15 possible NHL off-season trade candidates to keep an eye on

With the Stanley Cup handed out, tee times booked and now the draft and free agency on the horizon, the silly season is about to really kick into high gear in the NHL.

As we call it around these parts, GM Week is about to kick off, and that includes all you armchairs out there calculating what your favourite team could, or should, do.

With the off-season comes the renewed outlook for trades to occur, and next week’s draft is usually a great incubator for swaps, this year especially since everyone will be back under the same roof and on the same floor in Montreal.

But trades can really start happening any time now and we know there are a number of teams unhappy with how their seasons went or finished, who now are motivated to shake things up and try a new approach.

So, we’ll begin with a list of 15 off-season trade candidates whose names you’re going to hear as the rumour mill kicks into high gear. We’ll update this list as news develops.

Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks

When Kyle Davidson was introduced as the full-time GM of the Blackhawks back in March, the term “rebuild” was thrown around to describe his plan on how to get the franchise back on a winning track. The hiring of Luke Richardson as the team’s next head coach also indicates this will be the direction of choice, as Richardson is recognized as a great teacher for a younger core.

Trading DeBrincat is no easy choice though. Fresh off the second 41-goal campaign of his career, DeBrincat is still just 24 years old and a youngster himself who could still be a key contributor for the Hawks on the other side of their rebuild. He has a great rapport with Patrick Kane as well, who has one year left on his own contract with a decision looming on if he has a future in Chicago. What Davidson does with DeBrincat could have a major impact on Kane, too.

“I’ve developed some chemistry with DeBrincat over the years, so if he’s here and he’s a big piece, that makes it easier for me too, right, because I’m playing with him every day and he’s such a good player, and it makes it fun to be out there with him. We’ll see how it shakes out, though,” Kane said about the prospect of playing through a rebuild this late in his career.

To trade DeBrincat, or not to trade DeBrincat. It’s a debate without an obvious answer as the Hawks try to shift gears. If DeBrincat does get traded, though, the return will have to be a doozy.

DeBrincat has one more year left on his contract before becoming an RFA, at which point he will be one year away from being eligible for UFA status.

J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks

Fresh off a career-best 99-point season, Miller has one more year left on a deal paying $5.25 million before a salary increase comes next summer, perhaps via free agency.

The Canucks will want to get an idea sooner than later if Miller can be kept for a reasonable rate, or if they have to move on to Plan B. The new regime has a stated goal of clearing cap room, and while Miller isn’t a player you trade just for the payroll space he’d open up, you have to be cautious what his next contract will come in at.

“(Miller’s camp) are not surprised at these reports the Canucks are listening on Miller. In fact one source told me the Canucks have been listening to teams on Miller since February,” said Rick Dhaliwal on Donnie and Dhali. “This clearly tells me the two sides are far apart on Miller and his worth on a new deal.”

Projections have Miller up over $8 million and, in some cases, even over $9 million on an extension. It wouldn’t be ideal for a team in need of a re-tool to begin next season with an unsigned Miller still on the roster and seemingly forced into a position to deal him under a deadline, so if no extension is signed by the opening of free agency on July 13, perhaps this kicks into high gear.

And maybe it turns into a draft day trade.

There will certainly be no shortage of suitors for a versatile winger/centre coming off such a productive season, and who also plays with a gritty, playoff-friendly edge.

“Now that Washington has lost (Nicklas) Backstrom and nobody seems to know what the timeline is, what are they going to do?” Elliotte Friedman asked Donnie and Dhali. “I’ve heard (Nazem) Kadri’s name connected to the Capitals, I’ve heard Miller’s name connected to the Capitals, but I think Washington is just starting to figure out, ‘What are we going to do here?’ I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the kind of guy that’s on their radar.”

Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks

As the management team wants to cut its salary commitment, they also face an interesting discussion around Boeser, a 25-year-old goal scorer due a $7.5 million qualifying offer next month. To clear one thing up, the team told Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre they wouldn’t leave Boeser unqualified and able to walk via unrestricted free agency this summer.

But a trade is not out of the question, especially if Miller signs. If one of Miller or Boeser re-ups with term, it’s not as obvious where else the Canucks could meaningfully shave off some cap. Two important players to the path forward, yes, but also — potentially — key to being able to return to Vancouver a couple pieces that can help bring the franchise back to contending in the long run. Reports indicate there is, unsurprisingly, an interested market for both players.

