The 2017 NHL trade deadline wasn't exactly one that fans can say was all that exciting, but so what? There's always next year...
And looking into a future, a large handful of NHL superstars could find themselves traded in the near future. Plenty of these players could be available at the 2018 trade deadline, too.
For example, some stars like Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene haven't been traded yet, even though they were supposed to be dealt at this year's deadline. Well, it's bound to happen in 2018. There are other stars that will be in contract years, which means teams will desperately try to get a good return instead of losing them for nothing.
By the way, please bear with me in this article. I know a lot of these trades seem crazy, but anything is possible in the world of the NHL. So let's just imagine and hope that the 2018 trade deadline is as epic as I project it to be here...
*Stats courtesy of Hockey Reference, HockeyDB.com. Contract details via CapFriendly.com*
16 Cam Ward: Calgary Flames
The Flames are taking a huge risk by entering 2017-18 with the goaltending tandem of an ageing Mike Smith and career backup Eddie Lack. The Flames are hoping their elite top-four defencemen of Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton and Travis Hamonic can carry the team, regardless of play from their goaltending.
But Smith and Lack aren't likely to carry Calgary to that next level. As such, they could make a play for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward -- a 2006 Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe Trophy winner who carried his team to glory.
Ward will be a rental at next year's trade deadline as he nears free agency. The desperate Flames will hope he can rediscover his old playoff magic, so don't be surprised if Ward is in Calgary next season.
15 Gustav Nyquist: Columbus Blue Jackets
The rebuilding Detroit Red Wings will once again be seller's at next year's trade deadline. They could get some nice pieces for some of their core players, and that includes sniper Gustav Nyquist.
Nyquist has found his name in the trade rumor mill for quite some time now, and you have to think Detroit will finally move him by the end of next season. He's one of their few quality trade chips and can easily bring back at least a couple of draft picks.
The Blue Jackets make plenty of sense for his services. Nyquist fits their team that is loaded with speedy and skilled forwards who can score 20 goals and 40 points a season. This team is finally prepared to go all-in (see the Artemi Panarin trade), so look for them to give Detroit a lot for Nyquist.
14 Jimmy Howard: Winnipeg Jets
It's surprising that Jimmy Howard is still in the Motor City, as the Red Wings don't seem rushed on moving out the 33-year-old netminder who carries a $5.291 million cap hit for two more seasons. With younger goalie Petr Mrazek set to be the long-term answer in goal, there's no reason to keep an ageing Howard around much longer.
The Winnipeg Jets didn't do much to upgrade their goaltending, signing the inconsistent Steve Mason to challenge youngster Connor Hellebuyck for the starting role. The Jets should be a playoff contender next year, but an upgrade in goal is necessary.
The Red Wings will be desperate to clear Howard's salary. Winnipeg should be able to get him for two draft picks -- perhaps a second and third rounder. It's a win-win for both sides here.
13 Alexander Edler: Florida Panthers
The Vancouver Canucks traded veterans Jannik Hansen and Alexandre Burrows at the 2017 deadline, then bid ado to Ryan Miller in free agency. This team is committed to rebuilding and getting younger, so what's the need to keep Alexander Edler around this long?
As the Canucks prepare for another rebuilding year, general manager Jim Benning will look to ship out more veterans at the 2018 deadline, and Edler will be one of his top trade chips. The 6-foot-3, 214-pound defenceman has two years remaining on his contract at a $5 million cap hit. He'll be 32 next April, so the Canucks can't keep waiting around to move him.
Vancouver and the Florida Panthers have a long trade history (see Roberto Luongo, David Booth, Keith Ballard, etc.). With Florida having young assets to part with and needing more help on the blue line, Edler is a perfect fit there.
12 Mike Green: Edmonton Oilers
The Red Wings fire sale at next year's trade deadline will continue with defenceman Mike Green, who'll be months away from free agency. It's a great chance for general manager Ken Holland to get some prospects and/or draft picks in a Mike Green trade, as the veteran defenceman doesn't have a long-term future in Detroit.
Green is coming off a 14-goal, 36-point season. He should be able to fetch a fancy return at the deadline, especially for a team like the Edmonton Oilers who are going to go all-in for the Stanley Cup next season.
