One of the biggest off ice stories has a new beginning as the long reported, long expected Matt Duchene trade finally took place last week. With the former Avalanche star making a new home in Ottawa, there are a number of other players who for various reasons have started to see or hear their names among the early season trade talks. For some, it is a matter of a slow start by either themselves or their team or even both. For others, it comes down to a financial issue at the end of the season when said player is looking for a bigger contract.
While some of the following fifteen names will not be moved this season as the fan backlash could crush the franchise (John Tavares), others may as well start packing their suitcases and moving boxes as it is only a matter of time before they are wearing a different jersey. With a lot of early season surprises in the NHL, who would have thought the St. Louis Blues and New Jersey Devils would be top three in the standings nearly twenty games in? At the same time, did you see the Edmonton Oilers, Chicago Blackhawks or Montreal Canadians struggle out of the gate?
Being that it is still early enough in the season for teams and players to change their luck around, maybe an opportunity for a change of address is needed. Could one or multiple names on this list of fifteen rumored trade block names be on the move sooner than later?
15 15. Erik Gudbranson
In a case of what have you done for me lately, Gudbranson hasn't really given the Canucks much since coming over in a trade with the Florida Panthers two years ago. Considering his $3.5 million cap hit, Vancouver had hoped that they would have seen more in return from the seventh year defender. While not all blueliners are capable of filling the net like Brent Burns, the hope that they would get more than 30 games and six points last year and currently scoreless in the team's first sixteen games this season is not an absurd thought.
An old school type player, Gudbranson brings some grit and grind to the lineup, but with the influx of young defenders in the Canucks prospects lineup, including Olli Juolevi, Jalen Chatfield and even Jordan Subban, the Canucks may just want to pull the cord on moving Gudbranson. Last summer a rumor floated around about a return to Florida - could the Canucks and their faithful trade partner make another deal this season before Gudbranson enters free agency?
14 Evander Kane
Kane and the trading block go hand in hand like peanut butter and jam as the talented yet troubled 26 year old left winger has been a part of relocation talks for a long time. Now in his ninth year, Kane has proven to have a knack for finding the back of the net, hitting the twenty goal mark in each of his last two seasons and once pocketing thirty back in the 2011-12 season. The problem with trading Kane isn't just limited to his on ice issues (high contract, horrible +/- ratio, injury prone), but equally his off ice behavior.
So who would want to buy into that? Well in the world of professional sports, talent will always find a home. Considering that Kane is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, the Sabres will want to move him for something rather than nothing and for a team looking to have a run at the Cup, Kane makes one attractive rental option.
13 James Neal
In his previous ten NHL seasons, the Golden Knights forward averaged 45 points a year, with his career high 81 points coming during the 2011-12 season when he stepped up for an injured Sidney Crosby as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Currently the leading goal scorer and points leader for the Knights, Neal has value for a team that is sitting fourth in the Western Conference standings.
The biggest caveat as to whether or not Neal is relocated this season is whether or not the Knights can remain in playoff contention in the West or if they fall from their story tale start and become sellers on the trade market. At 30 years old, Neal still has some mileage left on his tires and could be attractive to a team willing to part with some youth in order to make a realistic push for the championship, a position that the Knights, regardless of how well they have started the season are not going to be in come next spring.
12 Thomas Vanek
At 33 years old, Vanek isn't exactly in future plans for the Vancouver Canucks rebuilding movement. As the third oldest member of the Canucks roster (Sedin twins are 36), Vanek is easily the team's best option as a trade chip in order to help add a player who can be part of the future rather than one who is only going to be with the team until the end of the season.
Once upon a time ago, Vanek was a valuable sniper who could pocket goals in his sleep, good for at least 30-35 goals a season during his run with the Buffalo Sabres. Now, the left winger from Austria, who is on his sixth team in the previous five years would be move valuable as a component piece to a veteran squad looking to add experience to their second or third lineup or a locker room presence. Like others on this list, the veteran winger would make a valuable trade chip for at least a draft pick rather than losing him for nothing at the end of the season.