The deadline for qualifying offers falls on July 11.

Conor Garland, Vancouver Canucks

OK last Canucks player here, but there are three of them because we fully expect the team will change to a marked degree this summer but there are multiple options as to how that occurs.

If neither, or just one, of Boeser or Miller moves, Garland is the next best trade candidate due to his combination of attractive contract, skill and potential market to return the Canucks pieces they value enough. A complementary top-six winger, Garland scored 19 goals and 52 points this season and he’s cost effective with a $4.95 million cap hit that runs another four years. Of course, theoretically, such a manageable contract is attractive to keep around.

The addition of Andrei Kuzmenko last week doesn’t necessarily indicate the Canucks are leaning in one direction or another in trade. Kuzmenko gives them added depth and a stronger top-nine at the very least. He does crowd the wing though, and so along with Garland it’s important to also mention Tanner Pearson ($3.25 million cap hit for two years) as another trade possibility.

John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

You’re going to get different opinions about Gibson on such a basic question as: Is he even that good anymore?

In trade availability speculation, though, the only opinion that matters is Anaheim’s and you know they will be looking for a good haul if moving the soon-to-be 29-year-old netminder who’s under contract another five years.

It’s becoming a yearly tradition that Gibson’s name pops up in trade talk, as the Ducks sag in the standings and his age ticks up. From 2014-15 through 2018-19, Gibson’s cumulative .921 save percentage was second-best among all goalies with at least 100 games played. In the three seasons since he has a .904 save rate — 20th among 22 keepers with at least 100 games played in that time, and below league average.

Is that some sort of decline, or a result of getting a heavy workload behind a weakening team?

And who will care to spend the required assets, and take on the $6.4 million cap hit commitment through 2026-27 to find out? Gibson has some control of the situation, too, with a 10-team no-trade list. And while he denied requesting a trade out of Anaheim, the Ducks have new management in place now that could be open to a new path.

“I do think that Gibson knows the Ducks have decisions to make about the direction of their team and he knows that there’s teams out there looking for goaltenders,” Elliotte Friedman told NHL Network. “My sense of what it is, is if the Ducks want to do something and it takes Gibson’s permission they’ll just eventually go to him. I’m just not convinced yet that (general manager) Pat Verbeek sees trading John Gibson as the right move for the team.”

Kevin Fiala, Minnesota Wild

The Wild had to take a good crack at a Cup run this season because, beginning next season, the cap crunch really kicks in. Due to the buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Wild will have a $12.7 million penalty in 2022-23, followed by two years with a $14.7 million penalty. The team walks into this summer with just $6.5 million in projected cap space, 18 skaters and one goalie signed. Hopeful, too, that Marc-Andre Fleury can return.

So, not a great time for an 85-point, 25-year-old winger to come due for a raise.

While Fiala is coming off his best regular season yet, he also wrapped his second straight underwhelming post-season, with just one goal and five points in 13 games over the past two playoffs. He may now find himself as the odd man out.

“Well, actually, there’s no other answer than we’ll see. I don’t know,” Fiala said about his future with the team after the Wild were eliminated from the playoffs. “We just lost and there’s (been) no conversation yet and not in these two days either, so we’ll see.”

Interestingly, there could be a path to keeping Fiala, but that one might entail instead trading another yearly rumour mill occupant, Matt Dumba, whose $6 million contract expires after next season. This may be the decision facing GM Bill Guerin.

But when discussing Fiala’s trade candidacy, it’s important to also mention that winger Matt Boldy will be an RFA next season and that Marco Rossi is on the way. Reinforcements are coming up front.

MacKenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils

The one-time goalie of the future dealt with injury this year and now has two campaigns of lacklustre play behind him.

With the Devils seeking to have a competition at this position and needing to fix their most glaring weakness, Blackwood could still hold some trade value to a buyer who sees the potential and upside that still exists for the 25-year-old.

“Trying to support him in what we felt he needed over the past two years at free agency time was important,” Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald said at his season-end conference. “Unfortunately, with the injury this year, him feeling 100 per cent never got there. That’s OK. There’s a clean slate right now.

