The NHL trade market has been stagnant this season. Beyond the blockbuster deal that sent Columbus center Ryan Johansen to Nashville for defenseman Seth Jones, what scant trades we have seen have largely been for depth players.
The salary cap’s minor increase last summer and the heavy load of teams bumping up against that cap are factors in the lack of movement, but Coyotes general manager Don Maloney sees another roadblock with about three weeks left before the February 29 deadline. Teams are trying to get their own houses in order by signing their own key players before they eyeball other moves.
“There are teams trying to sign players but it seems like the (length of the) term is the issue with everybody now,” Maloney said. “You can’t blame the players, but everybody is looking for six, seven, or eight-year deals. That’s where it gets dicey.”
Maloney even hinted that the players’ side is working in unison.
“The union and the players and the agents have the ability to talk and script who gets signed when and for how much,” he said. “You can’t do that on the team side because it’s collusion.”
Some of those unsigned players could be on the move if they can’t come to an agreement, while other players could be on the move from non-contending teams looking to improve their future.
There are some big names on the list of potential trades. Here’s our dandy dozen who could be headed elsewhere, along with a list of additional players in the mix.
12 Biggest Names on the Trade Block
1. Steven Stamkos, C/W, Tampa Bay Lightning: Stamkos is the most interesting trade deadline prospect in a long time. He says he wants to stay in Tampa, but the longer this negotiation drags, the less likely that seems.
It’s a difficult situation for GM Steve Yzerman. The Lightning are very much in the Stanley Cup mix this season, so losing a player of Stamkos’s ability would put a giant dent in those hopes. At the same time, Yzerman can’t afford to let Stamkos walk away for nothing in the offseason if it looks like he’s going to become an unrestricted free agent.
Everyone assumes Stamkos is looking at his hometown of Toronto, but there will be plenty of suitors for his services. At the same time, the lure of returning to his hometown could scare other suitors off if they think they can’t re-sign him in the offseason. One more interesting note: The Lightning play the Leafs in Toronto on February 29, which is, of course, the day of the trade deadline.
2. Dustin Byfuglien, D/W, Winnipeg: Byfuglien, 30, is in the final year of his contract and will earn $6 million this season according to generalfanager.com. Byfuglien has reportedly been looking for a long-term, big money deal, and with his production and big body, he’s probably going to get it from someone.
The Jets are trying to figure out a solution. If they do, Byfuglien could set the market for other teams, but if he moves, the Los Angeles Kings are among the rumored teams to have interest. Interestingly, not all teams view Byfuglien as a defenseman. He played a very effective wing in Chicago (though that means less minutes and less worth). Both Chicago coach Joel Quenneville and Coyotes coach Dave Tippett view him as a forward where he can use his 6-5, 260-pound frame in front of the net and in the corners.
3. Eric Staal, C, Carolina: The Hurricanes can’t afford to let Staal walk away for nothing in the offseason and at 31-years-old, it appears unlikely they will re-sign him to a lengthy deal. He has a no-trade clause, which could limit the options, but it appears the Hurricanes are ready to move on from their iconic player, even if his brother is still under contract until 2023.
4. Keith Yandle, D, New York Rangers: Kevin Klein’s fractured thumb and indefinite timeline for return aren’t expected to impact whether the Rangers deal Yandle, according to the New York Post.
Yandle, 29, will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and he told the Post he has not had discussions about an extension, so it would make sense for the Rangers to deal him. Yandle carries a modest $2.625 million cap hit this year on his $5.25 million salary because the Coyotes retained half his salary when they dealt him to New York last season. That makes him an attractive rental player for teams in need of offense from the blue line.
5. Loui Eriksson, W, Boston: Eriksson’s agent, J.P. Barry is looking for big money, but Eriksson is 30 and has a concussion history (thanks, in large part, to North American hero John Scott). Barry is also the agent for Dougie Hamilton and Carl Soderberg, two players whom Boston traded away by GM Don Sweeney.
