Now that we're in the midst of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final between the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins, it's a good time for fans of the 29 other teams to start taking a look at how the offseason will shape up.
This offseason promises to be one of the most intriguing in years. The Vegas expansion draft will likely force some teams into trading away some of their best players that they won't be able to protect -- rather than risk seeing the Golden Knights select them without receiving any compensation in return.
And with 14 teams being eliminated in the playoffs and falling short of their Stanley Cup championship dream, a handful of them will look to make some big trades to get over the hump. Of course, the non-playoff teams will also be trading away some top players to rebuild OR simply make a play for a big player so they can qualify for the 2018 playoffs.
Here is a look at 15 mega NHL trades that could happen in the offseason.
*Stats courtesy of ESPN.com. All player contract details are courtesy of CapFriendly.com*
15 Jets Deal 13th Selection to Rangers
The Winnipeg Jets missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year, but they're enriched with young talent on the roster and in their prospect pool. There's simply no use for this year's 13th overall selection for general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, given how weak the 2017 draft is.
Cheveldayoff told TSN's Pierre LeBrun that the Jets would be willing to move their selection "in the right situation." The New York Rangers could come calling for that pick, given their desperation to add more prospects.
Also, Winnipeg needs more defencemen, and the Blueshirts could be willing to unload the contracts of Marc Staal or Dan Girardi. New York needs to clear cap space and the Jets simply need another stay-at-home blueliner.
A trade that would send the 13th selection plus one of Winnipeg's better prospects for Marc Staal is ideal for both parties. We'll see if the two work towards a deal leading up to the draft.
14 Jimmy Howard Becomes a Flame
The Calgary Flames are expected to part ways with goalie Brian Elliott, who unraveled in the postseason and is slated for free agency. With Ben Bishop now joining the Dallas Stars and Marc-Andre Fleury likely too expensive for them to acquire, the Flames best option may be Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.
TSN's Pierre LeBrun did report that he believes Detroit would "listen to offers" on both Howard and Petr Mrazek. It makes sense for general manager Ken Holland to keep the younger and better Mrazek while looking for someone to take the final two years of Howard's deal.
With Detroit needing to rebuild, look for Holland to virtually give away Jimmy Howard. Given his age (33), injury history and expensive contract, Holland shouldn't expect any GREAT offers. If the Flames can get him for 2017 second and third round selections, then it'd be a happy deal for both sides.
13 Wild Trade Jonas Brodin For Jordan Eberle
The Wild are in danger of losing one of their quality blueliners (Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin or Marco Scandella) in the expansion draft, so it makes sense for them to trade away one of them and get a big return that can help them win now.
Enter the Edmonton Oilers, who must clear cap space to extend Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. General manager Peter Chiarelli said those were his top offseason priorities, but he should also look to unload Jordan Eberle's contract -- which carries two more years at a $6 million cap hit.
Edmonton has enough scoring but not enough defencemen. Minnesota has enough defencemen but not enough reliable scoring forwards. This would be a perfect "hockey trade" for both sides, who each address their biggest weaknesses. Minny gets something big for Brodin, and Edmonton clears cap space to get their franchise forwards under contract.
12 Hurricanes Trade Defenceman for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Eberle isn't the only forward Edmonton should look to deal.
They have more than enough scoring from McDavid, Draisaitl, Patrick Maroon, Milan Lucic, Mark Letestu and others -- plus Jesse Puljujarvi will be in the NHL before long. But Edmonton didn't have the right defencemen to slow down the high-flying Anaheim Ducks in the second round of the playoffs. Imagine having Brodin and/or one of Carolina's young defencemen to complement Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera and Adam Larsson.
Carolina is enriched with young blueliners in Justin Faulk, Jaccob Slavin, Noah Hanifin and Ryan Murphy, but they desperately need some scoring.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins simply isn't THE guy in Edmonton, nor was he ever. With four years left on his deal that'll pay him $6 million a season, the Oilers should try to get out of that and save significant cap space. If Carolina can unload one of their young blueliners for a big scorer in Nugent-Hopkins, then we can assume the Oilers will forever forgive the Hurricanes for beating them in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.
11 Evander Kane Joins His Hometown Canucks
Evander Kane was born in Vancouver, and the Canucks have been keeping an eye on bringing the flashy scorer home. But according to Sportsnet's Elliotet Friedman, "the Canucks said no and walked away from any potential trade."
Kane has infamously had troubles off the ice, but the Canucks don't have many guys who can score goals and may be desperate enough to trade for the Sabres star. Kane scored 28 goals this season -- his best in five years. And as we know, the Canucks love to make moves for big players simply to sell tickets -- right Loui Eriksson and Mark Messier?
Buffalo would probably be happy to get Kane off their hands, so perhaps a second round selection and perhaps a defenceman like Erik Gudbranson would be enough to get a deal done. Just don't be surprised if Vancouver decides to land the Vancouver native once and for all this offseason.
10 Canucks Ship Sedins to Senators
Vancouver Canucks president Trevor Linden has continuously emphasized that he will not be trading Daniel and Henrik Sedin. It doesn't matter if he's said it, because the soon-to-be 37-year-old twins (who each have one year left on their contracts at $7 million in 2017-18), aren't fits there anymore.
The Canucks have to rebuild and inject more youth, but they keep putting the Sedins on the top line. It's time to start afresh and let the twins chase a Stanley Cup elsewhere. One of the few quality teams that could afford them is the Ottawa Senators, and they should go all-in after falling one goal short of reaching this year's Stanley Cup Final.
Obviously, the Sedins are well past their primes. But if Ottawa was willing to part with a top prospect in Jonathan Dahlen for Alexandre Burrows, imagine what they'd pay for the Sedins? Vancouver would have to pick up significant portions of the combined $14 million cap hit, but it's worth moving them out for younger assets. Oh, and Ottawa gets a little more offence which would help -- given their inconsistent scoring in 2016-17.
9 Avalanche Trade Tyson Barrie to Jets
The Colorado Avalanche are expected to restart entirely this offseason after finishing last in the NHL in 2017. Young standouts Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Tyson Barrie are expected to be shopped by general manager Joe Sakic this offseason. If there's a team that could really use Barrie, it's the Jets.
For one, they don't know if young blueliner Jacob Trouba -- who requested a trade some months earlier -- is truly committed to staying long-term. For another, their current defensive unit isn't enough to contend in the ultra-difficult Central Division, so finding a puck-moving whiz in Barrie would help.
Also, Winnipeg has the most assets they can afford to sell off that could help Colorado rebuild. Marko Dano, Eric Comrie, Brendan Lemieux, Nicolas Petan, Joel Armia and Scott Kosmachuk are among the young talents Winnipeg can part with. A couple of those guys and a future first round pick could get a deal done.
8 Sami Vatanen Heads to Toronto
Like the Wild, the Anaheim Ducks have too many good young defencemen and could very well lose one of them for nothing in the expansion draft. In this case, general manager Bob Murray may have to trade away blueliner Sami Vatanen -- while also ensuring he has enough cap space to re-sign Cam Fowler.
Luke Fox from Sportsnet believes the Toronto Maple Leafs should make a play for Vatanen to round out their top-four. With so much young talent all over the ice, Toronto can definitely offer up multiple assets for Vatanen's services.
Trading a player like Connor Brown, Stuart Percy and/or a first or second round selection could make a trade work. That seems like a steep price for sure, but top-pairing blueliners don't grow on trees. Vatanen is an ideal fit for Toronto, who could easily pay Anaheim the most for his services.
7 Blues Trade For Jonathan Drouin
The Tampa Bay Lightning were looking to trade Jonathan Drouin for most of last season the third overall pick in 2013 asked to be dealt. The Lightning never found a the right deal and have kept Drouin on the roster since -- where he's been one of this team's top goal-scorers.
But the Lightning have plenty of work to do in the offseason. Drouin, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are all RFAs and they need to find another backup goalie. General manager Steve Yzerman may have to trade away Drouin for cap reasons, and the St. Louis Blues appear to be a great fit.
TSN's Bob McKenzie reported earlier in the year that a Drouin-for-Kevin Shattenkirk deal was pretty close. St. Louis has plenty of depth on defence to make a Drouin trade, including the likes of Colton Parayko and Jordan Schmaltz.
Tampa needs to add more depth on defence to complement Victor Hedman, so if the Blues can supply a couple of those in a potential Drouin deal, don't be surprised if they agree to a major blockbuster deal.
6 Blackhawks Dump Brent Seabrook to Florida
Following their shocking first round sweep at the hands of the eighth-seeded Nashville Predators, the Chicago Blackhawks have been rumored to be ready for some big tweaks this offseason.
After the sweep, Craig Custance from ESPN (via Mark Easson), suggested that the Blackhawks unload Brent Seabrook's hefty contract -- given how strapped this team is for cap space. Seabrook has seven years left on his deal that carry $6.875 million each season -- but who would want to trade for a 32-year-old with such a heavy contract?
