“I loved playing here, but at the end of the day, it’s a business.” Raise your hand if you’ve heard that line before. I know I have. You hear it every time a player gets traded from one team to another. Often these farewells are cloaked in a bittersweet mix of confusion, disappointment, and melancholy.
It’s tough for players to uproot their families to move to an unfamiliar environment in a new city. These players make millions of dollars, but at the end of the day, they’re still human, and being dealt to a new team and handling the stress of settling down in another city takes an emotional toll.
However, trades are rarely personal in nature. Oftentimes, trades happen because a team thinks it can fetch a decent return of players to fill a specific need. Other times, trades help a team clear salary cap space and albatross contracts in order to sign important players.
This NHL offseason saw no shortage of trades. Sure, the biggest rumored name, Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, chose to remain in Tampa Bay, but players like Taylor Hall, Shea Weber, P.K. Subban, Andrew Shaw, Brian Elliot, and Derick Brassard will all suit up in new colors this coming season.
Let's take a look at 15 stars who could be next.
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15 Philadelphia Flyers - Marc Streit
The emergence of Shayne Gostisbehere on Philadelphia’s blueline may spell the end of Marc Streit’s tenure in the City of Brotherly Love. The 38-year-old Swiss defenseman put up a solid 23 points in a 62-game, injury-shortened season. He also has one season remaining on his contract with a salary-cap hit of $5.25 million. The Flyers should deal him before they let him walk away for nothing in 2017. The Flyers only have $7.5 million in salary cap room for 2016-17. They’d love to re-sign restricted free agents Brayden Schenn, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning, and Nick Cousins. Getting Streit’s salary off the books is a great way for GM Ron Hextall to free up some room on the team payroll.
Philly wants to get younger on the blueline, and Streit’s age and contract status make him a favorable piece to move at or before the trade deadline. With Streit’s injury history, the Flyers should look to deal him sooner rather than later. Expect a younger d-man like Michael Del Zotto to replace Streit in terms of minutes and defensive ability.
14 Toronto Maple Leafs - Tyler Bozak
No offseason is complete without the annual speculation that the Toronto Maple Leafs might trade one of their top players. In years past, everyone from Nazim Kadri to Dion Phaneuf was subjected to trade rumors. This year, that player should be Tyler Bozak.
With the Leafs planning yet another rebuild after a disappointing 29-42 record in 2015-2016, Bozak is a relatively cheap option to move. Bozak has a favorable cap hit of $4.2 million, which likely won’t handcuff a team willing to take him on. His underwhelming 12 goal, 35-point season this past season could provide further justification for dealing him.
Perhaps a change of scenery could revitalize his game. At 30, Bozak is smack in the middle of his prime and is still capable of producing at a good clip for the remaining three years of his deal. With a better supporting cast, he could return to the 23-goal, 49-point form from two seasons ago.
13 Tampa Bay Lightning - Ben Bishop
Ben Bishop is a great goaltender. However, playoff performances often define a player’s career, and Bishop has missed at least one playoff game due to injury in three straight seasons. Bishop’s replacement, 22-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy took advantage of his opportunity during both the 2015 and 2016 playoffs. In 2016, he went 3-4 in eight appearances with a respectable .925 save percentage.
The Lightning rewarded Vasilevskiy with a three-year contract extension this offseason, but remained unsure about Bishop, who is an impending unrestricted free agent with a $5.95 million cap hit. Bishop is only 29, but seems to break down every season. He suffered a wrist injury in the 2014 playoffs, a groin injury in the 2015 playoffs, and an ankle injury in the 2016 playoffs. Vasilevskiy is younger, cheaper, and most importantly, healthier. He has proved capable of being the Bolts’ goalie of the future.
12 Buffalo Sabres - Evander Kane
As I noted in an earlier article, Evander Kane’s erratic behavior off the ice has him on a slippery slope with Sabres management. In July, Kane was charged with several misdemeanors stemming from a June incident where he allegedly grabbed three women inside a Buffalo nightclub. This came months after the embattled forward dealt with allegations of sexual assault.
At just 25 years of age, Kane is a young forward with bonafide scoring ability. He scored 30 goals and 57 points back in 2011-12 as a Winnipeg Jet. The 2009 fourth overall pick netted 20 goals in 65 games for Buffalo this past season. When his head is on straight, Kane can help a team as power forward with grit and scoring touch. However, with two years and $12 million remaining on his deal, Kane isn’t the most attractive trade option. Sabres GM Tim Murray just needs to hope Kane’s off-ice woes are over. If not, it’d behoove the Sabres to trade him for whatever they can get.
11 Columbus Blue Jackets - Scott Hartnell
Few players have remained as productive into their mid thirties as Blue Jackets veteran Scott Hartnell. The 34-year-old tallied 23 goals and 26 assists in a 49 point 2015-16 season. The Jackets should trade him while his value is high. His performance isn’t a factor, but his salary is.
With an expected $74 million salary cap for 2016-17, the Blue Jackets have only $4.8 million in cap space. Management would love to use most of that money to re-sign franchise defenseman Seth Jones and forward William Karlsson to new deals. Hartnell, meanwhile, is under contract for three more seasons with a $4.75 million cap hit.
Columbus floated Hartnell’s name in trade talks since the early 2016, so it’s no secret they would like to move him. Hartnell can bring tenacity and veteran leadership to a team like the Arizona Coyotes or the Buffalo Sabres. Columbus should be able to get a solid return for him.
10 Edmonton Oilers - Jordan Eberle
Much like the Maple Leafs, the Edmonton Oilers seem to find themselves in the midst of trade rumors every year.
The Oilers shocked the hockey world when they dealt star winger (and former number one draft pick) Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson. Jordan Eberle, the 22nd overall pick in 2008, would’ve been a better piece to move in the deal.
Management should still consider trading Eberle this season. The 26-year-old forward is signed through 2018-2019 with an annual cap-hit of around $6 million. He scored 43 points as a rookie, and a career-best 76 points (including 34 goals) in 2011-12.
However, he hasn’t been quite the same player since suffering a shoulder injury during a preseason game last year. With the Oilers in perpetual need of defensive help, they’d be wise to move Eberle, a valuable young piece, in a deal for a stalwart blueliner who can sure up Edmonton’s defense.
9 Vancouver Canucks - Loui Eriksson
After months of trade speculation, Bruins forward Loui Eriksson signed a six-year, $36 million deal with the Vancourver Canucks on July 1. I know what you’re thinking: Why would the Canucks trade Eriksson when he hasn’t even played a game for the team yet? Here’s the thing: The trade won’t happen this year. In fact, it shouldn’t go down until the end of the 2017-18 season.
That is when the Sedin twins’ contracts end. They will both be 38 years old, and at that age, could consider retirement. If that happens, the Canucks may not have an elite passer to help Eriksson maintain his 30-40 goal potential. Plus, the high-scoring Swede will be 32 in 2018, and will only have one or two productive years left. The Canucks should consider trading him after 2018 for a crop of younger players.
8 Anaheim Ducks - Sami Vatanen
Ever since they drafted Cam Fowler, the Ducks have built their farm system with a surplus of talented defensemen. Sami Vatanen, coming off a career year with 38 points, is one such player. In June, Vatanen re-signed with the Ducks for four years, but with AHL call-ups like Shea Theodore looking to crack the lineup full-time, the 25-year-old Finn could still yield a nice return. He can move the puck well on the power play, where he has potted 11 goals in the past two seasons, and can play solid defense in his own zone.
Defensively challenged teams such as Edmonton or Carolina could be potential fits for Vatanen. I could also picture him in Boston playing alongside Torey Krug. So, despite his recent re-signing, Vatanen is a valuable piece for the Ducks to dangle, especially since the team would love more wing depth.
7 Colorado Avalanche - Tyson Barrie
Another talented young defenseman, Tyson Barrie, could also find himself on the trading block in coming seasons. Barrie finished among the top five scorers on his team, scoring 13 goals and 36 assists for 49 points. At just 25, Barrie still has room to improve his game. The ceiling on this kid is sky-high.
Barrie re-signed with the Avs in July for four-years, $5.5 million annually. However, negotiations leading up to the deal were strained, and Barrie filed for arbitration. Coach Patrick Roy reportedly called him a bottom pair defenseman. Roy resigned as coach just last week. Coincidence? Maybe not.
Hopefully any tension between Barrie and team management has subsided now that he is signed and Roy is gone. Acrimony aside, if the Avs’ defensive woes continue (they’ve finished among the bottom ten teams in goals against the past two seasons), the Avalanche may look to deal Barrie for stronger defensive help.
6 Edmonton Oilers - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Much like Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent Hopkins is no stranger to the trade rumors swirling around Edmonton. The 23-year-old center suffered the worst season of his young career. He scored just 34 points in an injury-shortened 55-game campaign. The rise of rookie superstar Connor McDavid and strong play of fellow center Leon Draisaitl has pushed Nugent-Hopkins down the Oilers’ depth chart.
The fact is, as much as he has struggled last season, the kid is too good to be a third-line center. Remember, he was the number one pick of the 2011 draft, and is only two seasons removed from a 24-goal, 56-point season.
