Though the 2014-15 NHL season has just gotten underway, general managers are always jockeying for the future. Some squads already know that this season will represent a rebuilding campaign, meaning that intriguing players who could aid potential playoff pushes are already on the block.
With the actual trade deadline still roughly four-and-a-half months away, do not expect any significant movement on the transaction front in the immediate future. But those postseason-altering trades will arrive eventually, and with that in mind, we can examine which teams are sowing seeds for the moves that could have an impact in the spring.
Examining some early-season rumblings, here are the latest rumors surrounding the biggest names on the NHL trade market.
Staal to Toronto?
Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal has been a fixture in Raleigh since his entrance into the league as a precocious 19-year-old. However, according to TSN's Darren Dreger (via MyNHLTradeRumors), the longtime Canes center could be willing to waive his no-trade clause if sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs:
The Maple Leafs would be at the top of list of teams most interested and willing to be aggressive in terms of making a deal. Would be a “monumental package” if they are going to trade him. These types of trades always start with a first round pick and good key young prospects like Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri. Staal makes $8.25 million this year and next, so the Leafs may want to work out some sort of extension.
However, Dreger does note that any immediate movement is a longshot, as Carolina would need to fall out of the playoff picture extremely quick for any movement to happen. Moreover, with brother Jordan on the team as well, there is little to suggest that Staal would waive the comfort of familiarity to chase the postseason on a mediocre Leafs squad.
Nevertheless, Jake Gardiner's name must raise some antennas. The talented 24-year-old has failed to break into Toronto's lineup this season, a puzzling development given his contributions to the Maple Leafs last season:
Giving up Gardiner plus another premium pick and prospect might be a bit much to stomach, even for a premier center like Staal. This deal has too many moving parts to occur soon, but at the very least, two top-six forwards have emerged as potential trade bits within the first week.
Sabres Showcasing Myers?
The perpetually rebuilding Buffalo Sabres have plenty of young talent arriving imminently through the pipeline, but Tyler Myers may not stick around long enough to see the Sabres return to relevancy. Myers has had issues with durability and production after a promising two-year start to his career, which has led the Buffalo front office to start discussing him with other teams, including an Atlantic Division rival, per Jimmy Murphy of NHL Network Radio:
Of course, teams are loath to sacrifice 24-year-old defensemen with Myers' potential. So, as the Sabres continue to stockpile assets for their climb back up the standings, the asking price for Myers remains exorbitantly high:
The Red Wings, mentioned in the first tweet as a potential candidate, are looking for defensemen that can provide some experience to their young corps. Despite Myers' age, his four seasons of NHL experience would provide a veteran complement to players like Brendan Smith and Danny DeKeyser, who have accrued just a single full NHL season.
But Detroit also looked at more established options like Arizona's Keith Yandle this summer, per Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press (subscription required), and it could opt for a defenseman with a lower price tag than the one attached to Myers. Though Myers appears likely to move at some point, Buffalo will impede any progress until it lowers its current asking price.
Oilers Defenseman Garnering Interest
Teams seeking a cheaper defensive alternative have flocked to Edmonton to scout right-shot Jeff Petry. When the Oilers faced the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 14, plenty of eyes in the Staples Center were focused on Petry, per Jim Matheson of The Edmonton Journal:
However, the four-year veteran was a healthy scratch against the Kings, as the Oilers chose to play rookie Darnell Nurse instead. After missing training camp with a shoulder injury, it seems more likely that Edmonton was simply allowing Petry extra recovery time, rather than a sign that any deal was imminent.
The Oilers have had pervasive issues with their defense for years, failing to find a worthy complement to their string of top picks at forward. Justin Schultz remains one of the few young defensemen with a high ceiling, while recent free-agent acquisitions like Andrew Ference, Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikitin are unspectacular options whose on-ice contributions do not match their veteran leadership.
Petry is not exactly a premium trade chip, but he does provide an option as a steady stay-at-home defenseman. For a team in need of steady depth, Petry represents a palatable and inexpensive option.