NHL Power Rankings: Players who could get traded this offseason

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we look ahead to what could be a very busy offseason and highlight some of the biggest trade candidates that could be available.

The combination of a flat salary cap, teams needing to create space, and the expansion draft creates quite an environment for trades, and potentially significant trades.

A franchise player could be on the move, another has already reportedly requested a trade, and a former dynasty could be continuing its rebuild.

Which players make this week’s NHL Power Rankings list?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

The franchise changing trade

1. Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres. At this point it just seems to be a foregone conclusion that the Eichel era is going to come to a disappointing end in Buffalo. The Sabres have failed to build around him, he is clearly frustrated with the team on multiple levels (medically, competitively), and it just seems like it is a matter of when and not if this happens. When it does it will significantly alter the course of two of the league’s franchises. For Buffalo, it will kickstart what is almost certainly another full blown rebuild. For the team that gets him it is adding a franchise player, one of the best in the league, in the prime of his career. It is the type of move that can accelerate any team’s rebuild (Los Angeles, New York) or turn any good team into an immediate contender.

Very strong possibility of a trade

2. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues. Tarasenko has reportedly requested a trade from the Blues and there should be a few teams with serious interest. It will not be an easy trade, however, given his recent injury history, production, and the size of his contract (especially his $9.5M salary this season).

[Related: Teams that should pursue a Tarasenko trade]

3. Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets. Entering the final year of his contract and apparently unwilling to re-sign in Columbus makes Jones an obvious trade candidate. This is going to be a fascinating one to watch because there seems to be some disconnect on how good Jones still is. Analytically his play seems to have regressed. But the eye test people still love him and hold him in high regard. The truth probably sits somewhere in the middle.

4. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks’ rebuild looks to continue with a Keith trade, and there was already a report they are working with him to get him to the Pacific Northwest or Western Canada. The Oilers seem to be the favorite, but is that really what they need? (UPDATE: Keith is on his way to Edmonton.)

[Related: Which teams make sense for Duncan Keith?]

5. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes. This will be the second year in a row Ekman-Larsson is mentioned prominently in trade speculation. He will be 30 at the start of the season and his production has regressed a little the past couple of years, which might be a couple of red flags given the size of his remaining contract.

6. Nate Schmidt, Vancouver Canucks. This seemed like a good addition at the time, but Schmidt did not really work out in Vancouver the way he was expected to and the Canucks should be desperate to shed salary given the work they have to do in re-signing Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes this offseason.

7. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals. It has been a rocky couple of years for Kuznetsov and the Capitals and maybe it is time for a change. Is he still an impact player? Maybe! That $7.8M salary cap hit over the next four years is a big gamble for a “maybe.”

Definitely worth keeping an eye on

8. Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins. DeBrusk seemed to spend much of this season on the trade block, and that is not likely to change this offseason. He had a down year with only five goals and nine assists in 41 games, but he has a strong track record that should make a bounce back likely. Good news for a team that trades for him. Bad news for the Bruins who would be selling low.

9. Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild. The Wild are going to have another expansion draft log-jam and they could definitely stand to clear some salary cap space, especially with Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala needing to be re-signed. Dumba is no stranger to the trade rumor mill and would be an intriguing target for a team in need of defense. In fact, any team thinking of adding Keith or Jones should probably start their search with Dumba instead.

[Related: NHL Trade advice: Aim for Matt Dumba]

10. Vince Dunn, St. Louis Blues. This has always been a weird one. Dunn has always played extremely well in the minutes the Blues have given him, but they never seem willing to increase his role. Definitely worth a look for a team in need of help on the blue line.

11. Tampa Bay Lightning (multiple players). Maybe you heard, but the Lightning were $18M over the salary cap in the playoffs and no matter how hard they try that is going to be difficult to duplicate. They know changes are ahead this offseason, it is just a matter of which players get moved. They already know they are going to lose somebody in the expansion draft while Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow are among their unrestricted free agents. They will no doubt explore moving Tyler Johnson again, but what about somebody like Yanni Gourde if he is not taken by Seattle? Lot of moving parts to watch there.

