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PHT Power Rankings: 10 players who could be traded this season

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It’s the summer and with no regular season games being played it’s awfully difficult to rank the NHL’s 31 teams on a weekly basis. This week we look at more players that could be on the move in trades during the 2018-19 regular season.

The potential class of free agents for the summer 2019 was looking to be an impressive one, with Erik Karlsson, Max Pacioretty, Drew Doughty, Joe Pavelski, Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, and a bunch of other top-line players all eligible to hit the open market. As is always the case when we look ahead to potential free agents, many of them will never get close to reaching unrestricted free agency.

Doughty has already been re-signed by the Los Angeles Kings. Pacioretty was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights and almost immediately re-signed to a new deal. It is really difficult to see Pavelski getting away from the Sharks, and now that Erik Karlsson is there to help form what could be a super-defense, they will almost certainly work to get him signed to a new deal as well.

That obviously puts a big dent in the potential free agent market.

The other factor at play is what all of these potential UFAs mean for the trade market, and we’ve already seen that at play with the recent trades of Pacioretty and Karlsson.

There could be more throughout the regular season.

In this week’s PHT Power Rankings we take a look at 10 pending unrestricted free agents that could be traded this season, starting with a pretty dynamic duo in Columbus.

1-2. Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

What in the world are the Columbus Blue Jackets going to do here?

They should still be playoff contenders this season, but their two best players — and the two players that help make them a playoff contender — are entering the final years of their contracts and it remains to be seen if either one wants to actually re-sign with the team.

This is, pretty clearly, a no-win situation because, again, what in the heck are they supposed to do?

On one hand, you don’t want to put yourself in a position to lose two players of this caliber for nothing other than salary cap space. You also don’t really want a season-long storyline playing out like the New York Islanders went through with John Tavares.

On the other hand, the team with these two should still be good enough to make the playoffs, and you never want to punt on that chance as long as it exists. The key thing to watch here will probably be what sort of season the Blue Jackets are having. As long as they are in contention for a playoff spot and feel they have a chance to make some noise, they’re probably going to see what they can do with this core as it stands.

But if they show any sign of falling out of it or find themselves on the playoff bubble? They almost have to see what the market for these two would be in a trade.

Are they the most likely players to be traded this season? Not at all, because, again, the Blue Jackets should be good. But the possibility that one (or even both) could be on the move is certainly out there. And if they are, they would be the most impactful players available. That is what puts them at the top of these rankings.

As for two players that almost certainly will be traded…

3-4. Mark Stone and Matt Duchene, Ottawa Senators: These two are pretty much guaranteed to be moved, aren’t they?

Derick Brassard, Mike Hoffman and Erik Karlsson are already gone as part of the Senators’ rebuild, and owner Eugene Melynk’s grand plan seems to involve the team having “15 or maybe even 16” new faces on it by the start of next season.

[Related: Stunning one-year rise and fall of Ottawa Senators]

Given the contract statuses of Stone and Duchene, as well as the tear-it-all-down-to-the-ground rebuild that is underway, there is virtually no chance either player remains on the team at the end of this season.

If they somehow make it through the trade deadline without being moved, why would they ever want to re-sign with this franchise?

5-6. Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers

At this point there is no secret about what Hayes is as a player. He has over 300 NHL games on his resume and his production has been fairly consistent across the board every season. The player you see is the player you are getting, and if the Rangers felt he was a long-term fit beyond this year they probably would have tried a little harder to buy out some of his UFA years in his latest contract. The fact they did not makes him a pretty big trade candidate.

Zuccarello is a little different.

He is 31 years old, he is set to become a UFA after this season, and all of that makes him a logical trade candidate for a rebuilding team. But the Rangers’ rebuild is still tough to get a hold on. This doesn’t seem to be a complete tear down like, say, the Senators, and it seems possible he could remain with the team. He seems to love playing in New York, has said he wants to remain with the team, and he could still be a fit in whatever their plans are.

[Related: Rangers could once again be active in trade market]

7. Brock Nelson, New York Islanders: The Islanders are going to be a fascinating team to watch over the next year because three of their top forwards are all eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season (Nelson, Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle).

