The Top 10 NHL Trade Rumors as the 2014-15 Season Approaches

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2014

The Top 10 NHL Trade Rumors as the 2014-15 Season Approaches

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The NHL training camp period means trade rumors appear more frequently in the hockey media. Some of the speculation carried over from the summer, while the rest is more recent.

    Several of the rumors are the result of teams with limited cap space having to shed salary to either become cap compliant or create room for other signings. Some involve players eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer.

    Rumors also have circulated over several players no longer seen as a good fit with their respective clubs. Some are based on a team's specific roster weakness.

    The following is a ranking of the 10 most notable trade rumors heading into the upcoming NHL season, with analysis and predictions for their potential outcome. Player value, team needs, salaries and trade plausibility were among the factors that went into this compilation. 

    Unless otherwise indicated all salary information via CapGeek.com.

10. Could the Flyers Still Move Lecavalier?

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Rumor: During the summer, Vincent Lecavalier was the subject of trade rumors. TSN's Darren Dreger reported that the Flyers gave Lecavalier's agent permission to speak with other clubs to find a potential trade partner. NJ.com's Randy Miller reported efforts to move the 34-year-old center to Nashville and Florida fell through. Entering training camp, Lecavalier's future with the Flyers remains in doubt.

    Analysis: Lecavalier's contract (four more years, $4.5 million per season, full no-movement clause) is a trade-killer. Having failed to move Lecavalier, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said the veteran forward will be part of their roster this season, CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio reported.

    After struggling on the wing last season, Lecavalier will open training camp at center, Panaccio reports. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi reports the Flyers also expect a better defensive effort from Lecavalier.

    Prediction: Lecavalier will open the season centering the Flyers' second or third line. If he regains his scoring touch, it should bolster his trade value. However, his contract remains difficult to move, even if the Flyers agree to pick up half his remaining salary. For better or worse, they're stuck with each other this season.

9. Is Cam Ward Available?

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    The Rumor: The Hockey News' Rory Boylen recently listed Cam Ward among his top 10 trade candidates for 2014-15. Ward has two years remaining on his contract at $6.3 million per season. Boylen believes the Hurricanes must absorb some of that salary to facilitate a trade, but shedding his contract would still be worthwhile.

    Analysis: Raleigh News & Observer's Luke DeCock reports the Hurricanes' goalie situation is a delicate one. Anton Khudobin took over the starter's job last season from Ward. If Khudobin remains the undisputed starter, the Hurricanes will have an expensive backup on their hands.

    NHL.com's Kurt Dusterberg reports Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis was honest with Ward earlier this summer, telling the netminder the club explored trade options. Ward claims he's motivated to regain the starter's job. His injury history remains a concern. As per TSN.ca, the 30-year-old goalie was sidelined in recent years by a variety of injuries.

    Prediction: This situation could drag on up to the March trade deadline. If Ward regains his form and stays healthy, his trade value should improve. Even then, the Hurricanes could face picking up part of his remaining contract to get a deal done.

8. Johnny Boychuk for Nail Yakupov?

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Rumor: On August 28, CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty suggested a swap of Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk for Oilers winger Nail Yakupov. The Boston Bruins must shed salary to free up space to re-sign key players. They also need an experienced right winger. Citing the Bruins' surplus of blueliners and the Edmonton Oilers' defensive needs, Haggerty believed a Boychuk-for-Yakupov deal could resolve those issues.

    Analysis: Sportnet.ca's Elliotte Friedman claims the Bruins and Oilers discussed Boychuk (an Edmonton native) earlier this summer, but those talks fell through. While the Bruins seem to prefer retaining Boychuk for one more Stanley Cup run, Friedman wonders if that's now changed.

    The Edmonton Journal's David Staples dismissed the notion of a Boychuk-for-Yakupov trade, noting the defenseman is an unrestricted free agent next summer. He also doubts the Oilers will part with the promising Yakupov.

    Prediction: The Boston Herald's Steve Conroy reports Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has all but said he will move one of his defensemen. Haggerty reports Chiarelli must free up cap space to re-sign restricted free agents Torey Krug and Reilly Smith.

    Moving Boychuk and his $3.366 million cap hit would easily address that issue, but it could hurt their Stanley Cup hopes. Boychuk might be traded, but it's doubtful the Oilers part with Yakupov for a player they could pursue via free agency next summer.

7. Shake-Up for the Sharks?

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    Andy Devlin/Getty Images

    The Rumor: CSNBayArea.com's Kevin Kurz reports veteran San Jose Sharks stars Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau became subjects of trade rumors following the club's opening-round playoff collapse last spring against the Los Angeles Kings. Kurz also believes Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi is no longer their undisputed starter and could be shopped later this season.

    Analysis: Sharks general manager Doug Wilson may have considered trading Thornton and Marleau, but the pair are both starting new contracts containing full no-movement clauses. That makes them difficult to move. Kurz believes Niemi, who's eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer, will be challenged this season for the starter's job by promising backup Alex Stalock.

    Prediction: Entering training camp, it's doubtful Wilson will try to trade Thornton, Marleau and Niemi. He'll instead evaluate their respective performances and how they affect the Sharks' overall game this season.

    Given the Sharks' depth, they should remain a playoff contender in the very tough Western Conference. However, another early playoff exit could lead to Wilson pressuring Thornton and Marleau into waiving their movement clauses. Niemi, on the other hand, might be moved near the trade deadline if Stalock takes over the starting goalie duties.

6. Could Evander Kane Jet out of Winnipeg?

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    Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images

    The Rumor: The subject of frequent trade rumors last season, Jets winger Evander Kane didn't help matters in a July interview with a Vancouver radio station. The Winnipeg Free Press' Ed Tait reported that Kane seemed vague when asked if he wanted to remain a Jet. “I'm a Jet now, there's been rumors for three years about me moving, we'll see what happens,” said Kane.

    Analysis: Kane's comments prompted Sportsnet.ca's Ryan Dixon to suggest Kane's relationship with Jets management has reached the breaking point. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, however, remains patient with his 23-year-old star. Despite trade rumors, the Jets opened training camp with Kane still in the lineup.

    Prediction: Kane's youth, offensive potential and physical style makes him an attractive trade commodity. Cheveldayoff seems determined to stick with Kane and the rest of the Jets' core for the upcoming season. Under his watch, however, the Jets have yet to reach the playoffs. If they struggle again this season, changes could be made, and Kane could be among them.

5. Are Mike Green's Days with the Capitals Numbered?

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    The Rumor: The Washington Capitals signing defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik via free agency this summer sparked questions over blueliner Mike Green's future. In July, CSNWashington.com's Chuck Gormley suggested the Capitals might move a defenseman for a second-line center, with Green topping his list of trade candidates. He's in the final season of his contract and carries a modified no-trade clause.

    Analysis: MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports the Detroit Red Wings, seeking a defenseman with a right-handed shot, had interest in Green this summer. The Dallas Stars could also use that type of defenseman, but The Dallas Morning News' Mike Heika doubts the Stars will target Green, who carries a cap hit of over $6.083 million.

    For now, it appears the Capitals will retain Green and look within to resolve their other issues. Gormley reports Capitals coach Barry Trotz will try Evgeny Kuznetsov and Brooks Laich at center.

    Prediction: The Capitals don't need to move Green right away. However, if Kuznetsov and Laich struggle at center and if Green drops out of the top-two defense pairings, the Capitals could have little choice but to peddle him for a center.

4. Marc Methot on the Block?

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The Rumor: The Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan reports Senators defenseman Marc Methot expressed concern over his contract negotiations. Brennan observes the Senators currently carry eight defensemen (seven on one-way NHL contracts) and are interested in moving one of them. He believes Methot could fetch the best return.

