There will be trades at the 2012 NHL Draft. It's not a question of if, but a question of who. Every year the NHL Draft is both a time for new players to enter the league and old players to find new teams.
Technically, the offseason began for most teams several weeks ago, but the real kickoff event for the NHL offseason is the NHL Entry Draft. The draft is a beacon of hope for teams who finished at the bottom of the standings last year, as well as a perfect chance for teams to trade to move up and down in the draft.
The draft is also typically the time where teams have the most salary cap flexibility, which means it's a perfect time for teams to trade for big-name players.
It's also one of the last times a team can trade an upcoming free agent, because it gives the team acquiring him enough time to negotiate a deal before he hits the open market.
Here are five players to watch on Draft Day because they've been involved in recent trade rumors around the NHL. There's a good chance they'll be on a new team before all is said and done.
Alexander Radulov spent most of last year playing in the KHL before coming to play for the Nashville Predators for the last nine games of the regular season and the playoffs.
In 17 combined games between the regular and postseason, he scored four goals and added nine assists for a total of 13 points.
But teams get excited when they hear about Radulov because of his numbers before he left for the KHL—a 26-goal, 58-point season, as well as his flashes of talent. He's shown at times that he is great at controlling the puck and that he has the capability of being a very talented playmaker.
Despite needing more production from their top six forwards, it appears that Nashville will not be signing Radulov to a new contract, making him a free agent. If he hits the open market, he will be a highly coveted player, so interested teams might try to trade for his rights in order to negotiate with him before anyone else can.
Nashville is intending to part ways with Radulov anyway, so they would probably be very open to any type of trade for him, making him a very a relatively cheap pickup for some team looking to improve it's offense (via the Chicago Tribune).
The problem with Alexander Radulov is that he's always a threat to abandon his team for the KHL if he doesn't like the way things are going, which means he'll need to be sent to a contender.
There is also no guarantee that any team that trades for him will be able to sign him, especially since the KHL can usually offer more money than NHL teams are able to.
Still, I expect Radulov to be involved in a trade at the draft if only because he'll be so cheap to pick up that it will offset the risk.
Look for a team like the Detroit Red Wings or New York Rangers to make a move for him in attempts to strengthen their offense and put them one step closer to the title that both teams came up short on this year.
Roberto Luongo was one of the best goalies in the NHL for several seasons. Prior to the end of this past season, he was the starter for Vancouver Canucks, having led them to within one game of a Stanley Cup championship.
But in the first round of the playoffs, Luongo looked shaky, and he was pulled for Corey Schneider. Schneider played very well, as he has in most of his opportunities in the NHL. Vancouver has seemingly decided to go with him as their goalie of the future.
Given how much money they owe Luongo, chances are they don't want to pay their backup like he's one of the top goalies in the NHL.
This means Luongo will likely be dealt before the end of the Draft.
While his contract numbers will make some teams shy away, 10 more years with a cap hit of over $5 million is a significant investment in a goalie coming off a bit of a career downturn. There is no denying that Luongo still has the talent to help a team win if he can get into a good situation.
Aside from his contract, the other hold up on a Luongo trade is his no-trade clause. He has to approve any trade that Vancouver attempts to include him in, which limits what teams Vancouver can trade him to by a lot.
Since Luongo is still chasing a Stanley Cup, he probably wants to go to either a contender or a team that is very close, and not many of those teams need a goalie. The Toronto Maple Leafs seem to be the best fit for Luongo, as they have enough offensive talent to be a playoff team if they can solidify their defense and goaltending.
Ryan Suter is one of the best defensemen in the league, having been a big part of Nashville's strong defense the past several seasons. He is a strong shut-down defensemen capable of playing a ton of ice time against the other teams' top forwards.
The problem for Nashville is that Suter's contract is up and he is due to be a free agent, along with fellow star defenseman Shea Weber. Since Nashville just locked up their goalie, Pekka Rinne, to a long-term deal, it will probably be hard financially for them to keep both Suter and Weber—even if both players were willing to come back.
And since Weber is the Captain and seems more willing to come back, it looks like Suter is on his way out of Nashville.
Suter has no known off-the-ice issues and can be traded wherever Nashville wants to trade him, but since he's an unrestricted free agent, it's unlikely that most teams will send an offer without having a lot of confidence that they can lock him up long term.
Suter probably won't be cheap if he is traded because there should be several teams lining up to try and get him, as well as the chance that the Predators decide they'd be better served just holding onto him and trying to convince him to stay.
The Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers look to be very interested in adding a top tier defensemen, given their need to replace Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Pronger, respectively.
Zach Parise and the New Jersey Devils had a great playoff run, coming just short of winning the Cup, which helped validate New Jersey's decision to hold onto their star player at the trade deadline.
That said, he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and it seems unlikely he'll return to New Jersey, although they certainly helped their case by making a deep run.
Parise is easily a top six forward on any team and brings with him leadership and solid two-way play. Any team in the NHL would be happy to have him, but he's going to command a huge salary and probably only wants to play for a contender.
He's also said he doesn't want to play for anyone in the Atlantic Division except the Devils, which rules out three of the other top teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Devils want to keep Parise, there is no doubt about that, but if they feel like he won't re-sign, the best move would be to trade him to get something in return, rather than watch him walk away for nothing July 1st.
The Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota Wild appear to be the front-runners to make a trade for Parise in hopes of singing him before he hits the open market and commands a more expensive contract.
Rick Nash is the most sought after player in the NHL. After another disappointing season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team has finally decided to part ways with the face of its franchise.
Nash will be the biggest name moved on Draft Day, and the team that trades for him will win the headlines for that day.
Nash, a strong skater with a really good shot, has been very productive on a bad team and might play even better if the team that trades for him can put him with the No. 1 center he's lacked his whole career.
He also brings leadership, having been the captain of Columbus for a few seasons.
The main problems trading for Nash are found in his contract; the salary cap hit and the no-trade clause. Nash has to approve any team trying to obtain him, and it's safe to assume given that he's only played in four playoff games that he'd like to move to a contender.
The other roadblock standing in the way of a team acquiring Nash is how much they'd have to give up for him. Columbus reportedly wants top young NHL players plus a top prospect and a draft pick.
That's a lot to give up, but the return Nash brings should be worth it.
The New York Rangers have been in the lead to land Nash since before the trade deadline, and they remain there now. Other teams in the mix are the Philandering Flyers, San Jose Sharks and the Toronto Maple Leafs.