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Six players who should be traded this summer

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Ah, yes. The offseason. That one month of craziness and mayhem after the Stanley Cup gets awarded where the NHL’s general managers get together and make the majority of their moves to assemble their teams and shape their organizations.

One of the busiest times is the four or five days surrounding NHL draft — which is less than two weeks away — where the majority of the league’s significant trades will get made.

Sometimes teams make themselves better. Sometimes teams make themselves worse. Either way it is always fascinating to watch unfold, even if it tends to underwhelm us in terms of the moves that actually get made.

Sometimes the trades that don’t get made are more interesting than the ones that do get made.

Either way, there will be trades, and they could involve significant players. With that said let’s start taking a look at some of the candidates to be on the move with six players that probably should, for one reason or another, be moved this summer.

[Related: Six players who should stay put this summer]

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators.  Whether it happens during the summer or before the trade deadline this split just seems inevitable, even before all of Tuesday’s news broke. He is entering the final year of his contract, he was quite clearly on the trade block all of last season, and even though the Senators front office seems determined to try and sign him to a new long-term contract extension it just seems like it is a long shot at this point.

If he rejects the Senators’ offer in early July — when they can officially sign him to a new deal — the team is going to have little choice but to move him. The team itself is almost certain to stink this year so that one extra year of Karlsson isn’t going to make much of a difference, and you can’t afford to lose a franchise player for nothing as a free agent. As painful as it would be to move a player like this the Senators have to make sure they get something back in return.

Vegas made a run at him before the trade deadline and has the salary cap space, prospects, and future draft picks to deal from to try again.

Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators. Simply put, the Senators are a mess in more ways than one and while Hoffman is an extremely productive player and signed for two more years it would probably be best for everyone involved to just go scorched earth with this thing and tear the whole bloody thing down to the ground.

Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes. My first instinct when I hear or read speculation about a Jeff Skinner trade is to laugh about it and dismiss it because we’ve been hearing this stuff for what seems like five years now.

Every summer, every trade deadline it is the exact same thing — the Hurricanes might trade Jeff Skinner! Jeff Skinner could be on the market! Is this the year the Hurricanes finally trade Jeff Skinner!?

Hey, look, maybe all of those times he has in fact been available for trade. Maybe the Hurricanes have fielded offers or shopped him around. General manager talk. Trades get discussed. Players get offered. It is part of the business. But through it all Skinner has always still been there in Carolina. He is always still there in Carolina. And that has not been a bad thing for the Hurricanes because Skinner has been one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL at a salary cap hit that is probably a bargain.

But allow me for one year, for one time, to join the chorus of people saying … “hey, maybe this is the year?”

Because this really could be the year.

The environment is certainly right for it. Skinner is entering the final year of his contract, the Hurricanes have a new owner that seems to be looking to shake things up, and that all makes Skinner a logical candidate to be moved.

It’s a tough situation because the Hurricanes have some flaws and one of those flaws is not having players that can finish and put the puck in the net. Skinner is one of the few players on the team that has proven he has the ability to do that, so it it’s a hard sell to move him, especially when he is still in his prime years.

But all of the pieces for a trade just seem to be in place, and there are no shortage of teams in the league that could be in the market for him (looking at you, Los Angeles).

Philipp Grubauer, Washington Capitals. Grubauer is good enough to be a starting goalie but is stuck on a team that also happens to have one of the best goalies in the NHL in front of him. Braden Holtby still has two years left on his contract and is coming off of a Stanley Cup win where he was mostly fantastic, cementing his status as one of the best, most productive postseason goalies in league history (that is not hyperbole! Just look at the numbers).

He is not going anywhere.

Grubauer, on the other hand, is ready for a full-time starting job, is a due a raise as a restricted free agent on a team that will not have a ton of salary cap space and has some important players that it has to try and re-sign, and there are at least two teams in the NHL that might be a good, young starting goaltender away from becoming a playoff team in the Carolina and New York (Islanders) that should be willing to pay for him.

