Despite the NHL having 82 games in a regular season, the timeframe in which to set your mark and try and make the NHL playoffs is actually quite short. Teams don't have long to determine whether or not the roster they began the season with is the roster that makes it to the postseason and as such, changes are inevitable.
31 teams in the NHL will be battling it out for 16 spots and trades and transactions are already starting to come down the wire. Just recently the Colorado Avalanche traded Matt Duchene for Kyle Turris and other pieces. They then flipped Turris to the Nashville Predators who signed him to a lengthy extension and cemented their centre depth in the organization. In that one trade, two of the biggest names in the rumour mill came off the trade board. The focus now shifts to a number of other teams and players. Who else is on the list and how will the teams manage their salary caps to make those deals work?
Below is a list of 15 moves that are bound to happen. Eight of them should happen this season and before the playoffs begin. Seven of them will likely happen after. While it still feels early, we know teams are on the phone and respective managers are talking to one another. How many moves will get made in the next few weeks might not be a good indication of what happens in the next couple months but make no mistake, moves are coming.
Think of any we've missed? Make sure to share and comment!
15 After: Auston Matthews To Sign Huge Extension (Obviously!)
Auston Matthews is the franchise player the Toronto Maple Leafs plant to build their team around. In only his second year of NHL action, he's proven he's among the elite talents and he's going to be rewarded handsomely for it. He scored 40 goals in his rookie season and has 19 points in 16 games for the Leafs so far in 2017-18. Sure, he has two years remaining on his entry-level contract but the Leafs won't wait that long to get him ink to a league max 8-year deal. Expect them to open up the Brinks truck and give him north of $10 million per season. If he keeps up his pace and has a 90-100 point year, he could get $11-$12 million per year.
14 Before: Evander Kane Traded
Evander Kane has a history of being in the trade rumour mill. Some off-ice issues that have given him a reputation will likely haunt his career and make him a player that moves from team to team and whenever the question of scoring comes up, he'll be the guy at the top of most people's list.
Right now, he's having a fantastic year with the Buffalo Sabers and they aren't looking to trade him but they are entertaining offers and Kane will be asking for a hefty extension if he keeps up his pace. The Sabres are likely to trade him to a team willing to pay a hefty price and add scoring at the trade deadline. He'll be seeking somewhere north of $6 million per season if he gets anywhere close to 30 goals this season. That's too much for the Sabres to commit to.
13 Before: James Neal Traded At Deadline
The Vegas Golden Knights have a number of players who could be moved by this year's NHL trade deadline but highest on that list of people other NHL teams would covet is scorer James Neal. He's on the final year of a contract that is paying him $5 million per season and while he wants to stay in Vegas, the return for his services will be too great and the Golden Knights can add more high-end prospects by moving him.
He's on pace for over 40 goals. That kind of player will fetch an unbelievable return. The Golden Knights won't pass up that opportunity. Expect teams like the Edmonton Oilers to go hard after him if they turn their season around and are looking at the playoffs.
12 After: Joe Thornton Signs With Another Team
Joe Thornton signed a one-year extension with the San Jose Sharks this summer but not before both he and Patrick Marleau contemplated moving to other teams. Marleau went to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Thornton took $8 million to stick with the Sharks. He was grossly overpaid because the Sharks didn't want to lose him but they won't make that mistake again and he should be able to get better money somewhere else.
Maybe the New York Rangers, Arizona Coyotes or another team that needs a leader and a guy who can still produce some offence, but are also willing to shell out $6 million is where he ends up. He's getting to that age where he'll be looking at one-year deals until he retires and he may be among the last players signed each summer.
11 Before: John Tavares Traded/Signed
All eyes are on John Tavares right now. He's currently a New York Islander but over a dozen teams are just waiting for the moment the Islanders realize that Tavares won't be staying with the team. Because the franchise is unsure about their arena and where they'll be playing out of in the future, Tavares is not prepared to sign an extension yet. He's said he wants to be an Islander but he needs some stability. If a new arena deal isn't figured out, he's likely going to be traded so the Islanders don't lose him for no return as a UFA. Once he does go, it will be the biggest trade of the season and the team who acquires him will look to sign him to a monster extension.
10 After: Sedins Re-Sign In Vancouver
The Sedin twins are in the latter half of their NHL careers and still perhaps two of the most interesting cases in the NHL. There is no way that they'll split up and any team who trades for or signs them would have to take them as a package deal. Considering how hard it is to navigate the salary cap in the NHL these days, that limits teams in a big way.
The Sedins will probably finish their careers in Vancouver and start signing one-year, lower-value contracts as they close things out. They are still productive but they aren't worth the $7 million they're each making now. It might be as simple as saying to them "we need you both to make as much as one of you are making now". A salary of $3.5 - $4 million each might keep them in Vancouver and they can take each season as they come.
9 Before: Mike Green Traded to Contender
The Detroit Red Wings are in full rebuild mode. As such, players like Mike Green won't stick around to wait through a number of years of less than stellar hockey and the Red Wings won't elect to pay good money to a player that while productive, isn't a long-term solution for the team. He's simply a better fit with another team and then he'll look to capitalize during free agency.
