The NHL trade deadline is a little over a month away and while we wait in anticipation for February 29th to arrive, many of us will spend our time speculating about possible deals that could be made. So, we've decided to compile a list of 15 bold predictions ahead of this year's deadline. The key word here is bold. We're not going to make any vague statements like, the Maple Leafs are going to be sellers and the Washington Capitals buyers. That's not exciting and also fairly obvious. Instead, we're going to go out on a limb and predict some big deals based on what we think could and perhaps should happen with specific details of what will be going each team's way.
Let's not confuse bold for stupid, though. You're not going to see any ridiculous message board style trades here. We're not suggesting the Penguins trade Sidney Crosby for P.K. Subban. We'd like to get these predictions right, so we've tried to make them somewhat realistic and have only included players that have been speculated to be available and given the information available to us, we could conceivably envision being dealt.
That does not include impending unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos. As exciting as a Stamkos trade would be, it's simply unrealistic to believe that it would happen. Yes, Stamkos is without a contract extension and looks like he's headed for unrestricted free agency on July 1st. Yes, the Tampa Bay Lightning could end up losing him for nothing. However, the Lightning are also the reigning Eastern Conference champions. If they want to make another run for the Stanley Cup this year, holding onto Stamkos is a risk they can't afford not to take.
Now that we have that pre-amble out of the way, let's take a look at our 15 bold trade predictions for the 2016 NHL trade deadline:
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16 Toronto Maple Leafs trade P.A. Parenteau to the New York Islanders for a 1st Round pick
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in rebuild mode and have several players on expiring contracts who could be shipped out at the deadline. One of them could be P.A. Parenteau, arguably the most intriguing of the bunch. After struggling through his lone season in Montreal, the Canadiens bought out Parenteau's contract and he signed a one year, $1.5 million deal in Toronto. He's played well thus far for the Maple Leafs, potting 11 goals and making himself comfortable on the second line alongside Tyler Bozak.
He'll be useful to any team looking to add some offense for the postseason and since teams always seem eager to hand out draft picks like candy at the deadline, he could possibly fetch a first round draft pick for the Leafs. We're betting Parenteau finds his way back to the Islanders, where he enjoyed his most success. This would also allow the Islanders to make another deal...
15 New York Islanders trade Kyle Okposo and Marek Zidlicky to the New York Rangers for Keith Yandle
New York Islanders winger Kyle Okposo and New York Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle are two high profile pending unrestricted free agents who look to be headed to the market, since no extensions are in sight. There's no sense that a contract extension is likely to happen for either player and they've both been speculated to be available for trade. Both teams are likely headed to the postseason, though, and looking to make a deep run. So, we're predicting that the two cross town rivals will come together on a deal (as odd as that sounds), with Okposo and 38-year-old pending free agent defenseman Marek Zidlicky going to the Rangers for Yandle.
14 Columbus Blue Jackets trade Cam Atkinson and a 2017 3rd round pick to the New York Rangers for a 2017 1st round pick
The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the midst of an abysmal season and as the deadline nears, they'll be looking to move out some pieces for future assets. One name that's been bandied about amongst others is Cam Atkinson. The 26-year-old is on pace to establish career highs in goals and points and is locked up for two more seasons after this one at a reasonable average salary of $3.5 million. The Blue Jackets and New York Rangers have made some deals with each other in the past and they could get together once again on this one as the Rangers gear up for another playoff run. The fact that Atkinson has term left on his contract should help his value, which is why we see him and a third round pick in 2017 being dealt for the Rangers' 2017 first round pick.
13 Carolina Hurricanes trade Eric Staal to the Washington Capitals for a 2016 1st round pick
Eric Staal is probably more likely to be dealt than anyone else on this list. He's in the final year of his deal and even though the Hurricanes have found themselves in the playoff hunt, no one really expected them to be there and they aren't viewed as Stanley Cup contenders. So, they could get away with dealing the elder Staal, especially if they believe he could be willing to return to Carolina once he hits free agency over the summer.
The Capitals have dominated the NHL all season long and many believe that 2016 will finally be their year to win it all. Adding another veteran with a Stanley Cup ring like Eric Staal couldn't hurt their chances. His value isn't what it once was, but the Capitals won't balk at surrendering a 2016 first round pick. The Hurricanes will have to retain half of Staal's salary to get the deal done.
12 Edmonton Oilers trade Griffin Reinhart to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Kerby Rychel
The Edmonton Oilers traded for Griffin Reinhart at the 2015 NHL Draft believing that the young defenseman would be capable of immediately stepping into their lineup and becoming a top four defenseman, but that hasn't happened and Reinhart has split the season between the Oilers and the AHL's Bakersfield Condors. That's not to say he won't eventually develop into what the Oilers were hoping for, but patience is starting to wear thin in Edmonton and they can't afford to wait. Meanwhile, Kerby Rychel, the 19th overall pick in 2013, is unhappy in Columbus and asked the Blue Jackets for a trade this past offseason. He too has split the 2015-16 season between the AHL and NHL, posting 20 points in 21 games for the Lake Erie Monsters and 9 points in 20 games for the Blue Jackets. We think a swap of struggling youngsters makes sense for both teams.
11 Lightning don't trade Jonathan Drouin
Jonathan Drouin has demanded a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning and the 20-year-old former third overall pick is refusing to play until he gets one, but that doesn't mean that GM Steve Yzerman needs to give in to his demands. Drouin has no leverage here, hence his holdout, and he was playing in the minors so it's not like the Lightning are missing out on his contributions. The team is playing well right now, so there shouldn't be any sense of urgency to get a deal done. Yzerman can make a statement that he won't be pushed around by his players if he holds off on a deal until at least the summer. When the offseason arrives and the Stamkos situation finally gets resolved, he will have a better idea of what the Lightning's needs are and then he make a deal or try to change Drouin's mind.
10 Winnipeg Jets trade Andrew Ladd to the Florida Panthers for a 2016 1st round pick and a 2017 3rd round pick
Andrew Ladd is another one of those pending unrestricted free agents who could be on the move. The Winnipeg Jets would like to lock their captain up to an extension, but it's looking less likely by the day and there's a real chance he could be dealt in the very near future. Enter the Florida Panthers. The Panthers sit atop the Atlantic Division and will likely be looking to add a veteran with playoff experience to help their young team make a postseason run. Ladd has two Stanley Cup victories on his resume, one of which came with the Chicago Blackhawks where he was traded for by current Panthers GM Dale Tallon, so the two seem like a natural fit.
9 Toronto Maple Leafs extend James Reimer, trade Jonathan Bernier to the Arizona Coyotes for a 2017 fourth round pick and Anders Lindback
James Reimer has been a bright spot in another lowly Toronto Maple Leafs season. Although the netminder has battled injuries this year, he's played phenomenally well when healthy and currently sports a .932 SV%. You'd think they might want to deal him when his value is this high, but head coach Mike Babcock seems to have more faith in Reimer than he does in Jonathan Bernier who's struggled for much of the season. The Maple Leafs have discussed an extension with Reimer and we're predicting they will sign him for three years at a $5.25 million average salary then trade Bernier to the Arizona Coyotes, who look to be playoff bound, but could use some insurance between the pipes. The Maple Leafs will retain half of Bernier's remaining salary at $4.15 million per year for this season and next and get a fourth round pick and Anders Lindback in return.
8 Edmonton Oilers trade Justin Schultz to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Sergei Plotnikov and a 2016 4th round pick
Justin Schultz was once the hottest prospect in hockey. When he spurned the Anaheim Ducks and chose to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2012, a number of teams lined up to add the young defenseman to their lineup. The Oilers ultimately won the bidding war, but Schultz has failed to live up to expectations in his four seasons in Edmonton and his offensive production has dropped off each year. He's been a healthy scratch recently and the Oilers would be more than willing to part with him.
The Penguins are need of some depth on the back end and we can see them dealing Sergei Plotnikov. The 25-year-old made the transition from the KHL to the NHL this season, but has provided minimal production in limited minutes. The Penguins will also throw in a fourth round pick to make the deal happen.