Edmonton may be willing to overpay for Green's services, as they attempt to end their 28-year Stanley Cup drought. They have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but help on defence is needed. Green can provide that.
11 Alexei Emelin: Montreal Canadiens
The Habs lost Emelin in the expansion draft, and then he was traded to the Nashville Predators. He joins a team that's loaded with blue liners in Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm. As a result, Emelin will struggle to make Nashville a suitable home, and his $4.1 cap hit will be too much for GM David Poile.
So expect the Predators to shop Emelin so they can clear cap space to make other moves at next year's deadline. I'm expecting Emelin to flop in Nashville, so the Predators will virtually give him away for a mid-round selection.
And the ideal fit is the Habs. Emelin was a mainstay on their blue line, and this is the team that gave him a $16.4 million extension some years ago. The Habs know they need more depth on their blue line, so they'll happily bring back Emelin.
10 Evander Kane: Los Angeles Kings
Evander Kane's behavior on and off the ice has made him a polarizing figure in the NHL for some years now. The Winnipeg Jets traded him to the Buffalo Sabres because they were sick of his attitude; this included a situation where teammate Dustin Byfuglien took Kane's clothes and threw them in a shower.
Kane's faced harassment charges since being a Sabre, and they'll likely want to trade the pending 2018 UFA and get rid of him once and for all. The Los Angeles Kings have been linked to Kane in the rumor mill this summer, and a trade for him at the deadline makes sense.
For one, the Kings are among the lowest-scoring teams on an annual basis. Kane's good for 20-30 goals a season when healthy, and he'd be a great weapon on a team whose championship window is rapidly closing. L.A. would have no problem shipping away multiple draft picks for his assets, so don't be shocked if Kane is a King next year.
9 Chris Tanev: Winnipeg Jets
Chris Tanev is far-and-away the best trade chip the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks have. He's among the game's elite stay-at-home blueliners, but his lack of offensive upside causes other teams to overlook Tanev's talents. Nonetheless, he could get a lot for them in the trade market.
The Winnipeg Jets have a plethora of scorers in Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little, and they have by far the NHL's best prospect pool. But their blue line is full of offensive-minded defenders, and not actual defensive defenceman.
Well, Tanev could be that final piece needed for Winnipeg to finally emerge as a championship contender. They're also loaded with promising prospects like Nic Petan, Kyle Connor, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and Kristian Vesalainen. They can easily afford to part with a couple of them for Tanev's services.
Vancouver needs prospects during this rebuild. Winnipeg needs a stud defenceman to win now. It's a perfect trade scenario for both teams.
8 Joffrey Lupul: Calgary Flames
The Maple Leafs are loaded with so many gifted forwards: Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Connor Brown, James van Riemdsyk, Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak. And now, you can throw in Patrick Marleau to that scoring group. As such, there's not much need to keep around fading veteran Joffrey Lupul, who's also slated to become a free agent next year.
Lupul has played in just 101 games over the last two seasons, as injuries continue to derail his career. Lupul has been a consistent 20-goal scorer over the years, but the Leafs will be keen on moving him out to clear out cap space at the 2018 trade deadline.
There won't be many suitors for Lupul, but the Calgary Flames may be one of them. They could use another scorer on the wings, and a third-round pick should be enough to pry Lupul away from Toronto, where he's overstayed his welcome.
6 Paul Stastny: Ottawa Senators
The Senators haven't done anything to address their scoring woes in the offseason -- which is surprising when you consider a lack of a top-six forward is all they needed to win the Eastern Conference in 2017.
But any who, it's likely GM Pierre Dorion is saving his big moves for the 2018 trade deadline, and trading for St. Louis Blues centre Paul Stastny should be among the deals he makes.
Stastny is heading into a contract year, and the Blues will likely want to get something for him rather than lose the long-time star for nothing in free agency. They did that with Kevin Shattenkirk, so why not Stastny?
He's still good for 20 goals and 40-50 points a season when healthy. The Senators may just have to throw in a first and second or third-rounder to make the deal work. But Stastny would really boost their championship hopes, so Dorion could go all-in for him.
5 James Neal: Pittsburgh Penguins
James Neal spent three and a half seasons in a Penguins uniform, and he has nothing but fond memories in the Steel City. Neal scored 40 goals in 2011-12 then followed it up with 21 and 27-goal seasons. In 2014, he was sent to the Nashville Predators in a trade that brought Patric Hornqvist over to the Penguins.
