Jason Zucker

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Which players might be on the move this week?

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Since the Stanley Cup Final came to an end last week, we’ve seen NHL general managers make a plethora of moves to bolster their teams. Jacob Trouba, Olli Maatta and Matt Niskanen have already been moved and Kevin Hayes has inked a mega deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. But who else might be shipped to a different team in the coming days?

With the feeling of disappointment still fresh in most teams’ mind (except you, St. Louis), this is where general managers want to wheel-and-deal in order to make themselves as competitive as possible heading into next season. There’s always plenty of trade chatter at this time of year, but it appears as though there’s a real opportunity for us to see some blockbuster moves this summer.

There also appears to be a number of offer sheet possibilities, which is hard to believe because that’s a route general managers don’t typically jump on. But with so many superstar restricted free agents about to hit the market, it appears as though some teams may be willing to part with these players via trade instead of losing them to an offer sheet.

Alright, so let’s take a look at which players could be traded before the NHL Draft (Friday, 7:30 pm ET on NBCSN) or before NHL free agency begins.

Nikolaj Ehlers – W- Winnipeg Jets: The Jets probably don’t want to unload Ehlers, but their current cap situation might force them to. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has roughly $25 million in cap space at his disposal right now, but he has to re-sign Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Tyler Myers and Neal Pionk, who was recently acquired from the New York Rangers. Ehlers is about to enter the second year of his seven-year, $42 million extension ($6 million AAV). He posted 21 goals and a disappointing 37 points in 62 games last season. Again, those numbers were low for a player of his caliber but it’s clear that he possesses the talent to be a top-line player in the NHL. Teams should be lining up for his services.

P.K. Subban – D – Nashville Predators: Subban is just three years into his tenure with the Predators, but a group of high-priced defensemen could lead to him being on his way out the door. It would be surprising to see GM David Poile unload Subban so soon, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Subban has missed 16 and 19 games in two of his three seasons in Nashville and he’s entering his age 30 season. Could that play a factor in Poile’s decision? The Preds also have to sign captain Roman Josi to a long-term extension and he’s going to make way more than the $4 million they’re currently paying him.

Jason Zucker – W – Minnesota Wild: Zucker was reportedly part of the trade that would’ve seen Phil Kessel head to Minnesota from Pittsburgh. That puts the 27-year-old in a bit of an awkward position with his current team, so they may be forced to part ways with him soon. Zucker scored 21 goals and 21 assists in 81 games last season, but he’s just one year removed from a 33-goal and 64-point season. He has four years remaining on a contract that pays him $5.5 million per year.

Phil Kessel – W – Pittsburgh Penguins: Is a move still possible? You’d have to think that if Kessel is going to be traded, it will happen sometime before or during the NHL Entry Draft. The Pens seem motivated to move on from the veteran winger, and teams are desperate for goals so it seems like there’s still a chance he could end up somewhere else before the start of next season. Where is he willing to be moved to though?

Nazem Kadri – C – Toronto Maple Leafs: This potential move has nothing to do with Kadri’s ability to play. The 28-year-old is coming off a down year, but he’s still a quality center, which is hard to find in the NHL. The problem is that he allows his emotions to get the best of him in critical times. This year, a suspension forced him to watch from the press box as his team was eliminated in the first round by the Boston Bruins. Has he run out of chances in Toronto?

T.J. Brodie – D – Calgary Flames: Brodie has one year remaining on his contract. It comes with a cap hit of $4.65 million, which means he’ll probably be looking for a raise heading into next summer. The Flames have to re-sign some key parts like Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk and they have to find themselves a starting netminder before the start of the year. Brodie is a left-handed shot capable of playing over 20 minutes per game. The 29-year-old had nine goals and 34 points in 79 games this season.

William Karlsson – C – Vegas Golden Knights: Karlsson took off after he was claimed by Vegas in the expansion draft. The pending restricted free agent put up 43 goals and 78 points in his first year with the Golden Knights and he followed that up with 24 goals and 56 points last season. He’s a quality two-way center that will need to get a significant raise this offseason. The Golden Knights don’t have the salary cap space to bring him back without making another move or two, so he could be the target of an offer sheet after July 1st.

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.

Penguins GM on Maatta over Johnson, future for Malkin and Letang

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With trades already heating up during the trade-friendly time that is the week surrounding the 2019 NHL Draft, the most fun activity is grading the impact of trades … but imagining what else might happen is almost as fun.

Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford didn’t really make it seem like he’s eager to trade Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang during an interview with 93.7 The Fan on Monday, but Rutherford also didn’t slam the door totally shut by guaranteeing that Malkin and Letang will be back, either.

Fair or not, some will allow their imaginations to go through the roof after Rutherford merely didn’t close the door and lock it.

Not pursuing those trades, but would listen?

During the interview, Rutherford comically referenced Wayne Gretzky being traded as Rutherford was essentially claiming “never say never,” as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Matt Vensel transcribed.

“There’s been great players traded in this league,” Rutherford said. “If somebody comes along with a package that makes sense for the Penguins, we have to look at it. These are not, the guys that you mentioned, are not guys that I’m pushing to trade.”

Rutherford also said that Malkin and Letang are the “kind of players you win championships with,” and stated that he believes they’re still great players.

For plenty of Penguins fans, this is mostly a relief, especially if Rutherford is really just giving such trades “Dumb & Dumber” odds.

The most important Malkin-related quote may have surfaced a week ago, as Rutherford explained that things seem to have smoothed over between the team and player, via The Athletic’s Josh Yohe (sub required):

“At the time you asked me those questions, it was hard to zero in on too many people because I was thinking about making a lot of changes,” Rutherford said while referencing spicier comments after the Penguins were swept by the Islanders. “But I’ll say this: I believe in Geno Malkin. He came off a year that wasn’t up to his standard last year. We all know that. But he’s a great, great player. I know how good he is, and I know very well what he can do for this team. I wasn’t going to 100 percent commit at that point in time. But in the back of my mind, I knew he was going to be part of this team going forward. And you know what? He was aware of that, too.”

(Anyone else think that “I believe in Geno Malkin” could be a hot-selling shirt in Pittsburgh?)

Rutherford reiterated another stance from a week ago: that he doesn’t expect to trade Phil Kessel. His comments in that regard may calm down those worried about a reckless Letang/Malkin trade, too, as a lot of Rutherford’s language is “I’m not looking to trade X, but I have to at least listen …”

With all of that in mind, it’s maybe most pressing to hear Rutherford speak about more plausible trade targets on his team.

Jack of no trades?

Interestingly, Rutherford didn’t exactly fan the flames about Jack Johnson being traded.

During Monday’s spot with 93.7 The Fan, Rutherford seemed to indicate that, with Olli Maatta traded for cap space, the Penguins may not try to get rid of Johnson’s contract. Surprisingly, Rutherford also claimed that Johnson was not involved in the trade that Phil Kessel reportedly nixed, which would have sent Kessel and Johnson to the Minnesota Wild for Jason Zucker and Victor Rask.

Moving Maatta did get the Penguins out of the most immediate “trouble” that might surface from the salary cap possibly being closer to $82 million than the expected $83 million for 2019-20 … but not at least projecting much interest in trading Johnson should be disappointing for Penguins fans.

It would have been startling enough last summer when the Penguins handed Johnson – a deeply flawed, and not especially young, defenseman – a contract that included a $3.25M cap hit. But it was downright bewildering that the now-32-year-old also received beefy term, as that problem deal runs through 2022-23.

Yes, the Penguins’ defense needs help, but there’s an uncomfortable argument that getting rid of Johnson would count as “addition by subtraction” even before you factor in getting rid of that $3.25M cap hit.

While Maatta’s market value was almost certainly far better than JJ’s value (the Penguins landed a solid package for the defenseman) it’s cringe-worthy to consider an either/or possibility coming down to Maatta vs. Johnson. Especially since, frankly, Maatta isn’t that much more expensive than Johnson, what with Maatta coming in at $4.083M per season.

Penguins fans might want to look away at this Sean Tierney visualization of the team’s defensemen in 2018-19, which uses Evolving Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement (GAR) data:

(You can slice it up in many other ways, and it usually doesn’t come out looking much better.)

Again, it’s possible that the Penguins simply didn’t have any real offers to get rid of Johnson. Maybe Rutherford simply didn’t want to admit it, or maybe there was a part of him that hopes that projecting some positivity might keep the door open to get rid of a big mistake.

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Ultimately, the Penguins’ window of contention could close rapidly, so it’s important to get this stuff right.

In the case of trading Malkin or Letang, the best move would almost certainly be to stay put. Meanwhile, if the Penguins aren’t exploring avenues to get rid of Johnson-type problems, then the Penguins are leaving opportunities on the table. Finally, with Kessel, the option just might not be there — whether it would be smart to trade Kessel or not.

Elliotte Friedman points to the Penguins being one of the most aggressive teams in the latest edition of “31 Thoughts,” so they’re certainly a team to watch over the next week or so.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: Preds shouldn’t bring back Simmonds; Who will Rangers buy out?