It is possible, but not likely

12. Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers. Elliotte Friedman reported in his most recent “31 Thoughts” column that the Flyers and Voracek could be looking for a change. There is a possibility that Voracek could be left exposed in the expansion draft, and that if he is not chosen by Seattle a trade could happen. He will be 32 this season and still has a lot of money remaining, but he is still a good playmaker.

13. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames. Gaudreau is entering the final year of his contract so it is worth wondering what his future looks like. He is still an impact player and should have a lot of quality hockey in front of him, but the Flames have been aimlessly stumbling along in mediocrity for a while now and you have to wonder if something eventually gives and they go in a different direction. This would be a risky move for the Flames.

14. Kevin Labanc, San Jose Sharks. The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz mentioned Labanc as a possible trade chip for the Sharks as they attempt to upgrade their goaltending position and forward depth. His offensive game has not fully developed as hoped, but the talent and potential is there and the contract is not terrible for the next couple of years.

15. Sam Reinhart, Buffalo Sabres. If you are going to trade Eichel there is no point in keeping Reinhart, is there?

16. Conor Garland, Arizona Coyotes. Am going to put this in a “long shot” category. It is one of those trades that it would not shock you if it did happen, but it does not seem extremely likely. Garland is a restricted free agent and the Coyotes have to decide what he is worth and where they see their organization going in the next few years. If they rebuild and tear it down, Garland would be an attractive trade asset. But he is also their most productive forward and a heck of a player.

Penguins plot a way forward as Letang recovers from stroke

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PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang returned to the ice on Thursday, just three days after suffering the second stroke of his career.

The “twirl” the longtime Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman took at the club’s practice facility was approved by team doctors, a spin designed to help Letang’s mental health and nothing else. While the 35-year-old remains upbeat, it remains far too early to put a timeline on when his familiar No. 58 will return to the lineup.

Though Pittsburgh general manager Ron Hextall indicated this stroke isn’t as severe as the one Letang endured in 2014 – when a hole in the wall of his heart led to a stroke that forced him to miss two months – the six-time All-Star is continuing to undergo tests.

There are no plans for Letang to participate in any sort of hockey-specific drills anytime soon, with coach Mike Sullivan stressing the club will “err on the side of caution” when it comes to whatever rehab Letang might need.

While Letang – one of the most well-conditioned players in the NHL – essentially went through the motions by himself, his teammates were 30 minutes south at PPG Paints Arena getting ready for a visit from Vegas and trying to plot a way forward without one of the franchise cornerstones, at least in the short term.

Letang made it a point to help break the news to the rest of the Penguins following a 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina on Tuesday. Pittsburgh scratched Letang from the lineup with an unspecified illness and he spent a portion of the game watching from the press box next to Hextall.

Afterward, Letang informed a somber locker room about his condition, a revelation that came as a shock even as he did his best to reassure those around him that he was and is OK.

“It’s very serious health stuff,” defenseman Chad Ruhwedel said. “You hear about strokes and it’s never really good so we’re just glad to see he’s doing well and everything is good with him.”

Sullivan understands it would be practically impossible for any of the other defensemen on the roster to replicate what Letang brings to the ice, so he’s not going to ask any one player to try. There are few players at the position in the NHL who have Letang’s mix of speed, skill and almost bottomless energy.

The highest-scoring defenseman in franchise history is averaging a team-best 23:54 of ice time and has long been a fixture on the power play and in just about every crucial late-game situation.

“I just think Tanger is not an easy guy to replace,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think from a tactical standpoint things change drastically. It’s just personnel based. But as you know, personnel can mean a lot in those types of situations.”

It’s more than that, however. This isn’t a routine injury. There’s an emotional component and an unknown element to Letang’s status even as the Penguins insist they don’t believe his condition is career-threatening.

“This is a whole different circumstance than an ankle injury or a shoulder injury,” Sullivan said. “This is a very different circumstance.”

