ESPN NHL insider: Mike Smith, Steve Sullivan could be valuable rentals come the trade deadline

Mar 9, 2013, 3:22 PM | Updated: 3:44 pm

The Phoenix Coyotes are riding a two-game losing streak heading into Saturday night’s tilt against the Dallas Stars, and while it’s not time to panic yet, as the team reaches the halfway point of its condensed 48-game season player personnel decisions become that much more important.

The NHL’s trade deadline is not until April 3, but ESPN NHL insider Craig Custance believes the Coyotes have two attractive assets should the team fall out of the playoff picture and become sellers.

While purely speculative at this point and more or less a non-issue should the Coyotes remain in the hunt down the stretch, in his Friday piece on the top 20 rental players, Custance included Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith and Steve Sullivan as two names playoff-bound teams would have short-term interest in.

6. G Mike Smith, Coyotes
Contract: $2 million

First and foremost, the Coyotes would prefer to sign Smith but despite a great management team and a coach players love competing for, it’s hard to get anyone in Phoenix signed to a long-term deal because nobody knows where they’ll be playing next season. Smith has seen his save percentage drop from .930 last season to .900 this year, but his career save percentage in 247 games is .913. Smith was outstanding in the playoffs last year for the Coyotes, (1.88 goals-against average, .945 save percentage) and if a team like Chicago runs into injuries in goal, he’d be an impressive solution.

Reasonable asking price: First-round pick, prospect

15. F Steve Sullivan, Coyotes
Contract: $2.6 million

Phoenix is another team that may prefer to keep its veterans if the Coyotes are in the middle of the playoff hunt, but they’re also a franchise that needs to maximize every single asset, which means trading Sullivan will be considered. He gets regular power-play time in Phoenix and has 10 points in 20 games. The Coyotes’ even-strength shooting percentage when he’s on the ice is only 6.54 percent, which means he’d probably have more points this season with a little more luck. He showed last year that he’s still capable of producing during the postseason at this point in his career, putting up two goals and four assists in six games with the Penguins.

Reasonable asking price: Conditional second-round pick

While in theory having players make the list should be a flattering thought for the Coyotes, as Custance mentioned the team’s desire would be to keep both players through the end of the season and potentially in the future.

Smith and Sullivan are both on the final year of their respective contracts but have been vital to the team’s success (25 points heading into Saturday night) in 2013.

Although Smith has struggled of late (allowed four goals or more in four straight games), he is still second in the league this season in shutouts (3) and has nine wins to his name.

Smith is also just a year removed from a breakout campaign in which he won 47 total games (38 in the regular season and nine in the postseason), while recording a save percentage of .930 and a goals against average of 2.21.

Sullivan, who signed with the Coyotes back in July, has been a key component on the power play (six points) when healthy in 2013. He also recorded a hat track back in January in a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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ESPN NHL insider: Mike Smith, Steve Sullivan could be valuable rentals come the trade deadline