While there many entertaining moments throughout an NHL season, there a few times during a season where it’s particularly exciting. The beginning of the season is an exciting time as it the first chance to see your favorite team’s offseason acquisitions in action. The end of the season is just as captivating as the beginning, as watching teams battle it out for the final playoff positions is a pure joy. The playoffs are obviously the most exciting of all, as there is no better hockey to watch than playoff hockey.
The last but not least exciting moment during an NHL season is when is starts getting closer to the NHL trade deadline. This is the last chance for teams to improve their lineup before playoff time, and last chance for struggling teams to get assets for expiring contracts. For the most part, we know what players are available to be traded. These are usually the players who are set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. This year you have players like Martin Hanzal and Jarome Iginla that are most likely guaranteed to find new teams before the deadline. However, every once in a while a player gets traded that nobody expected would be moved. A somewhat recent example of this when the Edmonton Oilers shocked the hockey world by trading their captain Ryan Smyth.
Here are 15 players who might unexpectedly be traded before the NHL trade deadline.
15. Ondrej Pavelec
If you’re not a fan of the Winnipeg Jets, you might have forgotten the fact that Ondrej Pavelec is still around. Prior to this season, Pavelec had been the team’s starting goaltender dating back to when the team still played in Atlanta. However, the Jets have built up their goaltending depth to a point where Pavelec found himself third on the depth chart. So far he has spent the entire 2016-17 season playing for the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, where he is splitting time with Eric Comrie.
While Pavelec’s career NHL numbers have been mediocre at best, he has proven that he can go on long hot streaks. The Jets making the playoffs in the 2014-15 season, probably wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Pavelec’s stellar play down the stretch. If a team is battling for a playoff position, and their goalie goes down with an injury, Pavelec could be a season-saving acquisition. Trading him also wouldn’t cost much, and his contract is over at season’s end which makes him a low-risk acquisition.
Potential Landing Spot: Edmonton Oilers
14. Tomas Plekanec
Tomas Plekanec has been a member of the Montreal Canadiens for such a long time that it would be hard picturing him wearing any other jersey. He first made his debut with the team way back in the 2003-04 season, and has been one of the most consistent Montreal players for the past decade-plus. However, this season has been a bit of a struggle for the veteran. Through the first 40 games of the season, Plekanec has managed just 17 points, which includes scoring just a measly three goals.
Plekanec may not be the same player he was earlier in his career, but he still could be a solid third line center. The main stumbling block that will make Plekanec a hard sell to other teams, is that fact his cap hit is $6 million, and he still has one more year on his contract after this. The only way Plekanec will be traded this season is if the Canadiens can find another team with a bad contract they want to get rid of as well.
13. Ryan Miller
Prior to the beginning of this season, the Vancouver Canucks probably wouldn’t have any second thoughts about trading Ryan Miller. They were coming off one of their worst seasons in recent memory and it was looking like they were about to go into full-on rebuild mode. Having a high paid veteran goalie on their team seem liked a bit of a waste. However, after a bit of a slow start this season, the Canucks have started to turn the corner and Miller has played a big role in the resurgence. Vancouver is once again in a battle for a playoff position, and trading the pending free agent might not be the best idea.
If come trade deadline time the Canucks are no longer in playoff contention, Miller’s name will no doubt be in trade talks. The thirty-six year old goaltender has proven he’s still capable of being relied on as a number one goalie. If a playoff team’s starting goalie gets injured, Miller would be a great replacement. Even with the team considering resigning Miller, they would be better off trading him now and try to resign him in the off season.
12. Ben Bishop
The Tampa Bay Lighting have a tough decision to make. Their current number one goalie Ben Bishop is going to be an unrestricted free agent comes seasons end. They have to trade him before the deadline or risk losing one of top goalies in the league for absolutely nothing. Although it does help that the Lighting have another great goalie behind Bishop in the less experienced Andrei Vasilevskiy. If Tampa can manage to make the playoffs they are a better team with Bishop, who has played 36 playoff games in his NHL career compared to Vasilevskiy’s twelve.
Another reason the Lighting should think about trading Bishop is the fact they simple can’t afford pay him the money he is going to want and still stay under the salary cap. There are a few teams in the NHL who are looking for a new number one goalie and they would be willing to pay a hefty price for a guy of Bishop’s talent. The Lightning don’t have any particular weak spots in their lineup but It wouldn’t hurt for them to add some defensive depth.
Potential Landing Spot: Dallas Stars
11. Shane Doan
Shane Doan has played an incredible 21 NHL seasons in his career and they have all been with the Arizona Coyotes franchise. Throughout his career there has been a few times where he was free to join pretty much any team he wanted, but he decided to stay loyal to the Coyotes.
After having a down year in 2014-15, when he recorded just 36 points, Doan had a bounce back year in 2015-16. He led the Coyotes in goals with 28, which was the second highest total of his career. The 2016-17 season hasn’t been too kind to Doan and Coyotes. The team is near the bottom of the standings, and Doan has recorded just 11 points in 38 games.
While it’s clear at the age of forty that Doan has slowed down quite considerably, he still would be a great depth add for a Stanley Cup contender. If Doan doesn’t want to leave the desert this season, he is probably giving up his last chance to be a Stanley Cup champion.
Potential Landing Spot: Chicago Blackhawks
10. Jordan Eberle
When it came to splitting up the Edmonton Oilers core, the one player whose name was always in the trade rumors was Jordan Eberle. This past offseason the Oilers surprised everybody by not trading Jordan Eberle, but they instead traded the arguably more talented player in Taylor Hall. This is not to say that Eberle is not a great player in his own right, as he has been one of the Oilers most consistent players even since he joined the NHL.
With the subtraction of Taylor Hall, one would think that Eberle would be relied on even more to be one of Edmonton’s top point producers, but that hasn’t been the case this season. Eberle has found himself at times this season on the third line, and his point production has declined because of it. The problem is that Eberle is being paid like a top six player. The time is now for a change of scenery for him, and there are plenty of teams who would be willing to give him a top six role that he deserves.
9. Marc-Andre Fleury
Ever since the emergence of Matt Murray, Marc-Andre Fleury’s name has been in the trade rumors. However, the Penguins might be a bit wary of trading away Fleury considering Murray has struggled to stay healthy. This the first season in long time that Fleury has not been the Penguins workhorse and his poor numbers reflect that he’s a better goalie when he’s playing more games.
Despite the fact that he is having one of the worst statistical seasons of his career, Fleury has enough of a proven track record that there are a bunch of teams that would love to have him between the pipes. Teams that are still looking for a true number one goaltender should give a long hard look at acquiring Fleury. Also with the risk of losing Fleury to Vegas in the expansion draft, the Penguins hands are being forced to let him go.
Potential Landing Spot: Winnipeg Jets
8. Anthony Duclair
The Arizona Coyotes were not expected to make the playoffs this year, but most people wouldn’t have predicted they would be as bad as they are. Its looks like come NHL Draft time they will add another great young player to their already loaded prospect pool. Anthony Duclair is one of those young players who was supposed help turn the franchise around, and after his first season with the Coyotes it looked promising. In 2015-16, Duclair finished third on the team with an impressive 20 goals. However, his sophomore season has been a disaster. Through the first 35 games of this season the talented winger has recorded just seven points.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like it makes a whole lot of sense for the Coyotes to trade one of their best offensive talents, but the team has said Duclair is available for the right price. If the team is smart, they will hold onto to Duclair for at least a bit longer as his value has never been lower.
Potential Landing Spot: Ottawa Senators
7. Gabriel Landeskog
In 2012, the Colorado Avalanche named Gabriel Landeskog team captain, which at the time made him the youngest captain in NHL history. It’s hard to believe that just a few years later, the team is willing to listen to offers for Landeskog.
After a few great seasons to start off his career, Landeskog has started to see his production decline. He is currently on pace to have the worst offensive season of his career, with just twelve points through his first twenty-eight games. However, Landeskog is still just twenty-four years old, and has proven he can be a dominate power forward.
The Avalanche might be making a mistake by trading Landeskog at this points, as his trade value has probably not been any lower. If they trade him now, and he starts playing like his old self, Colorado will be kicking themselves for not getting more for him.
Potential Landing Spot: Boston Bruins
6. James van Riemsdyk
After spending years in the NHL’s basement, it looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs are finally starting to turn the corner. They have loaded their team up with talented young players like Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. The team is loaded with first and second year players, but they still have a few veteran players to even out the age gap.
