The NHL season is young but coaches and general managers are already observing their players closely. Coaches are attempting to set their lines based on production and chemistry and general managers are trying to judge whether or not they will retain free agents.
Teams are always looking to improve so it is never too early to scour the market for potential upgrades.
Lets take a look at some of the players that could be traded early before the deadline in February.
John-Michael Liles was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche by the Toronto Maple Leafs in a move to bolster defensive depth.
He is another player on the list of UFAs who will attempt to hit the open market to bolster their value. Toronto has a top defensive hopeful in Luke Schenn, a top defenseman in Dion Phanuef and depth in their lower pairing with Cody Franson and Carl Gunnarsson.
Liles is a player that could draw interest from teams that need another top-four defenseman in their ranks. The Rangers are a team who could inquire about Liles.
The Rangers have enough assets to possible facilitate a trade with their original six rival.
Wojtek Wolski was acquired by the New York Rangers in December last season when Alex Frolov went down with a season ending injury.
He was an inconsistent player and was very streaky at times. He was often compared to being Nikolai Zherdev 2.0 because of his style of play.
Wolski is a RFA at the season’s end and chances are that the Rangers will not be willing pay him a raise from his current $3.8 million cap hit.
Wolski could fetch a similar player and a draft pick. With Derek Stepan currently playing on the top line and Wolski injured, chances are he will be showcased for a potential trade as soon as possible.
Olli Jokinen is a shell of the player he once was when he was a member of the Florida Panthers. His production has dropped off significantly in the past few years and he appears to already be on the chopping block.
According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, Flames GM Jay Feaster is attempting to shed some salary of the books. The struggling and inconsistent Jokinen appears to be on the top of that list.
It is hard to believe Jokinen posted 89 and 91 points in back-to-back season earlier in the decade. It seems that his best days are truly behind him.
Zach Parise is in a favorable situation. He will be the hottest free agent in recent years when he hits the market in July. Despite being named captain by the Devils, many feel Parise will test the waters. The Atlanta Thrashers attempted a similar negotiation tactic when they named current Devil Ilya Kovalchuk when his contract was set to expire.
However the rest is history as Kovalchuk became a Devil. Martin Brodeur may be in his last season as a Devil. He has had a long and historic Hall of Fame worthy career. The Devils played well in the second half last season without Zach Parise. There is no reason to think they couldn’t attempt to fill his void in a trade or free agent signing.
The Devils would be smart to try and trade Parise for a goalie to replace the aging Brodeur. If Parise gives them any indication he will not be returning to New Jersey next fall, they will trade him without batting an eye.
Jarome Iginla is one of those players whose name seems to pop up every so often. He has yet to hoist the Stanley Cup and it would be a grave injustice for him not to avenge the loss he and the Flames experienced in the '03-'04 Stanley Cup Finals.
Calgary is a team on the rebuild. He is a top player and would be the perfect trade piece for the Flames. Iginla can still play and is a top player in the league.
For a team like Calgary, they could greatly benefit from acquiring some roster players, prospects and the draft picks Iginla would fetch from a willing trade partner.
Fans would not want to see Iggy go but in order to have a complete rebuild, you need to tear up the foundation and start from scratch.
Mats Zuccarello was highly sought after due to his play at the 2010 Olympics. Scouts and GMs liked what they saw in the Norwegian Hobbit.
He was just assigned to the Connecticut Whale of the AHL. Given the Rangers forward depth, Zuke’s chances of cracking the lineup next season are slim to none. He is a RFA this July and he will not be resigned in all likelihood.
The Rangers would be wise to move the speedy forward and shootout specialist for a decent draft pick.
Dustin Penner was acquired by the Los Angeles Kings from the Edmonton Oilers at last year’s trading deadline.
Penner was a sought after power forward to interject some punch into the Kings lineup. After striking out in the Brad Richards sweepstakes this offseason, one would only expect Dean Lombardi to chase after Zach Parise if he hits free agency.
With that in mind he needs to clear salary and a roster spot. Penner carried a $4.25 million cap hit. For a team that is looking to add size, grit and skill, they will definitely trade a pick and roster player for Penner.
The Nashville Predators are going to be in a precarious situation this offseason. With Suter and Pekka Rinne both UFAs, and with Shea Weber a RFA that could go back to arbitration after the salary Doughty scored from the Kings, there may not be enough money to bring everyone back.
The Rangers are a team with forward depth who could compensate the Predators quite handsomely for Suter. Suter is a skilled American defenseman on the rise, and that is the type of player John Tortorella loves.
Suter will most likely be the cheapest out of the three free agents for Nashville, so nothing is set in stone.
Alex Semin is next on the list because there seems to be a rumor involving him each year. Maybe that is because he signs one year deals without hesitation.
Semin is coming off a down year, but the Capitals feel that Tomas Vokoun will be the big difference this season.
Semin is young, talented and a top talent in the league. He is a player whose name always comes up so depending on how the Capitals play, he could be traded sooner rather than later.
The Edmonton Oilers were a team last year who had many players that were rumored to be on the move. Ales Hemsky was one them, and he still is. Hemsky is only 28 years old but has been a bit injury prone. He is currently sidelined for the next two weeks due to injury.
However, players can condition their bodies and can take steps to protect themselves.
With a clean bill of health and a new environment, the talented winger could have an impact. Hemsky has tallied 65 points or more three times in his career with his high being 77.
He only appeared in 47 games last year but he did score 42 points. Hemsky has a huge upside, so there has to be a team willing to take a chance on him.
This player has 50/50 odds of being potentially traded. Mike Green is an impending RFA and would bring a much needed offensive aspect to any team’s blue line. His next contract could buyout a year or two of his UFA negotiating years so the Caps may not want to pay that much for Green.
Green has a good shot and is a skilled passer. One team that could look to trade for him are the Boston Bruins.
Last season, the Bruins made a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs that shipped Tomas Kaberle to Beantown. This move was Boston's attempt of adding an offensive defenseman to help bolster their power play.
However, as many fans learned, the experiment did not pan out, and Kaberle became a free agent and signed with the Carolina Hurricanes this offseason. With that in mind, the Bruins should be in the market for another offensive defenseman come the trade deadline.
At the end of the day, the Capitals may rather add more offense than pay Green the raise he has earned.
The Nashville Predators may come to realize they would be better served by retaining UFAs Pekka Rinne and Ryan Suter instead of entering the arbitration process again with Weber.
Weber is the most sought after defenseman and will fetch a huge sum for his services. If the Predators have no intention to re-sign him, they can greatly boost their roster depth and overall talent by trading Weber for a cocktail of prospects, draft picks and potential roster players.
There are many teams that would pay a king’s ransom for Weber, but will he become available?
Are there other players you expect to be traded sooner rather than later? Did I miss someone? If these players are traded what would be a fair return?
Leave a comment in the section below to get the conversation going.
Tom Urtz is an NHL Featured Columnist. For more NHL free-agent news, updates and alerts about players: