5 NHL Trades That Should Happen After the 1st Week of Free Agency
Though the NHL draft has come and gone and the free-agency market has been open for a week (as of noon ET on Friday), the B/R ice hockey team hasn't gotten its player-movement fix.
So we took a look at teams still in need of specific talent—not to mention others that would like a quick salary dump—and played matchmaker on five trades we believe to be mutually beneficial.
The A-side player in each deal and his would-be destination is in the title of each slide, while the most logical B-side player is suggested within the accompanying text, along with the compelling reasons for a move.
The five suggestions are listed alphabetically by the A-side's last name.
Read on to see what we came up with and whether any of your team's players could be packing a bag. And, as always, feel free to head down to the comments section to let us know how you feel.
Matt Dumba to Winnipeg
Every now and then, there's a deal that just makes sense.
And for the Minnesota Wild, sending defenseman Matt Dumba to the Winnipeg Jets is that deal.
The 26-year-olda is a commodity on the blue line, having scored 10 or more goals in four straight seasons before dipping to six in 2019-20. Nevertheless, the Wild are in desperate need of offense after languishing near the middle of the pack (14th in a 31-team league) with 218 goals in 69 games.
As luck would have it, the Jets are looking for depth at defense and happen to have a forward, namely 24-year-old winger Nikolaj Ehlers, who makes the same $6 million salary (he's signed for five years, Dumba for three) and is coming off a season in which he scored 25 goals and assisted on 33 others in 71 games.
Minnesota created space for Ehlers by unloading veterans Eric Staal (traded to the Buffalo Sabres) and Mikko Koivu (not re-signed after 15 seasons). Winnipeg, though it scored fewer goals in 2019-20, has a top-line threat in Patrik Laine and added center Paul Stastny in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Where the Wild are looking for weapons up front, the Jets need bolstering in the back.
Each team gets what it needs and both players remain within a 90-minute flight of home.
Johnny Gaudreau to Florida
The three certainties of life for Calgary Flames fans this year?
Death, taxes and Johnny Gaudreau trade rumors.
The American-born winger got his name in the "he won't be here long" mix when he allegedly showed up for summer training camp out of shape, and Eric Francis of Sportsnet suggested he could be on the move when the Flames were bumped from the playoffs after blowing a 2-1 series lead to the Dallas Stars.
Given that he's the most recognizable face from an underperforming core, it would be a symbolic gesture for general manager Brad Treliving to move him. And if he could get worthwhile value in return, even better.
Both objectives could be met by sending the 27-year-old to the Florida Panthers in exchange for defenseman Aaron Ekblad. Gaudreau will make $6.75 million for the next two seasons, while Ekblad is signed for five years at $7.5 million per, so both teams would get stability for comparable money.
Additionally, Gaudreau provides proven offense—two seasons with 30-plus goals, two others with 20 or more—to a team that lost Evgenii Dadonov (25 goals in 2019-20) in free agency. In Ekblad, the Flames would get an established young blueliner who was the draft's first overall pick in 2014, was the NHL's Rookie of the Year in 2014-15 and had scored between 10 and 16 goals each season until dipping to five in 2019-20.
Mutual sacrifice. Mutual reward.
Shayne Gostisbehere to New Jersey
It's been a gradual decline for Shayne Gostisbehere in Philadelphia.
Now 27, the Florida native arrived at the Flyers as a third-round draft pick in 2012 and was on the NHL's All-Rookie Team by 2015-16 thanks to a 17-goal, 46-point debut season.
But he's exceeded that point total only once in the four seasons since and played just 42 games in 2019-20. He was also on the ice for one of seven games with the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
So it's hardly a surprise that he's mentioned in frequent trade conversations, including by Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic.
Our idea involves Gostisbehere making a quick trip up I-95 to northern New Jersey, where he would slide in on the Devils blue line in exchange for 29-year-old winger Kyle Palmieri.
Though Palmieri is signed for one more season at $4.65 million while Gostisbehere is under contract for three more years at $4.5 million, it'd probably behoove Flyers brass to eat a portion of their man's salary in order to get the deal finalized. If so, they'd get a proven offensive force—eight NHL seasons with double-digit goals—while the Devils offer a change of scenery to a defender who had 65 points just two seasons ago.
Alexander Kerfoot to Calgary
Compared to a lot of teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs have an embarrassment of riches offensively.
The problem is, that talent expects to get paid. And there's only so much cash to go around.
Hence the potential plight of Alexander Kerfoot, a 26-year-old center who came to the Maple Leafs as part of the deal that sent Nazem Kadri to Colorado in July 2019.
He only managed nine tallies in his initial season with Toronto, a decline from the 19 and 15 goals he scored in two years with the Avalanche. And on a team where a huge chunk of the overall salary goes to a handful of players, he and his $3.5 million for the next three years might be a better fit elsewhere.
Speaking of better fits, the phrase holds true for different reasons for forward Sam Bennett, who was selected fourth overall by the Calgary Flames in 2014 but topped out at 18 goals and 36 points in 2015-16 and hasn't broken 30 points since.
The 24-year-old is from the metro Toronto area and has one year left at $2.55 million before he becomes an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent after the 2020-21 season. A trade would allow the Maple Leafs to shed nearly $1million in salary and pick up a former blue-chip prospect and hometown hero, while the Flames get a guy who's produced for multiple seasons and might flourish with a bigger role in a new city.
Adam Larsson to Anywhere
OK, we'll admit it. We had this one lined up a week ago.
The moment the Edmonton Oilers brought in free agent Tyson Barrie on a one-year deal, Adam Larsson became expendable. Not because he's not a good player and not because Oilers fans still cringe at the recollection he was the prize in a trade that sent away eventual MVP Taylor Hall in 2016.
Instead, it's because he makes $4.166 million on a team suddenly stocked with proven (Barrie), rising (Ethan Bear) and blue-chip prospect talent (Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg) on the blue line.
And given that a red-flag need exists for consistent scoring from players not named Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, we were ready to ship Larsson to the Toronto Maple Leafs for 25-year-old winger Andreas Johnsson.
But then the Maple Leafs traded Johnsson to the New Jersey Devils, foiling our master plan.
So now we'll suggest Larsson be sent anywhere that will take him. Not so much for the talent that will come back, rather for the cap space it could free up to pursue long-term injury relief for Oscar Klefbom among free agents still on the board (we're looking at you, Mike Hoffman).
If only Peter Chiarelli were running a team somewhere.
Salary information courtesy of CapFriendly.