“We just want him to be 100 per cent, and feel 100 per cent, believe he’s 100 per cent going into the off-season. MacKenzie is a very confident kid, which I love, and he wants to be our goalie.”

Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers

Three years into the massive, seven-year contract Bobrovsky signed with the Panthers, could the team now be looking to move on from him in trade?

“Florida is pushing Bobrovsky hard,” Nick Kypreos recently said on the “Real Kyper & Bourne” show. “In terms of takers, who needs a goalie, and we are willing to hold cash back. And I’m told as much as 50 per cent.

“They’ve got cap issues as much as anyone.”

If you’re a fan of a goalie-needy team, would you take Bobrovsky if Florida retained half his salary and he was coming in at $5 million? He had a bounce-back .913 save percentage season for the Presidents’ Trophy winners and wasn’t to blame for their post-season loss (look more to a disappearing offence and power play for that). But he’ll also be 34 by the time next season starts and still have four years to play out on his contract.

It’s key to note, too, that Bobrovsky has a full no-movement clause and thus is in full control of the situation.

Martin Necas, Carolina Hurricanes

Seth Jarvis was one of the best stories of this NHL season, as the 13th overall pick from 2020 hit with a 17-goal, 40-point season in 68 games as a rookie. His quick ascension, it seems, has left open the possibility that another first-rounder could find his way to the trade block if the right offer is made.

Necas, the 12th overall pick from 2017, played 10 more games than Jarvis and finished with the same point total, but also saw his time on ice drop this season. It dropped further in the playoffs, where Necas was shut out, compared to Jarvis, who continued to excel with three goals and eight points in 14 games.

While Jarvis has two years left on his ELC, Necas is a 23-year-old RFA this summer and seemingly a candidate for a bridge deal.

Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes

A popular trade candidate who was discussed plenty around this season’s trade deadline, the belief still is the Coyotes want to move the 24-year-old defenceman. It was a down year offensively for Chychrun, who only played in 47 games, but that follows an 18-goal campaign that really showed off his two-way presence.

When Gabriel Landeskog was asked after Colorado’s Cup win what other teams could take away from their championship, the captain quipped “find your Cale Makar somewhere,” a wild goose chase for a rare talent. And while Chychrun isn’t exactly Makar — who is a very unique and special player — he does bring immense upside, is still very young, and under contract at a $4.6 million cap hit for another three years. This is the kind of player other GMs drool over.

The Coyotes are about to move into a roughly 5,000-seat arena for a couple of years and are embracing a deep rebuild. While smacking a home run on a Chychrun return will be a priority this off-season, we should also mention Lawson Crouse here as a possible trade target as well, as the 25-year-old comes off his career-best season (20 goals, 34 points) and is an arbitration-eligible RFA.

Tyson Barrie, Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers must find a way to clear some salary cap space this off-season if they have any hope of keeping Evander Kane, or replacing him, while also addressing the team’s netminding situation. And that’s before considering improving the depth up front, too.

There are potential avenues for GM Ken Holland to do that, such as buying out Zack Kassian, or if Duncan Keith decides to retire (though there’s no indication yet he’s leaning that way). Trading offensive defenceman Barrie is another possible option.

With Evan Bouchard ready for an increased role and the next wave of youngsters, such as Philip Broberg, ready to push for spots as well, Barrie could become something of a casualty here. He makes $4.5 million against the cap for another two seasons and if the goal is to just drop his cap hit and accept whatever offers come along to accomplish that, there should be some suitors for an offensive defenceman who can quarterback the power play and be counted on for at least 40 points.

Pavel Zacha, New Jersey Devils

His name popped up a few times on Jeff Marek’s in-season trade candidates list and as the Devils move into an off-season where they have plenty of possible moves available (Blackwood and the second overall pick to name two), we should expect him to stay there as GM Tom Fitzgerald charts the path ahead, with a desire to improve in net and on the blue line.

The sixth overall pick from 2015, Zacha hasn’t fully hit on his potential on offence but did post a career-best 36 points this season, which followed a 35-point season in the shortened calendar. With Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier cemented in their roles as the top two centres on the team, it leaves the RFA Zacha as a potentially expendable part in the right deal — although running it back and having that centre depth isn’t a bad option either.