7 Vancouver Canucks trade Radim Vrbata to the Chicago Blackhawks for a 2017 1st round pick
Radim Vrbata is another pending unrestricted free agent who is likely to be dealt by February 29th. The Vancouver Canucks are transitioning to a younger team and are looking to move out some veteran players for future assets with Vrbata being their most high profile trade chip. His production has dipped from 31 goals last season to just 11 so far this season, but that won't scare teams away from parting with a first round pick to add some extra offense for the playoffs. Last season, the Chicago Blackhawks traded a first round pick, along with defenseman Klas Dahlbeck, to bring in Antoine Vermette for another Stanley Cup run. This year Vrbata will be their man.
6 St. Louis Blues trade Kevin Shattenkirk to the Montreal Canadiens for Alex Galchenyuk
There have been many reports that the St. Louis Blues have been shopping star defenseman Kevin Shatternkirk in recent weeks. Shattenkirk only has one year remaining on his contract and with plenty of depth on defense, the Blues would like to move him for a younger, less expensive asset. There's been speculation of a Shattenkirk for Drouin deal, but since we have Drouin staying put for now, Alex Galchenyuk could be a nice target for the Blues.
Galchenyuk is probably the Montreal Canadiens most tradable asset and with no end to the team's free fall in sight, it looks like the team will try to swing a big deal before making a coaching change. This deals gives them another defenseman to provide some offense alongside P.K. Subban and gives the Blues the young player they need.
5 Anaheim Ducks trade Frederik Andersen to the Calgary Flames and a 2017 1st round pick to the Boston Bruins - The Flames trade Kris Russell to the Bruins and a 2017 3rd round pick to the Ducks - The Bruins trade Loui Eriksson to the Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks were picked by some as the Stanley Cup favorites heading into this season, but they got off to a horrific start and have stumbled through most of the season, but now find themselves back in the playoff hunt. The team's biggest issue has been their inability to score goals. The addition of David Perron has helped, but they could still use more offense for sure. The Ducks' best trade piece may be goaltender Frederik Andersen. Andersen has played well, but he's had to split starts with 23-year-old John Gibson. Gibson appears ready to be the starter and with Anton Khudobin and Dustin Tokarski as the team's third and fourth options, they could easily deal Andersen.
The Calgary Flames seem like a logical choice as a team in need of an upgrade in goal, but they lack the offense the Ducks need, hence the three team deal with the Boston Bruins.
4 New York Islanders trade Travis Hamonic to the Minnesota Wild for Matt Dumba
The season of trade requests began with Travis Hamonic asking the New York Islanders to deal him to a Western team so that he could be closer to his home for personal reasons. The Islanders have said they will do their best to accommodate his request, but a deal has yet to take place. The 26-year-old defenseman has a very reasonable contract with three more years left on his deal at a less than $3.9 million per year average salary and is of interest to several Western teams, but the difficulty in getting a deal done is that the Islanders are looking to get another defenseman in return. The Minnesota Wild are the second closet team, behind the Winnipeg Jets, to Hamonic's home and have reportedly expressed interest. They may be hesitant to include 21-year-old Matt Dumba, but we think they'll acquiesce in the end.
3 Columbus Blue Jackets trade Scott Hartnell to the Nashville Predators for Mike Ribeiro and a 2016 2nd round pick
Scott Hartnell is another player the Blue Jackets could be looking to move. The 33-year-old has another three years remaining on his contract at a $4.75 million cap hit and although he remains a productive player right now, the Blue Jackets may want to move him to another club before his value drops off. The Nashville Predators are in a battle for a playoff spot and will be looking to add some offense to help get them there and possibly make a deep run. We're predicting that they bring Hartnell back to where he played the first six years of his career. The Blue Jackets will have to take back Mike Ribeiro's contract which has another year left at $3.5 million, but they'll also get the Predators' second round pick in 2016 in the deal.
2 Edmonton Oilers trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber
This one would've been more likely prior to the Ryan Johansen trade and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' injury, but a Nugent-Hopkins for Shea Weber swap still makes a lot of sense. Weber is 30 years old, but still has ten years left on his contract after this one. The Predators should be trying to rid themselves of that contract before it becomes an albatross around their neck. It may be hard to justify trading the face of the franchise, but a return of Nugent-Hopkins would definitely help.
As for the Oilers, the imminent return of Connor McDavid and the emergence of Leon Draisaitl makes Nugent-Hopkins expendable. The Oilers are in desperate need of some help on the backend and a veteran presence to help their young stars get over the hump. Weber could fill both of those needs.
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