    Analysis: Methot's agent, Larry Kelly, told Brennan he was taken aback by general manager Bryan Murray claiming the two sides weren't close to a deal. Kelly said they were only $300,000 apart, with his side offering $5 million annually on a long-term deal and the Senators countering with $4.7 million.

    Senators assistant GM Pierre Dorion, however, subsequently told Brennan's colleague Bruce Garrioch he was “flabbergasted” by Kelly's comments. Methot tried to defuse the situation by telling Garrioch he remains hopeful a deal could be reached.

    Prediction: On September 6, Garrioch reported the Senators are in the market for a top-nine forward. Given their defensive depth, one of their blueliners could be used to address their needs up front. It appears they want to re-sign Methot, but not at his asking price. If this situation isn't resolved soon, Methot could be dealt for an affordable forward.

3. Oilers Seeking a Center?

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    JASON FRANSON/Associated Press

    The Rumor: On July 1, the Edmonton Sun's Robert Tychkowski reported Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish was in the market for a centerman. They're thin at center, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Boyd Gordon, Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander currently on the roster.

    Analysis: On August 29, Tychkowski's colleague Derek Van Diest reported MacTavish intends to see how things shake out early this season. Nugent-Hopkins is the Oilers' first-line center, while Gordon is best suited for third- or fourth-line duty. Arcobello and Lander are largely untested at the NHL level. They could try 2014 first-round pick Leon Draisaitl in the second-line role.

    Prediction: If Draisaitl fits comfortably into the second-line center position, MacTavish can test Arcobello or Lander on the checking lines. Otherwise, the Oilers GM will have little choice but to shop for help. It could cost him a promising young player or prospect to land a skilled center.

2. Will the Islanders Add a Defenseman?

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    Francois Lacasse/Getty Images

    The Rumor: During a recent live chat with her readers, ESPN.com's Katie Strang speculated New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow might use recently-acquired forwards Mikhail Grabovski or Nikolai Kulemin as assets to land a top-four defenseman. She noted both players lack no-trade clauses in their new contracts.

    Analysis: The notion of Snow shopping Grabovski or Kulemin after signing them in July seems absurd, though Strang pointed out the Isles don't exactly have a strong record for shrewd signings. After last season's Thomas Vanek follies, the same can be said about their trade record.

    What's indisputable is the Islanders need another experienced top-four blueliner. 38-year-old Lubomir Visnovsky is past his prime, while the bulk of their defense corps is 25 or younger.

    Prediction: The Islanders have considerable depth in prospects and affordable youth to use as trade bait for a skilled veteran defenseman. The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks must become cap compliant before the season begins. Both clubs could trade one of their defensemen. Snow could attempt to swing a deal with one of them.

1. Whom Will the Blackhawks Move?

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    Bill Smith/Getty Images

    The Rumor: The Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus reports the Blackhawks enter training camp perched over $2.2 million above the NHL's $69 million salary cap. They must shed salary to become cap compliant when the regular season opens in October.

    Analysis: Lazerus lists defensemen Johnny Oduya ($3.375 million cap hit) and Nick Leddy ($2.7 million), as well as winger Kris Versteeg ($2.2 million), as potential trade candidates. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman told ESPN.com's Scott Powers he's confident he'll find a trade partner before the season opens. Powers believes Bowman intends to take his time before reaching a decision.

    Prediction: Bowman faces a difficult choice. Oduya is eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer but also carries a modified no-trade clause and forms a strong defense pairing with Niklas Hjalmarsson. Versteeg's struggles last season could hurt his trade value.

    Sportsnet.ca's Elliotte Friedman notes it would cost the Blackhawks $3.4 million to qualify Leddy's rights next summer as a restricted free agent. They will probably stick with Oduya for one Stanley Cup run, meaning Leddy could soon be on his way out of Chicago.

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