When it’s not working out between a player and his NHL organization, it can be an agonizing situation. Think about it. The guy has to wake up in the morning, drag himself out of bed, show up to the rink and go through the motions, even though his heart isn’t in it.
Subpar production, an overloaded depth chart, a disproportionate salary or even personal spats with management can create a mutual distaste that leaves a player on the outside looking in like a jilted lover in a doomed relationship. And that’s counterproductive if you want to continue playing in the world’s most competitive hockey league.
For guys that find themselves in those disastrous situations, all they can think about is getting an opportunity to forge a new path with a different team. They’ve all but given up on reconciling their differences and have probably vocalized their request to be traded. All they can hope is that a change of scenery will help to revitalize their careers before they begin to circle the drain.
Usually, management will do their best to oblige. It’s a lose-lose situation to push the issue otherwise, and a rift within an organization can impact morale in the dressing room, which leads to all sorts of potentially negative outcomes.
While they’ll either have to wait until closer to the February trade deadline or hope for a midseason transaction that ships them off to greener pastures, here are the top 15 NHL players who cannot WAIT to be traded.
15 15. Dustin Brown
The captain’s “C” was ripped off Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown’s sweater over the summer, and it has been a tough pill for him to swallow. He had been the Kings’ captain since 2008 and led the team to its only two Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014. He took exception to the move, and his relationship with the organization has since been strained.
I guess you can’t blame Kings coach Darryl Sutter and GM Dean Lombardi for doing what they did. In the last four seasons, Brown’s offensive output has sputtered to sub-30 points campaigns, and the pressures of captaincy seemed like they were weighing heavy on him.
This year, Brown is having a slightly better season. But despite both him and Lombardi claiming they’ve put their differences behind them, you’ve got to know Brown still feels a tinge of humiliation considering the demotion. The Kings aren’t sure what they’ll do with his $5.875 million cap hit going forward, so clearly Brown would relish the opportunity for a fresh start with a new team.
14 14. Jack Johnson
Southwest Airlines’ catchy “Wanna get away?” slogan immediately comes to mind when you consider the plight of Jack Johnson. He needs to hightail it out of Columbus in a bad way, and I’ll explain why.
The former first-round draft pick in 2005 was reemerging as a solid two-way defenseman with the Columbus Blue Jackets in back-to-back years between 2013-14 and 2014-15. He had a combined 73 points those two seasons and was averaging over 24 minutes of ice time.
Then, with the arrival of coach John Tortorella in 2015-16, his production plummeted. Now, fresh-faced defenseman Zach Werenski is threatening to take his place as a top-4 D-man, and all of a sudden Johnson is hung out to dry. Add his devastating financial troubles thanks to his fiscally inept parents into the mix, and you’ll understand why he desperately needs a change of scenery – and fast.
13 13. Alexander Burmistrov
Alexander Burmistrov and the Winnipeg Jets are like that maddening couple that get together, fight, constantly break up, and then get back together again in the viscous cycle of a toxic, unhealthy relationship. They just need to be done with each other.
After Atlanta drafted him eighth overall in 2010, the talented Russian forward underperformed. He had a tumultuous relationship with then head coach Claude Noel over ice time and playing style after the team moved to Winnipeg, and after his third year in the league, he abandoned it altogether following the 2012-13 season and moved home to play in the Russian KHL.
After a couple of seasons there, he returned to the Jets – who had brought in a new head coach – in 2015 with the promise of a new beginning. That fell flat. He had an extremely sub-par year in 2015-16 and only had two points through 20 games this season. His relationship with the Jets needs to end for good before his NHL days come to a quick and early demise. Seriously, even the Winnipeg fans don’t like him.
12 12. Brandon Saad
He never wanted to be traded in the first place. In fact, after playing key roles in the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup championship-winning teams in 2012-13 and 2014-15, there was a mutual agreement between Saad and team management they both desired his continued presence in Chicago. They had big plans for him.
But then, when faced with a tough decision based on salary-cap constraints, Saad was shipped off to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a move that shocked the entire league.
With the Blue Jackets, Saad has been solid. He’s easily the best skater on the team, but once again, those salary cap demons are haunting him. The Blue Jackets don’t seem to know what to do, and Saad has even been close to being a healthy scratch a few times already this year. Poor Saad just wants a place where he doesn’t have to stress about his roster status.
11 11. Martin Hanzal
Big-bodied veteran centerman Martin Hanzal has a lot to offer, but the Phoenix Coyotes don’t seem to care much. They’ve got a slew of new forwards coming up through the ranks, and basically, they’re trying to make room for them. As a result, it doesn’t appear the Coyotes have any intention of re-signing him when his contract ends after this season.
With that in mind, Hanzal is going to want a trade. He’s also going to want a multi-year deal somewhere his physical presence will be felt. A number of teams will find him attractive, so he’ll have the opportunity to big things should he find himself in that situation.
For now, he’ll just need to be patient and wait for things to unfold.
10 10. Kevin Shattenkirk
While the St. Louis Blues busy themselves with the task of finding a No. 1 or 2 center to bolster their offense, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk’s name continues to rattle around like a pinball in the trade rumor mill. That’s been the case dating all the way back to last season.
Apparently he’s sick of hanging in limbo, because it’s been said that he wants to sign with a team closer to home on the East Coast. Similarly, there’s no sign from the Blues that they want him back next year.
Now in his final season before he becomes an unrestricted free agent, Shattenkirk, a solid top-4 D-man, would make for a good rental player before signing a new deal with a team – hopefully in the Eastern Conference.
9 9. Jacob Trouba
First, Jacob Trouba held out all summer on signing a new contract with the Winnipeg Jets. Next, he requested a trade in September, just as the 2016 preseason was cranking up. The 22-year-old defenseman said he wanted an opportunity to realize his potential as a right-hand defenseman with a team that gave him a better opportunity to do so.
Then, he missed 14 games while still negotiating a new deal. Finally, on Nov. 9, he ended the stalemate and agreed to a surprisingly short two-year contract. Not long after that, he “rescinded” his request to be traded, but there’s obviously some pretty palpable tension that still exists between him and Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.
They’re both grinning through their teeth and putting on a good show, but anybody who knows anything knows Trouba still wants out of the Jets uniform.
8 8. Jamie Oleksiak
An overloaded blue line does not a happy defenseman make. Jamie Oleksiak has been left out in the cold while the Dallas Stars work through the situation with their crowded depth chart on defense.
With as many as eight D-men on the roster, most of whom the Stars want to use in one way or another, Jamie Oleksiak had only dressed for 10 of the Stars’ first 24 games this year, and it’s public knowledge the organization is shopping him for a trade.
Oleksiak is powering through, though. He had three goals and four points in his first 10 games, including two goals in an overtime loss to the Blues on Nov. 28. He’s in a tough spot now, but the 6-foot-7, 260-pound defenseman is putting himself in position to get a fresh start with a team who will be happy to use him on a consistent basis.
7 7. Dougie Hamilton
Let me introduce you to the curious case of Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton was a high-flying, offensive defenseman in the OHL, and in parts of three seasons with the Boston Bruins between 2013 and 2015, he was a valuable piece of the defensive corps and a guy who could contribute on offense.
Facing salary cap constraints, Boston reluctantly traded Hamilton to Calgary in 2015. The Flames had big plans for the young defenseman and proved it by giving him a six-year, $34.5 million contract.
Hamilton had a good first year in Calgary last season. He had a career-high 43 points and was easily a top-4 defenseman. This year, however, is a different story. His offensive production is down, his average ice time is down, and he’s struggling to maintain his spot among the team’s top D-men. The honeymoon period in Calgary looks like it’s over for Hamilton, and the relationship is on the rocks.
His name has been on blast in trade rumors, and Calgary is deep on the blue line. For Hamilton, a trade would be happy news.
6 6. Marc-Andre Fleury
Like a fiery romance that fizzles out over time, Marc-Andre Fleury’s long-term stint in net for the Pittsburgh Penguins has run its course. Since the 2005-06 season, Fleury has been a dependable No. 1 goaltender, but with the way the past couple of seasons have played out, it looks like the two-time All-Star and Stanley Cup-champion is hanging his hopes on a trade out of Steel City.
After some recent injuries and unfortunate playoff outings, the Penguins have called on young goaltender Matt Murray to take on a bulk of the netminding duties. Murry even helped the Penguins win the Cup last season in place of ailing Fleury.
Murray and Fleury are splitting starts this season, and it has left Fleury exposed and in an unfamiliar situation. He reiterated his desire to return to his status as a No. 1 starter over the summer, so it would appear his best option is to seek out a trade to a team that can give him what he wants. Plus, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Pittsburgh, who could offload his $5.75 million cap hit.
