nothing more than a costly rental, he would certainly be a fantastic addition to the Blackhawks forward corps this season.
Adam Hess is a staff writer at Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter at @_adamhess.