The 10 Biggest Trade Candidates in the 2016-17 NHL Season

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2016

The 10 Biggest Trade Candidates in the 2016-17 NHL Season

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    When the curtain rises on October for the 2016-17 NHL season, the trade rumor mill will also return to life. Several players, such as Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, could be among the upcoming season's notable trade candidates.

    Some, such as Fleury, could be dealt in order to protect another player from next June's NHL expansion draft. Potential free agents, such as Shattenkirk, could be moved if unable to re-sign with their current teams before the February 2017 trade deadline. 

    Other factors include a need to address a glaring roster requirement or to simply move out a player who is no longer a good fit. 

    Here's a look at the 10 biggest trade candidates in the 2016-17 NHL season. Feel free to weigh in with your opinion on this topic in the comments section below. 

10. Evander Kane, Buffalo Sabres

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    On July 22, Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane was charged with several misdemeanor counts as a result of an incident in a Buffalo bar on June 24. That's generated speculation Sabres general manager Tim Murray could shop the troubled winger.

    The day after Kane was charged, TSN 1040's Matthew Sekeres reported the Sabres could trade Kane if they re-sign prospect winger Jimmy Vesey. On Aug. 4, Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News suggested it would be better for the Sabres if Murray could trade the 25-year-old forward. 

    Gleason acknowledged the difficulty of moving Kane, citing his off-ice woes and $6 million-per-season salary for the next two years. The winger's recent injury history and declining production could also affect his trade value.

    When healthy and motivated, Kane is a solid power forward. He reached a career-best 30 goals and 57 points in 2011-12. If he can clean up his act, he's still young enough to regain those offensive heights.

    It's unlikely the Sabres will find any offseason takers to Kane. If he regains his form this season, however, teams seeking a scoring winger could be tempted to give him another look. 

9. Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    A logjam of goaltenders for the New York Islanders could result in veteran Jaroslav Halak hitting the trade block in 2016-17. 

    Halak, 31, played in only 36 games in 2015-16. On March 8, he suffered what became a season-ending injury. Backup Thomas Greiss took over the starter's job, backstopping the Isles to their first playoff series victory since 1993. 

    Along with Halak and Greiss, the Isles also carry two promising netminders Jean-Francois Berube and Christopher Gibson. While Gibson can be sent to the minors, Berube is no longer waiver-exempt. That means the Isles risk losing him to another club if they attempt to demote him. 

    On July 6, ESPN.com's Joe McDonald speculated Islanders general manager Garth Snow could shop Halak and his $4.5 million annual cap hit to free up some salary. Given Halak's contract and recent injury history, however, that could prove easier said than done during this offseason.

    The Isles could find it cumbersome to carry three goalies for a lengthy period in 2016-17. At some point, Snow could put Halak on the trade block. As additional enticement, the Isles GM could agree to pick up part of Halak's salary.

8. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers

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    On May 26, the Edmonton Journal's David Staples speculated the Edmonton Oilers could use center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as a trade chip to land a top-two defenseman. Instead, on June 29, the Oilers shipped left wing Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for blueliner Adam Larsson. 

    That moved quieted the Nugent-Hopkins trade chatter. However, that doesn't mean the 23-year-old won't be dealt at some point during the 2016-17 campaign. 

    Nugent-Hopkins usually skated on the Oilers' first or second line. The emergence of Leon Draisaitl as a scoring center, however, bumped him down to the third-line center role. Nugent-Hopkins is also earning $6 million per season through 2020-21. That's a lot of money for a third-liner. 

    If Nugent-Hopkins fails to move up in the pecking order, his name could surface again in trade rumors. Having netted 50-plus points in three of the last five seasons, he should attract attention from clubs seeking scoring depth at center. 

    Despite the acquisition of Larsson, the Oilers still need a proven top-pairing defenseman. It could take packaging Nugent-Hopkins with a first-round pick and a top prospect to address that need. 

7. Tomas Tatar, Detroit Red Wings

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    The Detroit Red Wings are in need of a skilled top-two defenseman. That search could lead to left wing Tomas Tatar becoming a trade candidate this season. 

    On July 5, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reported the Wings have a surplus of forwards and will keep searching for a top-pair or top-three blueliner via the trade market. He suggested either Tatar or Gustav Nyquist could be bargaining chips. 

    The offseason additions of veterans Tomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen, along with the rise of promising forwards such as Dylan Larkin, Teemu Pulkkinen and Andreas Athanasiou, could make the 25-year-old Tatar expendable. 

    Prior to last season, Tatar seemed to be a key part of the Wings roster. Unfortunately, his production dropped from 29 goals and 56 points in 2014-15 to 22 goals and 45 points in 2015-16. With only one season left on his contract, Tatar could be easier to move than Nyquist, who's signed through 2018-19 at an annual salary-cap hit of $4.75 million. 

    Tatar on his own won't address the Wings' blue-line needs. Packaged with a high draft pick or a top prospect, however, he could prove enticing to clubs with defensive depth seeking a scoring left wing in 2016-17.

6. Rick Nash, New York Rangers

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    On July 18, the New York Rangers traded 28-year-old center Derick Brassard to the Ottawa Senators for 23-year-old center Mika Zibanejad. This could be the start of the Rangers transitioning toward a younger roster in the coming season. As a result, veteran right wing Rick Nash could become a trade candidate. 

    Injuries hampered Nash over two of the past three seasons. Now 32 and entering his 14th NHL campaign, his best seasons could be behind him. If Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton intends to move toward a younger roster, he could put Nash on the trade block this coming season.

    Nash's contract could be difficult to move. He has two seasons left at an annual salary-cap hit of $7.8 million. He also has a modified no-trade clause listing 12 acceptable trade destinations. The Blueshirts could be forced to either pick up part of his salary or take back a hefty contract in return. 

    The Rangers must fill the void on defense left by the departure via free agency of puck-moving blueliner Keith Yandle. They could attempt to dangle Nash as trade bait over the course of the season to address that issue. 

    It's also possible the Rangers could leave Nash unprotected in next June's NHL expansion draft to shed his salary. Still, Gorton might prefer trading him in hopes of getting a decent asset rather than lose him to Las Vegas for nothing. 

5. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Longtime Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury faces the possibility of being dealt at some point in the 2016-17 season. 

    A concussion sidelined Fleury late last season, opening the door for promising Matt Murray to take his place. The 22-year-old subsequently backstopped the Penguins to the 2016 Stanley Cup championship, casting doubt over Fleury's future in Pittsburgh.

    On Aug. 6, Fleury told NHL.com's Robert Laflamme he intends to win back his job from Murray. If he fails, however, his time with the Penguins could be short. 

    Next year's NHL expansion also hangs over Fleury. Teams can protect only one goaltender, and players with no-movement clauses must be protected. Fleury carries such a clause. If the Penguins management team decides to protect Murray, it could ask Fleury to waive his clause to leave him available in the expansion draft.

    Fleury also has a limited no-trade clause listing 12 preferred trade destinations. Management could give him the option of accepting a trade instead of being exposed in the expansion draft.

4. Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues

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    Entering the offseason, trade rumors dogged St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. On Aug. 4, ESPN.com's Craig Custance reported Blues general manager Doug Armstrong downplayed the speculation. Armstrong said he expected Shattenkirk to be with the club for the upcoming season and beyond. 

    Shattenkirk's status next summer as an unrestricted free agent fueled the speculation. The 27-year-old is entering the final season of a four-year, $17 million contract.

    A skilled puck-moving blueliner, he will be in line for a substantial raise above his current annual cap hit of $4.25 million. He also lacks a no-trade clause. If his asking price proves too expensive, Armstrong could shop him before the February trade deadline. 

    The Blues must also re-sign or replace veteran left wing Alex Steen and promising young defenseman Colton Parayko. The rise of the 23-year-old Parayko could make it easier for the Blues to part ways with Shattenkirk. 

    Should the Blues opt to trade him, the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers could come calling. Given his UFA status next summer, interested clubs could seek assurances of being able to re-sign him before committing to a deal.

3. Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche

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    On July 26, Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene told Toronto's Sportsnet 590 (via Chris Nichols of Today's Slapshot) he had no idea if he might be traded. He acknowledged his name surfaced last season in trade rumors, but added he had no control over the situation. 

    Patrick Roy's resignation on Aug. 11 as Avalanche head coach and vice president of hockey operations should ensure Duchene stays put this summer. The Avalanche, however, still must find a way to return to playoff- contender status. A new coach could help, but they'll also need young stars such as Duchene to lead the way. 

    On November 14, 2015, Sportsnet's Joe Pack reported Duchene surfaced in the trade rumor mill as the Avs floundered in the Western Conference standings. Ultimately, Duchene wasn't moved, and he went on to lead the club in scoring. 

    If the Avalanche are once again out of playoff contention before the February trade deadline, Avanlanche general manager Joe Sakic could decide some roster changes are in order. Duchene could become part of such a shake-up. 

    Duchene is under contract through 2018-19 with an annual salary-cap hit of $6 million. However, he lacks a no-trade clause. Combine that with his age (25), along with offensive skills, and Sakic wouldn't have much difficulty finding willing trade partners.

2. Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks

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    Cam Fowler is part of the Anaheim Ducks' youthful defense corps. However, several factors could result in the 24-year-old becoming a trade candidate in 2016-17. 

    The Ducks have over $22 million invested in eight defensemen for the upcoming season, including Fowler's $4 million annual salary-cap hit. They still have to re-sign restricted free agent Hampus Lindholm, who's emerged as a top-pairing blueliner. His new contract could cost the Ducks up to $5 million per season. 

    Young blueliners such as Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour are waiting in the wings. Strong training-camp performances from those players could force the Ducks to make room for one of them at some point in this season. 

    The Ducks are very deep on the blue line, but less so at left wing. They're lacking a skilled scorer on the left side of their top line. Offering up a player of Fowler's caliber could fix that problem. 

    Teams that need a good puck-moving defenseman include the Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers. Over the course of the coming season, other clubs could also come calling for blue-line help. Fowler should become a very tempting trade target.

1. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop was a finalist for the 2016 Vezina Trophy. However, his eligibility for unrestricted free agency next summer and the Lightning's limited salary-cap space for 2017-18 makes him a plausible trade candidate in 2016-17.

    Bishop, 29, is entering the final season of his two-year, $11.9 million contract. He also carries a full no-movement clause. The Lightning, meanwhile, have over $55 million invested in just 13 players for 2017-18. That figure could climb to over $60 million once right wing Nikita Kucherov is re-signed before the start of the upcoming season. 

    Another strong performance by Bishop could set his asking price to over $7 million per season on a long-term deal. With young forwards Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin eligible for restricted free-agent status next summer, the Lightning could have little room to retain Bishop. 

    Next June's expansion draft could also play a part in Bishop's departure. Earlier this summer, the Lightning re-signed promising netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy to a three-year-contract extension commencing in 2017-18. If the 22-year-old Vasilevskiy shows potential as a starter, the Lightning could opt to protect him. 

    Under expansion draft rules, Bishop's no-movement clause means the Lightning must protect him in the expansion draft unless he agrees to waive it. Management could request he accept a trade during the season or before the expansion draft to a destination of his choice. 

     

    Stats via NHL.com. Salary info via Cap Friendly.