11 Rick Nash
Hey, look, another potential UFA to join the list of players who are rumored to be on the trade block. Once one of the league's elite scoring wingers, Nash has seen his point production drop since moving to New York, but yet remains on the list of most wanted by many teams in the league. Currently saddled with a $7.8 million cap hit, Nash is a very costly shell of his former self. While Nash has stated that he has no desire to leave New York and the Rangers haven't expressed an urgency to move him, it doesn't mean that both parties aren't involved in the potential trade process should the right deal come into play.
Could a team like the LA Kings afford to give up future assets in order to help push the team up that last step to another Stanley Cup? Or what about the Nashville Predators who while superb on the blueline but could use some scoring up front in order to make another run at the Cup.
10 Alex Galchenyuk
Some may say that the Canadians forward is struggling this season. Others will say that it's the whole team. Both would be correct. So what is the answer? Does Montreal stand pat and figure out how to fight through the struggle or do they start trading away pieces hoping that newcomers will change the direction of the team and give hope for a playoff seed despite a rocky start? If the Habks were to move players, the sixth year pro would be one piece to part with.
Although there was trade talk during this past offseason, there were no suitable deals on the table that appealed to the Canadians, who in turn ended up signing a three year contact extension with Galchenyuk. The thing with pro sports these days is that every team is in a "win now" mode, especially in hockey crazed Montreal and the desire to fight through issues rather than make what could be a band-aid move is not the most favorable option for management and fans. Considering that it's only his sixth year, moving the talented forward may not be the best answer for the Canadians present and future, especially if they cannot receive equal value in return.
9 Mike Green
He's a two-time All NHL First Team member, but that was seven and eight years ago, however to kick off the 2017-18 season, it looks like Green may have turned back the clock. With 14 points in the first 18 games of the season, Green is on pace to have his best statistical season in nearly a decade. While he has struggled to find the back of the net, with only a single goal, Green has been a bright light for a Red Wings team that at best will battle for a Wild Card spot as they continue to rebuild their roster. At 32 years old and in the final year of his contract, a hot start by the defenseman will not only help the Wings get a valuable piece in return, but could also land Green on a playoff or even Stanley Cup contender.
With the ability to help on the power play and also play solid defense, don't be surprised to see Green's name among the trade block rumors throughout the season. A home in Edmonton or Toronto may be in the works as both teams are heavy in young talent and in need of a veteran blueliner with offensive skills.
8 David Perron
When you're a veteran on a expansion team, chances are you will see your name in the headlines as part of various trade options. Enter into the world of David Perron. While the right winger is on his sixth team since entering the NHL, there are still those who feel that he can provide the team with something, the problem is, nobody is really sure what exactly that something is. After his sophomore season with the St. Louis Blues, it looked like Perron was set to break out as he tallied 50 points and then followed it up with 47 in his third year. The problem has been, the Quebec native has yet to string together another set of impressive back-to-back seasons since that time.
Maybe this is the year that fans have been waiting for as he is just short of a point per game in his sixteen games with the Knights (14 points), after recording 46 points last year. At 30 years old, Perron still provides the Knights, or any other team with a little bit of everything on the ice and in the locker room, but if the Knights are looking into the future, is he really part of their plans?
7 Ryan Strome
The Edmonton Oilers were one of the teams that "experts" figured would make a convincing run for the Stanley Cup this season after their somewhat surprising run last year. Unfortunately, lackluster record (at the time of this writing) and trouble finding the back of the net isn't the most convincing way of living up to those expectations. Part of those expectations that aren't being met is the play of Strome, a forward who the Oilers traded young Jordan Eberle for. While Eberle had a big cap hit and his own struggles on the ice, at least the team knew what they had in him. With Strome, not so much. In the team's first sixteen games, the forward has recorded only one back-to-back point streak and is currently riding a four game drought.
While the Oilers will still tinker with where Strome fits best with the club, it may be a trade that they have to just bite the bullet on and be willing to part with the 24 year old in order to get something of value back. The problem is, unless the struggling forward turns things around, his stock won't fetch more than a bag of pucks in return.
6 Sam Bennett
After lighting up the OHL, Bennett, the Calgary Flames first round Draft pick and fourth overall in 2014 has not really met the level of expectations. Currently sitting on just a single helper for one point in the team's first sixteen games, Bennett could find himself pulling on a new jersey in the near future. The problem for the Flames and Bennett is at this point in his young career his stock is at an all time low. Teams are aware of his struggles as its been reported that numerous teams have reached out pertaining to his status.