Letang’s on-ice presence is just one aspect of his importance to a team that has never missed the playoffs since he made his debut in 2007. He’s become a mentor to younger teammates like 23-year-old defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph, who like Letang is French-Canadian and who, like Letang, plays with a graceful fluidity.

Joseph, who declined to get into specifics about Letang’s message to the team on Tuesday night, believes the best thing the Penguins can do during Letang’s absence is attack the game with the same passion he’s shown for 17 seasons and counting.

“The way he plays for the team every single night and the way he puts his heart and soul into the game on the ice, it’s the least we can do is have our thoughts of him whenever we get on the ice,” Joseph said.

Sullivan shuffled the lineup on Tuesday, elevating veteran Jeff Petry and Brian Dumoulin to the top defensive pair. Petry possesses a skillset that’s not too far removed from Letang’s, but it’s also his first year in Pittsburgh. Asking him to provide the leadership that’s innate to Letang is unfair. It’s one of the reasons Sullivan is insistent that it will take a group effort to fill in for a singular presence.

“We have some diversity on our blue line right now,” Sullivan said. “We feel like we have guys capable of stepping in and getting the job done for us and we’re going to try and do that.”

LA Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers

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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers, a surprising move for a player once considered the successor in net to two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick.

Petersen, 28, went on waivers the day after allowing four goals on 16 shots in relief of Quick during a 9-8 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken. Quick was pulled after giving up five goals on 14 shots.

Only one NHL goalie has a save percentage lower than Petersen’s .868 this season, Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets with .864. Petersen is 5-3-2 in 10 games with a 3.75 goals-against average in his third full season with the Kings and fifth overall.

L.A. signed Petersen to a three-year, $15 million contract in September 2021, and he figured to take the starting job from Quick, who turns 37 in January and is set to be a free agent after the season. Petersen has two years left on that deal after this one at an annual salary cap hit of $5 million.

Penguins’ Kris Letang out indefinitely after 2nd stroke

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PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang plays hockey with a grace and inexhaustible fluidity seemingly impervious to the rigors of spending nearly half his life in the NHL.

For the second time in less than a decade, however, a major health scare has brought Letang’s career to a halt.

The 35-year-old Letang is out indefinitely after suffering a stroke for a second time. Letang reported feeling ill and was taken to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

While general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday this stroke doesn’t appear to be as serious as the one Letang sustained in 2014, the Penguins will have to find a way forward at least in the short term without one of their franchise pillars.

“I am fortunate to know my body well enough to recognize when something isn’t right,” Letang said in a release. “While it is difficult to navigate this issue publicly, I am hopeful it can raise awareness. … I am optimistic that I will be back on the ice soon.”

The three-time Stanley Cup champion missed more than two months in 2014 after a stroke, which doctors determined was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. He spent Monday feeling off and told team trainers he was dealing with what Hextall described as a migraine headache.

Penguins team physician Dr. Dhamesh Vyas recommended Letang go to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

“He didn’t know (he had a stroke),” Hextall said. “He just knew something wasn’t right.”

Letang is continuing to undergo tests but felt well enough on Tuesday to be at the arena for Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina. He spent the second period chatting with Hextall then addressed his teammates in the locker room afterward in an effort to help allay their concerns.

“I think it was important for Kris to be there because his teammates got to see him in good spirits and that he’s doing well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

Sullivan added initial test results on Letang have been “very encouraging.” Letang will continue to undergo testing throughout the week, though he felt good enough in the aftermath to ask Sullivan and Hextall if he could skate, an activity that is off the table for now.

Hextall said he “couldn’t even guess” how long the Penguins may be without the married father of two, adding hockey is low on the team’s list of concerns about a player who, along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has helped the franchise to three Stanley Cups during his 17-year career.

“First and foremost this is about the person and I told Tanger about that last night,” Hextall said. “This is Kris Letang, the father and family guy, the Pittsburgh Penguins, that’s second.”

