Eight NHL Stars Most Likely to Get Traded in the Offseason

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2020

Eight NHL Stars Most Likely to Get Traded in the Offseason

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs have reached the conference finals stage, but that hasn't stopped the general managers of recently eliminated teams from making trades.

    On Aug. 25, the Toronto Maple Leafs sent Kasperi Kapanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a multiplayer deal. That was followed on Sept. 2 by the St. Louis Blues sending goalie Jake Allen and a 2022 pick to the Montreal Canadiens for two picks in this year's draft.

    Following six months of inactivity in the trade market since the Feb. 24 trade deadline, those two moves suggest more clubs could soon get busy making deals instead of waiting for the end of the playoffs. It's also sparked trade speculation involving such notables as Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau and Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray.

    Here's a look at eight stars most likely to get traded during the NHL offseason.

Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The Toronto Maple Leafs shipping Kasperi Kapanen to Pittsburgh last month might not be the only move general manager Kyle Dubas has in store for his club. Goaltender Frederik Andersen has recently surfaced in the rumor mill.

    On Aug. 25, The Athletic's James Mirtle reported the 30-year-old Andersen was among several players being dangled by the Leafs (h/t The Score's Matt Teague). Mirtle said they were looking into moving the goalie for a "useful," low-cost asset in a deal to free up salary-cap space.

    Five days later, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported Andersen was drawing interest from the Carolina Hurricanes. On Sept. 2, The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun cited sources claiming several teams inquired about Andersen.

    Andersen has a year remaining on his contract with a $5 million cap hit and a 10-team no-trade clause. If Dubas wants to move him to free up payroll for another player, he must find a goalie of equal or greater quality.

Max Domi, Montreal Canadiens

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Following a career-best 72-point performance in his first season with the Montreal Canadiens, Max Domi struggled through a 44-point effort in 2019-20. Questions about his future with the Habs intensified after he managed just three assists in 10 playoff games.

    On Aug. 31, the Montreal Gazette's Stu Cowan speculated Domi may have played his final game with the Canadiens. The 25-year-old center fired agent Pat Brisson, a longtime close friend of Habs GM Marc Bergevin. Cowan also noted Domi's relationship with head coach Claude Julien hasn't been great and it didn't improve when Julien played him on the fourth line.

    Domi is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights completing a two-year, $6.3 million contract. On Saturday, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the center's new agent, Darren Ferris, claimed his client has not asked for a trade.

    The rise of young centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi could make Domi expendable. If contract negotiations become tense, Bergevin could put him on the trade block. Several NHL clubs in need of depth at center could come calling. On Sep. 2, The Hockey News' Matt Larkin suggested the Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets, Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks as possible destinations.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    The Vegas Golden Knights' addition of Robin Lehner at the trade deadline was supposed to shore up their goaltending depth behind starter Marc-Andre Fleury. However, Lehner has outperformed Fleury, earning the bulk of their postseason starts.

    Lehner, 29, is an unrestricted free agent following the playoffs. If the Golden Knights hope to re-sign him, trading the 35-year-old Fleury seems the obvious choice. However, he has two years left on his contract with an annual average value of $7 million and a 10-team no-trade list.

    Fleury's agent, Allan Walsh, last month tweeted an image of his client being stabbed in the back with a sword with Vegas coach Peter DeBoer's name on the blade. Fleury had Walsh remove the tweet and downplayed the incident, but it's fueled speculation over his future in Las Vegas.

    On Sept. 2, TSN's Frank Seravalli included Fleury among several goaltenders potentially available in the trade market. Two days later, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Madden pondered the possibility of Fleury returning to the Penguins if the Golden Knights buy out his contract.

    It won't be easy for the Golden Knights to move an aging goalie carrying a hefty cap hit. Nevertheless, the more time Fleury spends playing second fiddle to Lehner, the more questions will be raised about his trade status.

Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Since 2014-15, no Calgary Flame has put up more points than left winger Johnny Gaudreau. However, a decline in his production this season, a poor postseason effort and another early playoff exit by the Flames sparked rumors he could become trade bait.

    On Aug. 21, Sportsnet's Eric Francis speculated Gaudreau's days with the Flames could be over. He criticized his playoff performance, suggesting the winger fails to elevate his game when it matters. 