As their highest overall draft pick in team history, the Flames, to be fair, don't want to throw in the white towel just yet, but it may be wise to strike on a trade offer for the young forward while people still have hope that he can turn his career around before it flames out. Maybe it's just a case that the team and player just aren't the right mix of chemistry for each other.
5 John Tavares
Right now the Islanders are in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race (if you can call it a race in November), but they're still the second best team in New York. While they may not own the city, they do have the best player in the New York area, John Tavares. The question remains, for how long? The Islanders and Tavares have a major decision to make before the end of this season. Do they invest in each other for big money, or do they part ways after nine years and try to reach the holy grail by other methods?
While the Islanders have reached the playoff a handful of times during his tenure with the club, they never really posed a threat to win the Stanley Cup. On the flip side, teams like Tampa, Toronto and even Montreal have the pieces to help the talented center etch his name onto Lord Stanley's trophy. The question at the end of the day in the business world of sports, is how much does each party value loyalty?
4 Tyler Bozak
Chances are if the Toronto Maple Leafs are serious about making a run at John Tavares, Bozak will either be part of the deal going the other way or in a separate trade that will clear up some cap space for the Islanders forward. At 31 years old, Bozak is one of the veterans on the Leafs roster, with only four other players being older. Aside from an injury plagued 2015-16 season in which the middleman recorded only 35 points, he has been good for nearly 50 points in three of his past four seasons with the club.
Currently sitting on eight points in 19 games and a decent cap hit of $4.2 million that expires at the end of this season, the Leafs may want to explore trading Bozak in order to bring in another young player that will be part of their future. With teams like the Rangers, Predators and maybe the Islanders looking for a center/winger, the Leafs may be smart to try and jump on moving Bozak now rather than lose him for nothing in the future.
3 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Imagine being tagged the face of the franchise when they drafted you with the first overall pick in 2011. Unfortunately, that same franchise had just removed that tag from Taylor Hall, the first overall pick from the year before. The latest landing spot for that tag is around the neck of Connor McDavid and it doesn't look to be removed any time soon. Considering the Oilers were willing to part with Hall, who by all accounts is a much better player than RNH, trading the young center will not be a surprise move.
It's not that Nugent-Hopkins is horrible or anything, he just hasn't exactly preformed up to expectations and with a $6 million cap hit coming up when McDavid's monster contract kicks in, the Oilers need to free up some cash. While fans want to compare the current Oilers roster with the historic 80s lineup, everyone knew that when contract renewal time came around that it would be nearly impossible. Add to that not living up to expectation and something has to happen. Could a straight up swap for Alex Galchenyuk give the two youngsters a fresh start in a new city in a win-win deal be on the horizon?
2 Andrew Shaw
When things don't go right in the Canadian hockey mecca, you'd best believe that pretty much all players should have their head on a swivel when it comes to trade rumors. Shaw is one of those players. At the time of this writing, the Canadians are treading below .500, which means that something has to change in Montreal. A grit and grind forward, Shaw has never been a lamp lighter, but rather one that isn't afraid of getting his hands dirty, doing all the little things to help his team win.
A two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Blackhawks, Montreal hoped that his do what it takes approach would rub off on some of his teammates. While he' on pace for a career high in points, the team record isn't indicative of his personal success. Although it is only his second year with the club, parting with Shaw for a piece of the puzzle that fits better may be something that the Canadians want to explore., especially with his staggering cap hit.
1 James van Riemsdyk
If there is one city that could give Montreal a run for it's money when it comes to being Canada's hockeytown, it would be Toronto. With the Leafs recent return to the playoffs after a three year absence, the young buds are primed to make another trip this season. Now why would the Maple Leafs want to explore trading their second leading scorer from last year, especially when he has recorded 15 points in the first 18 games of this season? Well, the issue is that JVR is due for a raise next season and youngsters like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner will be seeking big money in 2019-20, not to mention that William Nylander is a RFA at the end of this season.
So do the Leafs pay a trio of stars who are just kicking off their careers, or invest in the vet? It's a tough call for the Maple Leafs brass, but if they could find a suitable deal that would return a proven defenseman, it may be a trade option worth exploring before having to either break the bank or potentially lose JVR for nothing come next summer.