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NHL Rumors: Top Trade Buzz Surrounding Artemi Panarin, Ryan O'Reilly and More

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2018

Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Artemi Panarin in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Anaheim Ducks in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, March 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

While a handful of moves were made at the 2018 NHL draft, many of the biggest names on the trade block are still potentially available during the draft's aftermath.

Although much of the focus is on the impending opening of free agency, teams hoping to make an impact on the trade market seemingly have no shortage of options. Also, the trade front may become even clearer once free-agent John Tavares decides where he wants to sign since teams that miss out will be on the hunt for a consolation prize.

As teams look to close the gap on the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals this offseason, here is a rundown of some of the biggest names that may be available via trade.

Artemi Panarin

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin is one of the best, young offensive players in the NHL, but the Jackets have essentially been forced to explore trade options for him.

According to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, Panarin doesn't currently want to sign a contract extension, which has prompted Columbus to test the market.

Panarin can become an unrestricted free agent after the 2018-19 season, and the Blue Jackets can't afford to lose a player of his ilk for nothing.

Despite that, Blue Jackets general managerΒ Jarmo Kekalainen suggested in a statement that his goal is to work out a long-term deal with the Russian star:

Elliotte Friedman @FriedgeHNIC

Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen on Panarin: https://t.co/9kagx8UuuF

Friedman added that if the Blue Jackets do decide to trade Panarin, his preferred destinations are Los Angeles, New York and Florida.

It is unclear if the L.A. Kings could be in on Panarin after signing free-agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk, but Panarin is the type of player teams tend to make room for if they become available.

The 26-year-old has registered at least 74 points in each of his three NHL seasons. He reached the 30-goal mark in each of his first two campaigns when he was a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, and he didn't slow down after a trade to Columbus.

Last season, Panarin finished with 27 goals and 55 assists for a career-high 82 points, as well as a plus-23 rating. Panarin also produced in the Jackets' playoff series with seven points in six games.

Many questioned if Panarin could be as productive without the help of Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane, but he has shown in Columbus that he can be a go-to guy in his own right.

Friedman didn't indicate if Panarin's New York preference was the Rangers or Islanders, but both teams could use him, as the Rangers are coming off a down year and the Isles could be on the verge of losing Tavares in free agency.

The best fit, however, may be the Panthers since they missed the playoffs by just one point last season and would benefit from adding an impact player like Panarin.

Florida has a great, young corps of forwards that includes Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck, and acquiring Panarin without giving any of them up would make Florida one of the NHL's most potent teams.

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Ryan O'Reilly

Forward Ryan O'Reilly has been as good as advertised since getting traded from the Colorado Avalanche to the Buffalo Sabres, but with Buffalo struggling to get out of the NHL's basement, his name has come up often in the rumor mill.

According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, there was "considerable talk" on the trade front regarding O'Reilly at the draft.

McKenzie specifically mentioned the St. Louis Blues and Montreal Canadiens as two teams with interest in the talented, two-way center.

He also noted that O'Reilly is due a bonus on July 1, which means the Sabres may want to move him before then if they are planning to do so.

The 27-year-old has five years remaining on his contract at an annual cap hit of $7.5 million, per NHL Numbers.

While O'Reilly is a valuable player, dealing him would give Buffalo a ton of wiggle room against the cap and potentially aid in executing its rebuilding plan, which was bolstered by the selection of Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NHL draft.

O'Reilly hasn't been a big help to Buffalo's overall success, but his consistency figures to appeal to other teams.

He has scored 20 or more goals in each of the past three seasons and is coming off the second-best season of his career from a points perspective, as he recorded 24 goals and 37 assists for 61 points, which was second on the team to only Jack Eichel.

Also, O'Reilly doesn't often put his team in disadvantageous positions because he simply doesn't take penalties.

He won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy as the NHL's most gentlemanly player in 2013-14, and last season he finished with just two penalty minutes.

The Blues missed the playoffs by one point last season, and O'Reilly would be an ideal replacement for Paul Stastny, who St. Louis traded to the Winnipeg Jets.

Montreal was in disarray much of last season and has already attempted to shake up the roster significantly by trading Alex Galchenyuk to the Arizona Coyotes for Max Domi.

The Habs may have a small window to contend with goalie Carey Price now reaching the age of 30, but O'Reilly is the type of player who could at least go a long way toward getting them back in playoff contention.

Victor Rask

The Carolina Hurricanes were one of the few teams to make a big trade during the draft, but they may not be done shaking up their roster.

Carolina acquired defenseman Dougie Hamilton in a deal with the Calgary Flames that sent blueliner Noah Hanifin and forward Elias Lindholm out west.

Per Friedman, Hurricanes center Victor Rask could also potentially be in the trade mix, as the Canadiens reportedly inquired about his availability.

The 25-year-old Rask registered at least 45 points in both 2015-16 and 2016-17, but his production dropped off a bit last season.

In 71 games, he finished with 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points, which marked the lowest point total of his NHL career.

Rask is signed through the 2021-22 season at an affordable rate of $4 million per year, according to NHL Numbers.

That salary looks a lot better when he is putting up 45 points per season rather than the 31 he registered in 2017-18, however.

Rask is a complementary piece rather than a go-to scorer, and he is likely best off as a third-liner on a strong team.

He could potentially play a second-line role in Montreal, but the Habs likely need to make a more splashy addition than Rask in order to be a player in an Eastern Conference that boasts strong teams such as the Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins.