After reviewing the rejected CBAs between the NHLPA and the NHL, one thing seems imminent—player contracts are heading toward major reform. Many teams will be thinking about whom they could trade for a big return, should they decide to make changes in their roster.
Players and owners have been reluctant to compromise on the fate of active contracts. According to The New York Times, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wants current contracts to be rewritten while NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr wants them grandfathered into the new CBA.
This does not mean that star players will be free for the taking; the details of their contracts will likely be adjusted according to the new CBA. However, many teams will find it in their best interest to move some of their more valuable trade assets.
Here is a list of those assets, weighted on potential, age, skill and the likelihood of their team to trade them.
***DISCLAIMER: Franchise players are not included in this list unless there is a reasonable chance they can be traded.
New York Rangers: Carl Hagelin
The 24-year-old Swede gained a speedy reputation after besting Colin Greening in the 2012 NHL All-Star Skills Competition. However, with the New York Rangers’ recent trade for Rick Nash, Hagelin will be a third-liner at best.
Rangers head coach John Tortorella has made it clear that Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan are not for sale. That leaves Hags as the only tradable player who could warrant a decent return.
Pittsburgh Penguins: James Neal
While it is not likely the Pittsburgh Penguins would part with James Neal, he would certainly bring in an enticing offer. The Pens could part with Neal if the price is right—it would need to be high.
The Penguins have two of the league’s best forwards in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. If their series with the Philadelphia Flyers taught Pittsburgh anything, it is that too many skilled forwards and not enough sturdy defensemen is a bad combination.
Philadelphia Flyers: Wayne Simmonds
Just shy of the 50-point mark last season, Wayne Simmonds’ young age and skill makes him ideal for trading. The 24-year-old’s time with the Philadelphia Flyers has shown the league that he is trending upward.
Simmonds makes the most sense to trade out of Philly’s young forwards.
Sean Couturier was a thought, but the 19-year-old’s plus-minus rating (18) is a sign that he could develop into a solid center. Jakub Voracek was also considered, but his expertise will be needed on the Flyers’ top line.
New Jersey Devils: Adam Henrique
Adam Henrique was key for the New Jersey Devils during the 2012 playoffs. The Calder trophy finalist was responsible for several imperative game-winning goals.
Adam Larsson could also warrant a high return, but it seems unlikely for New Jersey to part with him. The Devils signed former defensive legend Scott Stevens as an assistant coach, a sign that they intend to develop Larsson.
With the loss of Zach Parise, the Devils are not in a position to develop forwards—they need them now. Besides, Henrique spent some time on the trading block last season; the Devils know who their trading chips are.
New York Islanders: Evgeni Nabokov
In an effort to forget who Rick DiPietro is, the New York Islanders signed Evgeni Nabokov last season. Nabokov was not great, but he has done well in the past, and that is all it takes in today’s thin goaltending market.
Just ask the Maple Leafs or Chicago Blackhawks what they think of Nabokov. The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Columbus Blue Jackets are currently banking on former backups—keep an eye on them too.
Besides, Nabokov was trying to keep pucks out of the Islanders’ net—cut the guy some slack.
Boston Bruins: Nathan Horton
Nathan Horton has had Sidney Crosby syndrome: great player who cannot stay healthy. It is during these situations when teams need to think about cutting their losses.
Many teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers are in the market for forwards. Both teams are out of Boston’s division and could make for good trade partners.
Horton’s 32 points in 46 games makes him an enticing buy. It would be smart for Boston to see who they could get for the injury-prone forward.
Ottawa Senators: Colin Greening
More for lack of another player, Colin Greening would be the Ottawa Senators’ only trade worthy player. A trade involving the 26-year-old could add to the Sens’ small list of core players.
Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson are solid franchise players—they are not going anywhere. Daniel Alfredsson is expected to retire this season, leaving a void in Ottawa’s top line.
Buffalo Sabres: Derek Roy
The Buffalo Sabres just finished moving around several of their players, so it is hard to say who their trade chip would be. Drew Stafford is their best bet.
Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville will have to carry the bulk of the Sabres’ offense for the next season or two. The Sabres are in a period of building centers, making Stafford the most expendable.
A little defense would be helpful for Ryan Miller, who has made it clear he can no longer carry the team himself.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Joffrey Lupul
If the lockout ends in time to salvage a season, Joffrey Lupul may become a free agent. The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently on the longest playoff drought, making it likely for Lupul to find refuge elsewhere.
Not to mention the Leafs will surely be in the market for Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, two players who also will be free agents.
It is true, Joffrey Lupul was the Robin to Phil Kessel’s Batman. However, the Leafs would have to offer big bucks to keep him—and even then nothing is certain.
Montreal Canadiens: Scott Gomez
In the past two seasons combined, Gomez has amassed 49 points, a far cry from the 70-point seasons he used to produce. Gomez has not had a 50-point season since he left New York—the 32-year-old has peaked.
Still, the Montreal Canadiens could sell relatively high to teams that think they can revive his past performances.
Florida Panthers: Steven Weiss
Another soon-to-be UFA, Steven Weiss will be a hard asset to hold on to. The Toronto-native could pull a Zach Parise and jump ship to his hometown team.
Weiss played a huge part in bringing the Florida Panthers to the playoffs this past season. The payoff for trading the first-round draft pick could be bigger if he is sent off, rather than re-signed.
Washington Capitals: Mike Green
The chaos in Washington continued with what appeared to be the reluctant signing of defenseman Mike Green. The Washington Capitals’ initial one-year contract proposal suggests they did not intend on locking Green up long-term.
Green, who once put up two consecutive 70-point seasons in 2008-09, has been a liability. He missed 50 games last season because of a groin injury and 30 games in the season before.
If the Capitals can squeeze one more decent year out of him, they might be able to sell high.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Vincent Lecavalier
Much like the Buffalo Sabres, the Tampa Bay Lightning just made a few trades to patch up their weaknesses. These changes should see them into the playoffs; if not, the Bolts will have to do something drastic with Vincent Lecavalier.
The Lightning are taking a risk in relying on former Nashville Predators’ backup Anders Lindback to be their starter. In the event that Tampa succumbs to another goaltending crisis, Lecavalier would be good trade bait for a solid goalie.
Winnipeg Jets: Blake Wheeler or Evander Kane
The Winnipeg Jets have made some solid acquisitions in an attempt to create a well-balanced team. The Jets are definitely a playoff contender, but if they miss it, Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler are two young forwards capable of drawing big returns.
Adding Olli Jokinen and Alexei Ponikarovsky, goaltender Al Montoya as a backup and drafting defenseman Jacob Trouba shows the Oilers are focused on all facets of the game.
Again, Wheeler and Kane are two of the Jets’ trade chips, meaning they would be valuable in a transaction. This does not necessarily mean the Jets will be in the market for a trade once the lockout is over.
Carolina Hurricanes: Jussi Jokinen
For lack of a better forward, Jussi Jokinen is the Carolina Hurricanes’ most valuable trade chip considering his skill and likelihood of being traded. Having put up good numbers in the past, Jokinen could me moved for some much-needed defensive support.
The Hurricanes were the center of a lot of buzz when they traded Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin, and the No. 8 pick in the 2012 draft for Jordan Staal. This deal came promptly after Staal had declined a long-term contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Hopefully, the unity of the Staal brothers will reinvigorate the Hurricanes. If not, a Jokinen trade could be in order to bolster Carolina’s defense a bit.
St. Louis Blues: Brian Elliott
Brian Elliott led the league in save percentage (.940), goals-against average (1.56), and had nine shutouts last season—and he is not even a starter. With a stellar defense and sturdy goaltender in Jaroslav Halak, the St. Louis Blues should sell high.
Trading the All-Star could give the Blues the offensive push needed to make a run for the cup. They were thwarted, as everyone was, by the Los Angeles Kings because they did not have scorers.