Boston needs a young, top-tier defenseman after dealing Hamilton this offseason, so Eriksson could help bring that piece in return. Eriksson is second on the Bruins in points with 39 and third in goals with 15.
6. Travis Hamonic, D, NY Islanders: Hamonic’s story is well known. He wants to move closer to his Manitoba home for family reasons he has a right to keep private.
The Islanders want to accommodate his wishes but they won’t do it for nothing.
New York could wait until the offseason to move Hamonic if it thinks it has a legitimate chance at the Stanley Cup this season, but the Edmonton Oilers, with talented forwards Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could also be possible landing spots, if Islanders GM Garth Snow isn’t looking to replace his defenseman with another defenseman.
7. Andrew Ladd, W, Winnipeg: If the Jets can re-sign Byfuglien, they may be forced to move their captain, whose contract expires after this season. Ladd would be a nice addition for teams looking to add a final piece for a Cup run.
His production has dropped off a bit this season (12 goals, 29 points in 51 games), but he plays with pace and edge and he has good size at 6’3″, 200 pounds. Something to file away: Chicago may be interested in adding a top six wing to its mix to play alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa after losing Brandon Saad in the offseason. Ladd was a member of the Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup championship but was a victim of a huge salary cap purge.
8. Mikkel Boedker, W, Arizona: Boedker has been through three frustrating contract negotiations with the Coyotes and has lost every time. He has been a streaky player (he just ended a 15-game scoring drought) and has yet to reach the 20-goal plateau in his career, but he is 26, he’s fast and he plays a 200-foot game.
He would be an attractive piece for a number of teams. Term appears to be the issue in negotiations. If Maloney can’t get him re-signed, he’ll have to move him or risk losing him this summer for nothing in unrestricted free agency. If Boedker does change teams, it would be a PR nightmare for the franchise, as he is exactly the kind of “homegrown” talent around which they insist they are trying to build the club.
9. Jordan Eberle, W, Edmonton: At some point, Edmonton is going to have to trade away one of its offensively gifted forwards for a defenseman to help a sorely lacking blue line. Eberle would be the better option since he’s a wing and they are easier to find than top flight centers.
The most mentioned trade has Eberle going to the Islanders in some sort of deal for Hamonic. If I’m the Islanders, I’m asking for more than that for a potential top pairing defenseman. However, Eberle isn’t the only Oilers piece in rumors — apparently center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was offered in exchange for Seth Jones, though clearly that deal fell through.
10. James Reimer, G, Toronto: Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier has another year left on his contract with a cap hit of $4.15 million, making him difficult to trade even if he is the more logical goaltender to deal based on this season’s numbers.
If Bernier stays, it would be tough for the Leafs to re-sign Reimer because then they’d have two goalies making top dollar, if only for one season. However, Reimer’s numbers are far better than Bernier’s. At the same time, he’s been inconsistent in seasons past so what is he really worth? It’s a conundrum management is wrestling with right now.
11. Kyle Okposo, W, N.Y. Islanders: Okposo can become an unrestricted free agent after the season and there has been no indication the Islanders are looking to re-sign him. He is only 27. He is tied for the team-lead in points with 36 and he leads the club with 24 assists.
12. Jonathan Drouin, W, Tampa Bay: Drouin’s agent, Allan Walsh, has done everything he can to force a trade out of Tampa for his disgruntled client, even releasing a statement detailing why Drouin can longer play in the Lightning organization.
Too bad for Walsh and Drouin that it’s not up to them.
Drouin is under contract through next season and can only become a restricted free agent after that. If GM Steve Yzerman doesn’t want to trade Drouin, he’s not going anywhere, but St. Louis is among the teams reportedly showing interest.
Also in the mix: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Edmonton; Jeff Skinner, W, Carolina; Kris Versteeg, W, Carolina; Kevin Stattenkirk, D, St. Louis; Dan Hamhuis, D, Vancouver; Radim Vrbata, W, Vancouver; Roman Polak, D, Toronto; Jamie McGinn, W, Buffalo; Jiri Hudler, W, Calgary; John-Michael Liles, D, Carolina; Kris Russell, D, Calgary.
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