Jeff Petry, Montreal Canadiens

A lot of things either never got going, or took a while to start up, in Montreal this season and Petry was one player who started slowly before he finally began to come around again. The defenceman had just two points in the first quarter of the season before missing some time. It wasn’t until Martin St. Louis was hired behind the bench that Petry returned to form, finishing as the league’s 23rd-highest scoring defenceman after the coaching change.

The Canadiens, like the Devils, have options to re-tool this summer, and finding a new home for Petry may be one of them.

“Hughes is not waiting for anything on that front. Whether Petry wants to stay or go — and it’s still believed it’s his preference to go — Hughes intends to trade him and replace him via free agency,” Sportsnet’s own Eric Engels wrote about the situation in a season-ending mailbag last month.

Petry, 34, has three years remaining on a contract that pays $6.25 million against the cap and is able to submit a list of 15 teams to which he would not accept a trade.

Semyon Varlamov, NY Islanders

While Igor Shesterkin, Juuse Saros and Jacob Markstrom earned Vezina finalist nods, Andrei Vasilevskiy played to his identity as the world’s best goalie in the playoffs, and even Frederik Andersen generated a little award buzz, the Islanders’ Ilya Sorokin flew under the radar a bit with what he did in 52 games this season. Finishing with a .925 save percentage and 2.40 GAA, Sorokin was actually second in the league to Shesterkin by Goals Saved Above Average.

Sorokin will be 27 at the start of next season, is signed for another two years with a $4 million cap hit, and is a star on the rise.

That leaves open the possibility of a Varlamov trade.

The 34-year-old Varlamov will be entering the final year of his contract paying a $5 million AAV and with a number of teams in need of a goalie upgrade, the market may be just right for GM Lou Lamoriello to get something back that he needs, and fully commit to Sorokin as the team’s No. 1 stopper going forward.

Matt Murray, Ottawa Senators

The Senators don’t have the best history of drafting goaltenders — an area they’re focusing on improving, as outlined here by Wayne Scanlan — but right now they have three NHL-quality netminders on the roster with Murray, Filip Gustavsson and Anton Forsberg. None are waiver exempt anymore.

So, while Senators GM Pierre Dorion has said his team could go into next season with three netminders on the roster, that’s a situation which almost never works out as roster space pinches due to injuries, and workloads become erratic.

Forsberg, who could have been an in-season trade candidate but was instead re-signed to a three-year deal with a $2.75 million cap hit, seems part of the plan now, while the 24-year-old Gustavsson has one year left on a cheap deal. Murray, then, appears the odd man out.

“The only prediction I feel super comfortable making is no matter what happens I think Anton Forsberg is Ottawa’s opening night starter. That’s even if Murray is in the equation,” The Athletic’s Ian Mendes said on the Jeff Marek Show last week. “I do think the trade is probably best for everybody involved. I know for a fact there were hurt feelings certainly from the player’s side on the AHL demotion.”

Murray, who has had trouble staying healthy and then performing when on the ice, still has two years remaining on a contract that pays $6.25 million against the cap, so the Sens would likely have to retain some of that salary to find a taker. And, once again, with a lower cost there could be interest as the need for goalies abounds at various places across the league.

If a trade can’t be had, the other option for Ottawa is to buy out Murray’s contract, though that would leave a cap charge on the books for an extra two years, perhaps when the Senators are ready to start paying up for a roster they expect to win.

Matt Murray’s buyout picture, per Cap Friendly.


Our trade candidates list will be updated early this off-season as rumours mature and others pop up. In the meantime, these are some other names to monitor on the trade market as their futures could be determined by what occurs over the next couple of weeks.

David Pastrnak, Boston; Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary; Patrick Kane, Chicago; Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg; Anthony Beauvillier, NY Islanders; Tyler Bertuzzi, Detroit; Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia; Matt Dumba, Minnesota; Jordan Binnington, St. Louis; Brent Burns, San Jose; Petr Mrazek, Toronto; Jonathan Drouin, Montreal; Patric Hornqvist, Florida.

15 possible NHL off-season trade candidates to keep an eye on Source link 15 possible NHL off-season trade candidates to keep an eye on

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