While there is a lot of benefit to keeping two outstanding goalies (especially when it comes to the workload over a full season) there simply may not be enough room for both of them.

Ryan O'Reilly, Buffalo Sabres. My colleague James O’Brien recently put together a strong argument for why the Sabres should keep Ryan O’Reilly (read it here), whose name has surfaced in trade speculation heading into the summer. And it makes sense. But allow me to offer the counterpoint: The Sabres stink, have holes all over their roster, and could probably get a pretty strong return on a two-way center that plays big minutes. It might also be good for him to get him out of Buffalo where the losing seemed to really to take its toll on him this season.

Milan Lucic, Edmonton Oilers. The Edmonton Oilers need salary cap space. They missed the playoffs by a mile, have significant cap space tied up in their young core, and have to find a way to not only fill out a roster around that core, but also have it be a roster that is good enough to complement them.

This is not going to be easy!

Somebody, simply, has to go.

The easy and most sensible answer is Lucic but there is one very big problem with that: Nobody is really going to want to take on that contract. He still has five years remaining on his contract (a contract that includes a no-movement clause) at a salary cap hit of $6 million per season. Who is going to want to take on that commitment for a 30-year-old winger that managed just 34 points in 80 games this past season, including only 27 at even-strength, despite playing a healthy chunk of the season alongside Connor McDavid?

To move him the Oilers are either going to have to 1) Throw in one hell of a sweetener, or 2) pick up a significant portion of the salary.

Neither option is ideal.

But neither is that $6 million salary cap hit for what Lucic is likely to produce this season.

Sometimes you just have to take a little bit of a hit to try and make yourself better.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Previewing the 2019-20 Arizona Coyotes

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(The 2019-20 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to look at all 31 teams. We’ll be breaking down strengths and weaknesses, whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)
 
For more 2019-20 PHT season previews, click here.

Better or Worse: Better. The Coyotes made a splash when they acquired Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh Penguins this off-season. Assuming he comes in with the right attitude, Kessel alone makes the Coyotes a better team. The ‘Yotes haven’t had a sniper like him in a long time and head coach Rick Tocchet’s ability to get the most out of Kessel should help Arizona in a big way. Let’s not forget, this Coyotes team is young, too. So, there should be some internal progression as well.

Strengths: Arizona has quietly built up some solid depth down the middle of the ice. When healthy, Nick Schmaltz produced offensively, as he accumulated 14 points in his first 17 games with his new team. If he can keep that up, the Coyotes will be that much tougher to stop. They also have veterans like Derek Stepan and Carl Soderberg that will make important contributions this year. We’ve already talked about Kessel and what he brings to the table, but they also have other dynamic forwards on the wing like Clayton Keller and Christian Dvorak, too.

The Coyotes also have a deep blue line with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jakob Chychrun and Jason Demers. And their goaltending is stable with Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper.

[MORE: Under Pressure: Kessel | X-factor | Three questions]

Weaknesses: Overall depth might be an issue up front. Do they have enough players in the bottom-six that can contribute offensively when their offensive-minded players go quiet? Overall, this is a well-balanced team that could use more depth, but which team doesn’t need that?

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): Let’s go with a four for Rick Tocchet. He’s not really on the hot seat going into the season, but his team also has to show some significant signs of improvement this year. They finished ninth in the Western Conference last year (they missed the playoffs by four points), so they have to improve this year or the seat will get hotter for Tocchet.

Three Most Fascinating Players: You can’t have a fascinating players section on the Coyotes roster and not talk about Kessel. We know what Kessel is capable of doing on the ice, but how will he mesh with his new teammates off the ice? Can he be the leader Arizona needs him to be? We’re starting to hear more and more about his fractured relationship with some of his old teammates in Pittsburgh. The Coyotes have to be hoping that something similar doesn’t happen to them.

