Ranking the 10 Players Most Likely to Be Traded After the 2015-16 NHL Season

Steve Macfarlane@@MacfarlaneHKYFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2016

Ranking the 10 Players Most Likely to Be Traded After the 2015-16 NHL Season

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    Rosters are set for the playoff push, but there are still some NHL players with uncertain futures come summer.

    For some players, these final games of the 2015-16 season are the last they'll play with their current teams, whether it's because of an expiring contract, a challenging salary-cap situation, a youth movement or philosophical differences.

    Even as the fight for the Stanley Cup takes place, general managers will be piecing together their plans for the coming seasons and looking for valuable additions or ways to subtract.

    Click ahead to see the ranking of the 10 biggest names likely to be dealt after this season and why they might be moving on.

10. Keith Yandle, New York Rangers

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    By the numbers: 66 games played, five goals, 32 assists, 37 points, 14 power-play points, 140 shots

    His current role: Keith Yandle is playing top-four minutes with the New York Rangers, averaging nearly 20 per game. The 29-year-old is the team's top power-play quarterback and sits third in team scoring.

    Why they will deal him: The Rangers went all-in at the deadline the past couple of seasons by adding Eric Staal this season after bringing in Yandle a year ago. They've paid a heavy price to load up, and the decision to keep Yandle, an impending unrestricted free agent, at the risk of losing him for nothing in July wasn't one easily made.

    Given the size of raise Yandle will earn on the open market and the money the Rangers already have locked up, they will not be able to sign him. That means a draft pick for signing rights ahead of July 1 is the only way to recoup a fraction of the cost.

9. David Backes, St. Louis Blues

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    By the numbers: 67 games played, 16 goals, 20 assists, 36 points, three game-winners, 138 shots

    His current role: At 31, David Backes' role with the powerhouse St. Louis Blues has been reduced to that of third-line center. He's a stellar two-way pivot who can shut down an opponent's top line and dish out some hits in the process. Backes is also adept at scoring timely goals. He's not an elite offensive talent but contributes enough to earn a raise from his $4.5 million cap hit. 

    Why they will deal him: With a full no-trade clause, Backes has the ability to strike down any potential deal even if it's just a temporary move to negotiate with him exclusively for a few days before the free-agent frenzy. Not sure why the impending UFA would do that, though, when he has nothing to lose by listening. He would be a valuable two-way addition to any team.

8. Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins

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    By the numbers: 67 games played, 24 goals, 25 assists, 49 points, plus-12 rating, five game-winners, 141 shots

    His current role: Loui Eriksson has been a top-six forward for the Boston Bruins, and he's enjoyed one of the better offensive paces of his lengthy career in the NHL for most of this season. But a recent slump—one goal in his last seven games—has seen him flip spots with third-liner Matt Beleskey. He's still an integral part of the Bruins' plans for the playoffs.

    Why they will deal him: It's because of the team's eagerness to succeed in the playoffs that it hung on to the impending unrestricted free agent despite the inability to sign the 30-year-old to an extension. Essentially, Eriksson became a potential trade-deadline rental the Bruins risk losing July 1. He's one of a few names on this list big enough to fall into the category of exclusive trading-rights deals after the season. He may not fetch much, but a team eager to sign him might take that shot.

7. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers

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    By the numbers: 46 games played, eight goals, 22 assists, 30 points, 85 shots

    His current role: Coming back from yet another injury, it will be curious to see where fragile Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will play with fellow middlemen Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl having solid seasons so far. When healthy, Nugent-Hopkins has been a decent top-six forward during his time in Edmonton; he cracked the 50-point mark the past two years. 

    Why they will deal him: With their future seemingly in McDavid and Draisaitl in the middle of the top two lines, Nugent-Hopkins makes too much money ($6 million a season until 2021, according to GeneralFanager.com) to play on a third line. Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said before the deadline he'd be open to dealing one of his big-money players and would be more likely to do it in the offseason.

6. Scott Hartnell, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    By the numbers: 64 games played, 21 goals, 22 assists, 43 points, 100 PIM, 125 shots

    His current role: Scott Hartnell is a top-six forward with toughness who can clear space for more skilled linemates but also has the talent to keep up offensively and produce. The veteran is mentoring some of the youngsters on the Columbus Blue Jackets roster while pacing the team in points. 

