A player could request a trade away from an NHL team for any number of reasons. Sometimes one might have a falling out with a teammate that proves irreconcilable, and he’ll request a trade because of that. Or, perhaps a player is approaching the twilight of his career and the club he’s signed with shows no indication of immediate improvement; that player would ask for a trade simply for a legitimate shot at a Stanley Cup. Sometimes it’s just a change of scenery the player is after, so he (quietly) asks his general manager to accommodate his desire for a fresh start.
There always seem to be a few of these cases every season that go public, the most recent being the Matt Duchene debacle in Colorado. That’s of course one of the only trade requests of late to end up in the newspapers, but there were surely a handful more that went unreported.
Today’s list takes a look at 15 players who are currently under contract but may request a trade from their current homes this summer. There is no way for me to know what’s going on inside these dressing rooms, nor the respective heads of the players I’ve put on the list. However, I make a pretty compelling argument for each of the entries here today, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of these predictions came to fruition this summer. Enjoy.
15 Mike Hoffman
Good Lord, what has happened in Ottawa over the past eight months? Things were pretty rosy in Canada’s capital not that long ago. Heck, the club came one goal shy of a berth in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, but now they are an organization in disarray. They’re wallowing in the cellar of the Eastern Conference, yet mortgaging future assets for two years of Matt Duchene and Alex Burrows. What a mess.
It’s such a mess that, if I were a good player in Ottawa these days, I’d be eyeing an exit strategy. Mike Hoffman is a good player in Ottawa, and since his name is already cropping up in trade rumors around the league, I wouldn’t be surprised if he requests a trade out this summer (assuming nothing gets done before the trade deadline). Hoffman has two years left with a $5.19M cap hit, so teams will be interested.
14 Semyon Varlamov
The Colorado Avalanche had a pretty bad time in 2016-17, and that’s probably why Matt Duchene requested a trade out of town mid-season (at about this time last year). The Avalanche have turned things around in 2017-18, and are now amid a heated playoff race thanks to a 10-game winning streak in January. So, why the heck would someone want out at this point?
This is all conjecture and I’m admittedly taking some leaps here, but Semyon Varlamov might want a fresh start elsewhere. He’s battled injuries and inconsistency over the past few seasons, and it looks as though Jonathan Bernier has taken over the starter’s role in Denver. Varlamov is a competitive guy, and with one year left on his $5.9M AAV deal, he’ll want to be the go-to guy somewhere—Denver or elsewhere.
13 Matt Beleskey
Just because a player is disgruntled and likely to ask for a trade doesn’t mean his wish will be granted. I’m certain Matt Beleskey will want out of Boston—er, should I say, Providence—this summer. The question is, will anyone take a chance on a guy who couldn’t hang onto his roster spot and is on the books for two more seasons beyond this one (at a $3.8M cap hit)?
Since all of the other 30 clubs had a shot at taking the winger for zero assets when he cleared waivers earlier this season, it’s unlikely that Beleskey’s wish will be granted. There is the off chance that Bruins GM Don Sweeney is able to find a team with a player in a similar situation as Beleskey's and make that swap, simply to give both players a fresh start.
12 Roberto Luongo
Roberto Luongo is a beautiful human being and he would never request a trade out of Florida. That said, he still has a spot on my list based on the fact that I think he should request a trade this year. The guy is obviously in the twilight of his career at 38 years old, but he’s still under contract through 2021-22 and he’s still a pretty darn good goalie when healthy.
It’s that last bit that’s problematic—Luongo’s health. His contract isn’t a major issue from a dollars perspective (his AAV is just a hair over $4.5M), but is there a team out there who would take him on with that term left when he’s routinely spending half of the season on the IR? Admittedly it’s doubtful, but if he’s able to work out a verbal “I’ll retire” agreement (ala Vinny Lecavalier with the Kings a few years back), it could work out.
11 Max Pacioretty
Sometimes a player will get so sick and tired of hearing his name pop up in trade rumors that he simply requests a trade himself. Max Pacioretty might not be at that point just yet, but he’s got to be getting close. The talented winger has been sniping goals in Montreal for years now despite the lack of a number one center to work with, and I’d bet he’s had enough.
Pacioretty will be an attractive option for any team, as he’s a proven producer and has one more deal left on his contract at just $4.5M. He could even be dealt at the deadline, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Canadiens captain quietly nudged GM Marc Bergevin come July and requests a change of scenery.
10 Shea Weber
File this one under the “LOL!” category, but yes, Shea Weber is on this list because he only has a few good years left in him and I’m sure he’d prefer to spend them with a team that has a shot at winning Lord Stanley’s mug. I feel like we can all agree that the Canadiens probably aren’t in the best position to do that right now.
The issue here is that Weber can request a trade out of town all he wants, but he probably won’t be granted such a privilege. You see, Weber is under contract for nearly another decade, and if this season is a taste of thing to come, he may struggle to stay healthy from now on. There may still be a team willing to take a shot at Weber, though, as he is still a very good hockey player, and last I checked most teams still need those.
9 Paul Martin
On that note, perhaps the Sharks could be a potential dance partner when it comes to the Bruins and Matt Beleskey. Paul Martin, much like Beleskey, has cleared waivers this season and is currently plying his trade in the AHL. Maybe—just maybe—these clubs would be interested in a swap, just to see if a change of address could help these guys to return to previous performance levels.
The contracts are similar—Martin makes about $1M more per season more, but his expires at the end of 2018-19, whereas Beleskey’s at the end of 2019-20—but the one thing that could stop this from transpiring is the age of Martin. He’s 36, so it’s almost unreasonable to expect him to bounce back. That said, crazier things have happened in this league.
8 Matt Read
It wasn’t too long ago that Matt Read was turning heads in his rookie season at the tender age of 25. He almost got nominated for the Calder that year (2011-12), finishing fourth in voting behind Adam Henrique, Ran Nugent-Hopkins, and winner Gabriel Landeskog. Read hasn’t improved since his 47-point rookie year, though, and he’s only getting worse.
He’s actually on an expiring contract, but I would be surprised if Read asked out of Philly before the upcoming trade deadline. Read had at least been a serviceable player during his time in Philly, but he now finds himself a Leigh Valley Phantom rather than a Philadelphia Flyer. It’s possible a playoff-bound team takes a run at Read for some playoff depth, as he’ll be motivated to prove his worth.
7 Anton Slepyshev
Anton Slepyshev is probably the least sexy name on this list, and GMs around the league probably all had a great laugh at Peter Chiarelli’s expense when Chia emailed his fellow GMs proclaiming Slepyshev’s availability via trade back in January. While no one bit then (obviously), Slepyshev is still a decent depth option, and if I were him I’d probably ask for a trade out of Edmonton this summer.
Why? Well, picture yourself as a depth player in Edmonton (Slepyshev, or even Jujhar Khaira). You play well most nights you’re dressed, yet you still don’t get a chance to play in the top six because the sluggish Milan Lucic has a stronghold on one of the slots. On top of that, Drake Cagguila also gets the nod ahead of you, despite being less effective overall and seemingly only because the current GM acquired him.
6 Matt Duchene
I put this one here as a bit of a joke of course, but really, it’s not as far-fetched as some of the others. First off, there’s precedent—Matt Duchene requested a trade out of Colorado last season, a plea that ultimately led to his shipment to Ottawa. I really loved his quote after the trade: “I wanted to play playoff hockey,” he said.
How’s that working out, Matt? The Senators are in complete disarray, and there is little light at the end of that tunnel. The Avs have fared very well sans-Duchene, and are in the thick of a playoff race in the stacked Central Division. Is it possible that Duchene already has had enough in Ottawa? He didn’t want to sit through another rebuild in Colorado—why would it be any different in Ottawa?
5 Alex Galchenyuk
With the way things have gone in Montreal this season, there were of course going to be at least a few Habs on this list. Alex Galchenyuk is one of the guys whose name you’ve heard in the trade rumors for a couple of years now. Galchenyuk is probably more sick of it than anyone else, so I wouldn't be shocked if he sort of nudged Marc Bergevin this summer behind the scenes.
I’m simply assuming that it must get tiring to hear your own name come up in trade rumors so often. Galchenyuk likely already welcomes a change of address, whether or not he admits it publicly. Playing in a Canadian hockey market can weigh on a guy, and that weight gets a few tons added to it when your team is in a downward spiral and you're a core member.
4 Alexander Edler
Alexander Edler has played over 700 games with the Vancouver Canucks, and with the team amid a “don’t call it a rebuild” rebuild, I don’t think it’s stretch to say he’d prefer to start 2017-18 elsewhere. Facts are facts, Edler is going to be 32-years-old when next season starts, and he has one year remaining on a deal that pays him $5M a season—a completely reasonable figure for a player like Edler.
Assuming he’s not traded at the deadline, Edler may ask out of Vancouver not because he’s disgruntled, per se, but rather that 2018-19 may be the last chance he has to play a full-time role on a contending NHL team. Even the most optimistic of Vancouver Canucks fans are aware that “contending” is not an adjective you’d pin to next year’s Canucks.
3 Ryan McDonagh
The New York Rangers have made it known that they’re planning a fire sale at the upcoming trade deadline at the end of February, and one of the players whose reportedly available is captain Ryan McDonagh. That’s big if true, as McDonagh is a legit top-pairing defenseman who has one more year left on his deal at a $4.7M cap hit.
If the Rangers don’t manage to get it done, I could see McDonagh forcing their hand come July. The Rangers more than likely will not be able to fit McDonagh within the cap beyond his present deal, mostly due to the fact that they have nearly $17M committed to Marc Staal, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Brendan Smith on the back end through 2020-21. The return they get for him this summer would be greater than if they waited until mid-season next year, so it could be a “both sides win” scenario.
2 Ilya Kovalchuk
Ilya Kovalchuk is the only player on this list who doesn’t actually play in the NHL, but he has expressed interest in a return to the world’s best hockey league. The thing is, a return is a little complicated for Kovy. He retired three seasons into the 15-year deal he signed with New Jersey, so the Devils still technically hold onto his rights should he come back.
Here's the thing; if Kovalchuk does come back, does he even want to play in Jersey? Furthermore, does Jersey want him back, given the way things ended last time? With these questions in mind, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that Kovalchuk might request for the team to trade his NHL rights out of Jersey. Jersey really has nothing to lose; might as well get a pick for a guy you probably don’t want back anyway.
1 Erik Karlsson
Picture this: you’re in your prime and probably the best defenseman in the NHL, and you play for a faltering franchise. You’re truly the one good thing the franchise has going for it, and the moves GM Pierre Dorion has made lately, coupled with the statements that owner Eugene Melnyk has publicly made, leave no reasons for optimism from Sens fans. On top of that, your GM (Dorion) has stated he’s a little peeved at your unwillingness to take a hometown discount to remain on the sinking ship.
Yeah, I’d ask for a trade out of town as well. The thing is, if Ottawa isn’t willing to pony up and pay Erik Karlsson what he deserves, they’d be best suited to trade him this summer anyway. Karlsson has one year remaining on a deal that comes with an extremely reasonable $6.5M cap hit, so the return on any Karlsson trade will be sky high.