The NHL trade deadline has been kind of underwhelming in recent years. Sports blogs hype up rumours and speculation for weeks leading up to it. TV stations dedicate entire days of programming to trade deadline coverage, and it always ends up being kind of underwhelming, as NHL general managers never pull the trigger on as many trades as fans hope for, and many near-trades are regretted for years.
This year may be different, though. There are some teams that are perennial playoff contenders who find themselves outside of the playoff picture right now, like the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks. Both of those teams will no doubt be looking to add some weapons near the deadline to finish off their rosters so that they can make a playoff push and do some damage in the postseason once again. There are also some teams that are bad this year that have been bad for many years in a row now, like the Colorado Avalanche, the Vancouver Canucks, and the Buffalo Sabres. Those teams will definitely be looking to sell off their assets at the deadline, moving useful veteran players to cup-worthy teams while stockpiling prospects and draft picks that will help them in the future. There are some big names that have been swirling around as possible trade deadline pieces, including future Hall of Famers like Joe Thornton, and young snipers like John Tavares. Some teams will be looking to move players on the brink of retirement so they can take a final shot at getting a cup. Sifting through the rumours and the speculation, let’s take a look at some of the top rumours for the 2018 NHL trade deadline to see what kind of moves teams will likely be looking to make this year.
15 Changing Teams: Gabriel Landeskog
You've got to feel bad for Avalanche fans of late. After years of being one of the most stacked teams in the Western Conference, they've been absolutely sputtering over the past few years and can't seem to get a decent rebuild going to turn things around. They made some progress this year, finally getting rid of Matt Duchene, who clearly didn't seem to want to be in Colorado any more. The next one to go will likely be Gabriel Landeskog, the former 2nd overall pick and Calder Trophy winner. There's no doubt that Landeskog has the potential to be great, but he needs a fresh start, and the Avalanche could really get a great draft pick or a bunch of prospects in exchange for him. It's very rare to see teams trade their captains, of course, but in this case, they're left with few options as to how to improve the future of their squad. I'd like to see what Landeskog could do on a team like the Anaheim Ducks.
14 Changing Teams: Thomas Vanek
The Vancouver Canucks signed Thomas Vanek to an affordable one-year deal worth only $2 million this offseason. Vanek has been bouncing around the league in recent years, never really living up to the expectations that were set for him after he recorded a 43-goal season in Buffalo one year. With their terrible play of late, the Canucks have all but removed themselves from the playoff picture, and they’ll be looking to move Vanek to a cup contender, as they’d likely lose him after this season anyway. He has proven this year that he can still score, as he’s second on the Canucks in goals, and he look great on any team’s second or third line and top powerplay unit, especially if he can play with a top-level playmaker to feed him the puck. I think Vanek will end up on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
13 Staying Put: James Van Riemsdyk
James Van Riemsdyk is a play whose name has constantly been associated with trade rumours. Leafs fans have often felt as though they haven’t been getting enough production out of the second overall draft pick from 2007, even though he has repeatedly proven that he’s a 30-goal, 60-point kind of player when he stays healthy. This year, the Leafs are looking great, as they’re in second place behind the Lightning in the Atlantic division. Instead of dealing Van Riemsdyk, they’ll probably be looking to add one more weapon at the deadline, probably to bolster their blueline so that they’ll be ready for some tough playoffs series. The Leafs have a young, dynamic roster and JVR is a big part of that, so even though his name has been swirling around trade rumours for years, you can count on him sticking around in Toronto for at least another year.
12 Changing Teams: Alex Galchenyuk
The Montreal media is harsh when it comes to its hockey players. If you’re playing well, they treat you like royalty, but if you play poorly, you can expect to be booed loudly and roasted in the press day in and day out. Nobody knows this better than poor Alex Galchenyuk, who has become a really scapegoat for the Canadiens’ struggles this year. He’s a former third overall pick, and his career started out with a whole lot of promise, which lead fans to believe that they had one of the best young snipers on the league on their team. But he’s now in his second year of substandard play, and fans want him gone. It would probably be good for him to get a fresh start somewhere else: perhaps in a less intense market somewhere in the United States. I could see Galchenyuk ending up on the New York Rangers.
11 Changing Teams: Jacob Trouba
Jacob Trouba has had a pretty turbulent year in Winnipeg, as he requested a trade, sat out some games, and ultimately signed a new contract. Since signing that deal, he has said that he’s committed to playing in Winnipeg now, and that he has no desire to leave. However, I can’t help but feel a sign and trade type move is coming. For a team looking to make a big splash in the playoffs this year, it can’t be good for the vibe in the locker room to have a guy who was asking to leave. The Winnipeg Jets have multiple big, solid, and productive defencemen in Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers. So even though Jets’ captain Blake Wheeler has said that he welcomes Trouba back and harbours no ill-will towards the young defenseman, it seems as though he’ll be a piece moved to a team lacking solid defence this trade deadline. I could see Trouba heading to the New York Islanders.
10 Staying Put: Daniel And Henrik Sedin
This one is a bit of a tough call. The Sedins are near the end of their careers, and they might only have a year or two to go. They’ve come close but never quite been able to translate their great regular season accomplishments into Stanley Cup glory. It’s easy to see how they could really help a playoff team bolster their offence by adding two all-star caliber players with great playmaking ability. Throw the Sedins on a line with an elite sniper and it’s a guarantee the points will come rolling in. Plus, the draft picks or prospects the Canucks would get from dealing the twins would really help Vancouver’s future. But the twins have repeatedly said they want to retire in Vancouver, and that they don’t want to uproot their families. And they have a no movement clause, too. So, although this is a trade that would make sense for both sides, it doesn’t seem fated to happen as the twins just aren’t willing to leave Vancouver.
9 Changing Teams: Evander Kane
Like the Chicago Blackhawks star who shares his last name, Evander Kane has been a pretty controversial figure in his short NHL career so far. He was traded from the Winnipeg Jets to Buffalo a couple years back, and has put up pretty good numbers on Sabres teams that have been consistently horrible. He's a fast, hard-working young player to watch, but he's also considered to be somewhat unreliable. The Buffalo Sabres have a big decision to make this trade deadline as to whether they want to make Kane a part of their rebuild. It seems likely that they'll trade him to a fringe playoff team looking to add a 30 goal scorer to round out their top six forwards. I think he would be a great fit on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
8 Changing Teams: Mike Green
It's easy to forget now, but there was a time in which Mike Green was maybe the most lauded offensive defenceman in the league. Back in 2009, Green put up a 31-goal season, which is a feat that has not even been achieved by Erik Karlsson, who is now the league's best offensive defenceman by a large margin. Green's best days are likely behind him, but he is still a guy who can run a powerplay, put up some goals, and make some stunning breakout passes from the back end. The disappointing Detroit Red Wings are currently sitting outside the playoff picture, a few games below .5oo, so there's a high chance they'll be looking to unload Green—who is no spring chicken at 32-years-old—for a prospect or a high pick. Green would be a great pickup for a team like the Las Vegas Knights, who will definitely need to improve their defence to become a real threat this offseason.
7 Staying Put: John Tavares
Over this summer and at the beginning of this NHL season, there probably wasn't one player whose name came up in trade rumours more than John Tavares' did. The New York Islanders found themselves unable to sign the star forward to a contract extension, and he was vocal about his displeasure with the team. Both of those factors led people to believe that he was on his way out of town, and that caught everyone's attention because it isn't often that such a franchise player changes teams in the NHL. Over the past few months, however, Tavares has looked pretty happy in Long Island. He has been putting up huge points alongside teammates Josh Bailey and Anders Lee, and the Islanders are fully in the playoff picture this season. Smart money says he'll be sticking around with the Islanders for the time being.
6 Changing Teams: Rick Nash
There was a time in which Rick Nash would have been considered to be one of the best and most flashy players in the NHL. Those days are behind him, though. He's 33-years-old now, and he's always getting injured. It seems like a real effort for him to even put up 20 goals, when in his past he could be counted on for the occasional 40 goal season. Nash barely contributes to the New York Rangers these days, and it's easy to see how a team greedy for offence at the deadline could be tempted into offering up some high-end picks and prospects for the right winger. He is still occasionally capable of flashes of complete brilliance. We've seen him play extremely well with Sidney Crosby on the Olympic stage before, and I'd really like to see the Pittsburgh Penguins make a deal for Nash, if they don't have to give up too much.
5 Changing Teams: Erik Gudbranson
It's easy to see what the Canucks thought they'd be getting in Gudbranson. He's a former top prospect, a high draft pick, and has always had a lot of potential because of his strength and giant frame. I think his moustache is a pretty big factor too. However, Gudbranson has been a turnover machine for the Canucks and has not made himself popular with fans. Still, some team will probably be looking to pick him up to bolster their blueline for the playoffs, and to provide some toughness and grit on their third pairing. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Canucks flip him to a playoff contender at the trade deadline for a second or third round pick. I could definitely see him finding a place on the blueline of a team like the Dallas Stars.
4 Staying Put: Joe Thornton
Joe Thornton is having a better year than last year, in which he saw him usually-stellar numbers take a sharp decline. Big Joe has been one of the most reliable and highest-scoring players in the league over the past couple decades. Adjusting for the fact that the league is much lower in scoring than it was when guys like Gretzsky and Lemieux were putting up obscene point totals, Thornton is actually one of the highest-scoring players to ever play the game. His name often comes up in trade rumours, as he still has the ability to make an impact, but hasn't been very useful for the Sharks lately, who have relied on other players to do their scoring. However, it seems impossible that the Sharks will find a good enough offer to make them willing to part with the 38-year-old former star, and so it seems likely that he'll play his last season or two in San Jose.
3 Changing Teams: Zach Parise
If a trend has emerged over the course of this article, it has been that most of the players featured are former stars, still in their early-30s, who are toiling their careers away on teams with no hope of making the playoffs this season or in the near future. Players of this sort are perfect trade bait, as they are the main targets of playoff-bound teams looking to add another weapon to add depth to their lineups in the postseason. There's no doubt that Parise has the ability to be an elite scorer, but his numbers have dropped lately in Minnesota, and he is currently out with a back injury. Once he returns, look for him to be traded to a team like the Nashville Predators for a couple picks or prospects, to make their lineup even more dangerous. If that trade goes through, they'll likely become an instant Stanley Cup favourite.
2 Changing Teams: Jason Demers
Jason Demers has been absolutely bouncing around the league in recent years, so it would be a shame for him to have to pick up and leave Arizona so quickly. On the other hand, he’s a solid defenceman who reliably puts up pretty good numbers, and so he would be a solid pick-up for any number of the teams that have been scoring a lot of goals but also failing to keep the puck out of their net, like the Arizona Coyotes. Demers has spent time in recent years with the San Jose Sharks and the Dallas Stars, so he has no shortage of playoff disappointments on his resume, as both of those teams have become known for their inability to translate regular season success with playoff performance. At this point, he has got to be hungry for a Cup, and could be just the player to push a defensively weak team over the top into contender status. I see Jason Demers ending up with the Washington Capitals.
1 Staying Put: James Neal
Remember at the beginning of the season, when critics and fans alike were projecting that the Vegas Golden Knights would finish in the very basement of the league? It feels like a million years ago at this point, as the Knights are sitting pretty at the top of the table in the Pacific Division, and it seems as though they may actually be able to make a solid playoff push. Back when everyone assumed Vegas would be bad, they assumed that they would deal players like James Neal for picks at the deadline to improve their future. Now, Neal is an alternate captain and is looking like a key part of the team's future, so there's almost no chance he'll be going anywhere come deadline day.