Schmaltz is also an intriguing name. After being acquired from Chicago, he nearly scored at a point-per-game clip. Can he post similar numbers over an 82-game stretch? Schmaltz has all the talent to succeed at the NHL and now he has a golden opportunity to be one of the offensive catalysts on an up-and-coming roster that should push for a playoff spot this year.

The goaltending situation will also be something to keep an eye on. Raanta was limited to just 12 games last season after he had a career year in 2017-18. But once he was forced from the lineup Kuemper came in and did a nice job of keeping the Coyotes competitive. Does Raanta bounce back? Does Kuemper keep rolling? It might be a little bit of both.

Playoffs or Lottery: This is a tough one. It would be amazing to see the Coyotes sneak into the playoffs. The issue is finding which of the top eight teams they’ll finish ahead of this season. If the Rantanen hold out lasts long, can they sneak in ahead of Colorado, who finished in the last Wild Card spot last year? Maybe, but that’s still not a given. I think the Coyotes will miss the playoffs by less points (four) than they did last year.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Dan Girardi hangs up his skates after 13 NHL seasons

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Dan Girardi has announced his retirement from hockey after 13 NHL seasons with the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I would like to thank all my coaches, family, friends and teammates for supporting me throughout my entire hockey career,” Girardi said in a statement. “I want to thank the New York Rangers for giving me a chance to fulfill my childhood dream of playing in the NHL. Throughout those 11 incredible years I have made so many friends on and off the ice. I bled Ranger blue and gave it my all for my team, the city and the Garden faithful.

“I also want to thank the Tampa Bay Lightning for helping me continue my career by giving me a chance to play for such an amazing organization, city and fan base. The last two years in Tampa Bay have been so much fun for me and my family. I will always fondly remember my time here. Finally, I want to thank my wife Pamela for always being there for me and holding down the fort and to Landon and Shaye for always being daddy’s No. 1 fans.”

Undrafted out of the Ontario Hockey League, Girardi was invited to Rangers camp in 2005 and earned himself a two-way contract. After a year-and-a-half in the ECHL and AHL, he was called up to the NHL where he would remain until the end of the 2018-19 season. He would help lead the Rangers to the postseason 10 times, which included a trip to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

Following his 11 seasons in New York, Girardi was bought out of the final three years of his contract in 2017 and would sign on with the Lightning for the final two seasons of his career.

The 35-year-old Girardi finishes with 927 NHL games played, 56 goals, 264 points, and 1,954 blocked shots, the most by any player since the league began recording the stat in 2005-06. His 143 playoff games puts him 30th all-time by a defensemen.

“I gave my all every single night and left it all out on the ice,” Girardi said. “Now it’s time for the next chapter of my life to begin and I couldn’t be happier…and so is my body.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Previewing the 2019-20 Anaheim Ducks

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(The 2019-20 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to look at all 31 teams. We’ll be breaking down strengths and weaknesses, whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

For more 2019-20 PHT season previews, click here.

Better or Worse: Worse. The Ducks have been competitive for over a decade, so it wasn’t surprising to see them take a step back last year. Unfortunately for Anaheim, their core is getting older and they really didn’t improve their roster very much over the course of the summer. They lost Corey Perry and some other depth players, but they didn’t add any significant pieces. They hired Dallas Eakins as their new head coach, but it’ll be tough for him to make a significant difference. It’s tough to argue that this group is better.

Strengths: Their biggest strength is between the pipes. John Gibson put together an incredible season last year. His numbers may not jump off the page but make no mistake, he was the reason they weren’t out of it earlier than they were. The 26-year-old had a 26-22-8 record with a 2.84 goals-against-average and a .917 save percentage last season. If the Ducks are going to improve this season, they’ll likely need their goalie to stand on his head on a nightly basis. Gibson is one of the top goalies in the league and that shouldn’t change in 2019-20.