Letang, a six-time All-Star, has been one of the most durable players in the NHL. His 662 career points (145 goals, 517 assists) are a franchise record for a defenseman. He’s averaged well over 24 minutes of playing time over the course of his career, a number that’s ticked above 25 minutes per game seven times in eight-plus seasons since he returned from the initial stroke.

The Penguins felt so confident in Letang’s durability that they signed him to a six-year contract over the summer rather than let him test free agency for the first time.

“The level of hockey he’s played for as long as he’s played is absolutely incredible,” Hextall said. “The level he’s continued to play at at his age, the type of shape he’s in … he’s a warrior.”

Letang has one goal and 11 assists in 21 games so far this season for Pittsburgh, which hosts Vegas on Thursday night. The Penguins are pretty deep along the blue line, but Sullivan knows he can’t try to replace Letang with any one player.

“It’s not anything we haven’t been faced with in the past and the reality is we have what we have, and we’ll figure it out,” Sullivan said, adding “it’ll be by committee, as it usually is when you replace a player of that stature.”

Ovechkin tops Gretzky for most road goals, Capitals beat Canucks

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Ovechkin scored twice, passing Wayne Gretzky for the most road goals in NHL history, and the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Tuesday night.

Ovechkin has scored 403 of his 793 career goals away from home. Gretzky holds the overall record with 894.

“It’s always nice when you beat the Great One,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of milestone it is. It’s history.”

Anthony Mantha added a goal and an assist for the Capitals (10-11-3). John Carlson and Martin Fehervary also scored, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 shots.

Nils Hoglander scored for the Canucks (9-11-3), who had won three in a row. Spencer Martin made 23 saves.

“Spencer’s been great for us. He’s probably a bit like the other players tonight. They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.

The 37-year-old Ovechkin nearly netted a hat trick when Vancouver pulled Martin for an extra skater with just over six minutes left, but his rocket of a shot skimmed the outside of the post.

“I think he has 13 goals this year and I want to say like eight or nine have been like a new record. So it’s been cool,” Washington center Dylan Strome said. “Any time you pass Wayne Gretzky in anything, it deserves a standing ovation, which he got.”

Fehervary was the one who sealed it, flipping the puck high into the Canucks zone and into the empty net at 15:57 of the third period.

Ovechkin topped Gretzky 11:52 into the first, firing a one-timer from the left circle past Martin to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with his 13th goal of the season.

“On his second goal, it looks like, `Oh, maybe (Martin) should have had it.’ But I’ve seen (Ovechkin) score 100 goals like that,” said Boudreau, who coached the Capitals from 2007-11. “He’s got a shot that finds its way in.”

The star forward from Russia got his first of the night 5:35 in, taking the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes near the net and batting in a quick shot.

“It could have been 6-1 after the first period, quite frankly, with the amount of chances (Washington) had,” Boudreau said.

It was Ovechkin’s 135th game-opening goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most in NHL history.

“(Ovechkin) was really good in the first and I thought we were really good in the first so it was nice to get out and get a jump like that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He certainly led. We knew we needed to have a good first period, have a good game, and you need your best players to do that.”

Carlson scored the lone goal of the second, chipping in a loose puck from the low hash marks at 18:47 to give Washington a 4-1 cushion.

“It’s frustrating. Because when you lose games, it should never be about your compete level and battle level,” Canucks center J.T. Miller said. “It’s frustrating because they didn’t out-skill us today, they didn’t out-system us. They literally just outbattled us and created their own chances.”

NOTES: Washington’s Lars Eller got his 200th career assist. … Miller had an assist, extending his point streak to nine games (four goals, seven assists). … The Capitals swept the two-game season series. … Vancouver assigned winger Vasily Podkolzin and defenseman Jack Rathbone to the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday, then recalled forward Phillip Di Giuseppe from the American Hockey League club on Tuesday.


Washington: At Seattle on Thursday in the second of a five-game trip.

Vancouver: Host Florida on Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand.