While we watch the rest of the NHL playoffs unfold, most NHL teams are already looking at what big moves they should make in the offseason. Oh, but even the teams who are still in the playoffs will have to be looking at some big trades to make this upcoming offseason — which could include trading away some big stars.
You see, some teams over the years have known when it was time to trade stars. The Montreal Canadiens are not an example of trading away stars at the right time, if you go back to the infamous Patrick Roy deal. The Quebec Nordiques wasted no time trading Eric Lindros, which brought over a franchise cornerstone in Peter Forsberg.
There are a number of NHL stars who should be traded soon while their values are high. Now, some of the names you are going to see on the list will surprise you at first. But hopefully I made a solid case as to why these 15 NHL stars should be moved by their respective teams in the offseason.
*Stats courtesy of ESPN.com, contract details and salary cap space courtesy of CapFriendly.com*
15. David Krejci: Clear Cap Space
David Krejci scored 23 goals and 54 points for the Boston Bruins in 2016-17, helping them reach the playoffs for the first time in three years. But expecting the star Czech centre to put up similar numbers is asking for too much. The 23 goals tied Krejci’s career best, and the 31-year-old probably won’t see that success again.
Krejci was four years left at a $7.25 million cap hit. The Bruins have so much money tied up in Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand and Torey Krug, while rising star David Pastrnak is due for a big raise in the offseason.
14. Jason Spezza: Diminishing Scoring
15 goals and 50 points are great numbers for most second-line centres, but they’re quite disappointing for Jason Spezza’s standards. He failed to score 60-plus points for the first time in an 82-game regular season since 2010-11. Spezza will be 34 years of age in the offseason and has dealt with back injuries throughout his career. It’s unlikely he’s going to recapture his superstar form.
Dallas has so much offence with the dangerous duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, plus Cody Eakin and John Klingberg. Spezza has two years left on his contract that’ll pay him $7.5 million a season. The Stars have virtually no depth on defence but have far too much scoring. If general manager Jim Nill can clear out Spezza’s contract, it could help him go after stud blueliners like Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner and Brian Campbell in free agency.
13. Blake Wheeler: His Value is Peaking
Blake Wheeler has been flying under the radar during his time with the Winnipeg Jets — if you catch my drift. Wheeler has scored at least 26 goals and 60 points in two of the last four seasons, including consecutive 70-point campaigns. So on paper, the Jets have no reason to trade their flashy sniper away.
But the Jets have plenty of young offensive stars to build around. Patrik Laine will soon be a 50-goal scorer, while Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers figure to post consistent 70-80 point seasons. Let’s throw in the fact that prized prospect Kyle Connor isn’t in the NHL yet, either.
Wheeler has just two seasons left on a contract that’ll pay him $5.6 million in each. The Jets need plenty of help on the blue line, and trading away Wheeler while his value is high could give them a great return. It’s easy to see the Jets getting a promising prospect and/or a top-two defenceman should they choose to trade Wheeler.
12. Gabriel Landeskog: Disappointing in Colorado
The Avalanche chose the flashy Swede second-overall in 2011, but Gabriel Landeskog really hasn’t blossomed into a star the way the Colorado Avalanche had hoped. They’ve made the playoffs just once since in his six seasons here, without a single postseason series victory.
Landeskog has been a solid but far from elite player with the Avalanche. With the exception of his 26 goals and 65 points in 2013-14, Landeskog has been more of a 20-25 goal scorer whose ceiling is really 55-60 points. Those aren’t good enough numbers to be the captain and face of a franchise.
He’s coming off an 18-goal and 33-point season, and all signs have pointed to the Avalanche shaking things up. Landeskog is still young (24), and could reach his full potential elsewhere. Colorado needs to trade him and get multiple assets in return, because Landeskog hasn’t been able to take them over the top.
11. Henrik Zetterberg: Rebuild Time in Hockeytown
The Detroit Red Wings were the NHL’s model organization for a quarter of a century, making the playoffs 25-straight years which included six trips to the Stanley Cup Final…and four championships. But years of picking outside the top-15 and the losses of legendary players made up for a disastrous 2016-17 season which saw Detroit miss the playoffs for the first time in 26 years.
Henrik Zetterberg has been the face of Detroit’s franchise for many years now, but the future Hall of Famer is well past his prime. General manager Ken Holland has shown no indication he’s willing to rebuild, but keeping Zetterberg around is a mistake. Detroit has to get younger and clear out as much cap space as possible.
