Aside from the couple of weeks leading up to the midseason NHL trade deadline, the most active time of year for trades is the offseason. Often times, big name players are moved during the offseason because there are more suitors pushing up the price. Leading up to the deadline, only teams with legit opportunities to win the Stanley Cup are looking to make a splash. This offseason, there a number of star players that should be moved for various reasons. Let’s take a look at five of them.
Zdeno Chara (D) – Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins are in a bit of a cap crunch this offseason. They don’t have a lot of money to spend at the moment, but they absolutely must give restricted free agent defenseman Dougie Hamilton a huge long term deal. The 21-year-old is the future of their blue-line, and should be their most untouchable asset.
In order to afford signing their younger free agents, Boston should move “Big Z” Zdeno Chara and his $6.9 million dollar cap hit. Chara can still be effective for a couple more seasons, but he is approaching the end of the line at 38-years-old. Not only Hamilton, but guys like Matt Bartkowski and Carl Soderberg would be better money spent at this point in time. Moving chara might prove tough though with three years left on his deal.
Phil Kessel (RW) – Toronto Maple Leafs
Colleague James Tanner has pretty much summed this one up nicely over the last few months. The Leafs have a number of problems and by the time they are going to be able to compete again, Kessel will be in his 30s. He is a 28-year-old elite scorer in his prime.
He can push a good team missing one more elite top-six forward over the top, but he is not the cornerstone of this Leafs team. Moving Kessel now would bring back key parts to initiate a full on rebuild that needs to take place in Toronto. Kessel’s cap hit may be a bit steep, but if a team matches him with an elite center, it would be well worth the money.
Cam Ward (G) – Carolina Hurricanes
Once upon a time, Cam Ward was that rookie goaltender who led the Carolina Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup back in 2006. Since then though, the Hurricanes have mostly been a bad team. Ward himself has fallen on some tough times with injuries, but he is still a valuable goaltender. A career .910 save percentage sounds pretty mediocre, but behind a better team, that number is probably much higher than where it currently sits. In 10 seasons in the league, Ward has only appeared in the playoffs one other time since winning the Cup. That was back in 2008-09.
Ward put up a solid .920 save percentage en route to the Cup in ’06, and was decent in ’09 with a .915 save percentage over 18 playoff games. Ward has one year left on his deal with a $6.3 million dollar cap hit. The 31-year-old could fetch the Hurricanes a first round pick or a highly rated prospect in return. Carolina isn’t winning the Stanley Cup any time soon, so moving Ward makes a whole lot of sense.
Jiri Hudler (LW, RW) – Calgary Flames
Another player in the last year of his deal is Jiri Hudler. The long time Detroit Red Wings forward is in the final year of a four-year deal he signed with the Flames that comes at a cap hit of $4.0 million. Hudler sparkled on a line with super rookies Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan this past season. Typically around a 50 point scorer his whole career, Hudler set a new career high with 76 points this past season. Hudler eclipsed his career high by 19 points despite being in the tail end of his prime at 31-years-old.
Flames fans may want Hudler back, but Calgary would be wise to sell high in this case. His value will never be higher than it is right now, and while the Flames were a surprise playoff team this year, they aren’t anywhere close to being a Stanley Cup contender in the near term. Calgary’s time to shine will be 3-4 years down the line when Hudler will be in his mid-30s. One year left at $4 million for a player who finished with 76 points probably fetches a top prospect and a second round pick. This is a slam dunk move for the Flames.
David Backes (C) – St. Louis Blues
Blues center David Backes is probably the most surprising player to be on this list. His stock isn’t exactly high after having his usual solid regular season followed up by yet another disappointing playoff. With the Blues annually being knocked out early in the postseason, one gets the feeling things need to change. Backes is one of the most respected captains in the league but the 31-year-old could use a change of scenery.
With one more year left on his deal at a $4.5 million cap hit, Backes could bring the Blues back a top level prospect and a mid round selection. A team like Montreal could use some more offensive firepower and toughness up front. That would be an interesting destination for Backes. St. Louis needs to turn the page. Moving Backes would signal change to a youth movement.
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