As stated earlier, the Oilers could always use more defensive help, so expect GM Peter Chiarelli to package Nugent-Hopkins in a deal to a team with plenty of stalwart defensemen such as Minnesota or Anaheim.
5 San Jose Sharks - Patrick Marleau
Patrick Marleau will 37 years old when the puck drops for the 2016-17 season. The Sharks alternate captain may be in the twilight of his career, but he is still productive for his age. He comes off a 25-goal season for a San Jose team that fought all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before bowing out to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
Marleau enters the final year of a three-year contract worth $20 million. As is typical of veteran players in contract years, Marleau may be dealt around the trade deadline. Just last year, writers speculated whether Marleau could fit on teams like the New York Rangers, Nashville Predators or Anaheim Ducks.
Given Marleau’s age, many teams will probably pass on him, or Marleau himself may retire at season’s end. If the latter occurs, the Sharks could deal him for a defensive prospect or future draft pick. He may be a bit older, but that doesn’t mean the Sharks should let him walk for nothing.
4 New York Islanders - Jaroslav Halak
The Islanders’ starting goalie job has been nothing more than a revolving door of inconsistency ever since the end of Rick DiPietro’s injury-plagued career. Jaroslav Halak stabilized the position to some degree during the 2014-15 season, earning 38 wins in 59 starts.
However, the Slovak netminder couldn’t stay healthy last year, as injuries limited him to just 36 games in 2015-16. The 31-year-old is coming off a season-ending injury (suffered in March) and will likely start 2016-2017 as the backup to Thomas Greiss. The Islanders also hope young AHL goaltender Jean-Francois Berube can make the jump full-time to the NHL level this season. Berube earned three wins in seven starts last season.
Isles GM Garth Snow should make the smart choice and move Halak, an impending unrestricted free agent, and his $4.5 million cap hit to free up some money and provide a team with serviceable goaltending help.
3 St. Louis Blues - Kevin Shattenkirk
There has been a lot of talk about elite puck-moving defensemen on this list. However, no blueliner is more adept at that skill than Kevin Shattenkirk. The St. Louis Blues defensemen scored 14 goals and added 30 assists in 2015-2016 and tallied another 11 points in 20 playoff games.
Shattenkirk is 27 and enters the final year of his contract with a cap hit of $4.25 million. That number is extremely favorable given his production. What does that mean for St. Louis? It means they will have to give him a sizeable raise next offseason. With a projected $11.9 million of cap room for next summer, and the expressed desire to re-sign younger guys like Jaden Schwartz, the Blues may not have enough room to re-sign Shattenkirk.
Dealing the Greenwich, CT, native could yield a nice return of young players to replace departed forwards David Backes and Troy Brouwer. Worry not, Blues fans. The strong play of rookie Colton Parayko should help soften the blow of Shattenkirk’s loss.
2 Pittsburgh Penguins - Marc-Andre Fleury
By most standards, Fleury’s great 2015-16 season, which included 35 wins, a .921 save percentage, and a career-best 2.29 goals against average, should quell any concern about his status in Pittsburgh.
However, take another look at the stellar play of rookie netminder Matt Murray as he guided the Penguins to the 2016 Stanley Cup, and decide whether Fleury is still the franchise goalie. Yes, Fleury won the Cup for Pittsburgh in 2009, but fell victim to a litany of injuries the past few seasons, including a concussion that sidelined him for most of the 2016 playoffs.
With the 2017 expansion draft approaching, rules state that teams can only protect one of their goalies. Would you go with the 22-year-old Murray, or the 31-year-old Fleury? Also, there is no shortage of teams that would love to have veteran goaltending help, including the Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs.
1 New York Rangers - Rick Nash
As a diehard Rangers fan, I was as ecstatic when I found out Rick Nash was coming to Broadway in 2012. My team finally had an elite scorer, hungry to join a playoff contender and win the Cup.
Safe to say things haven’t panned out that way. Nash’s solid regular season stats (104 goals in 248 games) have been dwarfed by his lackluster playoff performances. During the Blueshirts’ improbable Stanley Cup Final run in 2014, Nash scored just 3 goals and 7 assists in 23 games.
Ten points? From a top-10 forward in the NHL? Please.
The 2015-16 postseason saw slight improvement (2 goals and 4 points in 5 games) but proved insufficient. Nash plays solid defense, but teams don’t pay star forwards $7.8 million per year to forecheck.
If any team needs to trade a star player, it’s the New York Rangers. However, given his age (32) and annual cap hit, it’s unlikely Nash dons another team’s sweater this season.
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