The offseason always provides exciting trade news for NHL fans, and this year it could be extra-busy thanks to the pending expansion draft. Each team is going to lose a player for nothing to Las Vegas (well, technically for a hefty expansion fee, but you get what I mean), so some teams are scrambling to shed themselves of assets they can’t protect yet feel are too valuable to give away for free.
Sometimes trades come out of nowhere, but other times you can see them coming from miles away. I can recall one fateful day in late June 2016. Within an hour of each other, two of the biggest offseason blockbusters occurred: Taylor Hall was dealt to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson, and Shea Weber was acquired by the Canadiens for P.K. Subban.
Subban’s name had popped up in trade rumors prior to that trade, so you could sort of see that coming (although not a lot of people saw Weber being the piece going the other way). The Hall trade came out of nowhere, as neither of those names had showed up in any legitimate trade rumors prior. It goes to show you that expecting the unexpected is usually the way to go in the offseason.
Today’s list highlights 15 players who are most likely to be dealt this summer. Now, there are no guarantees here, but it’s safe to say that these players are, at the very least, available. Enjoy:
15 Alexei Emelin
A few years ago Alexei Emelin was almost untouchable in Montreal. He made the move to North America from Russia in 2011, and quickly established himself as a key member in Montreal’s top-four. His play has taken a minor step back since then, and it’s entirely possible that the Canadiens deal him this June before he loses all value.
14 Michael Neuvirth
Teams can of course protect just one netminder ahead of this June’s expansion draft, so I expect a lot of goalies to be on the move prior to June 17. It’s entirely possible that the Flyers choose to re-sign Steve Mason and trade what’s left of Michael Neuvirth’s contract, as Mason likely has a higher ceiling (though their ages and performances are both close to date).
13 Marco Scandella
The Minnesota Wild have one of the deeper rosters in the NHL, and as such they are likely to leave some of the better players available to Vegas. With a wealth of young forwards and at least five quality NHL defensemen, it could be tough times for Minnesota come June. They’ll likely choose to protect seven forwards and three defensemen (as opposed to any eight skaters), and I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to deal a D-man before the draft.
12 Jaroslav Halak
Another goaltender finds his way onto our list, and that’s of course the Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak. Halak is having arguably his worst NHL season to date, and he’s even spent substantial time in the AHL this year (where his numbers are actually very good, for the record). The relationship between goalie and team has turned sour, and both sides are looking for a fresh start.
11 Ryan Murray
Add Columbus to the list of teams who are starting to have some expansion concerns. With an ugly list of contracts that come with NMCs, the Jackets will almost certainly be forced to leave some quality hockey players unprotected. Defenseman Ryan Murray is still developing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Columbus dealt the blueliner so they don’t lose the former number two overall pick for nothing.
10 Matt Beleskey
Matt Beleskey signed in Boston as a UFA prior to 2015-16, and like most UFAs, he’s a little too expensive for what he brings to the table. This is why I believe that Boston will try to find a trade involving the winger, as cap space continues to be a problem in Beantown and Brad Marchand’s expensive extension kicks in next season.
9 Jordan Eberle
Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has been at the helm in Edmonton for almost two years now, and he’s slowly but surely built it into a “Chiarelli” team—that is to say, big, tough, and skilled. There are a few remnants left of the Oilers of old, and Jordan Eberle is the poster boy of that. He’s had a poor season by his standards, and his inability to consistently produce with Connor McDavid might punch his ticket out of town this summer.
8 Erik Gudbranson
The Canucks received a bit of flak from fans when they made a trade for Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson last offseason. He already had a reputation of being pretty slow, and GM Jim Benning traded away some valuable assets to acquire him. So far, Gudbranson’s time in Vancouver has been held to a minimum thanks to an injury-riddled 2016-17.
7 Vladimir Sobotka
This entry is a little off the board, as Vladimir Sobotka hasn’t played in the NHL since 2013-14. Sobotka made the move to the KHL, where he has spent the last three seasons of his pro career. He still owes one more season to the St. Louis Blues, and I’d imagine there is a belief on both sides that a change of scenery once Sobotka returns to North America would be for the best.
6 Sami Vatanen
The Ducks have a wealth of great, young defensemen, and come expansion they’re at risk of losing one of them for nothing. With the NMC attached to Kevin Bieksa’s contract (something I’m certain GM Bob Murray is regretting and probably wouldn’t have done had he known of the upcoming expansion draft), and four forwards with the same distinction, they might be forced to choose to protect just two of Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm, and Cam Fowler.
5 Marc-Andre Fleury
This trade was already supposed to have happened. With the emergence of Matt Murray, Marc-Andre Fleury has become expendable as the older and—in 2016-17, at least—less effective netminder. Murray continues to get the bulk of the starts, as head coach Mike Sullivan has been impressed with Murray’s performance ever since taking over late in 2015-16 for an injured Fleury.
4 Jacob Trouba
At the beginning of the 2016-17 NHL season, Jacob Trouba and the Winnipeg Jets reached a contractual impasse. The season got underway and the Jets started the year without Trouba, who eventually demanded a trade out of town. The two sides eventually reconciled their differences, and Trouba signed a two-year extension and his season got underway.
3 Eddie Lack
The Carolina Hurricanes were hoping they were getting the goalie of their future when they acquired Eddie Lack from the Vancouver Canucks a few years back. Things haven’t gone as planned for Lack since his arrival in Raleigh, and it might be time for the sides to part ways. Head coach Bill Peters ripped into Lack to the media a few weeks ago for his lackluster play so far this season, and that’s usually a good indication that a relationship is nearing its expiration date.
2 Gabriel Landeskog
The top two spots on the list belong to the Colorado Avalanche, as they are the worst team in the league and it’s no secret they’re looking for ways to shake things up. What better way to send a message to your club than dealing your team captain? Gabriel Landeskog hasn’t come as far as the Avs were probably hoping he would have by now (six years beyond his draft year), so they may look to deal him.
1 Matt Duchene
We ranked Matt Duchene as the most likely player to get traded this summer, and although it’s not a guarantee, I can’t imagine it not happening. Duchene’s offensive game has taken a hit as the Avalanche have fallen out of relevancy, and a change of scenery is probably exactly what he needs (just ask Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz how well it’s worked for him).
Duchene’s name was all over the rumor mill prior to the March 1 trade deadline, but obviously GM Joe Sakic was unable to find a sufficient return. Big blockbusters are always more difficult to make mid-season, as teams are often already up against the cap and can’t afford to take on the expensive contracts without money going the other way. That’s not a huge issue in the offseason, as GMs have the time to tinker with their rosters and become cap compliant before the season rolls around.
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