5 NHL Trades That Should Happen After 1st Wave of Free Agency

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2021

5 NHL Trades That Should Happen After 1st Wave of Free Agency

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    The July 28 opening of this year's NHL free-agent market has long passed, and pickings are slim for clubs still trying to address roster needs before the 2021-22 regular season begins in October.

    With the free-agent pool drained of quality talent, some teams could return to the trade market. Stars such as Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel and Vladimir Tarasenko remain available, and notable talent such as Arizona Coyotes center Christian Dvorak could also draw considerable interest in the coming weeks.

    Where could some of these players end up? Here are five NHL trades that should take place now that the free-agent spending frenzy has subsided. Don't forget to drop a line in the comments section to let us know what you think.

Christian Dvorak to the Ottawa Senators

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    On July 29, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported the Senators could be in the trade market for a center and a winger. Perhaps they have the Arizona Coyotes' Christian Dvorak in their sights.

    The Coyotes have had a busy offseason, shedding notable players such as Darcy Kuemper, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland to free long-term cap space while loading up with draft picks. Dvorak has also come up as a trade candidate.

    In his 31 Thoughts podcast earlier in August, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman suggested Dvorak could be moved before the start of the season. He felt a number of teams are interested in the 25-year-old two-way center. On July 21, Arizona Sports 98.7 FM's John Gambadoro included the Senators among several suitors.

    The Senators hold two advantages in any potential bidding for Dvorak. They have more projected cap space ($28.5 million) than most teams, giving them more than enough space to fit his $4.45 million annual cap hit through 2024-25 into their payroll. They also have plenty of picks in next year's draft and promising young players to dangle as trade bait.

    Garrioch observed the Senators have 10 defensemen on their roster or ready for a call-up. Perhaps a package of a second- and a third-round pick plus a young blueliner such as Erik Brannstrom or Lassi Thomson would interest the Coyotes.

Anton Khudobin to the Edmonton Oilers

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    The Dallas Stars made a surprising move on the opening day of free agency by signing goaltender Braden Holtby to a one-year, $2 million pact. He joins an already crowded crease, as the Stars also have Ben Bishop, Anton Khudobin and Jake Oettinger under contract.

    This move raised speculation over how the Stars will handle this logjam. On Aug. 3, the Edmonton Journal's David Staples examined what NHL insiders were saying about the Stars' goalie situation. He observed Sportsnet's Jeff Marek and Friedman suggesting Khudobin could end up with the Edmonton Oilers.

    Staples thinks the Stars won't take Oilers backup Mikko Koskinen in return for Khudobin. He suggested packaging Koskinen with a sweetener for teams in need of goalie depth, such as the Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres or Ottawa Senators. That's assuming those clubs aren't on his 15-team no-trade list.

    Khudobin carries a four-team no-trade list. If the Oilers aren't on it, and if they can clear Koskinen's $4.5 million cap hit, this move could help both teams.

    Bishop missed all of last season because of knee surgery. Assuming he remains sidelined to start 2021-22 (or perhaps longer), the Stars could move Khudobin in favor of a Holtby-Oettinger tandem. That would free some cap space to address other possible roster needs.

    The Oilers, meanwhile, would get a reliable backup for 39-year-old starter Mike Smith. With Bishop sidelined by injury, Khudobin came up big during the 2020 playoffs, backstopping the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final. That experience could be invaluable to the Oilers in their quest to become Cup contenders.

Vladimir Tarasenko to the New York Islanders

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    The St. Louis Blues have spent weeks attempting to trade Vladimir Tarasenko. 

    On July 29, The Athletic's Jeremy Rutherford speculated the New York Islanders could be in the mix for the 29-year-old winger, possibly joining the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils as teams with definite interest. With the Blues signing winger Brandon Saad (five years, $22.5 million) for somewhat less than expected, Rutherford wondered if general manager Doug Armstrong would consider retaining part of Tarasenko's $7.5 million cap hit through 2022-23 as part of a trade.

