The 2016/17 NHL season is going to be quite a bit different than most others because of next summer’s expansion draft. Las Vegas will be picking a player from the 30 other teams next June and each club can protect only so many players, including just one goaltender. This means all teams will be trying to protect as many players as possible, but they also have to protect those who have no-trade and no-movement clauses in their contracts. Teams with two NHL caliber goalies will be trying to deal one of them as they don’t want to lose someone for nothing in the draft when they can trade them instead.
In addition, like every other season, teams will also be trying to deal players who will become unrestricted free agents rather than lose them for nothing. This should make for a very active season when it comes to wheeling and dealing as teams prepare for the draft. Below is a list of 15 players who will likely be dealt by the next trade deadline, with some of the moves even being possible this offseason. There should also be many more trades in addition to these, but these are 15 players who may want to start making plans for playing elsewhere.
15 Roman Polak
The Toronto Maple Leafs just inked defenceman Roman Polak to a new one-year deal worth $2.25 million. Polak was shipped to San Jose at last season’s trade deadline along with forward Nick Spaling for a couple of second-round draft choices as well as forward Raffi Torres. Polak helped the Sharks battle it out with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Stanley Cup, but he went pointless in 24 playoff outings. He’s known as a solid and physical defenceman who takes care of his own end first and will likely be moved again in 2016/17 around the trade deadline to add some depth and experience to a contending team. It’s doubtful the Leafs will need the 30-year-old Polak of the Czech Republic for a playoff run, so look for them to ship him out once again for a draft choice or package him up with someone else for a bigger return.
14 Joffrey Lupul
The Maple Leafs are also known to be eager to ship out forward Joffrey Lupul due to his big contract. Lupul’s a fairly productive player when he’s healthy, but the problem is he always seems to be on the injury list with one problem or another. It’ll be hard to trade Lupul due to his contract and fragile nature, but the Leafs could make it worthwhile for somebody to take him by adding a draft pick to sweeten the deal . They may also be willing to retain some of his bloated salary as the 32-year-old has two years remaining at $5.25 million per season against the salary cap before becoming an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2017/18. However, Lupul’s actual salary for 2017/18 will be just $3.75 million and he has a limited no-trade deal which states he can hand the Leafs a list of 14 teams he’d be willing to go to. We think they'll find a way to trade him to one of the other 15 teams.
13 Scott Hartnell
The Columbus Blue Jackets have several good young players they need to protect in the expansion draft and this likely means they’re willing to part with veteran forward Scott Hartnell. He’s 34 years old now, but still productive as he scored 23 goals and 26 assists for 49 points in 79 games last season. The left-winger is on the books for $4.75 million in salary cap space though until the end of the 2018/19 campaign. His actual salary will be $5 million this year and then it drops to $4.5 and then $3 million in the last two years which isn’t too bad for somebody of his caliber, especially for a team trying to reach the cap floor. Hartnell has reportedly already told the Blue Jackets that he’d be willing to accept a trade to certain destinations as Columbus is in the hunt for a dependable centre. Hartnell’s leadership, scoring skills and experience should interest a few teams, especially those looking to strengthen their squads heading into the playoffs.
12 Patrick Marleau
Veteran centre Patrick Marleau is 36 years old now and has spent his entire career with the San Jose Sharks. The team came close to winning the Stanley Cup this year, but couldn't overcome the Pens. Marleau may realize his time’s running out and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent next summer. His salary cap hit is $6.66 million this year, but by the time the trade deadline rolls around, most of it will be paid. If there’s a team that has enough cap space and can send a contract or two back to San Jose, then Marleau may waive his no-movement clause sometime in the upcoming season if he feels San Jose won't be able to contend. Marleau would add a lot of depth to a playoff bound team as he can still produce. He scored 25 goals and 23 assists last season and added 13 points in the Sharks run to the final.
11 Brad Marchand
If the Boston Bruins find themselves out of a playoff position next year they should be willing to deal forward Brad Marchand as a rental player. Marchand has everything a playoff contender needs for a run at the Stanley Cup and the Bruins would get a good return for him. The 28-year-old left-winger is entering the final year of his contract at $4.5 million against the salary cap with an actual salary of $5 million. He has a modified no-trade clause, but may be willing to move elsewhere to help out the Bruins. Since Marchand will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season, there’s also nothing stopping him from returning to Boston once July 1st shows up on the calendar. This could end up being a win-win situation for both Marchand and the Bruins franchise. Marchand has five 20-goal seasons and topped out at 37 last year.
10 Dustin Brown
Los Angeles Kings’ right-winger Dustin Brown has a hard contract to move since he has six more years left on it at a salary cap hit of $5.875 million per season. He doesn’t have a no-trade or no-movement deal, but would probably waive it if he did, as he wasn’t too happy about having his captaincy removed during the summer. The Kings took the C off his sweater and handed it to Anze Kopitar. The 31-year-old Brown has a lot of experience to add to playoff-bound teams and there’s a good chance he won’t be protected in next year’s expansion draft. The Kings wouldn’t mind Las Vegas taking Brown and his big contract. However, they could swing a deal before that if they can find a taker. Brown’s salary drops below his cap hit in the last three years of his contract, but the Kings may still need to pay part of his salary if they hope to move him, especially with just a combined 82 points in his last three seasons.
9 Jack Johnson
Twenty-nine-year-old defenceman Jack Johnson of the Columbus Blue Jackets has two years to go on his current contract at $4.357 million a year in salary cap space. Columbus may have to leave Johnson unprotected in next summer’s draft due to the number of good young prospects who need to be protected. There’s a good chance they’d lose Johnson to Las Vegas if he isn’t protected, so maybe they’d rather get something solid in return via the trade route. Johnson’s still a better-than-average player, even though he managed just 14 points in his 60 outings last year. He can handle a lot of ice time and might be what a playoff-bound team is looking for when the 2017 trade deadline shows its face on the calendar. A change of scenery could solidify him as a top-two defenceman once again. Johnson’s actual salary is $5 million over the next two years, but he doesn’t have a no-trade or no-movement clause.
8 Tyson Barrie
Skilled offensive-minded defenceman Tyson Barrie may be moved by the Colorado Avalanche sooner rather than later, meaning before the 2016/17 season even faces off. The 24-year-old's two-year, $5.2 million contract expired at the end of last season and he’ll be looking for a sizeable raise after scoring 102 points over the past two years. Barrie is eligible to take Colorado to arbitration as a restricted free agent and the club may decide to trade him if they can’t work out a long-term deal in the near future. There’s no doubt the Avalanche would rather keep Barrie, but if they can’t negotiate a contract, they could get a pretty good return for him in the trade market. There definitely won’t be a shortage of teams interested in his services, as he’s a good puck-moving blueliner with a fine scoring touch. He’s a bit on the small side at 5-foot-10 and could probably improve a little in his own end, but still quite a valuable commodity with 153 points in 264 games.
7 Trevor van Riemsdyk
Defenceman Trevor van Riemsdyk of the Chicago Blackhawks could have a new home by the trade deadline since it’s doubtful he’ll be protected in the draft. Chicago has eight players who must be protected next year due to their no-trade or no-movement clauses. Of course one or two of these players may waive their clause if they would rather play in Las Vegas, but who would want to leave Chicago? Since the Blackhawks wouldn’t want to risk losing anybody they receive in a trade, they would likely ship out the 24-year-old defenceman for a draft pick or prospect who is exempt from the draft with less than two years of pro experience. Van Riemsdyk has two years to go on his contract at just $825,000 a season against the salary cap which makes him a bargain. Once his contract expires at the end of 2017/18, he’ll become a restricted free agent.
6 Cam Fowler
Even though steady defenceman Cam Fowler of the Anaheim Ducks is just 24 years old, there’s a great chance he’ll be traded in the near future with the Detroit Red Wings seeming like a likely destination. The Ducks have Shea Theodore as an emerging player on the left point and fellow defenceman Kevin Bieksa has a no-movement clause in his contract which means he has to be protected in next summer’s expansion draft. In addition, the Ducks will likely be protecting both Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm. Fowler is too good of a player to lose for nothing, so look for the Ducks to deal him. He has two years to go on his current contract which is worth $4 million annually against the salary cap. He’ll then become an unrestricted free agent. Fowler already has six seasons under his belt in Anaheim and has chipped in with 178 points in 414 games along with 24 points in 49 playoff outings.
5 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Even though the Edmonton Oilers recently dealt high-scoring forward and former first-overall draft pick Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for defenceman Adam Larsson, they could still be willing to part with centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The Oilers have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl penciled in as their top two centres and don’t really want to be paying $6 million a year to Nugent-Hopkins, even though he is just 23 years old. The youngster and former number-one overall draft pick is entering the third campaign of a seven-year, $42 million contract. Nugent-Hopkins hasn’t been a bust in the scoring department with 222 points in 313 career games, but he hasn’t hit his lofty expectations either. A change could do him good and Columbus is looking for help at centre. If the Blue Jackets can deal Scott Hartnell, they should have cap space for RNH. Carolina and Arizona may also be interested in his skills.
4 Jimmy Howard
The Detroit Red Wings are another team with a goalie dilemma. Jimmy Howard is still an NHL caliber goalie at the age of 32 and he has three years to go on his contract. Howard’s hit against the salary cap is about $5.3 million a year, but his salary in the last two years of the deal is south of that. The Red Wings have a star in the making in their lineup with goaltender Petr Mrazek and he’s just 24 years old. Mrazek is currently a restricted free agent and Detroit don’t want to lose him. This means Howard will certainly be left unprotected in the expansion draft next year while Mrazek is protected. The Red Wings will shop Howard around and will be hoping somebody out there is looking for a goalie, even if it’s just to leave him unprotected in the draft. Howard’s experience would help a playoff team if they have enough cap space for his contract.
3 Marc-Andre Fleury
Veteran Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc Andre Fleury appears to be in the exact same position as fellow netminder Jimmy Howard of the Red Wings. Fleury basically became a dispensable commodity during last season’s playoffs when rookie goalie Matt Murray led the Penguins all the way to the Stanley Cup. Murray is just 22 years old while Fleury is nine years his senior. Fleury has three more years to go on his contract at $5 million a season against the salary cap before becoming an unrestricted free agent. Fleury has a clause in his contract which allows him to list 12 teams he wouldn’t be willing to be traded to. Murray has one year left on his contract at just $620,000 against the salary cap and the Penguins would love to trade Fleury to free up some much-needed cap space. Pittsburgh don't want to lose Fleury for nothing, so a trade is really the only option.
2 Matt Duchene
The Colorado Avalanche have missed the playoffs over the last two years, have a lot of contracts to take care of, just re-signed Nathan MacKinnon to a seven-year $44.1 million deal and are running out of cap space. When you add in the fact that head coach Patrick Roy criticized centre Matt Duchene for celebrating his 30th goal last season, it looks like the 25-year-old Duchene cold be on the move, especially since he doesn’t have a no-trade or no-movement clause in his current contract. Duchene is a four-time 20-goal scorer who peaked at 30 this season and has 377 points in 495 games. He’s got three years to go on his contract at a cap hit of $6 million per year. If the Avalanche re-sign restricted free agent Tyson Barrie to a new deal, they may have to move Duchene for financial reasons. Duchene led Colorado in goals and with 59 points last year and should attract a lot of attention if he’s on offer.
1 Ben Bishop
Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning is another goalie who may be on the move this season due to next year’s expansion draft. He’s an unrestricted free agent next year, but the team has a lot of skaters to re-sign and just inked new deals with Steven Stamkos and Viktor Hedman. Bishop’s an elite goalie and he’s just 29, but makes close to $6 million now and will likely be looking for a raise. Since teams can protect just one goalie, the Lightning will probably opt to protect Andrei Vasilevskiy as he just inked a three-year contract extension for $3.5 million a year against the cap. If Bishop knows he’s not going to be protected next year, he may decide to waive his no movement clause and agree to a trade, especially since he can sign with whoever he chooses as a free agent next summer. But there’s always the outside chance he’ll stay, be left unprotected, and get selected by Las Vegas.