The NHL trade deadline is less than two months away, and we could see a handful of major stars changing teams, due to a number of different circumstances.
Some teams like the Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens need to unload some veterans as they look to start over. Championship contenders like the Pittsburgh Penguins need to start clearing salary if they want to keep the window of opportunity open any longer.
The last pair of NHL trade deadlines have been major busts with few impact players getting traded. But 2018 promises to be a lot different, and you can expect these five stars to find new homes before long.
5. Mike Hoffman
How things have changed so quickly for the Ottawa Senators. Just last season, they were one goal away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Now, they're among the worst teams in the league. Owner Eugene Melnyk has hinted at moving the team, and Erik Karlsson has admitted he won't accept a hometown discount. This season has been a disaster for the Sens, to say the least.
GM Pierre Dorion has to make some moves in order to turn things around for next year. He has a handful of trade chips, but Mike Hoffman is probably his best. The 28-year-old sniper is on pace to hit the 20-goal mark for a fourth-straight season. He has two years left on his current deal and can bring in some nice young talent for Ottawa.
A retool—not a rebuild—is necessary in Ottawa. Trading Hoffman to restock the prospect pool whilst clearing salary to extend Karlsson and Mark Stone should be a no-brainer for Dorion.
4. Alex Galchenyuk
The Montreal Canadiens drafted Alex Galchenyuk third-overall in 2012, but the big forward just hasn't been able to reach his full potential. He was mentioned in trade rumors during the offseason, but GM Marc Bergevin kept Galchenyuk and extended for three years.
Yet, Galchenyuk has been in the doghouse of head coach Claude Julien this season, and is struggling with just 21 points in 39 games. Galchenyuk could fetch another young player or much-needed draft picks/prospects in a trade.
The Habs are miserable this season, and a retooling stage is in order. Trading Galchenyuk to fix up their scoring woes is necessary. It's time to let the 23-year-old get a fresh start because it hasn't worked out in Montreal and probably never will.
3. Evander Kane
Evander Kane is putting together another strong season with the Buffalo Sabres. He's up to 15 goals and 34 points on the season and has been a great fit with Jack Eichel. But the Sabres haven't improved at all, and they're destined to be a bottom-five team this season once again.
Kane is a pending UFA and will be one of the most coveted players at the trade deadline. Buffalo may as well sell him off and see if they can land a proven young forward in return. Kane will likely price himself out of Buffalo in free agency anyway, so they're better off getting something for him now.
2. Kris Letang
The idea of the Pittsburgh Penguins trading their top defenceman seems crazy. Kris Letang has been a backbone of their three Stanley Cup championships, but a trade really isn't all that crazy.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman recently reported that Letang has "surfaced" in trade rumors. The 30-year-old is struggling this season, and he carries four more years on his contract at $7.25 million a season.
Pittsburgh has to clear cap space, and Letang's contract could be a huge burden in the future given his struggles, age and injury history. Pittsburgh could deal him to a team in desperation of a top-pairing blueliner like the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens.
This is just a proposal, but how about Letang for Galchenyuk? A real hockey trade make for Letang makes plenty of sense.
1. Max Pacioretty
At this stage, it seems like it's only a matter of when not if the Habs trade their struggling captain. Max Pacioretty has come under plenty of criticism for his lack of leadership during the Habs' struggles. He's struggling with just eight goals and 20 points this season, and it's time for a change.
Pacioretty is a five-time 30-goal scorer and could net the Habs a major return. With so many flaws on this roster, it's time for Bergevin to overhaul the forwards. Pacioretty just can't seem to handle the pressure in Montreal (like many players), and fans are demanding he gets traded.
So don't be surprised if the captain takes his ship and sails out of Montreal via trade. It's overdue at this point.