NHL Trades: 15 Free Agents-to-Be Who Will Be Traded Before the Deadline

Al DanielCorrespondent IISeptember 12, 2012

NHL Trades: 15 Free Agents-to-Be Who Will Be Traded Before the Deadline

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    The captains of two Canadian NHL franchises, Daniel Alfredsson of Ottawa and Jarome Iginla of Calgary, are seeing their Stanley Cup windows steadily close. All the while, the odds are against them prying their current teams’ windows open in a timely fashion.

    Two recent Cup-winning goaltenders, Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins and Jonathan Bernier of the Los Angeles Kings, are candidates to be traded in light of various statements they have made this spring and summer.

    If any of the four are to go to another organization, their present employers had best make it happen via trade before any of them hit unrestricted or restricted free agency on July 1, 2013.

    The same goes for a multitude of skaters who project to have a hard time fitting in on a given team’s depth chart. Rather than risk a full year of poisonous consequences from a surplus player’s mounting disappointment and then getting nothing when he leaves, the teams in question would be naturally prudent to trade him and, in turn, import something to address their needs.

    The top 15 candidates to be traded before the NHL’s next deadline and subsequent free agency period are alphabetically listed as follows.

Andrew Alberts

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    Alberts’ place in Vancouver is unmistakably minimal. Look no further than the fact that he barely played half of the 2011-12 season and finished ninth out of nine defensemen to have dressed for the Canucks with a nightly average of 14:17 on the ice.

    There should, however, be at least a handful of clubs seeking a veteran stay-at-home blueliner who can offer satisfactory compensation in exchange for Alberts.

Daniel Alfredsson

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    Despite the strides Ottawa made in 2011-12, the playoffs are no sure thing in the coming year given the improvement of several Eastern Conference adversaries.

    Alfredsson, a career-long Senator who has been to one Stanley Cup Finals in 2007, will turn 40 on Dec. 11. Despite that, and despite the uncertainty of his current team returning to contention in time, his last four seasons have proven he can still hit the 20-goal range, which would make him an enticing last-minute pick-up for certified Cup challengers.

Josh Bailey

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    Bailey has played four full seasons with the New York Islanders since being selected ninth overall in the 2008 NHL Draft, and he still has never finished any higher than seventh on the team scoring chart. Nor has he reached the 20-goal, 20-assist or 40-point plateau.

    Despite a hot streak of three goals and 12 points in six games in the second half of March, he will need to demonstrate more consistency to dispel the notion that he needs a change of scenery. Meanwhile, the Islanders could still use a little more seasoning on their defense, which means a mid-to-late-season deal of Bailey in exchange for a blueliner could be a win-win.

Matt Beleskey

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    Beleskey was placed on waivers on Nov. 21 of last season, his first full NHL campaign, but ultimately returned to the Anaheim Ducks and saw action in 70 games.

    With such youngsters as Emerson Etem, Brandon McMillan, Kyle Palmieri and Devante Smith-Pelly on the rise, this year’s Ducks can include Beleskey in a deal meant to provide additional long-term planning for the post-Teemu Selanne/Saku Koivu era.

Jonathan Bernier

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    With Bernier’s reported desire to seek more fertile ice than what he has backing up Jonathan Quick, the best win-win approach for himself and the Los Angeles Kings is patience.

    General manager Dean Lombardi can show commendable prudence by waiting for a team in need of a goaltending shakeup to surface in the full swing of the coming season. In turn, Bernier’s wish can be fulfilled, as he is offered up as part of a deal that fills that team’s needs and brings a fresher-legged skater to the defending champs in Los Angeles.

Bryan Bickell

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    Bickell is one of 14 NHL-caliber forwards currently under contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. After four seasons spent primarily in the AHL, and then a sophomore slide from 37 points to 24 in his first two full NHL campaigns, he will need an assertive turnaround to jut out among the internal competition.

    After eight years in the organization—he was chosen in the second round of the 2004 Draft—the more realistic scenario has Bickell turning to a fresh sheet somewhere else in the coming campaign.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard

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    With their lucrative offerings to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Minnesota Wild possess the second-highest payroll in the NHL, with only $1,351,333 in cap space. If they are to add any new pieces necessary to push them along in the coming season, at least one substantive sacrifice will have to be made.

    Other than hit-happy depth winger Cal Clutterbuck and franchise goaltender Niklas Backstrom, Bouchard is the Wild’s only soon-to-be free agent who does not have a no-trade clause and who carries a seven-figure cap hit.

    From a financial standpoint, discharging Bouchard would mean freeing up another $4.08 million, all but quintupling Minnesota’s spending budget.

    From a hockey standpoint, the presence of Parise and Suter, the arrival of Mikael Granlund and the continued contributions of Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu, Devin Setoguchi and Kyle Brodziak all combine to make Bouchard seem suddenly expendable.

Keaton Ellerby

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    Depending especially on how Tyson Strachan develops in the coming year, quantitative congestion on the Florida Panthers’ blue-line brigade could force Ellerby to search for thicker ice elsewhere.

    The best favor general manager Dale Tallon can do for himself and for Ellerby is not to wait and cast Ellerby off before he hits free agency. That way the young blueliner can see more ice before the next summer and the Panthers can reel in a return package, preferably something to upgrade the offense.

Sergei Gonchar

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    Gonchar’s no-movement clause carries a key asterisk that permits him to be traded to any of 10 teams of his choice between Jan. 1 and the trading deadline of next year. The odds of at least 10, if not 16 or so, teams showing more promise for the playoffs than Ottawa are all but guaranteed.

    Not unlike Alfredsson at the forward position, Gonchar is an aging, but able, playmaking blueliner who ought to draw interest from contenders if the Senators are not making sufficient progress.

Peter Harrold

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    With his current arrangement in New Jersey, Harrold is facing an uphill climb against a defensive logjam even greater than what the aforementioned Alberts and Ellerby have before them.

    After five years between Los Angeles and the Kings’ farm system, Harrold went to the Devils for 2011-12, during which time he played a career-low 11 NHL games and went to the AHL for the first time since 2007-08.

    The fact that he played 17 postseason games likely factored into his re-signing for another year, but an improvement on the part of touted sophomore Adam Larsson would complicate Harrold’s viability in New Jersey.

Jarome Iginla

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    If nothing else, gridlock from four Central Division teams plus Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Jose and the revamped Stars and Wild is going to hinder Iginla’s Flames.

    Barring instant gratification under new head coach Bob Hartley and a retooled roster featuring Jiri Hudler and Dennis Wideman, Calgary will likely brook another rough year while their 35-year-old captain gains another year of existence.

    Regardless, according to multiple reports, Iginla is not particularly keen on participating in a Flames rebuilding project.

    As sentimentally catastrophic as trading Iginla would be, it would deliver a not-so-small benefit to both parties. Iginla would have better odds of finally being rewarded for his work and output, while the Flames, owners of the league’s fourth-highest payroll, would shed a whopping $7 million in cap space.

    If they could free the space taken by Iginla, let alone do the same with the oft-discussed Jay Bouwmeester, one can imagine the possibilities the Flames could suddenly afford.

Chuck Kobasew

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    Kobasew’s production rate has declined from goals in the 20 range to single digits since he left the Boston Bruins. However, that can be attributed to a combination of missed time due to injury and the fact that he has since been on non-playoff teams in Minnesota and Colorado.

    If the Avalanche can’t move along in the Western Conference playoff push, other teams seeking added depth would not be subject to blame if they pursued Kobasew and banked on him resurging through a change of scenery.

Maxim Lapierre

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    Whether or not the Canucks can land Jason Arnott, who has drawn their interest according to both local papers, an upgrade in depth is plainly in order.

    Vancouver can accomplish that through a deal that includes Lapierre or through signing a free agent along the lines of Arnott. In any case, the latter move would inevitably leave little or no room for the incumbent third-line center and necessitate a move to suit his needs.

Petteri Nokelainen

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    Nokelainen has split each of his last three NHL seasons with two different organizations.

    Expect that trend to continue this year as his Montreal Canadiens bring on free agents Colby Armstrong and Brandon Prust and bring up youngsters Blake Geoffrion, Louis Leblanc and Alex Galchenyuk.

Tim Thomas

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    Assuming the system stays relatively the same at the conclusion of the ongoing labor stalemate, Thomas’ $5 million cap hit will be enough of a reason for him to be exported and imported. If the Bruins throw in a practical piece for good measure, they should be able to find a buyer needing to reach the salary floor.

    There is also no reason to assume Thomas would not end his self-imposed respite early if the impending lockout occurs, only to end in time to start the season in December or January. In that event, the Bruins would most likely still want to go forward with the transition to Tuukka Rask and shed Thomas’ cap hit, but can have an easier time finding a taker.