    Why they will deal him: The team was dangling Hartnell at the trade deadline in order to free up some money in the budget to re-sign defenseman Seth Jones—Columbus' prized defensive acquisition this year who is set to become a restricted free agent—as well as make room for some younger players. Things shouldn't change, and a contending team looking for some physical play up front could make a move for the 33-year-old who has three more years at a $4.75 million cap hit, according to GeneralFanager.com.

5. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    By the numbers: 66 games played, 29 goals, 23 assists, 52 points, 12 power-play goals, 20 power-play points, six game-winning goals, 180 shots

    His current role: Steven Stamkos is the Tampa Bay Lightning captain and goalscoring leader for his club. The top-line center averages more than 19.5 minutes per game—more than any other Bolts forward. He's been inconsistent this season but has eight goals in his last 13 games amid all the distractions of what has shaped up to be a complicated season.

    Why they will deal him: Stamkos is a prime candidate for a rights-trading deal around the draft that will give one NHL team exclusive negotiating with the impending unrestricted free agent who is set to cash in hugely on the open market. The Lightning haven't been able to come to an agreement on an extension, and all signs point to the 26-year-old moving on, so it makes sense to get something in return while they can.

4. Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks

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    By the numbers: 65 games played, 19 goals, 20 assists, 39 points, minus-14 rating, 20 power-play points, 163 shots

    His current role: The 36-year-old veteran is the San Jose Sharks' third-line center thanks to the return of a healthy Logan Couture. Patrick Marleau is, at this point of his career, a solid depth player who can take advantage of more favorable matchups rather than the big five-on-five minutes he was once counted on to manage. He still spends a significant chunk of time on the power play. 

    Why they will deal him: According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, there was some suspicion the longtime Sharks star had asked for a trade. Nothing materialized with the Sharks in the playoff hunt this late in the season, but the summer could provide the opportunity for the team to part ways with the former franchise player and officially turn it over to the younger leaders like Couture and Joe Pavelski.

3. Travis Hamonic, New York Islanders

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    By the numbers: 59 games played, five goals, 13 assists, 18 points, 129 shots

    His current role: Travis Hamonic is a top-pairing defenseman with the New York Islanders who excels in physical and defensive aspects of the game. He's a reliable penalty-killer and averages nearly 24 minutes a game—leading the Isles in that category. The 25-year-old's game is well-rounded, and although he's on pace for just 24 points this season, he showed last year he is capable of more.

    Why they will deal him: Hamonic asked for a trade ahead of the season, wanting to be closer to his home in Western Canada for personal family reasons. While the Isles held on to the minute-muncher because of their need for his services for the battle for a playoff spot and the postseason itself, they will have no shortage of suitors by the time the draft rolls around.

2. Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks

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    By the numbers: 36 games played, 18-8-6 record, 2.21 goals-against average, .922 save percentage

    His current role: The Anaheim Ducks have a dynamic one-two punch between the pipes with goaltenders Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. Unfortunately for Andersen, it's the No. 2 spot that he stands to play more often than not. Andersen started the year as the top guy, but injury gave Gibson an opportunity, and it's been a timeshare for most of the past few months. It's been working, so there's no reason to shake things up.

    Why they will deal him: Andersen is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, and he's going to require a much bigger paycheck than the $1.15 million he's making now. Gibson is signed for three more seasons, and there should be plenty of interest in Andersen around the league. He's 6'4" and just 26 years old.

1. Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    By the numbers: 19 games played, two goals, six assists, eight points, 19 shots

    His current role: After abandoning the Tampa Bay Lightning's AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch after a demotion to the minors, Jonathan Drouin was suspended indefinitely by the organization. However, he is rejoining the franchise, and Sportsnet reported he is expected to practice with the Crunch this week. Drouin had been struggling to carve out a niche as a top-six forward and asked for a trade earlier this year.

    Why they will deal him: Lightning GM Steve Yzerman didn't get an offer he liked at the trade deadline, but offers should flood in again at the draft if Drouin plays well the rest of the year—whether that's with the big club or the AHL team. He's the most intriguing asset of the bunch on this list because of his potential and age. The 20-year-old has a massive upside.


    All stats via NHL.com. Salary numbers via GeneralFanager.com.