NHL Trade Speculation: 5 Players Who Need a Change of Scenery
Heading into the 2011-12 NHL season, there are a number of players who are on the hot seat with their respective teams.
Most are highly priced veterans who have underachieved or struggled with injuries or prospects who have yet to materialize into the stars they once projected to be, and unless their performances improve drastically this year, they are candidates to be dealt prior to the 2012 NHL trade deadline.
In addition to players who have yet to fulfill their potential at the NHL level, there are a handful of big names who have not demonstrated that they're worth the money they're scheduled to earn, so they may be deemed expendable by their clubs.
With that in mind, here's a look at five players who are in need of a change of scenery entering the 2011-12 season.
5. Gilbert Brule: Edmonton Oilers
Since being taken by Columbus with the sixth overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft, Gilbert Brule has failed to live up to the loft expectations that go along with being a top-10 selection.
After Columbus dealt Brule to Edmonton in 2008, Brule has showed some flashes of the offensive abilities that made him such a coveted prospect, but has been inconsistent during his three seasons as an Oiler.
In 2009-10, Brule posted 17 goals and 37 points, but followed that up with just seven goals and nine points in 41 games, as he dealt with head and abdominal injuries.
Looking forward, Brule sits behind fellow right wingers Ales Hemsky and Jordan Eberle on the Oilers' depth chart, so it appears unlikely that he'll get another chance to prove himself as a top-six forward with Edmonton.
Seeing as Brule is just 24, he'll probably get a shot with another team to develop into the player scouts were raving about leading up to the 2005 draft, but he needs to be moved in order for that to happen.
He'll be a restricted free agent in 2012, so he won't have to wait too long for a chance with another club in the midst of a rebuilding process, but he needs to demonstrate that he's worth taking a flyer on with his play early this season.
4. Marc Savard: Boston Bruins
Before concussions took their toll on Marc Savard's career, he was one of the most exciting playmakers in the game, and appeared to the key to the Boston Bruins offense.
However, after suffering major concussions in consecutive seasons, Savard may be the odd man out at center if and when he's healthy enough to return to the Bruins lineup.
The Bruins proved this year that they're capable of winning a Stanley Cup without Savard on the ice, and have become deep at center in his absence. Now, with David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin all coming off solid playoff performances, Savard and his $4 million cap hit will become expendable.
Fortunately for Savard, centermen of his calibre are hard to find, so a team in need of offense will take a chance on him once he's demonstrated he's healthy enough to play. If his post-concussion symptoms subside, Savard has the ability to be a top-six forward, especially on a rebuilding team.
It will be difficult for him to crack the top two lines in Beantown, so if he can return to hockey, it'd be best for both him and the Bruins if he did so with another team.
3. Tom Poti: Washington Capitals
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Like Marc Savard, injuries have caused Tom Poti to become an expendable piece to his team, so much so that the Washington Capitals appear to prefer that he not take part in the team's training camp in September.
After playing just 21 games in 2010-11, the Capitals defense got stronger in the meantime, as John Carlson and Karl Alzner emerged as the team's top pairing, and general manager George McPhee acquired veterans Dennis Wideman and Roman Hamrlik to solidify the Washington blue line.
Heading into the season, the Capitals will be almost $1 million over the salary cap if Poti is healthy enough to play, which—according to his agent—he is. However, the Capitals maintain that he's not ready to play, and may be placed on injury reserve in order for the team to be under the $64 million cap.
At 34, Poti still probably has a couple of seasons left in him, but with Washington's top-six looking strong, it won't be easy for him to crack the lineup.
Poti's $2.8 million cap hit make him a very expensive healthy scratch, so if he wants to continue playing in the NHL, it's becoming increasingly likely that he'll have to find a new team in order to do so.
2. Sean Avery: New York Rangers
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Before John Tortorella took over as the head coach of the New York Rangers midway through the 2008-09 NHL season, the former Tampa Bay Lightning bench boss had publicly criticized Sean Avery for his off-ice conduct while working for TSN as an analyst.
A few months later, Avery was playing for Tortorella's Rangers, and needless to say, their time together hasn't exactly been smooth sailing.
Though Avery has frequently been an effective forward for the Blueshirts, he's constantly been a distraction for the team, and has been a healthy scratch on a number of occasions, especially during the postseason.
At a cap hit of just under $2 million, it wasn't worth it for the Rangers to buy out the remaining year on Avery's deal, but nonetheless it appears that his days in Manhattan are numbered.
The unfortunate thing about Avery is that when he decides to concentrate on the game, rather than focusing on demonstrating his toughness or running his mouth, he's actually a quality third-line forward.
He's still got a couple of years left in him, but Avery needs to find a new team and a new coach with whom he has better chemistry. While he does have a partial no-movement clause in his contract, Avery must be able to read the writing on the wall and realize that a change of scenery would be beneficial for both parties.
1. Scott Gomez: Montreal Canadiens
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When the Montreal Canadiens acquired Scott Gomez from the New York Rangers in the summer of 2009, fans and hockey analysts across Canada panned Bob Gainey and the Canadiens' management team for bringing in a player who simply wasn't worth a $7.3 million cap hit.
Since then, Gomez has been a disappointment in Montreal, as he has yet to record 15 goals or 60 points in a season, and recorded a career-low seven goals and 38 points in 2010-11.
While it's more than likely that the two-time All-Star will return to the 55-60 point range this year, he's obviously not the team's top pivot, and has become a whipping boy for Canadiens fans.
Though Gomez is certainly overpaid, he's also shown in the past that he's capable of being a top-line center in the NHL, as he has five seasons with 70 points or more under his belt, so there may be a team willing to take on his albatross of a contract.
It's not looking like Gomez will be able to win over the fans in Montreal before his contract's up in 2014, so it'd be best for both the player and team if he was moved in the near future.
Gomez has the speed and skill to be a productive top-six forward in the NHL, and at age 31, he should be able to fill that role for another three or four seasons. However, if Montreal can find an organization that's willing and able to take the underachieving Alaskan off their hands, they would be crazy not to do so.
Considering how disappointing Gomez's time in Montreal has been, he should be hoping that another team believes he still has the ability to be an offensive catalyst.