NHL Trade Speculation: One Player Each Team Cannot Afford to Lose
For almost every one of those teams, though, there is one that most likely will not be pursuing any head-turning acquisitions until the next season is underway, whenever that might be.
Either way, there is at least one rumored or theoretical trade candidate on each NHL roster whose team should just as soon hold onto, regardless of the ostensible reward that may come with exporting him.
Some need only be retained for the short term until conditions change for the organization in question. Others have too much to offer to be dealt at any point in their prime.
Whether they have reportedly been asked about him or might be asked later down the road (which is always technically a possibility), here is an encapsulation of one untradeable player for each team in alphabetical order.
Anaheim: Toni Lydman
The trade of Lubomir Visnovsky and the free-agency loss of Sheldon Brookbank was a bit of a two-handed cross-check to the Anaheim defense. Although the Ducks partially reimbursed themselves with the acquisition of Sheldon Souray, they should consider making a long-term commitment to Lydman.
Besides Brookbank and Visnovsky, Lydman has been the most efficient Ducks defender in his two years with the team and has always demonstrated a decent inclination to perform the basic tasks of hitting and shot-blocking.
Boston: Milan Lucic
While he has underperformed for the better part of the last two postseasons, Lucic can still deliver an invaluable element of physicality and energy.
The Bruins need to keep searching for a way to put him on the third line, where he can be used more efficiently and effectively, and reject all proposals that put him in the trade package.
Fortunately, one of the latest reports out of ESPN Boston reiterates one of the positive points of general manager Peter Chiarelli’s rigidly conservative approach to the offseason.
Buffalo: Drew Stafford
In the two weeks since Derek Roy was dealt to Dallas in exchange for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy, the speculation and rumors have come to nearly a complete calm along the shores of Lake Erie.
But in the event the Sabres seek more moves, whether that be this summer, next season or further down the road, their top untouchable among skaters should be Stafford.
Among forwards, he boasts the current roster's most reliable combination of size and skill and has translated that to a respectably fruitful offensive touch and efficient defensive side.
Calgary: Miikka Kiprusoff
Ultimately, bringing back Kiprusoff to work with a retooled roster does not guarantee a swift end to what will soon be a four-year playoff drought. But letting him go and bringing up a fairly unknown and unproven successor is even less assuring.
Carolina: Jeff Skinner
Chicago: Viktor Stalberg
Whilst analyzing the prospect of defensemen Steve Montador and/or Niklas Hjalmarsson being dealt, Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago made a fleeting mention of Stalberg.
This from Rogers’ blog post: “Viktor Stalberg is not actively being shopped, but he could be included in a deal as part of a bigger package, perhaps with Hjalmarsson or Montador.”
If they can help it, the Hawks would serve their best interest by hanging on to both Hjalmarsson and Stalberg. But given what the two can bring and have brought to them in recent memory, the young forward is less expendable.
Stalberg has not only been one of the Blackhawks’ more physical forwards in his first two seasons with the team, but could also prove to be valuable offensive insurance if Marian Hossa does not return to form quickly.
Colorado: Paul Stastny
Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post is among those calling for the export of one of Colorado's top three centers, whether that be Stastny, Ryan O'Reilly or Matt Duchene.
While Kiszla suggests that Duchene be the odd man out, Stastny is the top candidate to be a keeper in this author's book. He is the longest-tenured of the three pivots in question and, over the last two years, has been the most physical and the best faceoff man.
Columbus: Jack Johnson
The "nowhere to go but up" adage has been peskily refusing to leave Columbus for a while, but the Blue Jackets have a chance to start building up a competitive, long-term future around their midseason acquisition.
Johnson captained Team USA at the IIHF World Championship this past spring and has shown in the wee stages of his Columbus tenure that he has the means to be an exemplary leader of the blue-line brigade.
Dallas: Brenden Morrow
He would be well-advised to follow through on that pledge and ultimately extend Morrow’s contract beyond next season. Morrow will doubtlessly be raring to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2011-12 season, help the revamped Dallas lineup jell and start bringing the franchise back to where it was at the start of his career in 1999-2000.
Detroit: Gustav Nyquist
Nyquist has yet to play a full NHL campaign, but is still an unripe 22 years of age and could one day be an invaluable homegrown heir-apparent to the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
If Nyquist is, in fact, a requisite return piece for a prospective Rick Nash deal, the Red Wings had best refrain from overloading the present at the expense of the future.
Edmonton: Sam Gagner
Although Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have all supplanted Gagner as the Oilers' most reliable producers, he has had the distinction of being one of their faceoff leaders the last three seasons.
Though he is only 22 years of age, Gagner has accumulated as many NHL seasons (five) as the aforementioned three and more games-played (366 versus 335). As he continues to pack on experience and the team starts to ascend the Western Conference standings, he ought to log more confidence and become a more effective puck distributor.
In addition, he has a team-best and career-high plus-five campaign to build upon, a sign that the young center’s two-way game is starting to blossom.
Florida: Jonathan Huberdeau
Late last month, a report in the National Post addressed the ongoing speculation of the Panthers re-acquiring Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo. Not surprisingly, the up-and-coming Huberdeau was mentioned as a possible return piece if such a move were to be made.
It would make sense from a Canucks' standpoint, but it’s not worth it for Florida, which already has Jose Theodore, Scott Clemmensen and Jacob Markstrom crowding its crease anyway.
Los Angeles: Jonathan Bernier
Granted, it comes as little surprise that the backup for the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner is the only King whose name is garnering traction in the trade rumor mill. Nonetheless, it is best for the defending champions to hang on to Bernier indefinitely.
After all, what happens if and when Jonathan Quick slips into a hangover-induced slump? What happens if he gets injured?
As it stands now, the Kings could still fall back on Bernier, who has seen action in 41 games over his first two full NHL seasons. If they deal him, they are looking at the prospect of banking on Martin Jones or Jeff Zatkoff, the Manchester Monarchs tandem that has combined for absolutely zero NHL experience to date.
The best solution for both parties is for L.A. to retain Bernier as the backup for at least another year while giving light, sporadic seasoning to Jones or Zatkoff en route to phasing them in for 2013-14.
Minnesota: Niklas Backstrom
For nearly a full month now, all of the noteworthy headlines out of St. Paul have strictly pertained to free agency.
There has not been much in the way of trade talk, and certainly not since general manager Chuck Fletcher dismissed the idea that Backstrom was available. Assuming he sticks to his word, so much the better for the Wild as they continue to pose head coach Mike Yeo the good problem of juggling Backstom and Josh Harding.
Montreal: Colby Armstrong
As tough as it is to imagine a team dealing only a short while after acquiring him the preceding summer, stranger things have happened.
For the Habs, it should at least not happen with Armstrong, even if he is not making a prompt impact through the first few months of next season.
Having played for newly hired head coach Michel Therrien in the Penguins organization, both at the AHL and NHL level, Armstrong could be a hidden key to helping Montreal reverse its fortunes for the long run.
Nashville: Shea Weber
In light of that, the Preds must one-up the Flyers and convince Weber that staying where he is equals his best opportunity to contend for a Cup in the near future. For their own sake, losing the captain, exemplary two-way leader and Norris Trophy candidate, all on top of losing Ryan Suter would likely threaten their mere playoff viability.
New Jersey: Ilya Kovalchuk
There has not been much to see out of Newark this summer, other than that little matter of captain Zach Parise taking off.
With Parise gone, retaining an offensive core is all the more critical for the Devils. Since his arrival within the final one-third of the 2009-10 season, Kovalchuk has consistently been on a team-leading pace of 30-plus goals per season.
It is hard to imagine anyone wanting to take on Kovalchuk’s absurdly protracted contract anyway, but that’s just as well for the Devils based on their current state. That is at least until the likes of Adam Henrique come into full bloom.
NY Islanders: Travis Hamonic
Long Island is another one of those localities where trade talk is not going far beyond strict speculation.
With that being said, one ice chip of speculation holds that Hamonic could be phased out to make room for the likes of freshly picked first-round draftee Griffin Reinhart. Aaron Musick, the Colorado correspondent for Hockey Buzz, has proposed that the Avalanche acquire Hamonic to partner with Erik Johnson.
But as promising as Reinhart, among others, might be, there is a fine line between potential and production.
Hamonic is already two years into his career and is the only member of the lowly Islanders to have finished with a positive plus/minus rating in both seasons. He has also thrown his weight around and thrown himself in front of opposing shots at such a rate that one might suspect he has been sneaking across the metropolis to pilfer pointers from rival Rangers coach John Tortorella.
Why should the Islanders take a gamble by putting too much, too soon on Reinhart when they have this going with Hamonic?
NY Rangers: Ryan McDonagh
McDonagh, one of the more exemplary members of the Rangers’ invaluable defensive brigade, is reportedly a potential part of the price if New York wants to revamp its offense with Rick Nash.
The substantial subtraction in one area would not be worth the ostensibly instantaneous addition in another.
Ottawa: Jared Cowen
Ottawa Sun writer Bruce Garrioch recently published a piece holding that the Senators could be a candidate to take Bobby Ryan off Anaheim’s hands. There is no specific mention of potential exports in such a deal, but it is easy to make educated guesses.
Of Anaheim general manager Bob Murray, Garrioch writes “The belief is Murray wants a second-line centre in return as part of any trade for Ryan because Anaheim is short on depth up front.” Although, the report also mentions that a rising defenseman could be in the asking price as well.
For the Sens, the resulting question is what position bears a more expendable player. If it is a young blueliner the Ducks would want, Ottawa has the two-way, 22-year-old Erik Karlsson and the stay-at-home, 21-year-old Cowen.
If it is the top-six pivot Garrioch speaks of, Kyle Turris could be a target.
Between those three, it is virtually impossible to imagine the Sens parting with the Norris Trophy winner and while Turris is a pivot and Ryan a winger, the latter would be an offensive upgrade on the former.
That just leaves Cowen, who will be looking to break out in his sophomore campaign and continue to flex his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame. If the Senators are going to pursue Ryan, Cowen should be just as off-limits as Karlsson.
Philadelphia: Sean Couturier
Despite a fairly modest rookie output of 13-14-27, it would not be a stretch to envision Couturier paving a progression path similar to that of Boston’s Tyler Seguin, who went from 11-11-22 to 29-38-67 in one season.
Couturier, in tandem with Brayden Schenn, is an ideal homegrown catalyst for the long-term future of the Flyers offense. So not unlike the aforementioned Nyquist in Detroit, Philadelphia fans should hope there are no plans to discharge him for the sake of acquiring someone along the lines of Nash.
Phoenix: Radim Vrbata
General manager Don Maloney seems to have no plans for any major trades, let alone one involving Vrbata. But as obvious as a point might be, that does not lessen its factuality.
The fact is that the Coyotes offense, between the free-agency departure of Ray Whitney and the ongoing uncertainty of Shane Doan, is in a situation quite comparable to the aforementioned Nashville blue line crisis.
Seeing as Vrbata has consistently shared Doan and Whitney's company in the upper echelon of the Coyotes' scoring chart, keeping him on the team is outstandingly critical.
Pittsburgh: Simon Despres
The Penguins will enter the next season vying to impose a much stingier defense than the one they had at their disposal in the last homestretch and playoff bout with Philadelphia.
One way to ensure more qualitative defensive depth is to bank on rising homegrown talent, such as recent No. 8 overall draft choice Derrick Pouliot.
San Jose: Joe Pavelski
The six-year veteran and potential return request if San Jose goes after Nash has been one of, if not the most reliable faceoff man on the Sharks for the last four seasons. Pavelski also sees substantial time on both sides of the special teams’ spectrum and often trails only Joe Thornton for San Jose’s biggest collection of takeaways.
St. Louis: Brian Elliott and Jaraslav Halak
No matter how tempting it might get to trade one of the reigning Jennings Trophy recipients, no matter what dividends it might pay on the blue line or front line, the Blues should use this blessing to the fullest extent while they can.
At least, that is, until Jake Allen or another prospect is certifiably ready to assume a full-time backup role, which through today’s NHL standards entails roughly 20 games-played per year.
Tampa Bay: Martin St. Louis
There has not been much, if anything, churning the rumor mill around Tampa, so consider this slide a “See to it that you keep it that way” advisory.
He may just be rolling over the peak of his career, but St. Louis is a franchise icon whose doggedness should keep defying his inferior size as well as his increasing age. If the Bolts are ever tempted to trade for younger commodities, their co-holdover from the 2004 Stanley Cup championship would not be the right currency.
Toronto: Matt Frattin
Reporter Michael Traikos has mused that Frattin would have to be relinquished if the Leafs still wish to reform their current goaltending stable of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens.
Toronto had best avoid that as Frattin is coming off a run that saw him pilot the AHL Marlies offense en route to a berth in the Calder Cup finals. Odds are the coming campaign will be his first full NHL season and depending on how fast he blossoms, he ought to be another key piece to giving the Leafs a formidably deep strike force.
Vancouver: TBD Backup
The thing the Canucks can least afford in the way of trades is to be stuck with Luongo at the next training camp after all the awkwardness.
Washington: Michal Neuvirth
This author, for one, had doubts about the Capitals’ decision to turn the seasoned Tomas Vokoun loose, but what has happened has happened. Now Washington is left to pit Neuvirth against 2012 postseason phenom Braden Holtby in a battle for the starting job.
Neither party can claim he is fully proven in the NHL yet, but they ought to be the right source of motivation for one another.
Winnipeg: Evander Kane
Looks like everyone is ahead in this game already with this week's report of a pending six-year deal. Nonetheless, regardless of how secure his future in Winnipeg is, Kane's value to the Jets can never be overstressed.