Green will fetch more value in return than he'll bring to the organization as part of the roster and he's an offensive-defender that teams covet to quarterback their powerplay. He's in the final year of a contract and a UFA, so he'd likely have left anyway. Expect him to be moved somewhere in the season and definitely before the trade deadline this year.
8 After: Arizona Wins Draft Lottery
The Arizona Coyotes are terrible this season. There really isn't another way to put it. A team that spends very little money and doesn't often acquire big-name talents because no one knows if they'll be staying in Arizona from season to season means that their best bet to improving their team is by drafting and developing prospects. Yet the team hasn't drafted first overall, ever.
It's about time some luck came to the franchise and even with the lottery rules changed and skewed away from making it a slam dunk for the lowest finishing team to be guaranteed the first overall selection, the Coyotes are due. You can also expect that while they won't try to tank the season, they may make moves that don't help them improve and keep their odds high of finishing with the best chance to get the best draft selection.
7 Before: Thomas Vanek Traded From Vancouver
Thomas Vanek was one of those players this year who many were surprised couldn't find a home during the summer. He'd had a decent season in 2016-17 but for some reason wasn't on anyone's list in terms of free agents. So, when he signed way later in the summer with the Vancouver Canucks, the writing was sort of on the wall that it could be a shorter-term thing.
The Canucks aren't a great team this season and Vanek becomes a trade-able asset at the deadline if he has a good season. He's inexpensive for a team to acquire at the deadline and he's still got some game left in him. So far this season he has 9 points in 15 games. Expect he gets moved when the Canucks are mathematically out of the playoffs.
6 After: Zdeno Chara Signs With Bruins
Zdeno Chara is one of those guys that will get talked about as someone who could get moved out of Boston but the reality is, he wants to be a Bruin. He'd be willing to take less money to stay a Bruin and despite his age, he's still a productive defenceman. There will be rumours he'll move but he probably won't.
It would be difficult to picture him in any other uniform and the franchise and the player will come together sometime during the summer to keep people happy. He might even get somewhere close to what he's making now since his salary really isn't crippling the team. But, the Bruins have some young players they need to think about keeping and that could affect Chara's numbers.
5 Before: Oilers Add Another Scorer
The Edmonton Oilers were picked to be a contender this year. Some had gone so far as to suggest they'd be the team from the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. So far this season, things haven't clicked and the team isn't anywhere near the club most expected they'd be. They show signs of turning the corner but then lose in a poor effort.
One of their biggest issues is a lack of scoring, especially from the right wing. The team traded Jordan Eberle in the offseason and never really found a viable replacement for his points. Edmonton will be looking to the trade market before the playoffs to try and add scoring punch to their lineup. They may have to sacrifice some decent prospects or draft picks to do so.
4 After: Oilers Sign Patrick Maroon to Extension
One of the ways the Oilers will be able to ensure they have some scoring is by re-signing left-winger Patrick Maroon. He was acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks in 2015 and has been nothing short of a home run trade for the Oilers who will try to keep him in the organization but need to do so without breaking the bank.
Fortunately, it sounds like Maroon wants to stay. He's currently making an extremely cap-friendly salary of $1.5 million (the Ducks are covering some of it) and he'll probably be in the neighbourhood of $4 million for three years to stick around.
3 Before: Alex Galchenyuk Traded From Montreal
The Montreal Canadiens are in a bit of a pickle when it comes to their roster. They're much worse a team than they thought they'd be this season and one of the guys they were relying on to help produce offense is Alex Galchenyuk. To date, Galchenyuk has been anything but reliable and he's seeing less and less ice time every day.
The organization doesn't want to trade him at his lowest point (he was once a 30-goal guy) and they don't want to give up on him but the writing is on the wall. Unless he drastically turns things around and starts scoring in bunches, he's not going to be a Montreal Canadien much longer. It's going to come down to the short leash of coaching and management and their need to produce wins in a city that has little patience.
2 After: Maple Leafs Sign William Nylander
Next to Auston Matthews, William Nylander is Toronto's biggest commodity and he's making a case to get a huge extension that will see he and Matthews as the one-two pairing at forward for the Leaf's franchise for years to come. He's in the last year of his entry-level contract and he's due for a massive pay increase.
He had 61 points in 82 games last season and in 2017-18 has 12 points in 16 games. There's really no way he makes less than $7 million per season and it's likely looking like more than $8 million if he keeps up his pace. He's a crucial piece to the Leaf's young core and this summer they'll make sure to keep him around.
1 Before: Rick Nash Traded From The Rangers
The New York Rangers are flirting with the playoffs right now but they aren't an organization who likes to miss the postseason and they definitely aren't an organization who likes to sit still. Rick Nash wants to stay in New York but his production is declining and he's on the last year of a major contract. If the Rangers think they can get something for him at the deadline, the reality is, he'll probably be moved.
Next to goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Nash is the highest paid player on the team so if he's moved it will closer to the trade deadline to minimize the costs for the team who acquires him. It will take some convincing on the part of the Rangers as Nash only has six points in 16 games this season.