Weaknesses: Their overall depth has taken a hit over the last few years. Sure, they still have good players like Ryan Getzlaf and Adam Henrique down the middle, and Rickard Rakell, Ondrej Kase and Jakob Silfverberg on the wings. They also have Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson and Cam Fowler on defense. The rest of the team has taken a bit of dip. Perry’s gone and Ryan Kesler is injured, and Patrick Eaves is likely retired. When you’ve been good for so long, these things will eventually happen.

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): 1. Let’s give Eakins some time. He’ll have plenty of challenges ahead with the edition of the Ducks. It’ll be important for him to assess the talent at his disposal quickly and he’ll need to figure out a way to get the most out of this group of players. Again, success probably won’t come as early as this season, but if the Ducks allow him to shape the roster how he sees fit, they could make strides in the near future. How much time he gets to build this program remains to be seen, but he can’t be on the hot seat yet!

[MORE: Three Questions | Under Pressure: Getzlaf | X-Factor]

Three Most Fascinating Players: It’ll be interesting to see how some of the young players perform this season. Daniel Sprong, Nick Ritchie and Brendan Guhle should all be part of this roster when training camp ends. How much will they contribute though?

Sprong was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins last season. In 47 games with the Ducks, he put up 14 goals and 19 points, which isn’t terrible. Can he build on that season? We’ve mentioned that Anaheim’s depth may be a problem for them this year, so getting added contributions from talented youngsters like Sprong will be key. There’s no denying his ability on the ice, but the 22-year-old needs to put it all together now. 14 goals in 47 games works out to a 24-goal campaign over 82 contests. Can he flirt with 25 goals?

Ritchie is also a fascinating case. The 23-year-old was drafted 10th overall by the Ducks back in 2014, but he hasn’t had as big an impact as many expected him to since turning pro. Ritchie had nine goals and a career-high 31 points in 60 games in 2018-19. He needs to pick it up. He needs to lead the next waive of young players in the organization. He’s got size, he’s got skill and now he needs to make an impact on this Ducks roster. He can’t just be another depth player.

As for Guhle, he was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres last season. The former second-rounder played in just six games with Anaheim last season. The Ducks have Fowler, Manson and Lindholm on their blue line, but there are openings behind those three players. Guhle has to show that he’s capable of making this roster and eating up some important minutes for Anaheim this season. The 22-year-old needs to add stability to the Ducks on the back end.

Playoffs or Lottery: They’ll be in the lottery this year. Again, they have some talented players, but they don’t have enough of them. It’ll take some time for them to draft and develop the next generation of Ducks, but that re-tooling had to begin eventually. No playoffs for the Ducks this year.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Laine apologizes to Little; Can Isles keep having success?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Bruins forward Karson Kuhlman will get an opportunity to break camp as a second-line winger. (Boston Globe)

Shea Weber still has a desire to improve every day. (Montreal Gazette)

• The Dream Gap Tour is trying to find a way to build a sustainable women’s hockey league. (TSN)

• Who will serve as the Washington Capitals’ backup goalie this season? (NBC Sports Washington)

• The Tampa Bay Lightning have more openings on their roster than ever before, according to head coach Jon Cooper. (Tampa Times)

• Can the Islanders sustain what they did last year under head coach Barry Trotz? (Light House Hockey)

• Will the Panthers make the playoffs this season? The Rat Trick makes five predictions for Florida’s 2019-20 season. (The Rat Trick)

• Sabres defenseman Matt Gilmour took a different path to get to the NHL. (Buffalo Hockey Beat)

• Alex Nylander has produced during the preseason, but will that be enough to get him a spot on the Hawks roster? (NBC Sports Chicago)

Klim Kostin may finally be ready to make the jump to the NHL with the Blues. (St. Louis Game-Time)

Patrik Laine apologized to Bryan Little for the comments he made to a Finnish reporter. (NHL.com)

• Speaking of Little, he deserves to play with better players. (Jets Nation)

• 2019 first-round pick Thomas Harley has been impressing during Dallas Stars training camp. (Defending Big D)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.