We are entering the silly season. Year after year we work ourselves up into a tizzy over all the potential blockbuster trades we will see approaching the NHL trade deadline. Yet, year after year, NHL General Managers fail to live up to the craziness we routinely saw in the pre-salary cap era. Now, it seems the bigger trade day might be the NHL draft, when GMs often unload big ticket names in an effort to jumpstart a rebuild or avoid a year of agonizing trade negotiations with a player who is approaching free agency. The cap itself is a big restriction on trades, as is the parity of the league. More teams think they have a chance of making the playoffs than ever, so come late February, they are loathe to trade off their best players, thus signalling to their fans that the season is over. And then of course there are no-trade clauses (NTCs) and no-movement clauses (NMCs) that put more power in the hands of players than the GMs.
This year, though, this year things will be different. And they might actually be. There are a couple big name players facing free agency both in this offseason and the next, and this could precipitate a trade frenzy. The tendency in recent years has been for big ticket players to re-sign with the teams that drafted them, but there are a few reasons why that may not the case this year. And big trades are like dominoes. Once one happens, a few others tend to fall in line shortly after. So here are eight trades we might well see by the trade deadline and another eight that seem likely ahead of the draft in June.
16 Deadline: Ottawa Trades Mike Hoffman to Calgary for 2nd Round Pick and a Prospect
After coming within one goal of the Stanley Cup Finals last year, the Senators’ season this year has been spectacularly disappointing. There’s a lot of talk about big names coming out of Ottawa. We’ve already seen Kyle Turris traded, with Matt Duchene coming in return in a trade that, so far, does not look to have gone Ottawa’s way.
Whether or not there is a fire sale in Ottawa, Mike Hoffman looks like a good bet to be dealt. He’s got a big contract, but he can provide offence, something teams are looking for going into the postseason. Teams like Calgary. The Flames would love to add some secondary scoring. But the Flames themselves have a few players they need to re-sign come this summer, so they might be leary of Hoffman’s contract. If Ottawa agrees to pay for part of Hoffman’s salary, they could get a good return for him. Say, a second rounder and their most prolific blueliner for their AHL affiliate, Tyler Wotherspoon..
15 Draft: Ottawa trades Erik Karlsson to Vegas for a 1st round pick, Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch, and Malcolm Subban
Perhaps no player’s future is more hotly debated than Erik Karlsson’s. The Senators star defenceman’s contract is ending in 2019 and he has publicly stated he will not be giving Ottawa a discount on his services. A rather peculiar thing to say, given that Karlsson’s season this year has not been that good by his own lofty standards.
The bottom line is that Ottawa cannot afford to pay Karlsson the $12+million he can get elsewhere. But who can? Many are mooting Toronto as a possible location, but Ottawa would be loathe to deal their star player and captain to their most hated rivals.
Vegas, with their shockingly amazing season this year, could be favourites for the Cup with Karlsson in their lineup next year.
And they have many pieces to trade --Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch, Malcolm Subban (or any of their five goalies, who are all good, apparently)-- and a first rounder. Ottawa might have to take the long term injured David Clarkson to free up some cap space in Vegas; if so, the Golden Knights will have to give an additional draft pick or two.
14 Deadline: New York Trades Rick Nash to San Jose for a Second Round Pick and a Prospect
The New York Rangers hold a lot of the cards this February. After a slow start to the season, the Rangers picked things up and got hot, only to have cooled off again in recent weeks. What has been an underwhelming season has been compounded by their placement in the ultra competitive Metropolitan Division. The wise decision for the Blueshirts looks to be to deal away some assets while they can still get a return.
Rick Nash arrived in the Big Apple in 2013 with some fanfare, and though he has played well, the Rangers never quite got the success they had hoped for with him. Now he is set to be an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) come July 1.
Look for the Rangers to deal their top six power forward for a draft pick and a prospect.