The goaltending situation in St. Louis is solid, but the Blues should consider parting with Elliott if the price is right.
Nashville Predators: Shea Weber
Shea Weber is undoubtedly a franchise player—easily one of the best defenders in the league. That being said, it would not be a complete shock to see the Predators in a spot where Weber would have to go.
The Preds fought to keep Weber after the Flyers signed the defenseman to a hefty $110 million offer sheet. Nashville put up the money and now has its defenseman long-term.
Whether or not this contract will be permitted to stand as is under the new CBA is undetermined. It will be interesting to see how Weber performs without defensive partner Ryan Suter.
Weber’s contract does not include a no-trade clause; Nashville knows the day might come when it has to trade its star.
Detroit Red Wings: Johan Franzen
The Detroit Red Wings are in damage control after Niklas Lidstrom retired, leaving a gaping hole in the team’s defense. Johan Franzen’s goal-scoring ability makes him a likely and valuable trade option.
As goaltender Jimmy Howard heads towards its completion, Detroit will have to shell out the cash in order to keep him. While that is going down, the Red Wings will be hoping that newly acquired Kyle Quincey and Carlo Colaiacovo will be enough to hold down the blue line with Niklas Kronwall.
If not, Franzen will be the first forward to go.
Chicago Blackhawks: Niklas Hjalmarsson
Their recent three-year signing of Johnny Oduya leaves the Chicago Blackhawks with a defensive surplus. Promising young defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson is primed to be sent off for a big return.
Many fans backlashed at the Oduya deal, insisting he is being over paid and should be a third-liner at best.
Defense and goaltending have been two weaknesses to the offensive Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago might be trying to use Hjalmarsson to bring in a durable goaltender.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Ryan Murray
Having just traded away their biggest trade chip for a few OK players, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ last trade asset is their first-round draft pick Ryan Murray. Murray will certainly be a great defenseman, however, the Blue Jackets may not be in a position to develop him.
The Blue Jackets have made several risky maneuvers in the past year: trading their star Rick Nash for a weak return, picking up Sergei Bobrovsky as a starting goaltender and scavenging for good peripheral players like Nick Foligno.
In Columbus, one or more of these risks will likely take a bad turn. In such an event, the Blue Jackets will need to lose Murray for an already-established defender.
Vancouver Canucks: Roberto Luongo
The once beloved Roberto Luongo has become a burden on the Vancouver Canucks. The Nucks plan on promoting Cory Schneider to the top spot after Luongo has failed to produce in past post seasons.
Unfortunately, there are few teams willing to fork over a price high enough for Vancouver, especially for a goalie whose contract is as large as Luongo’s. Until the Canucks can move him, the “franchise goalie’s” contract will continue to hinder the team’s ability to expand.
Luongo is unquestionably Vancouver’s most valuable trade chip not only because of his skill, but because he is worth more to the team if traded.
Calgary Flames: Jarome Iginla
Again, another franchise player, but Jarome Iginla may not be like Martin Brodeur and stick to his rookie franchise. Brodeur’s team brought him three cups in his career—Iginla’s has not brought him one.
There will be a huge push for Iginla during the free agency, especially from Canadian teams. The Calgary Flames will have to break out their wallet if they want to hold on to their 15-year franchise player.
Colorado Avalanche: Ryan O’Reilly
This past year, the Colorado Avalanche have made a few moves to add some offensive support to their team. If the Avs find themselves wanting to make some fine tunings, Ryan O’Reilly is the most likely to be traded.
Matt Duchene, Paul Statsny and Gabriel Landeskog are all young and very skilled—they are not going anywhere. Recent additions P.A. Parenteau and Steve Downie should bolster their offense, perhaps to a tipping point.
Having traded Kyle Quincey, the Avs might have shown a bit of misplaced confidence in their unproven defense. That is where O’Reilly will come in, should they need to backtrack.
