Ranking the Top 10 NHL Trade Rumors and Speculation

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2015

Ranking the Top 10 NHL Trade Rumors and Speculation

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    With the NHL holiday trade-freeze period (Dec. 19-27) fast approaching, fans are closely following the trade-rumor mill. Notable stars, like Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (pictured above) and Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal, figure prominently in the latest round of speculation.

    Some of the top rumors and speculation focus upon pending unrestricted free agents like Stamkos and Staal. Others focus upon rising talent like Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen or Edmonton Oilers' pivot Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

    The following slideshow ranks the top 10 NHL trade rumors and speculation, focusing upon the most recent involving notable talent. We'll examine the key points and provide analysis of each one. As always, feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below.

10. Trevor Daley for Nikita Nikitin?

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    The rumor: On Nov. 23, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reported the Chicago Blackhawks were believed to be scouting Oilers defenseman Nikita Nikitin, who was playing for their Bakersfield AHL affiliate. Matheson wondered if the Oilers were interested in swapping Nikitin for Blackhawks blueliner Trevor Daley.

    Key points: The Oilers recently recalled Nikitin, perhaps to showcase him for clubs with interest in him. Since joining the Blackhawks in a trade last summer from Dallas, Daley has struggled to adjust. Nikitin's earning $4.5 million this season, while Daley's cap hit is $3.3 million.

    Analysis: The Blackhawks have limited cap space. If they're interested in Nikitin, the Oilers might have to pick up part of his cap hit. Daley could provide more experienced depth for the Oilers, who recently demoted Mark Fayne.

9. Cam Ward to the Winnipeg Jets?

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    Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    The speculation: On Nov. 26, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson speculated the Winnipeg Jets could try to acquire goaltender Cam Ward from the Carolina Hurricanes. 

    Key points: Ward is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. His current cap hit is $6.3 million. If the Hurricanes can't re-sign Ward, they could try to trade him. Jets starter Ondrej Pavalec (knee injury) is sidelined until January. 

    Analysis: In Pavelec's absence, the Jets are getting solid goaltending from call-up Connor Hellebuyck and backup Michael Hutchinson. They currently have no reason to pursue Ward or any other netminder.

8. Andersen or Khudobin on the Trade Block?

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    Joe Skipper/Associated Press

    The rumor: TSN's Darren Dreger reported Anaheim Ducks goaltenders Anton Khudobin or Frederik Andersen could be available. It could depend upon the play of John Gibson. Dreger speculated the Montreal Canadiens or Calgary Flames could be interested. 

    Key points: Andersen is a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights and is only one year away from eligibility for unrestricted free agency. Khudobin is due to become a UFA next summer. The promising Gibson is under contract through 2018-19.

    Analysis: With the Ducks struggling offensively, Andersen or Khudobin could be used as trade bait for a scoring forward. Despite losing Carey Price to injury, the Canadiens have sufficient goaltending depth. The Flames need an upgrade between the pipes, but the Ducks might not deal with a division rival.

7. Travis Hamonic for Jacob Trouba?

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    The speculation: On Nov. 30, Sportsnet's Mike Johnston cited colleague Elliotte Friedman's belief that there's a deal to be made sending New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic to the Winnipeg Jets—a discussion Elliotte had during an interview with Sportsnet 960 The Fan. 

    Key points: Hamonic, a Manitoba native, requested a trade close to home for family reasons. Friedman believed the Islanders rejected an offer from the Jets of pending free agent Dustin Byfuglien. He thought the Isles preferred promising blueliner Jacob Trouba in return, but the Jets could be unwilling to do that deal. Friedman also doubted the Islanders have interest in rearguard Tyler Myers.

    Analysis: It's believed Islanders general manager Garth Snow wants a comparable defenseman for Hamonic. Trouba would fit the bill, but Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff could be reluctant to move him. Unless Snow changes his asking price, Cheveldayoff changes his mind about Trouba or a three-way deal is worked out with another club, Hamonic won't be joining the Jets this season.

6. Dustin Byfuglien to the Florida Panthers?

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    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    The speculation: If the Winnipeg Jets can't re-sign defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson speculated the Florida Panthers could have the most interest. 

    Key points: Eligible for unrestricted free agency in July, Byfuglien is in the final season of a five year, $26 million contract. He also has a limited no-trade clause. The 30-year-old blueliner could seek a big raise well above his current $5.2 million annual cap hit. If the Jets can't afford him, they could shop him at the Feb. 29 trade deadline. 

    Analysis: Panthers general manager Dale Tallon was part of the Chicago Blackhawks front office when they drafted Byfuglien in 2003. With veteran defenseman Brian Campbell eligible for UFA status next summer, Tallon could be in the market for a replacement. If Byfuglien's willing to accept a trade to the Panthers, maybe Tallon makes a pitch for him in hopes of re-signing the big blueliner before July 1.

5. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the Nashville Predators?

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    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    The speculation: On Nov. 26, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson suggested the Oilers offer up center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the Nashville Predators in hopes of landing a top defenseman. 

    Key points: The Oilers now have two promising young offensive centers in Leon Draisaitl and the currently sidelined Connor McDavid. They're in need of a skilled top-pairing blueliner. Matheson noted the Predators have depth on defense but lack a true first-line center. 

    Analysis: Matheson claimed most NHL scouts believe the Predators could trade top D-man Shea Weber, as Roman Josi is nearly as good as Weber now. If so, it'll cost more than Nugent-Hopkins to get him. Seth Jones could be an intriguing target, but the Predators could be unwilling to part with the heir apparent to Weber.

4. Ryan Johansen to the Minnesota Wild?

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    The rumor: On Nov. 28, StarTribune.com's Michael Russo suggested the Minnesota Wild look into acquiring Ryan Johansen from the Columbus Blue Jackets. He noted rumors claiming the Blue Jackets could be listening to offers for Johansen. Russo believes the Wild need a true first-line center.  

    Key points: Johansen's under contract through 2016-17, after which he's slated to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He'll likely seek a substantial raise over his current annual cap hit of $4 million. The Blue Jackets could use blue-line help. Russo wondered if the Wild might part with Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba as part of the return. 

    Analysis: Johansen would certainly be a good fit on the Wild's first line. However, it'll cost more than a promising blueliner like Brodin or Dumba to land him. The Blue Jackets' asking price could also include a top prospect and a first-round pick.

3. Matt Duchene to the Philadelphia Flyers?

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    The rumor: On Nov. 27, NJ Advance Media's Randy Miller cited a rumor blog, HockeyBuzz.com, suggesting the Philadelphia Flyers had interest in Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene.

    Key points: Duchene's in the second season of a five-year, $30 million contract. The Flyers have limited cap space. Miller believed the Avalanche would want a big return for Duchene, including a good defenseman.

    Analysis: The Flyers can't afford to take on Duchene's contract without shedding significant salary in return. The Avs won't be interested in any of their high-salaried defensemen. There's no fit there. Besides, Duchene's play has picked up since he first appeared in the rumor mill a month ago. He's probably no longer available.

2. Evgeni Malkin for Eric Staal?

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The speculation: On Nov. 30, the Hockey News' Stan Fischler claimed he sees Evgeni Malkin more likely to become a trade chip for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fischler said he could see Malkin being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Eric Staal. 

    Key points: Malkin's in the second season of an eight-year, $76 million contract and carries a full no-movement clause. Staal is eligible in July for unrestricted free agency. He also played for Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford when the latter was GM of the Hurricanes. 

    Analysis: No way this deal takes place. One hopes Fischler was just joking. Even if Malkin agreed to waive his movement clause, he won't join a rebuilding club like the Hurricanes. Staal is no longer a first-line center, while Malkin's still in his playing prime. The Hurricanes would jump on that offer, but Rutherford isn't that foolish.

1. Steven Stamkos to the Toronto Maple Leafs?

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The speculation: TSN's Frank Servalli reported Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos liked a recent tweet of a TSN quiz asking if the Toronto Maple Leaf should pursue him. That generated considerable excitement among Leafs fans. Stamkos subsequently told the Tampa Bay Times' Joe Smith he "accidentally" liked that tweet.

    Key points: Stamkos, a native of Markham, Ontario, is eligible for unrestricted free agency next July. So far, he and Lightning management remain tight-lipped over the status of his contract talks. If unsigned by the Feb. 29 trade deadline, there's speculation the Lightning could trade him. Stamkos, however, carries a full no-movement clause this season.

    Analysis: It's possible the Lightning could shop Stamkos if he's unsigned by the deadline. However, if they're in the hunt for a playoff spot, they're unlikely to trade their captain. If the rebuilding Leafs really want Stamkos, it's best to wait until free agency. It makes little sense to part with assets for a player you could sign in July. 

    Player and team info via NHL.com. Salary info via General Fanager.


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