5 5. Evander Kane
Evander Kane is to Buffalo as a bull is to a china shop. The Sabres’ decision to trade for him back in 2015 has been nothing short of disastrous both on and off the ice, and at this point, all Kane wants for Christmas is a one-way ticket out of town.
Kane arrived in Buffalo in 2015 looking for a new start after a tumultuous six seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets organization. During that time, had multiple clashes with teammates, suffered countless injuries and even had some run-ins with the law.
But trouble seemed to follow Kane back across the border. He was accused of harassment and trespassing in a Buffalo bar this past June, and to make his situation worse, the injury bug bit again, this time on Opening Day, and it sidelined him for 11 games.
Now back on the ice, Kane had just two points through his first 10 games of the season. With the rumor mill cranking up, clearly Buffalo is not the right place for Kane. All he can do now is wait for the call that he’s been dealt, and hopefully it’s to a better team.
4 4. Jonathan Drouin
The Jonathan Drouin saga is a hockey-themed soap opera replete with anger, futility, betrayal, reconciliation and even a little foreshadowing.
While you may not agree with his actions, you’ve got to admire the giant cahones Drouin had to request a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning as a mere second-year player on an entry-level contract last fall. He was dropped from top-line status and eventually sent all the way down to AHL Syracuse.
That set him off. He made the trade request, refused to play for Syracuse, got suspended, and then, to add insult to insult, didn’t get his desired trade. After sitting at home for six weeks, he begrudgingly made amends with the organization, returned to Syracuse, got called back up and shined in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Last summer, he rescinded his trade request and earned his spot back on the Lightning roster. He’s having a decent go of it this season, but he’s still not a top-liner. And in a contract year, you don’t just forget about why you originally wanted a trade.
3 3. Tomas Plekanec
Sometimes, it just comes down to chemistry. Tomas Plekanec is a good player. His $6 million-per-year salary will tell you as much. But when you just aren’t clicking with anyone else on the team, it might be time to try something new. As in a new team in a new city.
The Montreal Canadiens are all Plekanec as ever known. He’s been with the organization since they drafted him in 2001. He’s been a huge cog in the Canadiens’ offense since he arrived and has enjoyed nine straight years of scoring 30+ points (save for the 2012-13 lockout year).
But this year, he has been shuffled through linemates over and over, and nothing has worked. He had one lone goal and seven points through 23 games this year, and already the trade rumors are swirling. Maybe it’s for the best.
2 2. Jaroslav Halak
Jaroslav Halak has had a rough go of it of late. After a string of inconsistent seasons, Halak’s career had somewhat of a renaissance when he arrived on Long Island to join the Islanders in 2014.
He went 38-17-4 in 2014-15 and was the favorite to serve as the Islanders’ No. 1 backstop last year, but untimely injuries limited him to just 36 appearances and gave rise to solid veteran backup Thomas Greiss, who went above and beyond the Islanders’ expectation.
This year, the Islanders have not only Halak and Greiss on the roster, but a third goaltender, Jean-Francois Berube. That’s not normal, and Halak publicly made it clear through his agent, Allan Walsh, that it wasn’t working for him.
Islanders GM Garth Snow responded by putting Halak on the trade block, so obviously there is a growing tiff between the two parties. With just 14 starts through the team’s first 23 games and numbers that aren’t very good, you can imagine Halak just wants out of New York and to put his talents to work where they’ll be better utilized.
1 1. Evgeni Malkin
The most egregious case of recurring fake news is the persistent speculation that Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Evgeni Malkin is on the brink of being shipped out of town.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is constantly shooting down those rumors, citing Malkin’s no-trade clause before swearing there’s no plan to move the talented 30-year-old Russian anyways. But maybe this topic deserves a deeper dive.
I mean, has anyone even asked Malkin what he thinks? One look at his stat line and it’s plain as day that his once bountiful offensive production has been declining every year since the 2012-13 lockout. Plus, despite his commanding offensive presence, he’s been playing in the shadow of superstar Sidney Crosby since the day he arrived in the NHL. That makes it awfully hard to stand out in any meaningful way.
His seemingly constant injuries have also revealed the fact that the Pens are just fine without him in the lineup. He’s just turned 30, and there’s no chance Crosby is going anywhere soon, so if he wants to reinvigorate his declining career, he’s gonna want a trade.
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