Ranking the Best Young NHL Trade Assets Right Now

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2016

Ranking the Best Young NHL Trade Assets Right Now

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    Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could be among this season's best young NHL trade assets
    Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could be among this season's best young NHL trade assetsDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The NHL trade deadline is usually when pending free-agent veterans tend to be shopped. But as this season's deadline approaches, several young players have emerged as potential trade candidates. Notables include Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin.

    A player age 25 or younger can be traded for different reasons. Some, like Nugent-Hopkins, could be moved for a return that addresses another roster need. Sometimes a young player, like Drouin, requests a trade. Others, like Ottawa Senators defenseman Jared Cowen, might not be a good fit with their current club.

    The following slideshow ranks the best young NHL trade assets right now, indicating why they're believed on the trade block and potential destinations. Feel free to voice your opinion below. 

8. Robby Fabbri, St. Louis Blues

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    Recent trade speculation suggests St. Louis Blues rookie Robby Fabbri could hit the trade block.
    Recent trade speculation suggests St. Louis Blues rookie Robby Fabbri could hit the trade block.Associated Press

    Career to date: St. Louis Blues center Robby Fabbri is in his rookie NHL season. He's a promising young offensive forward who can also play on the wing. The 19-year-old could reach 20 goals and perhaps 40 points this season.

    Why he's a trade asset: The Blues are struggling offensively, in part because of injuries to several key forwards. On Jan. 12, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported Fabbri's name came up in trade speculation involving Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin. 

    Potential destinations: With Fabbri mentioned in the Drouin rumor mill, rival clubs could also inquire about his trade status. The Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs could be suitors.

7. Brandon Pirri, Florida Panthers

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    Florida Panthers center Brandon Pirri could attract interest among rebuilding NHL clubs.
    Florida Panthers center Brandon Pirri could attract interest among rebuilding NHL clubs.Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Career to date: The Florida Panthers acquired center Brandon Pirri from the Chicago Blackhawks midway through the 2013-14 season. The 24-year-old scored 22 goals in 49 games in 2014-15. A versatile forward who also plays on the wing, Pirri should exceed 30 points this season. 

    Why he's a trade asset: Pirri tends to be a streaky scorer. The Panthers are a playoff contender and could seek a more reliable offensive forward. He's also a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights. Pirri could attract interest from teams seeking a young, affordable forward with upside. 

    Potential destinations: On Dec. 15, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported teams have inquired about Pirri. The Anaheim Ducks, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers are in need of additional offense.

6. Jared Cowen, Ottawa Senators

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    Defenseman Jared Cowen could be the odd man out on the Ottawa Senators' blueline.
    Defenseman Jared Cowen could be the odd man out on the Ottawa Senators' blueline.Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Career to date: Defenseman Jared Cowen is in his fifth full NHL season with the Ottawa Senators. Cowen, who turns 25 on Jan. 25, has struggled the last two seasons. Still, the 6'5", 238-pound blueliner could attract interest from clubs willing to gamble on a change of scenery getting his career back on track. 

    Why he's a trade asset: Cowen has become the odd man out on the Senators blue line. His size and potential, however, could make him a worthwhile bargaining chip before the trade deadline. On Jan. 9, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported teams had inquired about the big rearguard.

    Potential destinations: The Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks are among this season's worst defensive teams. One of them could make a pitch for Cowen. 

5. Jonas Brodin, Minnesota Wild

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    Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin could become trade bait for a scoring forward.
    Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin could become trade bait for a scoring forward.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Career to date: Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin is in his fourth NHL season. The 22-year-old Swede is a strong, mobile blueliner, averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game. Brodin is signed through 2020-21 with an annual salary-cap hit of $4.16 million.

    Why he's a trade asset: Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher seeks a scoring forward and could use Brodin to get one. On Jan. 12, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported Fletcher offered up Brodin to the Columbus Blue Jackets for center Ryan Johansen, who was ultimately dealt to the Nashville Predators for Seth Jones. 

    Possible destinations: The Edmonton Oilers need blue-line depth and possess a multitude of young scoring forwards. The Tampa Bay Lightning could have interest, though Brodin is a left-handed shot and they'd prefer a right-handed blueliner. Other possibilities include the Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche.

4. Travis Hamonic, New York Islanders

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    New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic requested a trade last summer.
    New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic requested a trade last summer.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Career to date: New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic, 25, is in his sixth NHL season. The 6'2", 205-pounder is a skilled shutdown blueliner who logs big minutes and can chip in on offense. Hamonic is under contract through 2019-20 at an affordable annual salary-cap hit of $3.857 million. 

    Why he's a trade asset: The Islanders prefer not to move him, but Hamonic requested a trade close to his Manitoba home last summer for personal reasons. Isles general manager Garth Snow seeks a comparable defenseman in return.

    Potential destinations: The Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks are the teams close to Hamonic's offseason home. While it could take time to honor his trade request, one of those clubs could make an irresistible pitch near the Feb. 29 trade deadline. 

3. Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks

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    Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen could interest clubs seeking a puck-moving blueliner.
    Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen could interest clubs seeking a puck-moving blueliner.Elsa/Getty Images

    Career to date: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen is in his third full NHL season. The 24-year-old is a skilled puck-moving blueliner who is on pace for a 40-point campaign. He's leading all Ducks defensemen in scoring.

    Why he's a trade asset: The Ducks are this season's lowest-scoring club. They badly need more scoring depth from their forward lines and have the depth on defense to add a scorer. Vatanen is a restricted free agent at season's end and is in line for a significant raise. The budget-conscious Ducks could be better off investing that money bolstering their depth up front.

    Potential destinations: The Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers are in need of a skilled offensive defenseman. On Jan. 7, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reported the Tampa Bay Lightning are seeking a right-handed blueliner to anchor their power play.

2. Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Left wing Jonathan Drouin has requested a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
    Left wing Jonathan Drouin has requested a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning.Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Career to date: Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin is in his second NHL season. Injuries and inconsistency hampered his performance this season. Earlier this month, the 20-year-old was demoted to the Lightning's AHL affiliate to receive more playing time. 

    Why he's a trade asset: Drouin asked to be traded in November and repeated the request after his demotion. Despite his early-career struggles, he still has considerable potential to blossom into a playmaking star. On Jan. 6, TSN's Bob McKenzie speculated as many as a dozen teams had interest in Drouin. The Bolts could use him to land a defenseman with a right-handed shot.

    Possible destinations: On Jan. 14, Sportsnet's Mike Johnston listed the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks and Arizona Coyotes as potential trade destinations for Drouin. It's speculated the Blues could be the front-runners. 

1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers

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    Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could become trade bait for a top-four defenseman.
    Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could become trade bait for a top-four defenseman.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Career to date: Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is in his fifth NHL season. He's exceeded 50 points three times. Currently centering the Oilers' second line, the 22-year-old is on pace for 52 points in 2015-16. 

    Why he's a trade asset: The Oilers desperately need skilled blue-line depth. On Jan. 15, Sportsnet's Mark Spector cited multiple sources claiming Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli offered Nugent-Hopkins to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Seth Jones, who was eventually dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    Potential destinations: On Jan. 9, Startribune.com's Michael Russo listed Nugent-Hopkins as a trade option for the Minnesota Wild, who possess depth in young defensemen. The Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues are also deep on the blue line and in need of scoring punch. 

    Player stats via NHL.com. Salary info via General Fanager.

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