With the recent 25-year anniversary of the trade of Wayne Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings, it brings to mind the concept of untouchable players.
The Gretzky trade was not the first time that a big name had been traded in the NHL. Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, Jacques Plante and Frank Mahovlich had all been traded prior to the Wayne Gretzky deal.
It is very rare that NHL players play their entire careers with one organization. In the past 25 years, Mark Messier, Eric Lindros, Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque, Roberto Luongo, Zdeno Chara and Jarome Iginla are some of the biggest names to have changed addresses via trade. In some instances, players left at their own request, in other cases, they had simply outstayed their welcome. Some players were essentially sold for cash.
Some current NHL teams likely have a few untouchables, although owners and general managers can often be swayed to deal players that they may have deemed untouchable, at one point or another.
Here are the untouchable players for each NHL team, why they are untouchable, and other players that are candidates for untouchable status.
The regular player statistics can be found at nhl.com
Advanced player statistics are from Behind the Net
All salary information is from capgeek.com
Most Untouchable Player: Corey Perry
Why He’s Untouchable: Great scoring winger with a big multi-year contract
The native of Peterborough, ON is a great scoring winger who plays the game with high intensity. Paired with Ryan Getzlaf, Perry is an elite sniper who can also bring a physical edge to a game.
Perry is a great competitor, and he is also very good at driving opponents off their usual games with his ability to use trash talk. As a great scorer, he backs up his talk with his punishing offensive game.
Perry is in the prime of his career and won’t be leaving Anaheim any time soon.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Ryan Getzlaf & Cam Fowler
Most Untouchable Player: Tuukka Rask
Why He’s Untouchable: Elite NHL goalie and a huge contract
Tuukka Rask had the enviable task of having to replace Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas in Boston. Rask not only replaced him, but in many ways, he is an upgrade given his age, obvious talents and with his ability to focus on hockey rather than politics.
Rask is just 26 years old and still has room to develop as a goaltender. He posted a 1.88 goals against average in the playoffs, along with a save percentage of .940.
Rask is now earning $7 million per season, and with the salary cap constraints being what they are, he is easily the most untouchable player for the Boston Bruins.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Patrice Bergeron & Zdeno Chara
Most Untouchable Player: Mikhail Grigorenko
Why He’s Untouchable: Most talented young player
Quite frankly, there are not likely many, if any, untouchables on the current Buffalo Sabres roster.
The Buffalo Sabres have a lot of cap space and are likely to continue to make significant changes, if there are willing trade partners, in the coming months. Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek are set to become Unrestricted Free Agents in 2014.
It remains unlikely that both players will be with the Sabres in the future despite having some very productive years in Buffalo. Mikhail Grigorenko has tremendous upside, and is likely to be a key player as the Sabres try to rebuild on the fly in the Eastern conference. Grigorenko has all the tools to be an elite NHL center.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Jhonas Enroth & Christian Erhoff
Most Untouchable Player: Sven Baertschi
Why He’s Untouchable: Great offensive talent and relatively inexpensive
Sven Baertschi is an exceptional talent. The Swiss forward has all-world speed, and his ability to move the puck at top speed, is excellent.
The Flames are re-tooling their entire roster, but they are not starting from scratch. Along with Baertschi, the Flames have some good young players that are not yet in their primes.
There will be some short-term pain in Calgary, but expect Baertschi to challenge Mike Cammalleri for the scoring title in Calgary next year.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Mark Giordano & T.J. Brodie
Most Untouchable Player: Eric Staal
Why He’s Untouchable: Franchise player
Eric Staal is a quiet star. He’s not the first player that comes to mind when the elite NHL players are discussed, but he should be.
Staal is a highly intelligent player who excels in all game situations. He is a powerful skater who can dominate in both the offensive and defensive zones. He is a natural leader in the sense that he exudes confidence, and he can back it up on the ice.
He was in the top 10 in NHL scoring last year, despite the Hurricanes not having a good season. There are some good pieces in Carolina, and with the relative parity in the league, there is reason to believe that the Hurricanes can challenge for a playoff spot in 2013-14.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Cam Ward & Jordan Staal
Most Untouchable Player: Patrick Kane
Why He’s Untouchable: Exceptional offensive talent
The Blackhawks have one of the best young cores in the entire NHL. Almost all of their best players are either entering their primes, or are in the midst of their best seasons.
Defending their Stanley Cup successfully in 2013-14 is certainly plausible.
Patrick Kane is as untouchable as any Blackhawk. He is the best offensive player that the Hawks have, and Kane is also committed to the defensive game, when the games matter most.
Kane is an emotional player, and while he has had some minor off-ice issues, he is committed to winning. His Conn Smythe Trophy solidifies this commitment.
He is signed for two more seasons, so look for the Blackhawks to offer him a new contract (or an extension of his current $6.3 million one) soon.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Jonathan Toews & Duncan Keith
Most Untouchable Player: Matt Duchene
Why He’s Untouchable: Offensive leader and contract
New coach Patrick Roy has inherited a young group of players with a lot of potential in Colorado. Chemistry is always an elusive element on a team, and that is something that needs to develop in the Mile High City.
The Avalanche are in a competitive division and will be challenged to make the playoffs in 2013-14. Matt Duchene is their offensive leader.
His game features excellent speed and an ability to make skilled plays while moving at top speed. Duchene has also received a new contract that sees him signed through the next six seasons.
Moving that type of contract, if the Avalanche ever did want to do so, also contributes to Duchene’s untouchable status.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Gabriel Landeskog
Most Untouchable Player: Sergei Bobrovsky
Why He’s Untouchable: Franchise goalie
The Columbus Blue Jackets are a darkhorse team for the upcoming season. They made some important strides toward the end of the shortened 2013 season, and while they are now in the very competitive Eastern conference, they have one of the best young goalies in the game.
Sergei Bobrovsky had an excellent year and posted a 2.00 goals against average and .932 save percentage. He has a lot of confidence, and will be in the mix to lead Team Russia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics if he continues his elevated play.
Expect the Blue Jackets to surprise some teams with Bobrovsky being a key part of this.
Other Unlikely Untouchable(s): Nathan Horton
Most Untouchable Player: Tyler Seguin
Why He’s Untouchable: First-line centre with a big contract
Tyler Seguin is getting a great opportunity for a fresh start in Dallas. The team is building around him as a cornerstone up front.
Dominant, offensive centres are difficult to find, and Seguin has all the makings to be an outstanding centre in Big D. Seguin learned a lot in Boston.
Coach Claude Julien insisted on discipline in all three zones, and Seguin developed some great defensive habits in Boston. He has tremendous speed and can create chances in the offensive zone. Seguin will be returning to centre, and the excitement to do so should not be underestimated.
Look for him to be very motivated next season.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Jamie Benn & Kari Lehtonen
Most Untouchable Player: Henrik Zetterberg
Why He’s Untouchable(s): Dominant centre and a large contract
Pavel Datsyuk gets more fanfare, but Swedish standout Henrik Zetterberg is also an excellent two-way forward. Zetterberg creates offensive chances like few other players.
His adjusted Corsi number, along with Pavel Datsyuk’s, makes him, arguably, one of the most effective players in the NHL.
Zetterberg relishes the puck-possession game that coach Mike Babcock favours, and with his excellent hockey sense, he plays a game that few others can.
Zetterberg is not one-dimensional, and he will be an impact player for Sweden at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia. If Sweden medals, Zetterberg will have made a big contribution to the efforts.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Pavel Datsyuk & Jimmy Howard
Most Untouchable Player: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Why He’s Untouchable: Offensively gifted centre with tremendous potential
The Edmonton Oilers have a few untouchables and heading this list is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
RNH has tremendous upside that has been only partially realized so far.
The Oilers have some exceptional young wingers, but outside of Sam Gagner, they do not have anyone that is particularly dynamic at the centre ice position, other than Nugent-Hopkins. He has tremendous vision and hands. He can do everything at high speed, and improves the play of every teammate that he shares the ice with, in all game situations.
He is recovering from shoulder surgery, but expect him to come back with a lot of motivation to be even better in 2013-2014, when he is fully healed.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Taylor Hall & Justin Schultz
Most Untouchable Player: Jonathan Huberdeau
Why He’s Untouchable: Most gifted Panther
Jonathan Huberdeau had a very good rookie season, on a very bad team. That is not easy to do, yet Huberdeau persevered, and earned the Calder Trophy.
Huberdeau is someone that the Panthers can build around as he is in the middle of his entry-level contract and should be in Florida for a lot of years.
Offensively, the sky is the limit for him. The Panthers have a lot of cap space and need to continue to add skilled young players. They are a few years away from being competitive on a nightly basis, but there are a few elements in place.
Huberdeau is an excellent building block with his above average effort and puck skills.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Erik Gudbrandson & Brian Campbell
Most Untouchable Player: Drew Doughty
Why He’s Untouchable: Best Kings Defenseman
The Los Angeles Kings have a few players that are likely untouchable. Leading this group is Drew Doughty. He is a defensive anchor for the Kings.
Doughty is one of the best defensemen in the NHL. He is only now entering his prime years, and there is every reason to believe that he will get better as he enters his mid-20s.
Doughty has no weaknesses in his game. He is great in the offensive zone, skates exceptionally well, and is one of the better defenders in the game. Doughty can be counted on to deliver quality minutes on an everyday business. He rarely has a bad shift, let alone a bad game.
He’ll be a perennial Norris Trophy candidate for several years.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Jonathan Quick & Anze Kopitar
Most Untouchable Player: Ryan Suter
Why He’s Untouchable: Wild’s best defender and a large contract
Ryan Suter is a dominant NHL defenseman who excels in all three zones. The Wild count on him to play nearly half of every game, and there are times where he plays even more than 30 minutes a night.
Suter excelled in Nashville while paired with Shea Weber on many nights. This stellar play has continued in Minnesota where he has blossomed as a leader on defense.
His current contact pays him more than $7 million per year and he has a no trade clause as well. Suter is a sure bet to be a key player for the United States Olympic team in Sochi next year. If the team challenges for the gold medal, Suter is sure to play a key role in that.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Zach Parise & Mikko Koivu
Most Untouchable Player: Carey Price
Why He’s Untouchable: Franchise goalie
The Montreal Canadiens returned to near the top of the regular season heap in 2013. Much of their success was due to the outstanding goaltending of B.C. native Carey Price.
Price has been one of the top goaltenders in the NHL for a number of years. He is very athletic, highly competitive, and has good size for a goaltender.
The Canadiens have a rich history in netminders, and Price has done well to preserve this legacy in Montreal. Price has a long-term contract that reflects the trust that the organization has put in him so don’t expect him to be leaving the Canadiens any time soon.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): P.K. Subban & Max Pacioretty
Most Untouchable Player: Shea Weber
Why He’s Untouchable: The face of the franchise
The Nashville Predators have always played a defensive game. It leaves little room for error on most nights and places a premium on quality defending.
Shea Weber has been a lynchpin in Nashville and the unquestioned leader of his club.
He can do it all from his point position, and he dominates in both the offensive and defensive zones. Weber will be even more motivated in 2013-14 as the Predators did not have a good season by any measure. He will also be motivated to secure his place on Team Canada’s blue line at the 2014 Olympics.
He will continue to be the Predators best player in 2013-14 and one of the best defensemen in the entire league.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Pekka Rinne & Roman Josi
Most Untouchable Player: Martin Brodeur
Why He’s Untouchable: Most beloved player in New Jersey’s history
Martin Brodeur is nowhere near where he was at the peak of his game. Few goaltenders have ever reached the levels that he has achieved. His 669 wins and 121 shutouts are excellent indicators of not only his goaltending abilities, but how great teams have been in New Jersey over his tenure.
Brodeur has enjoyed both individual success and team success both in the NHL, and at the international level. He remains in the mix to make Team Canada in Sochi in 2014. The highly competitive Brodeur will have extra motivation to have a great start to the 2013-14 season.
With Cory Schneider now able to provide the Devils with more quality goaltending, look for them to be a tough team to score against next year.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Travis Zajac & Cory Schneider
Most Untouchable Player: John Tavares
Why He’s Untouchable: One of the top young players in the NHL
John Tavares was one of the best stories in the 2013 season. Tavares was nominated as a finalist for the Hart Trophy in 2013 after leading the Islanders to their playoff berth.
Tavares is one of those elite players that plays his best in the biggest games. He was one of the main reasons why the Islanders almost upset the Penguins in the playoffs.
Tavares creates a number of scoring chances in every game and he’s one of those players that the puck seems to follow.
His Corsi number should only improve as the entire team improves along with him. Unquestionably, Tavares is one of the top young talents in the NHL today.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Travis Hamonic & Josh Bailey
Most Untouchable Player: Henrik Lundqvist
Why He’s Untouchable: The best goaltender in the world
Great goaltending is important to every hockey team at every level of play.
The New York Rangers can boast the top goalie in the world, in Sweden’s Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist has a quiet confidence that allows his teammates to play their game with no concerns about how their starter will perform on any given night.
Players have the freedom to play their own games, without the added pressure of worrying constantly about giving up a scoring chance. Lundqvist had an excellent save percentage at .926 last season, and that was despite the Rangers struggling defensively for large parts of the season.
Lundqvist will challenge for the Vezina Trophy in 2013-14 season along with leading Sweden at the Winter Olympics.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Rick Nash & Ryan McDonagh
Most Untouchable Player: Erik Karlsson
Why He’s Untouchable: The best offensive defenseman in the game
The Ottawa Senators battled their way through the 2013 season despite a series of injuries to some of their key players. Erik Karlsson was one of those players. He recovered from a sliced Achilles tendon in a remarkably quick time.
He was able to get back in time to help lead the Senators to the playoffs. There were high hopes for him last year as he had won his first Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman.
At just 23, Karlsson is one of the league’s brightest stars. Expect him to be dominant in 2013-14 as he returns to full health.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Jason Spezza & Bobby Ryan
Most Untouchable Player: Claude Giroux
Why He’s Untouchable: Elite scorer with a big contract
Claude Giroux is one of the most talented players in the NHL. He is a shoo-in to be one of the top offensive players for Canada at the Sochi Olympics next winter. He had a great junior career in Gatineau, and has been able to sustain that offensive output in Phildadelphia.
The Flyers organization has been one of the better ones in the NHL over the past twenty-five years. They ice competitive teams in most seasons, and Philly fans will not be happy if the Flyers don’t return to their winning ways in 2013-14.
Expect Giroux to be among the NHL scoring leaders next year.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Scott Hartnell
Most Untouchable Player: Mike Smith
Why He’s Untouchable: Franchise goalie
The Phoenix Coyotes have continued to defy the odds by having relatively competitive teams despite tremendous organizational turmoil. Things may settle with the ownership situation changing as the team moves forward.
Goaltender Mike Smith has been a huge part of the Coyotes on-ice success. He now has a long-term contract that affords him a level of peace of mind that he has not had previously.
Smith is on the radar for the Canadian Olympic team, and do not be surprised if he is one of the three goalies named to the squad. Smith plays in a goalie-friendly system in Phoenix, but he is a late bloomer with very good fundamentals.
He has the tools to continue to be an important piece for the Desert Dogs.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Shane Doan & Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Most Untouchable Player: Sidney Crosby
Why He’s Untouchable: The face of the Penguins and the NHL
Sidney Crosby, at his best, is the most dominant player in the NHL. He just happens to play with another dominant offensive player in Evgeni Malkin.
They should be considered as 1 and 1A in Pittsburgh with Malkin being an all-world offensive talent. Crosby has been the best player of his generation. He is a fierce competitor who is rarely outworked in a game, if ever.
His long-term health remains a concern with the number of concussions he has suffered. If Crosby were ever to be traded, that transaction would become one of the most stunning moves in NHL trade history.
As we all know, stranger things have happened though.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Evgeni Malkin & Kris Letang
Most Untouchable Player: Logan Couture
Why He’s Untouchable: One of the top young players in the league
Logan Couture has slowly, but surely, become one of the top players in the NHL. San Jose has chosen, and rightly so, to develop him with a long view.
They had the luxury of having good teams in San Jose, but patience is always superior than exposing a player to situations that are unsuitable to his long-term development.
Couture is a great puck-possession player, and his Raw Corsi number is often one of the better ones in the league in all game situations, among young forwards.
Couture has exceptional hands along with superb speed. He and Joe Pavelski are very able successors to Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau in the coming years.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Joe Pavelski & Brent Burns
Most Untouchable Player: Alex Pietrangelo
Why He’s Untouchable: Superb all-around defenseman
The St. Louis Blues’ Alexander Pietrangelo remains a Restricted Free Agent, but the Blues need to get Pietrangelo signed in the next month.
The Blues have one of the better teams in the league, and Pietrangelo is in the same territory as Drew Doughty and Ryan Suter. He’s a Norris-caliber defenseman who has not reached his prime NHL years.
Pietrangelo can play in all situations, and is one of those rare players that can control the game from the back end. He can be physical when needed, although Pietrangelo is at his best when he is able to use his high hockey IQ to its fullest.
The Blues need to be mindful of the contract position that P.K. Subban is in now, thanks to his hold out, and subsequent short-term contract.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): David Backes & Vladimir Tarasenko
Most Untouchable Player: Steven Stamkos
Why He’s Untouchable: Best pure shooter in the NHL
Steven Stamkos is one of the hardest workers in the NHL. He has exceptional endurance. Combined with his amazing hand-eye coordination, Stamkos is dominant throughout an entire game; and, that cannot be said of all elite offensive players.
Stamkos is one of those rare players that can score in a number of ways. If you lose sight of him in the offensive zone, there is a good chance that the puck ends up in the back of your net.
The Lightning have some exciting young talent that will benefit from watching how Stamkos conducts himself as a pro.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Martin St. Louis & Matt Carle
Most Untouchable Player: Joffrey Lupul
Why He’s Untouchable: Offensive prowess and leadership qualities
Joffrey Lupul has played some of his best hockey in Toronto with the Leafs. As long as he can remain healthy, he will continue to be one of the most important players in the Leafs organization.
Lupul has always been a gifted goal scorer. He has good reach and soft hands. He is a good skater who is rarely out of position.
As Lupul has matured, his defensive game has also improved. This was something that was questioned in his earlier years in the league. Lupul has an outgoing personality, and his quick wittedness makes him a natural leader off the ice.
Other Likely Untouchables: Jonathan Bernier & Nazem Kadri
Most Untouchable Player(s): Henrik Sedin & Daniel Sedin
Why They Are Untouchable: Remain as dominant offensive players
The Sedins, Daniel and Henrik, seem destined to play their entire careers in Vancouver. They are eligible to be Unrestricted Free Agents next year, but it would be very surprising if they do not remain in Vancouver.
These two are listed together as untouchable players because there is no way that they will play apart unless it’s due to injury. The Canucks have recently drafted some dynamic young forwards, but they are years away from having a significant impact at the NHL level.
The Canucks have some great pieces in place, although time is beginning to be a factor with this core group. With the move to the Pacific division, the Canucks will no longer be favored to win their division title. The success they do have, will be due to the play of these two exceptional talents.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Alexander Edler & Kevin Bieksa
Most Untouchable Player: Alex Ovechkin
Why He’s Untouchable: One of the best players on the planet and his contract
Alex Ovechkin was the Alexander the Great of old in 2013. Under the tutelage of Adam Oates, Ovechkin scored in bunches.
He won the Hart Trophy and in the latter half of the season, the Capitals were one of the better teams in the NHL. The Capitals will need to be equally good, if not better in 2013-14, to secure a playoff berth in the competitive Eastern conference next year.
Ovechkin is a defending team’s nightmare when he is playing his best. He hits everything that moves and unleashes his excellent shot from almost anywhere in the offensive zone.
Ovechkin will want nothing more than to lead Russia to gold at the Olympics in Sochi. Expect that goal to motivate him to play at a high level throughout the 2013-14 NHL season as well.
At his best, Ovechkin is one of the top offensive forces in the league.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Nicklas Backstrom & Mike Green
Most Untouchable Player: Andrew Ladd
Why He's Untouchable: Offensive force and unquestioned Jets leader
Andrew Ladd is somewhat of a late bloomer in comparison to some phenoms. In many ways though, it is surprising that he is just 27-years-old given what he has accomplished in his hockey career. He was an integral player in the Blackhawks organization while winning the 2010 Stanley Cup.
He had a great offensive year, and if he can continue that level of production, the Jets should make a push to bring playoff action back to Manitoba in 2014.
The Jets have some talented players at all positions and Ladd provides some much needed veteran stability. He is a winner and leads by example.
The Jets will not have the benefit of playing in the league’s weakest division, as they did last year, but look for Ladd to lead them against their new rivals.
Other Likely Untouchable(s): Zach Bogosian & Evander Kane