    Rutherford suggested the Islanders might have to include restricted free-agent winger Anthony Beauvillier in return. His colleague, Arthur Staple, doubted Beauvillier's going anywhere, as the Blues already have a full group of wingers, even without Tarasenko. He also felt the Blues aren't in any position to seek a young top-nine forward in return.

    The Islanders have $11.9 million of projected cap space, with Beauvillier and fellow RFA Ilya Sorokin to sign. Staple thinks Isles GM Lou Lamoriello has already inked unrestricted free agents such as Kyle Palmieri, Casey Cizikas and Zach Parise. He speculated Lamoriello hasn't announced those moves because he doesn't want other clubs to know how much cap space he actually has left.

    If the Blues retain part of Tarasenko's salary and accept a draft pick and/or a prospect or a depth defenseman such as Thomas Hickey, Staple believes the Isles would still have to shed a winger. He proposed shopping Josh Bailey in a separate deal with another club. The 31-year-old has three years left on his contract with an annual average value of $5 million.

    It's a complicated move but one that could work for both clubs. The Blues would get most of Tarasenko's cap hit off their books, and his departure would be offset by the recent addition of Pavel Buchnevich. The Islanders, meanwhile, would get a proven sniper with Stanley Cup experience to bolster their offense for a championship run over the next two seasons.

Josh Bailey to the Seattle Kraken for Vince Dunn

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    If the Islanders acquire Tarasenko from the Blues, they would have to shed salary. Staple recommended shipping out Josh Bailey, as the 31-year-old winger was left unprotected in last month's expansion draft.

    Bailey has three years remaining on his contract at an annual cap hit of $5 million. If packaged with a "draft pick and/or another asset" as Staple suggested, they could clear sufficient cap room to acquire Tarasenko. In return for Bailey, they could seek a left-side defenseman to fill the gap from trading Nick Leddy to the Detroit Red Wings last month.

    The Seattle Kraken passed over Bailey in favor of Jordan Eberle in the expansion draft. Staple suggested the Isles offer the playmaking winger for Vince Dunn. The 24-year-old blueliner signed a two-year contract on Friday worth $4 million annually.

    Bailey would bring invaluable depth to the Kraken's scoring lines. He's a skilled playmaker, tallying a combined 78 points in two pandemic-shortened seasons. He also had 20 points during the 2020 playoffs and 13 points in 19 postseason contests this year. With $9.93 million in projected cap space, they can easily afford his contract.

    The Kraken possess a solid defense but need additional offense to be competitive this season. Swapping Dunn for Bailey would address that issue while bringing the Isles that much-needed puck-moving defenseman for the left side of their blue line.

Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    Jack Eichel has been the hot trade topic this summer. Recent rumors linked him to the Vegas Golden Knights. While we recently rejected that notion, ESPN's Greg Wyshynski included them among several clubs with potential interest in the 24-year-old Buffalo Sabres captain.

    The Golden Knights lack a true first-line center. That issue was a key factor behind their semifinal elimination at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. Eichel would address that need.

    On July 24, The Athletic's Rick Carpiniello reported a source said Sabres owner Terry Pegula wanted Eichel shipped to a Western Conference team. That works for the Golden Knights, who appear to have made inquiries about the Sabres' asking price. According to the Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy, they sought winger Reilly Smith, prospect Peyton Krebs, young defenseman Nicolas Hague and a first-round pick.

    Sitting $37,439.00 over the $81.5 million salary cap, the Golden Knights must free up room to take on Eichel's $10 million annual hit. Wyshynski suggested they could create the necessary space by shipping out Smith ($5 million) and injured winger Alex Tuch ($4.75 million).

    An offer of Smith, Tuch, Krebs and a first-round pick would be a good return for the Sabres. However, the Golden Knights would still be tight against the cap and could face some salary juggling to ice a full roster. The Sabres would have to retain a portion of Eichel's annual $10 million.

    It could be a risky deal on the Golden Knights' part. Eichel still needs surgery to address the herniated disk in his neck, which could sideline him for the opening weeks of the season. Still, they have a history of making big moves given their acquisition of Mark Stone in 2019 and signing of Alex Pietrangelo last fall. It wouldn't be out of character if they rolled the dice on Eichel.

                  

    Salary info via CapFriendly.

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