There are several possible destinations, such as Nashville and Winnipeg, but with Joe Thornton recently going on the injured reserve, the San Jose Sharks look most in need of Nash’s services. Perhaps 24-year-old winger Barclay Goodrow and a second rounder would be sufficient.
13 Draft: New York Trades Ryan McDonagh to Winnipeg for Jacob Trouba and Nic Petan
Ryan McDonagh’s contract expires in 2019, so there’s not the same rush to trade him now as there is with Nash, But if the Rangers go for a full on rebuild, they will be tempted to trade McDonagh, who might be their most valuable asset (beyond Henrik Lundqvist). It’s a bit hard to imagine the Blueshirts going into full on rebuild mode, though. They might try to get a young roster player in exchange.
With their great season so far, the Jets won’t think they’re far off from Stanley Cup contention. A reliable veteran defenseman like McDonagh would help them greatly.
Because they have to sign Patrik Laine to a contract extension, pending RFA Nic Petan looks to be the odd man out. Petan, Jacob Trouba, and a draft pick could get them McDonagh, but Trouba’s recent injury obscures his value; he could be out a long time. Right now, his season’s numbers are close to McDonagh’s, so it’s unclear how much else they’d have to offer New York. Winnipeg could throw in a conditional pick based on re-signing McDonagh to seal the deal.
12 Deadline: New York Trades Michael Grabner to Colorado for Prospects/Picks
Though not quite as such a big name as Rick Nash, Michael Grabner could potentially receive more attention on the trade market. The Austrian has had a good season and his salary is more affordable than Nash’s. And, like Nash, he’s schedule to become a UFA come July 1.Trading away Grabner doesn’t communicate the same message of capitulation and starting over again as might trading Nash, so the stakes are lower with Grabner.
Grabner, too, will have several suitors, but perhaps Colorado is the likeliest destination for him. He’d fit in with their slick, stickhandling core and would give them some added firepower. For a team who had one of the worst seasons in NHL history in 2016-17, the Avs look destined for the 2018 playoffs; but they’ll need to add some help if they’re going to do anything there. They could easily trade some of the 67 pieces that received for Duchene. Say, Nashville’s second round pick and a fourth rounder of their own.
11 Draft: Montreal Trades Alex Galchenyuk to Colorado for Tyson Barrie
The favourite GM of hockey writers across the land is Marc Bergevin. The Habs GM has proven that he’s not afraid to pull the trigger on a big move. The only problem is, some of those big moves have not looked great in retrospect. Neither the Shea Weber or Jonathan Drouin trades should be called awful, but you can’t say the Canadiens were the winning side in either.
And now, a season after signing Carey Price to a mega contract, the Habs are outside of the playoffs and things are looking bad. The worst part is probably the furor over Alex Galchenyuk who, far from being the first line center they wanted, is being used as a winger. He needs to get out of La Belle Provence. But the Habs are not a team that takes a few years to rebuild.
For better or worse, they always want to be contenders, so Bergevin will probably want a roster player in return.
Tyson Barrie is currently injured right now, but he’s a good defenceman and Avalanche GM Joe Sakic is believed to be willing to part with him. A straight up trade could help both players.
10 Deadline: Detroit trades Mike Green to Tampa Bay for Prospects/Picks
As of right now, GM Ken Holland has not given up hope that the Red Wings can make the playoffs. But the writing is on the wall. Only three Atlantic Division teams will make the playoffs; the Metropolitan will likely gobble up both wildcard spots. At the time of writing, the Wings sitting 15 points behind the Maple Leafs in third in the Atlantic. The jig is surely up.
Mike Green is getting a lot of attention. The all star defenceman has experience, an offensive upside, and a good shot. Tampa Bay, many people’s favorites to raise Lord Stanley’s Mug come June, are looking for one final piece of the puzzle to secure glory. Former Red Wing and current Tampa GM Steve Yzerman is believed to be very interested in Green, but won’t surrender a roster player for him. Look for a collection of prospects and picks to go the other way (maybe Slater Koekkoek and a second rounder).
