The NHL trade deadline isn’t until the very end of February, but the rumor mill has already been cranked into to high gear, churning out more juicy gossip than the celebrity magazine stand at your local supermarket.
Speaking of the supermarket, the New Year seems to have magically transformed the NHL into its own version of an on-ice variety store. Prospective business deals are popping up across the league, as each team jockeys to position themselves for either a looming playoff run or future long-term viability.
Who are buyers? Who are sellers? Who’s looking for a short-term rental, and who needs to bolster their porous blue line? It’s easy to get caught up in all the hubbub of the trade season with all the wild speculation in today’s world of fake news and armchair quarterbacks.
But if you take a deeper look and really break it down, you too can play a pretty accurate game of Fantasy GM. All it takes is a little time, math, research and industry wherewithal to peer through the silver ball of NHL player transactions to know who will be wearing which team’s jersey come the end of the season.
Or, you can save yourself the trouble and browse the names in the list below of who will undoubtedly find themselves in unfamiliar colors by the time it’s all said and done.
Some of these are quite obvious and come as no surprise, while others might be less evident to the casual observer.
At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding for these 15 NHL players who WILL be traded by the end of the season.
15. Gabriel Landeskog
The Colorado Avalanche are a bad team – the worst in the league, in fact. They’re top-heavy with talented forwards, but with a blue line that looks like it belongs to a Manitoba pee wee travel team, it’s hard to score goals when the forwards don’t get the puck.
That’s why their captain, Gabriel Landeskog, is on the trade block. Actually, basically everybody, save for Nate MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, is on the trade block in Denver. They need some help on the back end, and fast.
Landeskog is attractive because he has a relatively small cap hit at $5.5 million per year. Plus, he’s under contract through the 2020-21 season and will supply affordable top-end scoring support for whoever manages to land the young captain.
14. Jacob Trouba
To put it lightly, Jacob Trouba and the Winnipeg Jets have a strained relationship. Trouba held out in contract negotiations all last summer and even requested a trade right at the beginning of the 2016 preseason. The 22-year-old defenseman said he wanted an opportunity to realize his potential as a right-hand defenseman with a team that gave him a better opportunity to do so.
Then, he sat out 14 games to start the season before finally agreeing to terms and rescinding his trade request.
But don’t let that fool you. The tension between Trouba and the Jets franchise is thick enough to cut with a knife, and both parties are ready to bury the hatchet with a trade.
The rumors about potential deals and attempted trades have already been circulating, but Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is going to want something valuable in return for the thrifty $3 million cap hit Trouba brought. Watch for a two-for-one deal that soon sends Trouba go to a playoff-bound squad.
13. Tomas Plekanec
The Montreal Canadiens are hovering near the top of the Eastern Conference this season, and they will be serious buyers when the trading deadline approaches as they bulk up for a deep playoff run. But they’ll have to unload a guy or two in order to do so.
The man at the top of that list? Tomas Plekanec. For a $6 million cap hit this season, he’s not exactly pulling his weight. Just three goals through 40 games will tell the tale, and the Canadiens will look to offload him as they begin to get players back from injury and before the playoff push really gets underway.
Plekanec will be attractive to bubble teams who need the veteran leadership that he can provide to push them over the edge. He does have one more season left on his contract, but that’s a gamble other teams will be willing to take for a chance to play into May and even June.
12. Marc-Andre Fleury
The fiery long-term relationship between the Pittsburgh Penguins and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is on the fast-track to Splitsville.
After more than 10 successful seasons backstopping the Pens, the writing is on the wall. Following an ill-timed injury and some miserable playoff outings last season, Fleury’s protégé, young Matt Murray, proved himself more than capable of assuming the No. 1 position. He even went 15-6 in last year’s playoff run en route to helping Pittsburgh win their second Stanley Cup in eight seasons.
That left Fleury in an exposed position and Murray the defacto No. 1 backstop in Pittsburgh. And now, with the expansion draft coming up and teams only able to protect one goaltender, Fleury will waive his no-trade clause in order to be moved to a team that will want to protect him long-term.
11. Tyler Bozak
Sure, Tyler Bozak has been solid this season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but in their perpetual state of rebuilding, now is the best time to get the most out of him as he hits the peak of his career.
He had a bit of a down season last year with just 35 points in 57 games played, but he’s back on track to break his career-best 49 points that he had in both 2013-14 and 2014-15, and his value is maxed out for a second- or third-line centerman.
Add to it that the Leafs are focusing on developing their youngest talent like Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri, and there isn’t a whole lot of room for the replaceable Bozak. His top-6 talent and reasonable $4.2 million cap hit with one more year left on his deal will attract a lot of value that the Leafs can work with.