They will also have to give their new franchise cornerstone, Mathew Barzal, a new contract at some point over the next two years as he will be eligible for restricted free agency following the 2020-21 season.

It is certainly possible that any of Eberle, Lee, or Nelson could be dealt before the deadline, especially if the team struggles on the ice (and given the makeup of the roster, that seems inevitable). But they have to keep someone. If you were to look today at the most logical trade candidate it might be Nelson because he is probably the least impactful of that trio.

Facing restricted free agency and arbitration this past summer, the Islanders and Nelson agreed to a one-year deal, setting Nelson up for UFA status next summer. That puts him in a nearly identical situation as the one Hayes is in with the Rangers. There is very little secret as to what he is as a player, and if the Rangers were serious about making him a part of the core moving forward they would have tried harder to buy out some of his UFA years. They didn’t.

8. Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings: As the Red Wings move into the post-Henrik Zetterberg era there are definitely going to be more changes.

The team has committed to its rebuild, and there does not seem to be much sense in them re-signing Nyquist at this point in his career given where the team is going in the short-term and its current salary cap situation. They probably shouldn’t be expected to get quite the same haul as they did for Tomas Tatar a year ago (mainly because Tatar still had four years of term left on his contract and Nyquist is a pending UFA) but he could still be a useful rental for a contender that needs some depth scoring.

[Related: What’s next for Red Wings in post-Zetterberg era]

9. Alexander Edler, Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks spent the summer acting like a team that can make the playoffs, but let’s be honest … they are probably not making the playoffs this year. Edler has been a staple on the Canucks’ defense for a decade and been one of the best and most productive defenders in the history of the franchise. He is the biggest pending UFA the team has and is still a strong top-four defender. His no-trade clause could complicate a potential move as he holds all of the cards in where he goes, but he could help a contender.

10. Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres: I know, I know … the Sabres just traded for him. And it was a great move. Skinner is an outstanding player, a great goal-scorer, and will help bring some offensive punch to a Sabres team that needs a lot of help. And the price was certainly right for them not even having to give up their own first-round pick or either of the conditional first-round picks they have from St. Louis or San Jose in 2019 or 2020.

At this point there is no new contract in place for Skinner as he enters the final year of his deal, so that certainly creates an interesting scenario. He is still only 26 years old (and does not turn 27 until May) so he could absolutely still be a part of the Sabres’ core going forward if they can get him signed.

If they can’t, and if the team stinks again, is it really hard to imagine the Sabres trying to make another move? Give how little they gave up to get him in the first place they could probably easily get back equal value at the deadline.

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.

Lundqvist happy to be part of Rangers rebuild

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Henrik Lundqvist is entering his 14th season in the NHL, having spent his entire career with the New York Rangers. And although the team is in a rebuilding mode for a future run at their first Stanley Cup title since 1994, the 36-year-old goalie wants to stick around and be a part of that process.

”People talk about rebuild and nobody knows how long of a project that is,” Lundqvist said at the Rangers’ practice facility in Greenburgh, New York. ”There’s no other place I want to be. I feel great, excited to be back here and just see how far we can take this forward this year.”

The Rangers are in their current state after dealing several stars in a youth movement at the trade deadline last winter and then finishing 20 points out of a playoff spot while missing the postseason for the first time in eight years. Hours after their last game in April, coach Alain Vigneualt was fired and replaced weeks later by David Quinn, who made the jump from Boston University to the NHL.

Lundqvist said he got a ”really good impression” of the new coach when Quinn traveled to Sweden during the summer to meet with the veteran goalie and forwards Mika Zibanejad and Jesper Fast. However, Lundqvist is eager to see how Quinn is during the season.

”It’s one thing to sit down in July and discuss, and another to discuss under pressure,” Lundqvist said. ”I’m curious to see how things are going to feel in here. I think every time you have a new coach, you’re going to have a different feel in the room. Just the way they coach and the way they speak to the group. You always learn something.”

Quinn is fine with that.

The coach said he knew all along that Lundqvist wanted to be a part of the Rangers’ new direction.

”Just the shape he’s in tells you that he’s all in,” Quinn said. ”I had a pretty good idea of where he was once I took the job, it was always part of the conversations. So I had a good idea he was all in and wanted to stay and wanted to finish his career here and be part of the next wave of success.”

Lundqvist is coming off a season in which he went 26-26-7 with a 2.98 goals-against average – the highest of his career. It was also just the second time he finished with fewer than 30 wins; the other was the lockout-shortened 2012-13, when he was 24-16-3.

His offseason training last year was delayed when he injured his knee playing for Sweden in the world championships. This year, he had a platelet-rich plasma injection in his right knee after the season, took a few weeks off and then began his summer routine.

”It’s back to where it needs to be,” he said. ”I feel great. Right now, there’s nothing really bothering me. I can go 100 percent.”

Happy that training camp has started, Lundqvist is looking forward to seeing how the team shapes up.

”Camp is always fun,” he said. ”It’s always the same feeling. You’re anxious to get going, a little nervous, excited. It feels really good to be here.”

The Rangers still have plenty of talent on the roster, led by forwards Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider and Zibanejad, and defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk, Brady Skjei and Marc Staal.

With Quinn’s desire to implement a ”fast and physical” style of play that is different from what the team is used to, Lundqvist knows the early part of camp will be important for players to ”pay attention to a lot of the new details and how we want to play the game.”

However, he didn’t want to make any predictions for the season.

”I don’t think we should look too far (ahead),” Lundqvist said. ”We should look to get a good camp, get a good start and build off that and let’s see how far that takes us. That’s going to tell us how we’ll to stack up against other teams.”

The Rangers begin preseason play Monday night at New Jersey, and Quinn said how much action Lundqvist will see in the exhibition games will be determined on a day-to-day basis.

Alexandar Georgiev, who went 4-4-1 with a 3.15 GAA in 10 games down the stretch last season, and Marek Mazanec, signed after compiling a 8-13-4 mark with a 2.98 GAA in 31 career games for the Nashville Predators, are also in camp. Quinn said he is open to having the goalies split games in the preseason.

The Rangers open the season at home against the Nashville Predators on Oct. 4.

Follow Vin Cherwoo at http://www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP

More AP NHL: https://www.apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://www.twitter.com/AP-Sports

NHL one year away from key labor deadline

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Connor McDavid heard teammates talking about another potential lockout when he entered the NHL – in 2015.

As he became one of hockey’s best players and signed the richest annual contract in the league, McDavid says he remains optimistic there will not be another work stoppages like those in 2004-05 and 2012-13 – but he protected himself anyway with contract language guaranteeing some early payment, just in case.

”Both parties have kind of prepared so long for it,” McDavid said. ”I genuinely believe that both sides want to keep playing. We want to play and the owners want to keep making money.”

The NHL has reached almost $5 billion in revenue, up from just $437 million in 1993, and is in the midst of a U.S. TV deal with NBC that pays $2 billion and a Canadian TV deal with Sportsnet that pays almost $5 billion. The growth and popularity of NHL hockey is undeniable, yet labor issues are bubbling beneath the veneer – again.

The current collective bargaining agreement cannot be terminated until September 2020, but there is a key date looming 12 months from now: On Sept. 1, 2019, the league has the option and then, on Sept. 15, the Players’ Association has the option to terminate the labor pact.

Another battle is brewing, with revenue, escrow payments and the Olympics among the top issues expected to be on the table.

”Everyone has a pretty good understanding of what the PA’s trying to get done and what the NHL’s trying to get done,” New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider said. ”I don’t think the conversation about (hockey-related revenue) is going away any time soon. It’s such a kind of ambiguous and often argued-about point. I know guys want to go to the Olympics, and I know guys don’t like escrow.”

NHLPA executive director Don Fehr told The Associated Press he didn’t necessarily expect one side or the other to reopen labor talks but ”that’s what you plan for, and you sort of assume it’s going to happen because otherwise you’re not ready.” Commissioner Gary Bettman told The AP he’s ”a fan of stability and labor peace. We’re not looking for a dispute.”

Bettman proposed a three-year extension of the current CBA through 2025 in exchange for the league agreeing to participate in the 2018 Olympics. As much as players wanted to go, they rejected that deal – a signal they have concerns with the deal signed in 2013.

