NHL Trade Speculation: Each NHL Team's Most Valuable Trade Asset
Due to the NHL lockout, general managers across the league are forced to wait until a new collective bargaining agreement is hammered out before making any tweaks to their rosters.
Nonetheless, just as was the case following the 2004-05 lockout, virtually every team will be making significant adjustments to their lineups, either via the trade or free agency markets.
In particular, young players will likely be of greater value, as new salary cap constraints may call for teams to spend less on veteran players, making prospects and players still on entry-level deals more marketable trade assets.
With that in mind, here's a look at each NHL team's most valuable trade asset, excluding franchise players, because generally speaking, they're untouchable unless a team is unloading contracts.
New Jersey: Adam Larsson
As the No. 4 overall pick from the 2011 NHL Draft, Adam Larsson is one of hockey's most prized prospects, and for good reason. As a rookie last season, Larsson was a solid two-way force on the Devils' blue line, and with his size, skill and poise, he'll be a top-pairing defenseman for years to come.
NY Islanders: Griffin Reinhart
Seeing as John Tavares is completely untouchable, the Isles' most valuable trade asset is their first-rounder from 2012, Griffin Reinhart. Regarded as one of the most promising defenseman available, Reinhart projects to be a tough, in-your-face brand of rearguard, and considering how rugged his father was during his time with the Flames, the apple doesn't appear to have fallen far from the tree.
NY Rangers: Chris Kreider
New York did well to keep Chris Kreider out of the Rick Nash trade because Columbus' Scott Howson did everything he could to pry the young phenom away from the Rangers. Clearly, Glen Sather knew what he had in the former Boston College star, especially after Kreider's breakout performance during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Philadelphia: Brayden Schenn
In addition to stars Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere, the Flyers have a host of young and talented forwards, and the most promising of them may be Brayden Schenn.
As the centerpiece of the package Paul Holmgren received in return for former captain Mike Richards, Schenn is a virtual lock to remain in Philadelphia for a very long time. However, due to captain Chris Pronger's uncertain future, if an elite defenseman became available, one has to think that Schenn would be one of the players that would fit the asking price.
Pittsburgh: James Neal
Seeing as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury are untouchable, the Penguins' next-best trade asset would have to be James Neal, who is coming off a 40-goal season.
At 25, Neal is still improving and figures to be a top-flight scoring winger for the next decade. At this point, it would take more than what GM Ray Shero gave Dallas in order to get him (Alex Goligoski) for another team to pry him away from the Penguins.
Chicago: Nick Leddy
With all of the Blackhawks' stars locked up to long-term deals, realistically speaking, Stan Bowman's most valuable poker chip is likely defenseman Nick Leddy, who tallied 37 points as a rookie in 2011-12.
Leddy, Minnesota's first-rounder from 2009, is going to be a top-pairing rearguard in the NHL, but with defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Steve Montador, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya making over $21 million combined for the next two seasons, re-signing Leddy may be a challenge for Bowman. They're still in search of a reliable No. 1 in between the pipes, so Leddy could be packaged off in return for a goaltender.
Columbus: Ryan Johansen
No, Ryan Johansen hasn't yet lived up to the hype after being selected No. 4 overall in 2010, but the talented young pivot still oozes with potential, and will one day be a top-six forward at the NHL level. After dealing captain Rick Nash, Scott Howson will be in no hurry to part ways with his most promising prospect up front, but if Johansen doesn't build on his rookie totals of 21 points in 67 games, he'll be made available.
Detroit: Gustav Nyquist
On a roster full of high-priced veterans and young—but rather unspectacular—talent, Gustav Nyquist stands out as one of the team's top prospects.
Following his standout career at the University of Maine, Nyquist made his debut with the Wings at the end of the 2011-12 season and didn't look out of place in Detroit, tallying 7 points in 18 games while often playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk.
Detroit won't be looking to deal him, but after losing Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart last summer, Ken Holland will be searching for help on the back end.
Nashville: Colin Wilson
Though there's a very remote possibility that captain Shea Weber could be dealt after signing the offer sheet with Philadelphia over the summer, Colin Wilson is David Poile's most realistic top trade asset.
Wilson, a former Boston University star, hasn't developed as quickly as the Predators might have hoped, but at 23 with two 15-goal seasons under his belt, he still projects to be a top-six forward in the future. He's got the size, speed and skill to be a top-flight power forward but needs to receive adequate ice time in order to get there.
St. Louis: Vladimir Tarasenko
The Blues would be crazy to mess with the core that got them the No. 2 seed in the West in 2012, and Vladimir Tarasenko, the team's top pick in 2010, should be the go-to goal scorer they were missing last spring.
However, given Tarasenko's already impressive credentials, he's likely the team's most valuable trade asset, especially considering he's only entering year one of his three-year $2.7 million entry-level deal. There's virtually no chance the team will deal him, so it would take a very impressive offer for them to even consider parting ways with their top prospect.
Boston: Brad Marchand
Boston has already invested long-term in virtually all of their forwards with significant trade value, and though Brad Marchand was a big part of their Stanley Cup run in 2011, he's not as important to the team as Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic or David Krejci.
Looking ahead, if Boston wants to keep Nathan Horton, Tuukka Rask and Dougie Hamilton long-term, they'll likely have to part ways with one of their high-priced forwards, and Marchand would certainly fetch a nice return.
Buffalo: Tyler Ennis
The Sabres have roughly $25 million invested in their top-six up front, and thanks to the team's spending spree last summer, they have minimal cap flexibility going forward.
Of their young forwards, Cody Hodgson carries less value than Tyler Ennis at this point, and with Ennis up for an extension in 2014, it's no sure thing that Darcy Regier will be able to keep him in the fold. Ennis has established himself as a promising young offensive threat, and if they're unable to get him to sign for less than what he'd receive on the open market, they'll have to move him before his contract's up.
Ottawa: Mika Zibanejad
The Senators have accumulated a number of solid offensive prospects, not to mention a wealth of talent on the back end.
That being said, if this team wants to contend in the short-term, they'll have to add a veteran or two to the fold, and if Bryan Murray is on the market for a top-flight defenseman or experienced forward, Mika Zibanejad would certainly meet the asking price. As Sweden's hero at the 2012 World Juniors, the young center has established himself as one of the game's hottest prospects, and if he remains a Senator, he could be a nice fit alongside Kyle Turris for quite a long time.
Montreal: PK Subban
Obviously, Alex Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty and Carey Price are the team's untouchable assets, and while PK Subban is probably off-limits for potential trade partners as well, the rumors of him being shopped didn't cease all summer long. He's already the team's top defenseman, but considering how he's got a history of ruffling people's feathers in Montreal, if the right offer came along, new GM Marc Bergevin would have to give it some thought.
Toronto: Jake Gardiner
This summer, Brian Burke showed that virtually nobody on the roster is off limits, as he dealt Luke Schenn, once considered the team's franchise rearguard, in return for power forward James van Riemsdyk. After losing Schenn, it's unlikely that Burke will ever deal promising young blue liner Jake Gardiner, who has quickly become the team's future anchor on the back end.
However, with Dion Phaneuf and a quietly impressive collection of defensemen, if the elite center that Burke has long coveted becomes available, Burke would at least listen to an offer, if only to counter with a proposal not including Gardiner.
Calgary: Sven Bartschi
With both of their franchise cornerstones—from Calgary's run to the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals—aging, the Flames have been praying for a young forward in their system to emerge as a legitimate top-six guy, and it looks like the team may finally have that in 2011 first-rounder Sven Bartschi.
Since being drafted, the young Swiss sniper impressed the Flames enough to earn a five-game call-up last season, and he didn't disappoint, notching three goals on a Calgary team that struggled mightily in the scoring department. Going forward, Bartschi is one of the only Flames prospects that will garner a desirable return, because outside of superstars turned elder statesmen Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, the team is relatively light on talent.
Colorado: Ryan O'Reilly
Up front, the Avalanche have a number of impressive fresh-faced forwards, headlined by newly-minted captain Gabriel Landeskog and All-Star Matt Duchene, but it was 21-year-old center Ryan O'Reilly that lead the team in scoring last season as he tallied 55 points.
With three full NHL seasons under his belt, O'Reilly is already among the game's best two-way centerman, but after his entry-level deal expired, GM Greg Sherman was unable to ink him to an extension prior to the lockout. Now, with O'Reilly ready to sign a big-money contract with term, the Avs may be unable to keep him with centers Duchene and Paul Stastny already signed to expensive long-term deals.
If they can't come to an agreement soon after the work stoppage ends, Sherman could shop O'Reilly and receive a return similar to what Boston got from the Leafs when they traded Phil Kessel in 2009, which was two first-rounders and a second round pick.
Edmonton: Justin Schultz
Obviously, the Oilers have the most impressive group of young forwards in the game, with the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall in their arsenal. Outside of them, Edmonton also has Justin Schultz, the former Anaheim Ducks draftee that spurned them to sign a free agent deal with the Oil last summer.
At this point, Schultz is probably untouchable, but he's not completely off-limits to the point that all four of their young star forwards are. If he were to be available, Schultz would undoubtedly fetch an elite established veteran player, because as he's shown in the AHL with Oklahoma City this season, he's on his way to being a star.
Minnesota: Mikael Granlund
Easily the Wild's top prospect, Mikael Granlund cannot be attained for anything less than a legitimate star, and even then it's unclear if Minnesota would deal him. Granlund appears to have all the tools to be an offensive force in the NHL and has the talent to usurp Mikko Koivu as Minnesota's top center.
However, with high-priced veterans Dany Heatley, Ryan Suter, Devin Setoguchi, Zach Parise and Koivu in the fold, Granlund would certainly be an asset other teams would be drooling at the prospect of acquiring.
Vancouver: Cory Schneider
Okay, so it was Roberto Luongo, not Cory Schneider that had whispers circulating around him with regards to his future with the team this summer. Luongo will almost certainly be gone soon after the work stoppage ends, which will make Schneider the team's unquestioned No. 1.
Until Luongo is gone though, the former Boston College standout is Vancouver's most valuable trade asset. That's because in Schneider, the Canucks have one of the league's most promising young goaltenders, and at this point, he's done enough during his time as Luongo's understudy to be considered a legitimate No. 1 goaltender.
Just ask Mike Gillis.
Anaheim: Bobby Ryan
After a lackluster 2011-12 season, the Ducks need to rebound, especially if they want to keep franchise forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in Anaheim for the long haul. If not, they'll probably move one of their expensive assets.
Of their three stud offensive players, Bobby Ryan would hypothetically be the one to go. On defense, Cam Fowler has quickly blossomed into one of the game's top puck-moving youngsters, and he would obviously fetch a healthy return as well.
Dallas: Jamie Benn
As the Stars' best forward and unquestioned No. 1 offensive threat, it's hard to see why Jamie Benn would ever be dealt. However, with Benn still in need of a new contract, the Stars' management simply has to find a way to get a deal done with their restricted free agent star. If for whatever reason they can't sign him, Jamie Benn would definitely be among the league's hottest trade commodities, but a suitor would obviously have to give up a lot in order to pry the budding star away from Dallas.
Los Angeles: Jonathan Bernier
With Jonathan Quick firmly cemented as the Kings' franchise goaltender, Jonathan Bernier has made it clear that he'd not only welcome a trade, he wants it badly.
He's got all the tools to be a starting goalie in the NHL, but at first glance, the number of teams without a clear-cut starter at the moment are limited. Regardless of where he ultimately ends up, Bernier should net the reigning Cup champs at least a first-rounder.
Phoenix: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
As the Kings' top pick from the 2009 NHL Draft, it hasn't taken long for Oliver Ekman-Larsson to develop into a legitimate top-four defenseman. The Coyotes obviously wouldn't part ways with the former No. 6 overall pick, but with Phoenix strapped for cash as usual, and in need of some high-end offensive talent, Ekman-Larsson is the most coveted young player on the 'Yotes' roster.
San Jose: Logan Couture
The Sharks are loaded up front with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Martin Havlat and Joe Pavelski, but the team's most promising young forward is Logan Couture, who has quickly become an All-Star on a team chalk-full with talented scorers.
Looking ahead, Couture will likely be in San Jose for a very long time, as he'll help the franchise transition out of the Marleau-Thornton era when the time comes, but one never knows what GM Doug Wilson has up his sleeve. The Sharks' window to win a Cup is closing, so if a deal emerges that would help San Jose in at least the short-term, Wilson will listen.
Carolina: Justin Faulk
In Carolina, much of the excitement surrounding the Hurricanes has to do with the arrivals of Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal, but arguably the most encouraging sign for the future has been the emergence of defenseman Justin Faulk. That's because at just 20, Faulk has cemented himself as the Canes' top rearguard after tallying 22 points in 66 games as a rookie in 2011-12. It would take an incredibly impressive offer from another GM for Faulk to leave Raleigh, because at this point, he's the only elite defenseman on the roster.
Florida: Erik Gudbranson
One year into his NHL career, Eric Gudbranson hasn't disappointed.
That's because the former No. 3 overall pick made his much-anticipated NHL debut in 2011-12 and did not look out of place with the Panthers, though he scored just eight points in his rookie campaign.
However, the rugged rearguard wasn't so highly regarded for his offensive abilities, and his tough mentality and style would be a valuable addition to any roster. He's a vital member of a fast-improving Florida defense corps, and unless a big offer comes along, he's future captain material for Dale Tallon's group.
Tampa Bay: Victor Hedman
When the Lightning drafted Victor Hedman with the No. 2 overall pick in 2009, the larger-then-life Swedish blue liner was supposed to materialize into the Bolts' franchise defenseman. Three years in, Hedman has been solid, if unspectacular, as he's posted at least 20 points but no more than 26 in any of his three seasons.
Despite the rather ordinary offensive numbers, Hedman still has all the tools to be a top-pairing defenseman for the next decade, and unless a trade offer featuring a top-flight talent comes along, he won't be leaving Tampa Bay.
Washington: Evgeny Kuznetsov
The waiting game for the Capitals continues, as the franchise remains uncertain with regards to when top prospect and former first-rounder Evgeny Kuznetsov will leave Russia to join the Caps.
He is—without a doubt—the most electrifying Russian prospect since Alex Ovechkin and has absolutely nothing to prove at any level other than the NHL, as he's torn apart the KHL, World Juniors and even the senior World Championships, as the 20-year-old was a key member of Russia's gold-medal winning squad.
Now, with Kuznetsov set to stay in the KHL until 2014, the Caps have to be getting tired of waiting for him, but whether they'll deal him in order to get some help in the present remains to be seen.
Winnipeg: Mark Scheifele
As the team's first-ever draft pick since departing Atlanta for Winnipeg, Mark Scheifele has a great deal of pressure on him to develop into a front-line forward.
One season since being drafted, the Barrie Colts star has shown some signs of promise, as he didn't look too out of place during his seven-game trial stint with the Jets, but the former No. 7 overall pick has to take the next step when the NHL resumes play, and his value on the trade market will skyrocket. Winnipeg has some nice depth on the blue-line, but without many star-caliber forwards beyond Evander Kane and arguably Olli Jokinen, Scheifele could be playing top-six minutes next season.