5 NHL Players Most Likely to Be Traded During the 2021 Offseason
With the NHL's trade deadline having passed, the trade market is shuttered until the end of the regular season. Once the postseason begins, non-playoff clubs can make deals with each other, but most moves will take place once the playoffs end in July.
Several notable players who were mentioned in trade rumors prior to Monday's deadline could find themselves changing clubs over the course of the summer. Disappointing performances this season by Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau and St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn could make them summer trade candidates.
An added wrinkle this offseason is the Seattle Kraken expansion draft on July 21. Teams intending to trade players must ensure those moves won't adversely affect their expansion draft protection lists. They don't want to risk making a deal that could leave a good player available for the Kraken to snap up.
Here's a look at the five NHL players most likely to be traded during the offseason.
Vince Dunn, St. Louis Blues
Vince Dunn was the subject of trade speculation earlier this season following reports the St. Louis Blues had held trade discussions regarding the 24-year-old defenseman. He was on TSN's Trade Bait List leading up to the trade deadline. While he's still in St. Louis, that could change this summer depending on his performance over the remainder of the season.
A puck-moving blueliner, Dunn has struggled to match or exceed his promising 35-point sophomore performance in 2018-19. With 18 points in 40 games, he could reach 25 points by season's end. He's a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer and will seek a significant raise over this season's $1.875 million.
With $63.4 million invested in 15 players for 2021-22 and key forwards Jaden Schwartz, Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou also slated for new contracts, the Blues could lack sufficient cap room to re-sign Dunn. They also risk losing him in the expansion draft if they protect blueliners Justin Faulk, Torey Krug and Colton Parayko. Those factors could see him peddled during the draft weekend.
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Two years after finishing atop the Western Conference standings, the Calgary Flames are in danger of missing the playoffs this season. That could lead to a roster shakeup involving at least one core player such as Johnny Gaudreau hitting the trade block this summer.
Much like the Flames, Gaudreau's performance has declined over the past two seasons. He followed up a career-best 99-point performance with a disappointing 58 points in 70 games in 2019-20. This season, the 26-year-old winger has 31 points in 43 games.
Gaudreau is due to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He's earning $6.75 million, and his modified no-trade clause kicks in on July 28. Flames general manager Brad Treliving could attempt to move the winger during the 2021 NHL draft weekend on July 23-24 for a return involving draft picks and one or two promising players.
Josh Manson, Anaheim Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks seem poised to undergo an offseason rebuild as they are about to miss the playoffs for the third straight year. That could lead to Josh Manson getting traded at some point this summer.
Manson has spent his entire seven-season NHL career with the Ducks. However, he became the topic of media speculation leading up to the April 12 trade deadline. On April 6, TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported Ducks management was listening to trade calls on the 28-year-old defenseman. He believed it could take a first-round draft pick and a top prospect to pry the blueliner out of Anaheim.
The Ducks could be willing to continue taking calls on Manson this summer. The defenseman is a year away from unrestricted free agent status. His contract is worth an annual average value of $4.1 million and has a 12-team no-trade list. He could be shopped in this summer's trade market if the Ducks feel he would be too expensive to re-sign.
Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen could be open for business this summer following his club's disappointing performance this season. With the Jackets lacking scoring punch (especially at center), Kekalainen could use goaltender Elvis Merzlikins as trade bait to address that need.
The 27-year-old frequently surfaced in trade rumors leading up to the trade deadline, appearing on TSN's Trade Bait List and The Athletic's Trade Deadline Big Board. He has put up slightly better numbers than goalie partner Joonas Korpisalo, sporting a 2.99 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage. Injuries, however, have hampered him over the past two seasons.
Merzlikins ($4 million annual average value) and Korpisalo ($2.8 million) each has a year remaining on his contract. While his higher cap hit and injury history could be concerning, Merzlikins could have more value than Korpisalo in this summer's trade market, perhaps enough to fetch a scoring forward.
Sam Reinhart, Buffalo Sabres
The moribund Buffalo Sabres could be facing another rebuild, as they are about to miss the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season. First-year general manager Kevyn Adams already shipped out pending unrestricted free agents Taylor Hall, Eric Staal and Brandon Montour at the trade deadline. He could shift his focus during the offseason on restricted free agents such as Sam Reinhart.
After completing a one-year, $5.2 million contract, Reinhart will seek a more lucrative deal. The 25-year-old winger has exceeded the 20-goal plateau four times and reached or exceeded 50 points in the previous three seasons. With 15 goals and 27 points, he could reach 20 goals and 35 points by the end of this season.
On April 8, The Athletic's John Vogl reported there was interest around the league in Reinhart before Monday's trade deadline. Much will depend on his contract discussions. If the winger insists on a one-year contract, he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer. That could prompt Adams to engage in serious trade discussions with other clubs.