Neal was plucked by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft, but they'll likely try to ship him at next year's trade deadline (he's a free agent next summer and surely won't want to re-sign long-term on a rebuilding team).
So why not a reunion with Pittsburgh? GM Jim Rutherford will always be aggressive as the team tries to accomplish three-straight Stanley Cup victories. Neal would be a force on a line with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. A reunion makes perfect sense for both parties, and you should put money on it happening.
4 Gabriel Landeskog: Boston Bruins
The Colorado Avalanche were the NHL's worst team in 2016-17, and yet GM Joe Sakic hasn't done anything to rebuild this squad. It was widely expected that franchise stars Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog would be traded by now, but nothing has come to fruition thus far.
Well, expect these two stars to finally get dealt at the trade deadline. Landeskog has been linked to the Boston Bruins for some time, as Adrian Dater from Bleacher Report would like to point out:
3 Daniel and Henrik Sedin: Montreal Canadiens
Many don't believe it's possible for the Canucks to ship away Daniel and Henrik Sedin, but it won't be that hard at all by the time the 2018 trade deadline rolls around. This team needs to rebuild, and the Sedins need to ditch loyalty and chase a championship as they enter the twilight years of their respective careers.
The Canadiens will need plenty of scoring heading into next year's playoffs. At the 2018 deadline, about half of the Sedins' combined $14 million cap hit will be eaten up. Vancouver COULD also eat up most of the remaining dollars, or they could take back a bad contract like that of Tomas Plekanec's to make a deal work.
The Canucks have no reason to keep the Sedins around much longer. Montreal is one of the few teams that can afford them and can give them a chance to win now. Do not be surprised it the Sedins remain in Canada...just this time wearing red and blue.
Hearing Boston has had talks with Avs over Landeskog. Sakic wanted Carlo, and B's said no— Adrian Dater (@adater) January 5, 2017
The Bruins are enriched in young defencemen and need a young, dynamic scorer like Landeskog. Most teams won't want to overpay for Landeskog, so Boston is among the few logical suitors for his services.
By next year's deadline, Boston will be desperate for a star scorer. Colorado will just want to move on from Landeskog and get the young assets needed. Expect this trade to finally take place at next year's deadline, as Sakic finally shows his devotion to the full-scale rebuild.
2 Matt Duchene: Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are more than ready to finally compete for a championship in 2017-18, and it's thanks in large part to the great defence they have. It starts with youngsters Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce Justin Faulk and Jaccob Slavin (who was just given a seven-year extension worth $37.1 million). This goes nicely with new goalie Scott Darling, who should finally give this team a quality starter in the crease.
But Carolina doesn't have a whole lot of scoring punch outside of Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner and Sebastian Aho. Jordan Staal is past his prime, and 35-year-old Justin Williams has plenty of mileage on his ageing body.
Carolina should play to win-now, and trading for flashy centre Matt Duchene would be a huge win for GM Ron Francis. He can easily afford to part with one of his young blueliners, at least one prospect, one of his young forwards and a first round pick. Carolina has the assets to pull off a Duchene trade. With their championship window just opening, the 2018 trade deadline will be an appropriate time to pull off a monumental trade.
1 John Tavares: Tampa Bay Lightning
So far, the New York Islanders haven't been able to reach an extension with their franchise superstar, which is already suggesting that he doesn't have a desire to remain on Long Island forever. John Tavares is a free agent next July and will essentially get to choose where he wants to play. And he'll get paid at least $80 million.
At the moment, I can't help but think Tavares will leave the Islanders after the 2017-18 season. That means they'll have to trade him at the deadline, where they'll get a king's ransom in return instead of losing him for nothing in free agency.
The Tampa Bay Lightning make lots of sense. GM Steve Yzerman is always among the most aggressive, and he knows his time to win with Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman is now. He has the prospects and young players to make a trade for Tavares.
Something like Ondrej Palat, Callan Foote and a pair of first-rounders could get the deal done. Imagine Stamkos and Tavares together? That would put Tampa over the top. And the Islanders would get a few significant pieces in return. It's a win-win for both sides.
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