One of the prevailing player complaints is having upward of 10 percent of their paychecks held in escrow to conform to the 50/50 split of revenue with owners. The salary cap goes up, but if revenue doesn’t grow in proportion, players forfeit a percentage of their pay.

”I don’t care how much money you make or what you do, you sign a contract, you feel like you’ve earned that and you expect that your employer is going to hold up his end of the deal,” Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. ”At the end of each season to be told that they’re going to take back 10 or 12 or 15 or sometimes 20 percent of your contract? I think that’s a kick you-know-where. I don’t agree with that, and I think there’s a lot of things the NHL can do to promote the game and enhance the business side of the game. Their mistakes shouldn’t be coming out of the players’ pockets.”

The ultimate goal is to grow business big enough that escrow is reduced to zero and contracts are worth exactly as they’re written. Players consider the Olympics one opportunity to grow the game. Bettman and the owners say stopping the season for two weeks is a significant disruption, but the Olympics will be a point of internal discussion and could extend to bargaining talks.

”We need a long-term international calendar agreement with the owners,” Fehr said. ”And I think they share that view even if we have significantly different views as to what that calendar should be. But I would like to believe that we could figure out a way to do that. So is (going to the Olympics) definitely going to be a subject of collective bargaining? I can’t say that yet. Is it possible? Of course.”

Given that lockouts wiped out the 2004-05 season and reduced it to 48 games in 2013, some star players and their agents looked ahead to a potential work stoppage in 2020 or 2022. According to PuckPedia , 77 players have signing bonuses in their contracts for the 2020-21 season totaling over $252 million – an increase of more than 10 percent from the amount of players who have bonuses in 2019-20.

McDavid has $12 million of his $13 million salary that season in a signing bonus paid in July, Toronto’s John Tavares will make $11.09 million of his $12 million with the lump sum and many other top players have the so-called lockout protections in their contracts – just in case.

”I just hope as a player that I don’t try to be looking at things differently or selfishly because I’ve earned that money ahead of time where obviously maybe other players haven’t,” Tavares said. ”I think you try to put yourself in the middle and try to look at things objectively.

”I think obviously, unfortunately, the last few times there’s been opportunities for the CBA to be negotiated, there’s been lengthy labor stoppages and something that obviously I had to consider. When you see that as part of history, you worry that that trend is going to continue.”

AP Hockey Writers John Wawrow and Larry Lage contributed.

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Youthful Rangers focused on getting better after changes

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GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — Chris Kreider and the New York Rangers have put last season’s struggles behind and are just focusing on trying to get better.

”Show up and compete every single day,” Kreider said Friday as players skated in groups for on-ice testing. ”We want to win games. It’s not a developmental league. Right now everyone is 0-0-0 across the board. It’s a clean slate for players, clean slate for teams.”

The Rangers are in a rebuilding mode after dealing several stars in a youth movement at the trade deadline last winter and then finishing 20 points out of a playoff spot while missing the postseason for the first time in eight years.

There’s also a new coaching staff with David Quinn making the jump from Boston University to the NHL as the head coach to lead a younger team with some veterans.

”You lose teammates every year, there’s always turnover,” Kreider said. ”At the same time I think there’s a good buzz around the group right now. I think everyone’s excited about the group that we have, about the coaching staff, about the players.”

Mika Zibanejad returned from his home in Sweden feeling energized after helping his country win the world championships in May. He credited that experience for fueling his summer workouts.

[Three questions facing the Rangers]

”Got to finish off the season in a better way, personally,” Zibanejad said. ”Got that win and I felt more motivated in the training. Now, I’m just coming back here and get excited again.”

Both Kreider and Zibanejad had positive things to say about their new coach. Kreider, who played at Boston College, said he nearly went to Boston University, and ”a big part of that was Coach Quinn.” Zibanejad was appreciative that Quinn traveled to Sweden during the summer to meet with him, goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Jesper Fast.

When Quinn met with reporters on Thursday, he stressed patience, as well as the importance of practicing hard.

”It’s going to take a little bit of time,” he said. ”Once we get on the ice I’ll have a clearer picture of what everybody is capable of doing, their strengths and weaknesses. … We want to be a fast, physical, relentless hockey team. You can’t play that way unless you practice that way.”

