The NHL's 2018 offseason should not disappoint hockey fans alike, especially come unrestricted-free-agency (UFA) on July 1. In addition to a number of the league’s top skaters potentially leaving their current teams as an UFA, there are more than a handful of other players that have been rumored to be on the move this offseason.
Some of the league’s most well-known veteran forwards and defensemen may just find a new home this offseason, and via a blockbuster trade. Keep in mind that there are a few goaltenders who could find themselves between the pipes and donning a different color sweater come October, too.
Teams such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and both New York teams could steal the headlines this offseason; by dealing or signing a caliber skater such as current New York Islanders captain, John Tavares.
Five of the seven Canadian teams missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year, which means the high-pressure Canadian markets will be desperate to return to the postseason as quickly as possible. Edmonton has to undergo damage control, Calgary has to find out what caused their second-half collapse and the Canadiens have to figure out how they can get Carey Price to bounce back as he begins his new eight-year contract.
There are a ton of storylines to watch out for this summer.
TheSportster finds a new home for 15 NHL players rumored to be on the move this offseason.
15 Jimmy Howard - Dallas Stars
It wasn’t too long ago that most of North America thought that Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard would be Team USA’s starting netminder for the 2014 Olympic Games. In the blink of an eye a rising star in Howard took one giant step back due to injuries, and perhaps the overall fall with one of the greatest dynasties professional sports had ever witnessed in the NHL’s Red Wings.
While the market to acquire the three-time 30 game winner won’t be as valued as it once was, there are still a handful of teams that would be willing to give Howard a shot in their blue paint.
Even after signing Ben Bishop to a large contract (six-year deal), the Dallas Stars will always be on the hunt for depth between the pipes.
Keep in mind that former management from Detroit in Jim Nill may go after Howard this offseason and in order to bring in competition for Bishop moving forward; and to have an insurance plan in net since Bishop is injury prone.
14 Paul Stastny - Montreal Canadiens
Paul Stastny was handed a new home at the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline, after the St. Louis Blues shipped him up to the Winnipeg Jets. Since joining Winnipeg the veteran center has produced offensively (4G-9A –13 pts) in 19 regular season games played with the Jets, but there may be other suitors for Stastny come this offseason.
The Jets may even consider trading his rights to a team prior to July 1 – depending what direction they’d want to take, especially if they don’t want to throw the kind of money Stastny may be asking for. The Quebec native has proven that he can still record a 50-point campaign, and perhaps there would be mutual interest in Montreal with the Canadiens for Stastny. The Canadiens have always been in need of a top two center, and a Quebec native could help turn around Montreal’s fortunes sooner rather than later.
13 Mats Zuccarello - Edmonton Oilers
With New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello’s contract expiring after next season, the Boradway Blueshirts may look to move the Norwegian skater as early as this summer. There would be plenty of Cup contenders seeking to acquire the veteran, who has recorded 50 or more points in each of his last three seasons in New York.
In the Western Conference, the Edmonton Oilers may want to take a stab at Zuccarello.
The Oilers are still in need to shake up their lineup, and a blue collar caliber skater such as Zucc could be one key addition to help change the culture in the Oilers’ lineup.
Plus, the Oilers could use some help in the winger’s department, especially on the team’s power play. The Oilers rank last in the league this season with a 14.4%.
12 Mike Hoffman - New Jersey Devils
Two Eastern Conference teams that should be busy this offseason, and for different reasons, are going to be the Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils. It’s believed that the Senators are going to be sellers this offseason, and that New Jersey will have interest in acquiring talent through both unrestricted free agency and via trades. Senators forward Mike Hoffman has already had success in a red and black hockey sweater with the Sens, and there’s a chance that his new home could be in New Jersey come 2018-19.
The Devils could use depth at the right wing position moving forward. Also, the dual winger/center in Hoffman would complement the Devils' style of play, and keep in mind that Hoffman has recorded 56 points in 94 games played against Metropolitan Division opponents since 2013-14. Plus, the Devils may have what Ottawa is looking for in exchange for Hoffman (prospects & draft picks).
11 Robin Lehner - Detroit Red Wings
There was hope when Robin Lehner arrived in Buffalo to stand tall between the pipes for the Buffalo Sabres during the 2015 offseason. However, it’s been rumored that Lehner requested a trade back at the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline, and that the Swedish masked man is on his way out from Buffalo.
While finding a new home at the 2018 Deadline didn’t happen, Lehner could land in Detroit this offseason.
The Red Wings parted ways with Petr Mrazek at the recent Trade Deadline (Philadelphia Flyers) and the team will more than likely move on from longtime netminder, Jimmy Howard. Lehner is already familiar with playing in a hockey city, but Hockeytown could revive the six-foot-four netminder. While Detroit is entering a rebuild, the Wings will look to acquire a goaltender who is also both affordable and capable of backstopping the team for years to come.
10 James van Riemsdyk - New York Rangers
It’s going to be a busy offseason for a number of teams in the NHL, especially with the teams located in Canada and New York. The Toronto Maple Leafs and forward James van Reimsdyk (JVR) have a had a nice run with each other for six seasons, but there will also be a number of clubs looking to acquire JVR this summer.
The Carolina Hurricanes may be one of the hungriest teams to pursue JVR, and potentially re-sign his younger brother Trevor van Reimsdyk in the process, but JVR could find a new home with another Original Six franchise. While the New York Rangers are in a rebuild, there could be mutual interest between the Rangers and JVR come July 1. The forward is in his prime of his career and could help New York’s transformation speed along a tad faster if he were to sign in the Big Apple, which is just up the road from his original home, New Jersey.
9 Alex Galchenyuk - Carolina Hurricanes
A top two center will always carry some sort of value in the NHL, and one could be sure that the Montreal Canadiens will be ready to shop one of their centers in Alex Galchenyuk this offseason. Galchenyuk’s numbers have been consistent over the past three seasons, as the as the former first-round draft pick (third overall) has recorded at least 40 points and counting since 2015.
While Galchenyuk hasn’t panned out to be an elite number one center in the NHL, a team such as the Carolina Hurricanes would more than likely show interest in welcoming him to Raleigh, North Carolina. The Hurricanes have been one of the busier teams in the NHL over the past two offseasons, and with the team missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the ninth straight season – adding depth to the center position would worth bringing on Galchenyuk.
8 Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Toronto Maple Leafs
The Arizona Coyotes upped their game down the final stretch of the season, but even with signs of hope for next year will the ‘Yotes look to move on from defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson? Arizona has a history of making deals with the New York Rangers, and the Dallas Stars will be in the hunt for a caliber defenseman such as Ekman-Larsson, but the Toronto Maple Leafs could be the Swedish native’s new home come 2018-2019.
Toronto is set on offense with its all-star caliber youth skaters and the team can part ways with future draft picks and prospects to acquire a player such as Ekman-Larsson.
There’s no doubting that the 6-foot-2 defenseman would add a whole another dynamic to a potential 2019 Cup contender’s blue line. Ekman-Larsson could be one of the final pieces to puzzle that Toronto’s been longing for in what seems like forever.
7 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - New York Islanders
One team that may be in need of a big name center come this offseason could be the New York Islanders. There is a chance that the Isles may lose their captain in John Tavares due to unrestricted free agency this summer, and a skater such as the Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins may be an option to acquire for the Big Apple’s Orange and Blue.
The Oilers and Islanders already have a history in dealing trades recently (Jordan Eberle – 2017), and perhaps a change of scenery for Nugent-Hopkins would be beneficial for both he and New York moving forward. Both teams won’t be contending for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2018, and the Oilers will more than likely be aggressive this offseason in making transactions, again.
6 Corey Perry - Boston Bruins
Pending how far the Anaheim Ducks advance in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the upcoming offseason could mark that it's time for the Ducks to part ways with Perry. Perry’s contract is not ideal for most teams, but there should be a few clubs that would be willing to take in Perry and his hefty contract ($8 plus million over three years).
Perry may just find his new home with an Original Six franchise, as the Boston Bruins could be in need of a winger this offseason.
The Bruins would potentially have to part ways with one of their current defensemen, but bringing Perry over to the Eastern Conference would be worth it for Boston in the long run; especially if the Bruins don’t re-sign winger, Rick Nash.
5 Max Pacioretty - Winnipeg Jets
At one point in time rumor had it that Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty would end up playing for his childhood team in the New York Rangers. That doesn’t appear to be the case anymore with both the Rangers and Canadiens entering serious rebuilds/retools this offseason, but a team such as the Western Conference’s Winnipeg Jets may take great interest in Pacioretty.
The NHL hasn’t even anointed a 2018 Stanley Cup champion yet, however the Jets have been penciled in as a legitimate Cup contender come 2019.
Winnipeg would more than likely be willing to part ways with numerous types of assets and draft-picks to acquire a veteran winger such as Pacioretty, too. Keep in mind that the Jets will have the cap room to take on Pacioretty’s contract, and the Jets could use depth at the left wing position.
4 Joe Thornton - Winnipeg Jets
Last offseason marked the end of an admirable era in the San Jose, after long time Sharks forward Patrick Marleau departed for the Toronto Maple Leafs in unrestricted-free-agency. Is the 2018 offseason another headline for one of San Jose’s greatest franchise players of all-time to leave the Teal, too?
It’s rumored that the Sharks’ center in Joe Thornton may be end up leaving San Jose come unrestricted-free-agency (UFA), after spending parts of 13 seasons at the Shark Tank.
Edmonton would more than likely take strong interest in one of the NHL’s greatest playmakers of all-time, but Thornton’s new home might be where you’d least expect it – Winnipeg. The Winnipeg Jets are expected to be one of the Stanley Cup favorites next season, and adding a player such as Big Joe may just see both parties hoist their first ever Cup. The Jets are deep at the center position, but management would more than likely be willing to move skaters to make room for Thornton and possibly acquire other role players to help Winnipeg reach its goal come 2019.
3 Henrik Lundqvist - Colorado Avalanche
While New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist wants to remain in the Big Apple with the Broadway Blueshirts, the chances are that the Swedish native will not finish out his contract with the team that expires after the 2020-21 season. Even if the Rangers do transform into a playoff contender again in the near future – it’s unclear if Lundqvist would still be a factor in that equation come 2021.
The King has claimed his throne between the pipes in New York for almost thirteen seasons now, but a new city could be on the horizon for the former 2006 Olympic Gold Medal winner. One city that used to pay homage to one of the greatest goaltenders of all-time could be on the verge of becoming a Cup contender -- if it were to make a run at a netminder such as Lundqvist…Colorado. The Colorado Avalanche would have youthful assets to offer New York in exchange for Lundqvist, and could use an upgrade between the pipes moving forward.
2 John Tavares - New Jersey Devils
New York Islander fans will hold their breath from now until July 1 arrives. The team’s captain, and one of the league’s top skaters, in John Tavares will be set to become an UFA this summer and it appears he may just end up signing somewhere else other than with the Islanders.
It seems that almost every team would take interest in signing the four-time 30 goal-scorer, but Tavares’ home may not be too far from Brooklyn.
The New Jersey Devils have proven that they’re already a playoff contender for years to come, after Jersey’s Team recently clinched a berth for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs; and Tavares would be nice fit in the Devils lineup moving forward. Devils general manager Ray Shero has already gone above and beyond expectations since joining the team back in 2015, and he could shock they hockey world again if the team were to land Tavares come July.
1 Erik Karlsson - Dallas Stars
It shouldn’t be a surprise that current Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson is on this list and at No. 1. There have also probably been a number of teams throughout the NHL that have been pre-planning for months in advance to acquire Karlsson this offseason. Yet, where will the two-time Norris Trophy winner find a new home during the 2018 offseason?
The Western Conference’s Dallas Stars are arguably one skater away from being a serious Cup contender again, and Karlsson would be a complimentary asset to Stars such as Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. The Stars and Senators do have a past in making some blockbuster trades as it is, and maybe Dallas’ front office will take the plunge towards investing in one of the World’s most talented two-way players of all-time.