9 Draft: Vancouver trades The Sedins to Florida For a Draft Pick and Conditional Picks
The big talk in Vancouver is whether or not Canucks GM Jim Benning will ask the Sedins to waive their NMCs ahead of the trade deadline. If he does, we could well have a Mats Sundin situation in Vancouver. I think it’s unlikely the Sedins will up and move from the only North American city they’ve ever called home quickly, even if they are asked, so don’t look for them to move before the draft.
To be fair, this entry is a bit of a cheat. The Sedins will probably enter free agency on July 1 regardless. But by then, Benning will likely have made it clear to them they are not in his plans. So trading their rights seems likely.
Whether or not they will sign with the team that trades for them is another story, but Florida seems a good fit.
The Panthers seemed to have missed the veteran presence that Jaromir Jagr gave them in 2016-17, and the Sedins can still add offence as well. A third rounder and a conditional pick (or two) upon their signing in Florida could get this deal done. After that, who knows. Maybe the twins finally separate.
8 Deadline: Edmonton Trades Patrick Maroon to St. Louis for Carl Gunnarsson/Robert Bortuzzo and a Draft Pick
The Oilers are in a weird spot. They’re one of several teams who were thought to be locks to make the postseason but who are now on the outside looking in. A good run in December has petered out and now they are far off the pace. However, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli will hope this season is just a blip, so we won’t see a fire sale in Edmonton.
But Patrick Maroon’s contract is coming to an end. As a pending UFA, he is quite likely to be dealt before the deadline. St. Louis is the ideal destination for Maroon, who is a St. Louis native. With Bouwmeester expected back soon, the Blues can spare a defenceman and with the Oilers constantly looking to shore up their back end, Maroon going for Carl Gunnarsson or Robert Bortuzzo and a low draft pick seems a good bet.
7 Draft: Arizona Trades Oliver Ekman-Larsson to Philadelphia for a Draft Pick and Travis Sanheim
One of the more discussed players is Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The Swedish defenceman is very good, but perhaps hasn’t quite lived up to expectations yet. He’s still young, though, and teams are definitely interested. The problem is, Coyotes GM John Chayka swears there’s no impetus to move him and Ekman-Larsson, for his part, isn’t believed to have requested a trade. Plus, Arizona has a new owner, so for once, their future seems solid.
However, the Coyotes suck. They were bad last year and they’re down right abysmal this season. What is the plan for this team? Do they even have one? On the ice or off it? In any event, Ekman-Larsson is probably going somewhere.
As with seemingly every defenseman, Toronto is interested. But the Leafs might have a lead on a slightly bigger fish. Philadelphia could use Ekman-Larsson, and they can afford to trade for him.
Maybe Travis Sanheim, a second and fourth round pick. Chayka might expect more, but Ekman-Larsson has yet to prove himself to be elite, so this might be the best deal on offer.
6 Deadline: Edmonton Trades Mark Letestu to Pittsburgh for Ian Cole and a Fifth Round Draft Pick
After a very shaky start, the two-time defending champs looked like they would miss out on the playoffs, but they’ve righted the ship and are currently on the right side of the playoff line. But the margins for error in the Metropolitan are razor thin. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is thought to be looking to add a piece that can galvanize his team and provide character down the stretch.
Rutherford is thought to think highly of Mark Letestu. Letestu, another pending UFA, played well in last year’s postseason, but won’t be sorely missed in Edmonton. Seeing as how d-man Ian Cole seems to have fallen out of favor with Pens coach Mike Sullivan, Cole and a low pick to Edmonton for Letestu is very doable.
5 Draft: Ottawa trades Zack Smith to Edmonton for a Third Round Draft Pick
The Senators could well have a fire sale by the trade deadline, but Zack Smith’s contract runs until 2021 so there’s no rush with him. If we do see Ottawa go for a major roster refresh, Smith is almost certain to go, given that Ottawa is relatively deep down the middle. If Ottawa wants to rebuild, they’ll need draft picks, and Smith could get them third rounder (a second might be just out of reach).
The Oilers, who will expect to bounce back next season, could use Smith for depth and a veteran presence on the team.
This deal makes a lot of sense for both teams, so a draft day deal looks likely here. Provided that Edmonton isn’t one of the 10 teams Smith was forsworn with his Modified NTC.
4 Deadline: Columbus trades Jack Johnson and Conditional Pick to Boston for Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Matt Grzelczyk
This is an interesting one. Columbus has a had a very good season and are likely to make the playoffs. And yet, pending UFA Jack Johnson has stated his desire to leave. Johnson’s a peculiar case. He has reportedly had money issues, having recently declared personal bankruptcy due to some investments that went sour. You’d think he’d be happy to see out his contract with one of the better teams in the league and then test his value on the open market. But Johnson doesn’t want to wait. Luckily for Columbus, they’re flush with blueliners. Boston could use an experienced d-man, however, to eat up some of the aging Chara’s minutes. And Boston has a deep roster of prospects. A trade sending Johnson and a conditional pick to Beantown for Swedish AHL star Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and pending RFA (Matt Grzelczyk) could be in the works.
3 Draft: Montreal Trades Max Pacioretty to Vegas for Erik Haula, Prospect
Perhaps this entry should be titled, “Pacioretty for any half-decent center Montreal can possibly get”. The Habs need a number one center like Popeye needs spinach or DJ Khaled needs to yell his own name. And it’s clear that their captain has grown weary of the negativity and pressure in Montreal, as their captains generally do. But he hasn't requested a trade and Montreal would hate to be seen to give up on a season, so he’ll probably be around until the draft.
What center could they get? Erik Haula is perhaps the best bet.
He has 33 points this season at the time of writing, yet Vegas is surprisingly deep down the middle. As mentioned earlier, after this glorious inaugural season, there’s little reason to think the Golden Knights won’t be Cup contenders next season. Pacioretty’s leadership, experience, goal scoring, and physical presence would be a great addition.
2 Deadline: Buffalo Trades Evander Kane to Columbus for what Columbus Gets for Jack Johnson/Picks
Columbus might be flush with defensemen but they could use some additional scoring if they’re going to make a playoff run. Evander Kane is having a bumper year with the struggling Sabres and is a pending UFA. It sounds like a match made in heaven.
Buffalo’s seemingly constant rebuilding process can’t quite get off the ground. So they still want more prospects and picks. It would be smart of Columbus to flip whatever they get for Jack Johnson to Buffalo. If the above Boston trade happens, the Sabres might prefer the more-NHL ready Grzelczyk. The only trouble is, Sabres GM Jason Botterill is reportedly looking for a king’s ransom for Kane, along the lines of what Colorado got for Duchene. A roster player, two prospects, and a draft pick. But Kane is a pending UFA, so Botterill will almost certainly have to come down if this deal is going to happen. Maybe we end up seeing Grzelczyk, a second rounder, and a less heralded prospect go for Kane.
1 Draft: Los Angeles trades Drew Doughty to Toronto for Mitch Marner, Connor Carrick, 1st Round Pick, and 4th Round Pick
Toronto might not need Erik Karlsson or Oliver Ekman-Larsson because there’s a good chance they can get Drew Doughty. Doughty has repeatedly stated his interest in playing in Toronto someday and earlier this year he stated he was looking to get the maximum possible money on his next contract. Kings’ management can’t be happy with statements like this. Nor can they be happy to have seen their strong start to the season dwindle and their current position of fifth in the Pacific Division.
Toronto has a glut of young talent with which they can part. The incredibly talented Mitch Marner seems to elicit nothing but enmity from Leafs coach Mike Babcock, so we can assume he’d go the other way. Add in young d-man and pending RFA Connor Carrick, and then a combination of of prospects and picks (say, a first rounder and fourth) and this deal could be done before July 1.