NHL Lockout: 5 Players That Should Be Traded If Salary Cap Is Reduced
The new collective bargaining agreement will likely include a salary-cap reduction, which could force a number of NHL teams to trade away players with large cap hits to fit under the new salary ceiling.
Since the league's most recent proposal did not force teams to get under a lowered salary cap immediately (via ESPN's Pierre LeBrun), there could be a lot of activity near the trade deadline this season:
Am told league offer also will allow teams to go over salary cap in Year 1 - up to $70 M max - as part of transition rules— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) October 16, 2012
Let's look at five players who could be traded if the salary cap goes down as a result of the new CBA.
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks
With Cory Schneider signed to a new three-year, $12 million contract, and top goaltending prospect Eddie Lack ready to be a backup at the NHL level, the Vancouver Canucks will likely trade veteran netminder Roberto Luongo at some point before or during the new season.
If the salary cap goes down, it would be foolish for the Canucks to have over $9 million of the salary cap tied up in two goaltenders, both of whom deserve to start in the NHL.
The team that keeps coming up in Luongo trade rumors is the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it wouldn't be surprising at all if the 33-year-old from Montreal was acquired by former Canucks general manager Brian Burke, who desperately needs to improve the Leafs' goaltending situation.
The Canucks also need to strengthen the depth of their organization, and trading Luongo could help them acquire some quality young players for the present and future.
David Krejci, Boston Bruins
If teams have a one-year period to clear salary to prepare for a lower cap, the Bruins would be fine for this year because they have over $14 million in salary coming off the books following the 2012-13 season.
In this situation, the Bruins wouldn't have to trade Tim Thomas to clear cap space because his deal expires next summer.
However, if the team wants to re-sign any of the players who are set to become free agents next summer, someone will probably have to be traded.
Players with expiring contracts that Boston could consider bringing back include Nathan Horton, Tuukka Rask, Andrew Ference and Jordan Caron. The Bruins will also need salary cap space when Patrice Bergeron's contract expires in the summer of 2014.
One player who could be traded is center David Krejci, who will begin his three-year, $15.75 million extension this season.
Krejci hasn't lived up to his full potential in Boston despite being a productive player during the playoffs, except for last season when the Bruins lost to the Washington Capitals in the first round.
With impressive prospect Jared Knight and established NHL star Tyler Seguin capable of excelling at the center position, losing Krejci wouldn't be a huge blow to the Bruins.
Jay Bouwmeester, Calgary Flames
If the salary cap goes down, the Flames will be in a tough spot. They are so close to the cap right now, but they don't have many players with high cap hits that teams will be interested in acquiring.
The best option for general manager Jay Feaster is to trade defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who has two years remaining on his current contract which includes a cap hit of $6.67 million.
He has value to teams that need another top-four defenseman that can make an impact offensively, and two teams that might show interest in the 29-year-old veteran are the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flames don't have to worry about trading Bouwmeester because new signing Dennis Wideman will give Calgary the same offensive abilities from the blue line.
Feaster has a number of players with large cap hits, but the easiest one to move will probably be Bouwmeester. His contract has just two more years on it, and he can still help a contender.
Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have already extended former No. 1 overall pick Taylor Hall for seven more years, but that contract doesn't go into effect until the 2013-14 season. Over the next two years, Edmonton will have to extend the contract of star forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was the top pick in the 2011 NHL draft.
Sam Gagner, Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz will also need new contracts in the near future, and it will be incredibly tough to re-sign as many of these good young players unless veteran winger Ales Hemsky is traded.
The two-year, $10 million extension that Hemsky signed last season doesn't include a no-trade clause, so the team has the power to move him wherever they want.
Hemsky has averaged just 33 points over the last three seasons, and isn't worth close to $5 million. Expect the Oilers to trade him before his contract expires.
Ville Leino, Buffalo Sabres
Leino didn't make the kind of impact that Buffalo hoped he would last season, and if the team could amnesty one player to clear cap space, he would probably be the best option for the Sabres.
If Leino struggles offensively to start the year, the Sabres could certainly look to move him. He has five more seasons left on his contract with a salary-cap hit of $4.5 million. However, is salary in the final two years of the deal is only $3.5 million, which makes him a bit more attractive to teams that need to reach the cap floor but don't want to take on a lot of salary.
Buffalo is close to the current cap ceiling but don't have many players who would be attractive to teams in the trade market.
It's hard to imagine them trading captain Jason Pominville, and players such as Christian Ehrhoff, Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek have contracts that are either too expensive or too long for most teams to think about acquiring.
If the Sabres need to clear some cap space over the next year, they will need Leino to play well so his trade value increases.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.
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