The Florida Panthers have been a great dump for unwanted contracts, making trades for Brian Campbell and Roberto Luongo before. As good as Seabrook is, Chicago may just be content enough to give him away at this point.
A deal that sends Seabrook to Florida for multiple draft selections should get a trade done. Florida could use another big defenceman, while Chicago could use the cap space. It'd be a trade that would help both teams.
5 Alex Galchenyuk Moves to Long Island
Following another Montreal Canadiens frustrating and early playoff exit (this time at the hands of the New York Rangers), many have called for general manager Marc Bergevin to shake up the Habs' offence this offseason.
There have been reports about the team possibly trading away centre Alex Galchenyuk, who hasn't lived up to his full potential of being a top-line player. If the Canadiens decide to trade him, they'll have to get some immediate scoring help in return.
They'll likely want to trade him outside of the division too, so the New York Islanders may be an ideal fit. Left winger Josh Bailey scored 56 points this season while third-line centre Brock Nelson is a three-time 20-goal scorer. One of those two players plus a draft pick in exchange for Galchenyuk would be a great trade to help both teams get over their playoff woes.
4 Gabriel Landeskog Goes Shipping Up To Boston
As mentioned earlier, the Colorado Avalanche were a disaster this season and are expected to trade away many of their top players to begin another rebuild, and captain Gabriel Landeskog is by far their best trade chip.
BSN and Bleacher Report's Adrian Dater reported in January that the Boston Bruins talked to the Avalanche about a Landeskog trade -- but the B's were unwilling to send promising prospect Brandon Carlo the other way.
Colorado needs to stock up on young defencemen, and the Bruins could use another flashy scorer. Perhaps a package deal that consists of defenceman Jakub Zboril, goalie Malcolm Subban and a couple of first round picks could get a deal done. It'd be a hefty price for Boston to pay, but young and skilled scorers in their mid-20s never come easy.
3 Matt Duchene Heads to Ottawa
Landeskog and Barrie aren't the only Avalanche studs that are expected to get traded. Speedy and perennial 20-goal scorer Matt Duchene will likely get traded, and the Ottawa Senators are an ideal fit.
Ottawa reached the Eastern Conference Final and nearly took down the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins, but a lack of scoring depth turned out to be their ultimate demise. General manager Pierre Dorion has to find a way to add another scorer, and Duchene is one of the best players available.
The Senators could offer a package that includes young defenceman Cody Ceci, forward Ryan Dzingel, prospect Filip Chlapik and a first round pick. they get their much-needed top-line forward and Colorado gets possibly four young assets to build their team around. It's a win-win.
2 Vegas Trades For Marc-Andre Fleury
The Pittsburgh Penguins will undoubtedly prefer to protect Matt Murray over goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the expansion draft, but the latter carries a no-trade clause and could refuse to waive it. But if the Penguins tell him they're rolling with Murray from here on out, then Fleury will have to accept a trade.
The Vegas Golden Knights could trade for him before another team makes a move, and the Penguins wouldn't have to stress about losing a top-notch goalie for nothing. Of course, Vegas doesn't have any players to offer in a trade, so it will be interesting to see what this team has to offer for his services.
But most teams don't need a goalie, and few of them will offer much for a 32-year-old and inconsistent Fleury. Vegas will likely be willing to pay the most (perhaps just multiple draft picks), so don't be surprised if Fleury is rolling the dice with them in 2017-18.
1 Alexander Ovechkin Becomes a Canadien
Recently , I listed eight possible fits and seven non-fits for Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin, and the Canadiens took the top spot for "wanting" to trade for him. It's not all that far-fetched, either.
You see, the Capitals have been falling apart in the playoffs for a decade now, and it's time for sweeping changes. Ovechkin is 32 years of age and probably won't score 50 goals much longer (maybe never again). Per Stephen Whyno from the AP, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan didn't rule out trading Ovechkin, "if there's a legitimate hockey deal that came available".
The Canadiens really need another superstar scorer, and Ovechkin would instantly turn them into a Stanley Cup contender. They have many young pieces they can dangle for his services, and Bergevin should be willing to trade just about anybody for him BUT Max Pacioretty and Carey Price.
If the Habs were to trade for him, it's tough to guess what the return would be. But if Washington really does trade their star player, don't be the least bit shocked if it's the Canadiens won the bidding war.
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