Zetterberg has four years remaining on his contract that’ll pay him just over $6 million a season. Keeping a fading veteran around only takes away cap space and ice time from a Wings team that is a good three-five years away from competing again.
10. Cam Fowler: Uncertain Future In Anaheim
Cam Fowler has been one of the best yet most overlooked defenceman in the NHL for seven years now. He scored 11 goals this season — the most of his career. But the Anaheim Ducks are loaded with young blueliners — Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Shea Theodore and Brandon Mantour. Fowler has just one year left on his deal that’ll pay him $4 million in 2017-18.
It’s not impossible to believe he could get around $7 million a season on a long-term deal next offseason. The Ducks only have so much cap space and their depth on defence means Fowler could be expendable.
He’s simply too great of a defenceman for Anaheim to get nothing for. If they can’t work on a deal in the offseason, then general manager Bob Murray should look to move Fowler out. He could definitely bring in a blueliner of equal value and/or young prospects and draft picks. That’s simply better than seeing him depart in free agency.
9. Jonathan Quick: System Goalie
Is Jonathan Quick really that great, or is he just a product of a great system in Los Angeles? Well, here’s a look at how his backups fared over the years…
Martin Jones (2013-14): 12-6-0, 1.81 goals against average, .934 save percentage and four shutouts
Ben Scrivens (2013-14): 7-5-4, 1.97 goals against average, .931 save percentage, three shutouts
Peter Budaj: 27-20-3, 2.12 goals against average, .917 save percentage and seven shutouts.
The only reasons people hype Quick up as the best goalie in the NHL is because of his two Stanley Cups, his 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy and the fact the Kings simply make him look great every season.
Well, Quick is a very good goalie — but not a guy the Kings should onto for six more years at $5.8 million a season. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy and has been inconsistent in the regular season. Los Angeles has to rebuild with such a porous pool of promising prospects, and they’re carrying many disastrous contracts.
Seeing how Budaj performed in Los Angeles (after spending plenty of time in the minors over the last two years), it’s safe to say any NHL goalie can succeed with the Kings. Why not find a younger and cheaper option in net, and clear out Quick’s expensive contract?
8. Brent Seabrook: Clear Cap Space
Well, it’s safe to wonder if the Chicago Blackhawks dynasty is coming to an end. After winning three Stanley Cups between 2010 and 2015, Chicago has been eliminated in the first round for two-straight years now. The Nashville Predators did the deed, sweeping the top-seeded Blackhawks in the first round this year.
Speculation has gone wild about general manager Stan Bowman possibly making changes. This team has most of its money tied up in veterans Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Artem Anisimov, Artemi Panarin, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford.
Nobody is going to trade for Hossa, and most of the names on that list should be deemed untouchable. But Seabroook is 32 years of age and with so much mileage on his body, it’s easy to believe he’s not quite the star that led Chicago to three championships.
Seabrook has seven years left on a contract that pays him $6.875 million a season. He’s not going to get any better at this point, so the chance for Bowman to clear out this contract is now. The Blackhawks need all the cap space they can get, and ridding themselves of Seabrook’s deal would leave plenty of cap room.
7. Marc-Andre Fleury: Expansion Draft Dilemma
The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2016, thanks to the sensational play from 22-year-old goalie, Matt Murray. He came off the bench and filled in for an injured Marc-Andre Fleury, and has shown he is undoubtedly the goalie of Pittsburgh’s future.
But the Penguins have a few problems to sort out here. For one, the Vegas Expansion Draft is set to take place in June. Each team can only protect one goalie, and Fleury’s no-trade clause ensures the Penguins cannot expose him. That means if Pittsburgh still has Fleury on its roster by the time of the draft, Vegas will have the chance to select Matt Murray — and you know they won’t want to pass up on him.
Murray is 10 years younger, much cheaper and overall better at this point. The Penguins would be foolish to keep an inconsistent Fleury (who is 32 years of age). If they don’t trade Fleury, they’re probably losing Murray. If they trade Fleury, they keep Murray.
6. Sedin Twins: Commence Rebuild In Vancouver
Daniel and Henrik Sedin are the two greatest players in Vancouver Canucks history. Henrik is first in franchise scoring. Daniel is second. Both have a scoring title. They also turned the long-time losing Canucks into a Western Conference powerhouse, winning the Northwest Division title every year from 2009-2013 which included two Presidents’ Trophies and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011.
But the twins are turning 37 in the offseason, each have a year left on their contracts and both had their worst seasons since the lockout. Canucks president Trevor Linden confessed to the media that the team is set to rebuilding. Perfect, now it’s time to trade the Sedins.
Seriously, a rebuild isn’t possible when two fading stars take up $14 million in cap space and when you feel the need to put them on the first line. The Sedins aren’t stars anymore, and the Canucks need to turn the reigns over to the younger players. If they keep the Sedins, then the inevitable rebuild is not happening in 2017-18.
5. Rick Nash: Too Expensive/Not Needed in New York
Rick Nash is one of the greatest pure goal-scorers of this generation. He has eight 30-goal seasons under his belt, but it’s clear his best days are well behind him. Nash had just 15 goals last season and posted 23 in 2016-17, far below his career averages. With one year left on his contract that pays Nash $7.8 million a season, the Rangers are better off trading the star power forward instead of keeping the soon-to-be 33-year-old another year while risk losing him for nothing next offseason.
The Rangers are loaded in scoring depth with Mats Zuccarrello, J.T. Miller, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey and Michael Grabner. There is no need to keep an ageing Nash around after this season.
4. Claude Giroux: Declining Stats
Claude Giroux has been the Philadelphia Flyers star forward since 2011-12, when he scored 28 goals and 93 points. But Giroux’s numbers have been declining at an alarming rate over the past four years. Just have a look below:
2013-14: 28 goals and 86 points
2014-15: 25 goals and 73 points
2013-14: 22 goals and 67 points
2016-17: 14 goals and 58 points
Giroux has been incredibly healthy too, missing just five games over those four seasons. But his offence isn’t there, while guys like Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek score in bunches.
The Flyers have a top-six like few other teams in the NHL. Giroux simply hasn’t been the same star that nearly won a scoring title five years ago. Philly lacks depth on defence and is in need of a franchise goalie.
They could easily get two of those plus an elite prospect or high draft pick if they trade Giroux. A top-two blueliner, quality netminder and a young player are more valuable than Giroux at this point.
3. Anze Kopitar: Escape the Disaster
Two Stanley Cups, one Frank J. Selke Trophy, 255 goals and 736 points in 840 NHL games. What isn’t there to love about Anze Kopitar? He’s one of the best two-way forwards in NHL history and guided the Kings to their first pair of Stanley Cups in franchise history. His 20 goals and 39 points in 70 playoff games are no laughing matter, either.
But here’s the deal, 2016-17 was the worst of Kopitar’s career. He had just 12 goals and 52 points after registering eight 20-goal seasons and six 70-point campaigns. Given his heavy two-way style and the fact he’s turning 30 in August, it’s easy to believe Kopitar will struggle to regain his old form.
He also has seven years left on a contract that’ll pay him $10 million a season. With past-their-prime veterans, little cap space and no elite prospects in the system, the Kings aren’t close to contending for a third championship. Kopitar’s contract will probably do more harm than good for the Kings cap situation. They should trade him now, free up space, find young assets and start this rebuild. Plain and simple.
2. Corey Perry: Retooling In Anaheim
Corey Perry will go down as one of the greatest Ducks in franchise history when they retire). But the 32-year-old stars is nearing the end of his prime years, and Anaheim is seeing its Stanley Cup window close quickly.
19 goals and 53 points may look like good numbers to you, but those are below acceptable for Perry. This is a guy who scored at least 30 goals in six of the past seven 82-game regular seasons. In fact, the 53 points scored are Perry’s worst in a full regular season since 2006-07. Time to accept his best days are behind him.
If the Ducks fail to reach the Stanley Cup Final this year, then the Ducks need to start a shakeup. Bob Murray would be silly to think that the best way of winning another Cup is to keep this ageing core together. If Anaheim goes home early in the playoffs, a shakeup (not a rebuild), should take place. Trading away Perry to bring in more youth and speed may be the Ducks’ best option.
1. John Tavares: Don’t Lose Him For Nothing
John Tavares has been everything the New York Islanders could have asked for when they drafted him first-overall in 2009. He has 235 goals and 537 points in 587 games, and Johnny T has taken New York to the playoffs three times. The captain of the Isles is also slated to become a free agency on July 1st, 2018.
New York will obviously try to get an extension done in the offseason, but if they can’t get a deal done, they better look to trade him. Why is that? Well, the Islanders will maximize the return for Tavares if they trade him now instead of waiting until next year’s trade deadline. Teams are always more aggressive in trades during the offseason.
The Islanders could get an insane amount in return if they a) didn’t extend Tavares and b) opted to trade him. At least one young roster player, two elite prospects and multiple first-round picks could get something done. That would obviously be better for the Islanders, rather than see him leave in free agency.
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