That will begin Saturday when the team breaks into three groups for daily practices.

Some other things to know as the Rangers open training camp:

BETWEEN THE PIPES: The 36-year-old Lundqvist is back for his 14th season after going 26-26-7 with a 2.98 goals-against average – the highest of his career. It was also just the second time he finished with fewer than 30 wins; the other was the lockout-shortened 2012-13, when he was 24-16-3.

”I think he’s in a great mindset,” Quinn said. ”He wants to be part of the next wave and win a Stanley Cup here. He’s in incredible shape, he’s an incredible competitor and he’s one of the best in the business.”

Alexandar Georgiev went 4-4-1 with a 3.15 GAA in 10 games down the stretch, and Marek Mazanec was signed after compiling a 8-13-4 mark with a 2.98 GAA in 31 career games for the Nashville Predators.

HEALTHY AGAIN: Zibanejad and Kreider are among several players who are healthy now after dealing with injuries last season. Zibanejad, who missed nearly two months witha broken left leg in the 2016-17 season, was out for about 10 games with a concussion last November. He had 11 goals and 11 assists in 22 games before the injury, and finished the season with 20 goals and 27 assists.

Kreider missed two months after having a rib removed to help alleviate a blot clot in his right arm. He said he recently received ”a clean bill of health” after meeting with his pulmonologist to make sure he wasn’t predisposed to blood clots.

Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is also healed after a knee injury in January ended his season.

LOGJAM ON DEFENSE?: Shattenkirk, Brady Skjei and veteran Marc Staal are assured of their spots on defense. After that it could be an open competition.

Adam McQuaid, a nine-year veteran, was acquired from Boston earlier in the week. The 6-foot-4, 212-pound 31-year-old is similar in size to Rob O'Gara, who also came over from the Bruins last February. Fredrik Claesson was signed this summer, Tony DeAngelo is getting another look, and Neal Pionk had a goal and 13 assists in 28 games after making his NHL debut last season. Youngsters Ryan Lindgren, Libor Hajek, and Joey Keane are also among others in camp.

CENTER DEPTH: Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes figure to be the top two centers again. Lias Anderson, 19, and Filip Chytil, who turns 20 next month, could key the youth movement. Both appeared in fewer than 10 games last season after being taken in the first round of the 2017 NHL draft.

Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov – both acquired in trade-deadline deals – are also centers on the roster, along with Boo Nieves. Peter Holland, Steven Fogarty and Gabriel Fontaine will also get looks.

Follow Vin Cherwoo at http://www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP

More AP NHL: https://www.apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://www.twitter.com/AP-Sports

Trade: Bruins ship Adam McQuaid to Rangers

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The Boston Bruins were set to enter the 2018-19 season with four right-shooting defensemen on their NHL roster. Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller all had their spots in the lineup. But it was going to be tough to find a spot for rugged defender Adam McQuaid, so the Bruins decided to ship him out of town.

On Tuesday morning, Boston sent McQuaid to the New York Rangers for Steven Kampfer, a fourth-round draft pick in 2019 and a conditional seventh-round pick.

The 31-year-old has one year remaining on his contract at $2.75 million. That’s a significant amount of money for a player that probably wouldn’t have had a regular spot in the lineup. This will be the first time in his NHL career that he’s going to play for another team. McQuaid was originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, but he never suited up for them. He spent parts of three seasons with AHL Providence before joining the club in 2009-10.

Here’s a fun fact: When the Blue Jackets traded McQuaid to Boston in 2007, they received a fifth-rounder. Columbus then traded that fifth-rounder to Dallas. The Stars used that draft pick to select Jamie Benn

Kampfer, who is in his second stint with the Bruins, also shoots right, but his contract comes with a digestible cap hit of $650,000 (Boston can send him to the minors without facing any cap penalties).

In all, the Bruins will end up saving $2.1 million in cap space, which isn’t insignificant.

McQuaid has also had a hard time getting in the lineup/staying healthy over the last few seasons. Since the 2013-14 season, the veteran has played in more than 65 games just once (2016-17).

MORE:
Three questions facing the Rangers
Three questions facing the Bruins

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.