Minnesota Wild: Dany Heatley
While Heatley still has some game, he has become a major trade possibility for the Minnesota Wild. Having just acquired Zach Parise, and with Heatley approaching free agency in 2014, now would be the time for the Wild to move the aging forward.
Goaltender NIklas Backstrom would have been a decent trade chip as his contract nears its expiration. An impressive last-season performance from backup Josh Harding led the Wild to believe he could take over. However, after the 28-year-old had been tragically diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the Wild will have to act aggressively in re-signing Backstrom.
Heatley’s production has slipped a bit in the past two seasons, a sign that he is passed his prime; the Wild need to sell him before that becomes evident to the rest of the league.
Edmonton Oilers: Ales Hemsky
The Edmonton Oilers can stockpile all the first overall draft picks they want, they need to address the other facets of the game. That includes defense and goaltending, not just forwards.
The Oilers passed on promising defenseman Ryan Murray to pick up Sarnia sensation Nail Yakupov—the third forward they have drafted with their first pick in three years.
The plethora of offensive talent in Edmonton is overkill. Sooner or later, the Oilers will realize players also have to keep pucks out of the net.
Coyotes: Keith Yandle
Assuming the Phoenix Coyotes would not part with Mike Smith, even though they have a reputation for developing goalies, defenseman Keith Yandle is left as the Coyotes’ biggest trade chip. The 26-year old has a capacity for notching points that other teams salivate over.
A defenseman like Yandle is gold for quarterbacking power plays. Not sure what aspect of Phoenix’s well-balanced game they would like to add on, but Yandle would be the key to doing it.
Who else is there really?
San Jose Sharks: Ryan Clowe or Joe Thornton
Ryan Clowe seems like the most likely to actually be traded, but Joe Thornton is approaching free agency after six years on a team that has yet to see him to a cup. Though it would kill the Sharks to trade one of the best playmakers in the game, they might want to get something for him while they can.
The 33-year-old has not had a season with less than 70 points since joining the Sharks. Their goal-scoring talent makes the team an ideal place for a passer like Thornton.
Admittedly, trading Thornton seems unlikely. The Sharks will do what they can to keep him, making Clowe the most valuable, likely trade bait if need be.
Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Bernier
Locking Jonathan Quick to a 10-year contract solidified Jonathan Bernier’s spot as a backup for the Los Angeles Kings. Although goaltending depth is a great thing to have on a team, the Kings should sell high while the goalie demand is in full gear.
As mentioned before, teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and the Toronto Maple Leafs are in dire need of a netminder. Goaltending in the NHL is a monopoly and the Kings have excess supply.
Bernier has not necessarily proven himself a worthy starter, but hey, he won the Stanley Cup.
Dallas Stars: Alex Goligoski
After enforcing their offense with Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy and Ray Whitney, the Dallas Stars are hoping they can become a contender. As one of the many teams who have just undergone several trades, their trade chips are limited—defenseman Alex Goligoski is the only worthy tradable player.
In six seasons in the NHL, the 27-year-old has maintained a strong career plus-minus (34). Goligoski has also notched several 30-point seasons in the process.
The Stars are hanging on to their forwards and will fight for Kari Lehtonen during the free agency. If anyone is moved, it will be Goligoski.
Anaheim Ducks: Corey Perry or Ryan Getzlaf
Again, this list is supposed to exclude franchise players—so here are two: Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The Anaheim Ducks may trade one (cough, Getzlaf, cough) rather than scramble to keep them both.
Perry is a solid goal scorer who led the league in goals in 2011. Though his point production plummeted, by his standards, this season, the 27-year-old still notched a solid 37 goals.
After two seasons of somewhat minor injury, Getzlaf has seen his production slip quite a bit. Anaheim’s go-to assist man was average this past year.
As the two approach free agency, it will be interesting to see where the duo ends up. Perhaps Perry and Getzlaf will join up and sign a Zach Parise and Ryan Suter-esque package deal with another team.