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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.

• The Dallas Stars signed Mattias Janmark to a one-year contract extension. (NHL.com/Stars)

• The Stars also brought back Roman Polak on a one-year deal. (NHL.com/Stars)

• Preds GM David Poile acquired Wayne Simmonds at the trade deadline, but he shouldn’t re-sign him. (Predlines)

• Trading Jesse Puljujarvi makes no sense for the Edmonton Oilers right now. (Oilers Nation)

• It’s time for the Winnipeg Jets to give Jack Roslovic a shot to be a bigger part of their roster. (Winnipeg Free Press)

• Sinbin.Vegas breaks down how the Golden Knights will likely hand out some ice time next season. (Sinbin.Vegas)

• Over the last few years, teams have avoided drafting goaltenders early. (Flames Nation)

• The Vancouver Canucks are reportedly interested in acquiring Wild forward Jason Zucker. (Vancouver Province)

• Despite the controversial call in Game 5, you won’t find a Blues fan that feels sorry for the Bruins. (St. Louis Game-Time)

• Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman isn’t interested in building a team through free agency. (NHL.com)

• Will the Rangers buy out Marc Staal and Brendan Smith? (Blue Shirt Banter)

• Even though they don’t have much cap space, the Leafs should totally go after Dougie Hamilton. (Pension Plan Puppets)

• Is Phil Kessel overrated? Raw Charge says there are new metrics that suggest he might be. (Raw Charge)

Vladimir Tarasenko knew he needed to do more in order for the Blues to win the Stanley Cup. (Sportsnet)

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: Blues fourth line plays with courage; What if Leafs trade Kadri?

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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.

• Does it make sense for a rebuilding Senators team to bring back Erik Karlsson? (TSN)

• Losing Zdeno Chara for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Final would be awful news for the Boston Bruins. (The Hockey News)

Connor McDavid is dying to get the Edmonton Oilers back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (NHL.com)

• If he signs with the Flyers, Kevin Hayes could help Nolan Patrick in a big way. (NBC Sports Philly)

• What happens if the Maple Leafs trade Nazem Kadri? (Leafs Nation)

• What should the Rangers’ game plan be in free agency? (Blue Seat Blogs)

• The Florida might draft a goalie in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. (Miami Herald)

• The Pittsburgh Penguins are starting to find out just how difficult it is to build a roster after going on multiple Stanley Cup runs. (Pittsburgh Tribune)

• There are several different players the Red Wings can take at no. 6 overall. MLive.com lists 10 possibilities. (MLive.com)

• The Colorado Avalanche might want to pursue Artemi Panarin in free agency. (Denver Post)

• The St. Louis Blues’ fourth line has been playing with lots of grit and courage. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

• A trade involving Jason Zucker and Adam Henrique could make sense for the Ducks and Wild. (Anaheim Calling)

• If the Flames are looking for cap relief, they should consider trading T.J. Brodie. (Flames Nation)

• Can teams win it all if they have players that make more than $8 million per season? (Sinbin.Vegas)

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: Defense the story in Cup Final; Leafs trying to move Zaitsev

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.

• The big story so far in the Stanley Cup Final? Defense, of course. (TSN)

• The Bruins want to be able to deliver hits themselves so they are mostly indifferent to the Oskar Sundqvist suspension. (WEEI)

• Boston sports fans have not always been spoiled with dynasties. (Sports Illustrated)

Carl Gunnarsson‘s overtime goal was a good reminder that the Blues are not a team that is just going to roll over. (St. Louis Post Dispatch)

Vladimir Tarasenko is quietly staying the St. Louis Blues’ best. (Bleedin’ Blue)

• How the Blues and Bruins can take control of the Stanley Cup Final. (Sportsnet)

• After a difficult season the Toronto Maple Leafs are trying to move defender Nikita Zaitsev. (The Leafs Nation)

• Former Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings coach Willie Desjardins is becoming the head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers. (Medicine Hat News)

• The Colorado Avalanche should look into making a Phil Kessel trade. (Mile High Hockey)

• NWHL expansion is in jeopardy. (The Ice Garden)

• Comparing the Seattle expansion timeline to the Vegas expansion timeline. (NHL To Seattle)

• How the New Jersey Devils are utilizing the NHL scouting combine. (New Jersey Devils)

• Rethinking the NHL scouting combine. (Faceoff Circle)

• The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-signed defender Jusso Riikola. (Pensburgh)

• Would a Jason Zucker for Adam Henrique trade be something that could work? (Anaheim Calling)

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.