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.