Offseason Trade Ideas for Some of the NHL's Worst Teams
The 2020-21 NHL regular season is scheduled to end on May 19. As playoff-bound clubs look ahead at possible first-round opponents and bubble teams jockey for the final postseason berths, those at the bottom of the standings will soon have plenty of time to make their plans for next season.
Some of those non-playoff clubs, like the Anaheim Ducks, were undone this season by a popgun offense. Others, like the Ottawa Senators, could use some blue-line help.
The general managers of these teams will attempt to address their respective needs this summer. Some could try signing some veteran talent when free agency opens on July 28. They could also turn to the trade market by targeting cap-strapped clubs or teams at risk of losing skilled players to the Seattle Kraken during the July 21 expansion draft.
Here's a look at several offseason trade ideas that could help some of this season's worst NHL teams.
Anaheim Ducks Trade Josh Manson or Rickard Rakell
Look no further than the Anaheim Ducks' weak offense for why they are nestled in the basement of the Honda West Division. Their 2.16 goals-per-game average and 9.8 power-play percentage are the NHL's worst.
The Ducks must engage in a roster rebuild this summer. It will take time to draft and develop promising young forwards with scoring potential. That could mean entertaining offers for veterans like winger Rickard Rakell or defenseman Josh Manson in the hope one of them fetches a promising young forward.
Rakell and Manson are both due to become unrestricted free agents next summer. Rather than risk losing them for nothing, the Ducks should consider shopping one or both to playoff contenders seeking a veteran scoring winger or an established shutdown blueliner.
The Bruins could be a destination for Rakell if things don't work out with trade-deadline acquisition Taylor Hall, provided they feel their Stanley Cup window remains open next season. Young winger Jake DeBrusk is struggling in Boston and might benefit from moving to Anaheim.
Manson, meanwhile, could be of interest to the Winnipeg Jets. They were in the market for a defenseman at the trade deadline and could continue that search into the offseason. They won't part with top prospect Cole Perfetti, but maybe they'll do a package deal that includes promising center David Gustafsson or winger Kristian Vesalainen.
Andre Burakovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets need a top-line center, but such players are rarely found in the trade market. If they're unable to land a suitable center via trade or free agency, they should bring in some wingers to provide more punch to their offense.
Perhaps the Jackets should target a team like the Colorado Avalanche for trade discussions. They could end up losing a forward to the Seattle Kraken in this summer's expansion draft.
The Athletic's Ryan S. Clark recently speculated that the Avalanche could protect eight skaters to retain defensemen Devon Toews and Ryan Graves, provided Erik Johnson agrees to waive his no-movement clause. He also indicated the Avalanche could explore trading one of their forwards if they could get something reasonable in return.
The Avs might prefer a side deal with the Kraken to protect their defensemen. If that isn't possible and they risk losing Andre Burakovsky in the draft, they could entertain trade offers from other clubs. Perhaps a young player or a quality draft pick will do the trick.
Burakovsky, 26, has blossomed as a second-line winger with the Avalanche. He tallied a career-high 45 points in 58 games last season and has 32 points in 44 games this year.
The 6'3", 201-pounder has size, speed and offensive skills that could make him a good fit with the Blue Jackets. He's slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, so the Jackets must first ensure they can re-sign him.
Erik Cernak to the Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators have shown signs of improvement this season, with promising young forwards Josh Norris, Tim Stutzle and Drake Batherson providing more scoring punch. However, they still lack a skilled defensive presence on their blue line. Their 32.0 shots against per game is the fifth-highest in the NHL, and it's a contributing factor in their 3.46 goals against per game.
Erik Cernak could help the Senators address that issue.
The 6'3", 230-pounder is a big shutdown defenseman for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He averages 19:30 of ice time per game, while his shorthanded ice time per game (2:41) ranks second on the Bolts. The 23-year-old is also fourth in hits (81) and blocked shots (41) and carries an affordable $2.95 million cap hit for two more seasons.
The Lightning are expected to protect top-three defensemen Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev in this summer's expansion draft. That means they could lose Cernak to the Seattle Kraken.
Rather than lose an asset for nothing, the Lightning could consider trading him for a return that doesn't require expansion draft protection.
With $49.7 million committed to 15 players, the Senators can easily absorb Cernak's cap hit. They also have plenty of promising, affordable young players to offer up like Erik Brannstrom, Lassi Thomson or Jacob Bernard-Docker in return.
Jack Eichel to the Los Angeles Kings
The season was perhaps the lowest point in Buffalo Sabres history.
Mired at the bottom of the overall standings, they endured a season-killing 18-game winless skid. They also lost team captain Jack Eichel to a season-ending neck injury. Offseason acquisitions Taylor Hall and Eric Staal were disappointing busts and were shipped out before the trade deadline.
Poised to miss the playoffs for the 10th straight season, Sabres ownership and management could consider another roster rebuild. Trading Eichel to the Los Angeles Kings could be the big move they need to kick things off.
Eichel was the subject of trade speculation as his club sunk further in the standings earlier this season. The Sabres aren't under pressure to move the 24-year-old center, who has five more seasons remaining on his contract. However, his no-movement clause kicks in at the start of the 2022-23 season, which could limit potential trade destinations if he and the Sabres decide to part ways after next season.
Shipping Eichel to the Kings would send him to the Western Conference, ensuring the Sabres won't face him often during the regular season. With $61.9 million invested in 19 players, the Kings have the cap space to absorb Eichel's $10 million annual cap hit. They also have depth in draft picks and promising young players like Quinton Byfield and Gabriel Vilardi to make a competitive bid.
Acquiring Eichel would advance the Kings' rebuild, giving them a foundational young star in his playing prime. He would provide additional depth at center with captain Anze Kopitar, becoming the eventual replacement for the 33-year-old Kings captain when his contract expires at the end of the 2023-24 season.
Johnny Gaudreau to the New Jersey Devils
A lack of reliable scoring wingers has contributed to the New Jersey Devils sitting near the bottom of the MassMutual East Division. Their 2.59 goals-per-game average ranks 27th, while their power-play percentage (13.7) is 29th. Perhaps they should consider giving the Calgary Flames a call about Johnny Gaudreau.
Two years after finishing on top of the Western Conference, the Flames are trying to claw their way into the fourth and final playoff berth in the Scotia North Division. Gaudreau's production has declined from a career-high 99 points in 2018-19 to 37 points in 48 games this season.
TSN's Frank Seravalli recently mentioned Gaudreau as an offseason trade candidate if the Flames decide to shake things up.
Gaudreau is due to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. His modified no-trade clause kicks in after this season. The Flames could try to offload him before then, though interested clubs might inquire about his willingness to sign a contract extension.
A trade to the Devils could help Gaudreau regain his scoring touch. He would be playing alongside young centers Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes and would be closer to his hometown of Salem, New Jersey. With only $43.9 million invested in 13 players for 2021-22, the Devils can afford Gaudreau's $6.875 million cap hit for next season and an extension if he's willing to sign one this summer.
This move would enable the Flames to commence retooling their roster, freeing up cap room for other deals if necessary. The Devils have some young players such as Yegor Sharangovich and Janne Kuokkanen and prospects like Dawson Mercer or Cal Foote who could interest the Flames.