After Chris Wideman's extension, it's looking more and more likely that the Senators will look to offload Patrick Wiercioch and his $2.7M salary before he becomes an RFA. It's no secret that Bryan Murray has coveted a top-six forward for
his entire life a few years now, and if the team could get one for Wiercioch you have to assume he'd pull the trigger. It seems very unlikely that the Lightning would take PW as the centrepiece in a trade for this season's most rumoured young forward, Jonathan Drouin, but an interesting name has surfaced in the last couple of days: the Dallas Stars' Valeri Nichushkin. Trading him wouldn't be the team's first choice, but as Defending Big D has written, he could be available if he brought back a piece the team was looking for. After all, the Stars have a number of promising forward prospects, too many to all make the NHL team, and at some point someone will have to be traded. It remains to be seen if it will be AHL players, established forwards, or a combination thereof who will be shipped out.
Among the Stars' eight NHL defencemen this season, three (Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, and Jordie Benn) will be UFAs, while Jamie Oleksiak will be an RFA. It seems unlikely that they will be able to retain both Demers and Goligoski, and so the team may be interested in acquiring a younger asset that will be an RFA in the summer. The Stars tend to be more of an analytics-based organization that the Sens, and as such may see Wiercioch as an opportunity to get a player who hasn't been played much but the underlying numbers say is good.
From Ottawa's perspective, Wiercioch is often a healthy scratch and will probably be getting a modest raise for next season, which is a lot of money for a budget team to tie up in a 6/7 defenceman. In Nichushkin, the team would get a 20-year-old forward with 57 points in 145 games. With the uncertainty of Clarke MacArthur's future, the Sens are very week at left wing. Nichushkin is listed as a right wing, but shoots left and could likely be coaxed into playing LW if it meant a regular spot in Ottawa's top six. Another advantage is that these two teams hooked up less than two years ago for the Jason Spezza trade, and the familiarity may lead to another trade.
The biggest question for some people is the fact that Nichushkin is Russian. After things went south with Alexei Kaigorodov, Alexei Kovalev, and Nikita Filatov (not to mention that whole thing with Alexei Yashin), the Sens have clearly had an issue with Russian players. The team has not drafted a Russian since Ruslan Bashkirov 60th-overall in 2007, and there are no Russian players currently under any sort of contract with the team. That being said, the team might be willing to make an exception for a player who has played in the NHL for three seasons and who has the offensive promise of Nichushkin. I have a hard time seeing Murray saying no to getting a player of Nichushkin's pedigree for Wiercioch just because of nationality.
Wiercioch's history of being a healthy scratch may lead to a reduction in his price, but the fact that injury kept Nichushkin out of all but eight games last season should also lower his price. In the end, I think the big difference here will be age, since Wiercioch has 4.5 years on Nichushkin. I think a 4th-round pick from the Sens could make this deal happen, and I think it will have to be a pick rather than a prospect because the Stars are already at 48 contracts while gearing up for a Cup push. It all depends on if Jim Nill values a promising young winger over inexpensive stability on the blue-line.