    Gaudreau addressed the trade chatter three days later during an end-of-season press conference. The Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson reported the 27-year-old winger insisted he loved living and playing in Calgary and wanted to stay put.

    Gilbertson pointed out Gaudreau has two years left on his contract, after which he's eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. He also noted Flames GM Brad Treliving defended Gaudreau, adding he had the "utmost respect for John."

    Treliving may be supportive, but he could still gauge Gaudreau's value in the trade market. On Aug. 28, NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire suggested to NJ.com's Randy Miller that the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals are possible destinations.

Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    As the Tampa Bay Lightning face off against the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Final, there's a sense this could be the current roster's last chance to win the Stanley Cup. Salary-cap limitations and the need to re-sign two key young players could see Alex Killorn hit the offseason trade block.    

    Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois would likely be reluctant to move Killorn. The 30-year-old left winger is a skilled two-way forward and team leader carrying an affordable annual average value of $4.5 million for three more seasons.

    However, the Lightning have $76.2 million invested in 15 players next season with rising young stars Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev completing their entry-level contracts. BriseBois must shed cap room to re-sign those two.

    On Aug. 18, Sportsnet's Luke Fox wrote that there's speculation a veteran like Killorn or Tyler Johnson could be moved to make room for Cirelli's new contract. Johnson has a full no-trade clause while Killorn has a 16-team no-trade list, giving BriseBois some leeway to move the winger.

Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    In 2017, Matt Murray was basking in the glow of winning his second straight Stanley Cup championship with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Just three years later, his days with the Penguins could be drawing to a close.

    Murray, 26, and backup Tristan Jarry are restricted free agents with arbitration rights. While the 25-year-old Jarry had better stats this season, Murray's two Cup titles could make him more expensive to re-sign. With the Penguins carrying $73.4 million in 18 players for 2020-21, there's not enough cap room to keep both goalies.

    On Sep. 2, TSN's Darren Dreger reported Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford was believed to have at least one offer worth considering for Murray. Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas knows Murray from their days with the OHL's Soo Greyhounds, but Dreger believed he'd first have to move out current starter Frederik Andersen.

    Dreger also suggested other Canadian teams in need of goaltending, such as the Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, could be interested. Colleague Frank Seravalli suggested the list could grow, adding the Buffalo Sabres and Colorado Avalanche.

Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    The Chicago Blackhawks spent the past several years walking a fine line trying to remain under the NHL's salary cap. With the cap remaining at $81.5 million for 2020-21, they're once again in a bind. It could lead to left winger Brandon Saad getting traded by the Hawks for the second time.

    Limited salary-cap space forced the Blackhawks to trade Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets on June 30, 2015. They reacquired him two years later, shipping Artemi Panarin to the Jackets.

    The Blackhawks have $74.1 million tied up in 19 players for next season. They must find sufficient cap space to re-sign restricted free agents Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome, as well as keep goalie Corey Crawford out of the unrestricted free-agent market.

    With the 27-year-old Saad carrying a $6 million salary-cap hit and a year away from UFA eligibility, he's a prime cost-cutting trade candidate. The Blackhawks could hasten to move him before 2020-21 when his 10-team no-trade clause kicks in.

Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    The St. Louis Blues last week traded goaltender Jake Allen to the Montreal Canadiens for two draft picks. The move shed Allen's $4.4 million salary-cap hit from their books as general manager Doug Armstrong attempts to free up sufficient cap room to re-sign defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

    More cost-cutting moves could be in store for the Blues, who have $75.1 million committed to 20 players. During a Sep. 2 live chat with Blues fans. Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggested Jaden Schwartz as the most likely to go.

    Timmermann pointed out Schwartz is a year away from unrestricted-free-agent eligibility. The 28-year-old left wing carries a $5.4 million salary-cap hit into next season. If Armstrong doesn't think he can fit him under their cap for 2021-22, it might be wise to move him now.

    Shipping out their first-line left winger isn't a palatable option, but Timmermann indicated Schwartz would be their most attractive trade chip. Clearing his cap hit would provide sufficient room to retain Pietrangelo.


    Salary info via CapFriendly.