The next few weeks will be the busiest stretch of the year for general managers around the league. Between the 2014 NHL draft, the start of free agency and what sounds like a very active trade market, there's a chance to make a serious impact.
Often, trades are viewed as a secondary option if signing a high-profile free agent doesn't work out. As all of the compliance buyouts over the past two years show, however, spending big money on the open market doesn't always work out. Trading for a player with a more reasonable contract is a good alternative.
The draft could very well spark the beginning of the wheeling and dealing because the top of the draft is unsettled. With that in mind, let's check out some of the latest trade talk and examine the potential impact if a deal is made.
Kane is only 22, but he's already played five full NHL seasons. The question for the Winnipeg Jets and any potential suitors is whether he can become a 30-goal scorer on a regular basis, a level he's reached once so far in his career, or is more of a secondary scoring option.
The value is obviously vastly different based on how teams project his future. Based on the number of teams with interest in the young winger, provided by Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press, it sure seems like there's a strong belief he's going to become an offensive force:
No player on the Jets' roster has had his name linked to more trade rumours than Kane. In the last month alone he's been rumoured to be headed to Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Montreal, Chicago, Los Angeles, Ottawa, New York Rangers, Edmonton and Buffalo. And, undoubtedly, he's been whispered to be off to more destinations as well.
Kane has topped 50 points just once in five seasons. So there would be some risk in putting together a sizable package to lure him away from Winnipeg, which can create a bidding war of sorts. That said, he features the potential to become a key piece for a very long time.
No. 1 Draft Pick
The draft should provide plenty of entertainment value. Not only is the top overall selection on the trade block, but it's unclear which elite prospect teams are targeting. George Richards of the Miami Herald passed along comments from Florida Panthers general manger Dale Tallon about a possible deal:
Unsurprisingly, Tallon didn't mention which team provided that offer. Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports reports there's definite interest in moving up around the league and that at least one team has already stepped up to discuss a swap:
One team that has definitely made an offer? Vancouver. I believe it included their first pick in this draft (which is sixth overall) and Hunter Shinkaruk, who was taken 24th in 2013. There was at least one other piece, probably off the main roster, but I can't pin it down. It's not Ryan Kesler, who won't go there.
Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett are the three players most likely to come off the board first. Reinhart in particular has already displayed high-level playmaking skills and should be a major presence in a team's top six sooner rather than later.
The Chicago Blackhawks have been one of the most consistently strong teams in the NHL for the past handful of years. Usually that means a team is focused on keeping its core in place, but the Hawks may be forced to make a big move, such as trading Sharp.
Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reports between the need to give other members of the team (Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane) big contract extensions and the need for depth up the middle could make Sharp expendable:
With star centers Ryan Kesler (Vancouver), Jason Spezza (Ottawa) and Joe Thornton (San Jose) all on the trading block, and Colorado's Paul Stastny possibly hitting the free-agent market, Bowman likely would have to give up a major piece of the Hawks' core—Patrick Sharp's name has been bandied about—to make such a move.
Sharp scored 78 points, including 34 goals, while playing in all 82 games for the Hawks last season. But if moving him allows the team to add a big-name center in the short term and sign the two aforementioned superstars for the long term, it's a sacrifice Chicago is probably willing to make.
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