One of those veteran players is James van Riemsdyk. The 27-year-old power forward is in his fifth season with the Leafs where has been one of the teams most consistent scorers. There are a couple different reasons why the Leafs would want to get rid of van Riemsdyk. The first reason is that his contract is a year from being up and he is going to be looking for a decent raise from his current $4.25 million a season contract. Secondly, the Leafs are not going to be a legitimate contender for at least the next three years, and by then van Riemsdyk’s prime years might be over.
van Riemsdyk’s trade value might have never been as high as it is now, and the Leafs would be smart to ship him off now for much needed defensive help.
Potential Landing Spot: Anaheim Ducks
5. Kevin Shattenkirk
Kevin Shattenkirk’s name has been in trade rumors for what seems like forever, but the St. Louis Blues have yet to pull the trigger on a trade. It’s obvious why they haven’t done it yet, as the team still believes they can win the Stanley Cup. Having an defenseman the caliber of Shattenkirk in their lineup greatly improves their chances.
The offensive defenseman is set to become a free agent come the end of the season. The Blues have tough decision to make, trade him now or risk losing him for nothing. If Blues are going to trade him this season, you can bet it will be an Eastern Conference team. Whatever team does acquire him will have to make sure they have room on their salary cap, as Shattenkirk is probably going to demand a salary close to $7 million a season.
Potential Landing Spot: New York Rangers
4. Nazem Kadri
For the past few seasons, Nazem Kadri has been one the top offensive producers on the Toronto Maple Leafs. In 2015-16, he led the entire team with 45 points. While prior to this season the Leafs heavily relied on Kadri’s offense, this season has been a different story. Toronto now has players like William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Auston Matthew who have showed they are better offensive players than Kadri.
Kadri is no longer the central focus in Toronto, and that has only helped his cause. His all-around game has improved, and he’s currently on pace for a career season. At 26-years-old, he is still young enough to grow with the Leafs new core, but his trade value may never be higher. The Leafs are loaded with offensive talent, but they are lacking on the defensive side of the game. The Leafs could easily acquire a top four defenseman if they are willing to part ways with Kadri.
3. David Krejci
When the Boston Bruins signed former longtime St. Louis Blue David Backes this past off-season, they added more depth to their already loaded center position. The problem having so many good centers, is that somebody has to get pushed down the depth chart. While David Krejci has remained an important player in the Bruins lineup, he has seen ice time decline this season.
The Bruins would still be fine down the middle if they shipped off Krejci. Boston has been searching for top defenseman for a long time now, and Krejci has enough trade value for them to get a quality defender in return. There would be a bunch of teams that would love having a player like Krejci in their lineup, but his $7,250,000 cap hit will probably scare a few teams.
Potential Landing Spot: St. Louis Blues
2. Matt Duchene
At this point in their rebuilding process the Colorado Avalanche should be a team that is competing for a playoff spot. However, they once again find themselves right at the bottom of the NHL standings. In 2013-14, the Avalanche surprised everybody by finishing third in the league with a 112 points, but ever since that season they have been a disaster.
They has such an amazing year in 2013-14 in part because of their great goaltending, as well as their young core of forwards. Matt Duchene was supposed to be one those young forwards to take this team to the next level, but so far he has failed to do so.
Matt Duchene is still a tremendous young player, but now is the time for Colorado to shake things up. Every team in the league would love to have guy like Duchene on their roster, and the Avalanche would probably get pretty penny in return. Colorado has many needs, but getting a top pairing defenseman is probably most crucial for them.
Potential Landing Spot: Montreal Canadiens
1. John Tavares
This is without a doubt the least likely player on this list to be moved by the trade deadline. John Tavares is not only far and away the best player on the New York Islanders, but he is one of the top centers in the entire league. Things were starting to look promising for Tavares and the Islanders, as the team went from being a bottom feeder to a perennial playoff team. However, in just a short amount of time the team has seemed to fall apart. They lost a bunch of key players during the offseason and the players General Manager Garth Snow replaced them with just have not worked out.
The Islanders once again find themselves near the bottom of the standings, and Tavares probably can’t help but feel frustrated. His production has been suffering because the Islanders have not been able to provide him with some quality wingers to play with. He has been forced to play on a line with Josh Bailey, who before this season had been a career third liner. The Islanders better get some more skilled players for Tavares to play with, and do it quick as Tavares is set to become a free agent after next season. Every team in the NHL would kill to have Tavares on their team, but they would have to pay a hefty price to acquire him. Trading Tavares now may make the Islanders absolutely terrible today, but the assets they acquire could set them up for a very bright long-term future.
Potential Landing Spot: Toronto Maple Leafs