As previously stated in the first edition of “Potential NHL Blockbuster Trades“, the offseason, particularly the draft, is notorious for blockbuster trades. NHL teams have an extended window with which to figure out their salary cap situation for the following season, and have time to reassess their needs and fill organizational weaknesses via the NHL Draft.
In previous offseasons, elite players such as Tyler Seguin, Rick Nash, and Ryan Kesler have been traded during the offseason and have made an impact for the team acquiring them. Great but unproven young players such as Derrick Brassard, Ben Bishop or Jonathan Bernier have also been moved, and flourished with their new organizations.
This article will detail five potential headline-worthy trades that could happen, based on speculation and reports from around the NHL. Team needs, salary cap issues, and player contracts will be considered, as the NHL salary cap is expected to incrementally rise next season and teams are expected to be careful regarding expensive player acquisitions. Without further ado, here are five noteworthy NHL players you could see on the move before the Edmonton Oilers step up to the podium to make their first selection in the 2015 NHL Draft.
New Jersey Devils trade Adam Larsson and 2015 3rd round pick to Edmonton Oilers for Leon Draisaitl and a 2015 2nd round pick
It’s no secret the New Jersey Devils have been lacking in the offense department ever since stars Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk left town for greener pastures. What the Devils do possess, however, is a stable of budding young defensemen who have shown flashes of elite potential. Adam Larsson, the 4th overall pick in 2011, has elite size and ability but has yet to develop into an elite defender though he’s still young. Jeff Marek of Sportsnet recently went on the air for CHED 630 suggesting that the Oilers, needing an upgrade on defense, and the Devils needing an upgrade at forward, would make perfect trade partners.
The Edmonton Oilers, barring a major surprise, will be landing future superstar centre Connor McDavid on June 26th, opening up the possibility of a great young forward piece like Draisaitl to be moved for a defender of similar age and ability. Given the promise Larsson showed under interim head coach Lou Lamoriello, Edmonton would need to sweeten the pot a bit to get a deal done.
While a deal involving the exchange of two elite young players is not unprecedented, it is extremely rare. With the fantastic end to Draisaitl’s season, new GM Peter Chiarelli probably isn’t looking to offload the German star, so a deal like this is unlikely. However, it would address huge needs for both squads and would make sense from a value standpoint.
New York Rangers trade Keith Yandle to Columbus Blue Jackets for Kerby Rychel, Dillon Heatherington and 2015 2nd round pick
One of the biggest names to change teams at the trade deadline, Keith Yandle was underutilized in the playoffs by the New York Rangers, who was sixth on the team in time on ice among defensemen.
Despite coming at the bargain rate of $2.625 million for the upcoming season (thanks to Arizona retaining half of his salary cap figure), Yandle will be a free agent in the summer of 2016 and could command a hefty new contract on the open market.
The Rangers, with 4 defenseman locked up through 2018, are unlikely to re-sign the offensive-minded defender and could look to recoup some draft picks and prospects by moving the talented Yandle.
The Blue Jackets have one of the strongest cores of young players in the NHL, and could look to make a push for the playoffs next year after suffering through an injury-riddled 2014-2015 season. Yandle would make a perfect complement to young defenseman Ryan Murray, and the Blue Jackets are well-positioned in salary cap terms to re-sign Yandle if they pull the trigger on this trade. They also possess three 2nd round picks in the upcoming draft and can afford to part with one to acquire help in a proven player.
The Rangers have one of the weakest farm systems in the NHL, and adding a budding power forward in Kerby Rychel, a potential shutdown defenseman in Dillon Heatherington to replace the aging Dan Boyle, and a 2nd round pick in the loaded 2015 Draft could be enough to entice the Rangers to part with Yandle.
Toronto Maple Leafs trade Phil Kessel to Nashville Predators for Kevin Fiala, Juuse Saros, and 2016 1st round pick
It’s no secret Toronto Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel is available for a trade, and there are apparently several clubs who have called in to ask about the highly-scrutinized scorer. Although Kessel’s modified no-trade clause includes only eight teams to which he would accept a trade (a list which doesn’t include the Predators), there is a possibility Kessel would amend his list if the right situation arose, and Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period believes the Predators [Tweet has since been removed] have shown significant interest in the American forward.
Nashville is coming off of a banner season, tying a franchise record for most points in a season before bowing out in the first round of the playoffs. Their issues with scoring have been well-documented, but the Predators took several steps towards correcting that problem by hiring offensive-minded coach Peter Laviolette and enjoying breakout years from young forward Filip Forsberg and veteran Mike Ribeiro. The Predators could look to solidify their offense by trading for one of the NHL’s premier snipers, and have the pieces to get a deal done.
Juuse Saros, a late-round pick in 2013, is undersized but had success in Finland’s top professional league. He could potentially offer the Leafs their starting goalie of the future. Kevin Fiala is a highly touted but also undersized sniper who played his first NHL games this year after experiencing success in both the AHL and SHL. The Predators lack draft picks to trade after dealing their 1st round pick this year (to Toronto, oddly enough), so they may be hesitant to part with a pick as valuable as a first-rounder. The Maple Leafs, however, would surely request a draft pick be included in a deal for their talented winger.
Colorado Avalanche trade Ryan O’Reilly to Toronto Maple Leafs for Jake Gardiner and Tyler Bozak
The Avalanche look set at the centre position with stars Matt Duchene and Nathan Mackinnon in the fold. Ryan O’Reilly, a free agent after next season, could prove too expensive for Colorado to re-sign, especially with Mackinnon needing a new contract after the 2015-2016 season. They are also in need of a talented defenseman, preferably one with offensive skills to pair with top defender Erik Johnson.
Bob McKenzie of Sportsnet has stated he believes that O’Reilly would be the odd man out if the Avalanche decide to make a deal for a skilled defenseman. Toronto has long been speculated as a potential landing spot if the Ontario-native O’Reilly were to be put on the trade block.
Jake Gardiner struggled during Randy Carlyle’s tenure with Toronto, but showed flashes of brilliance and proved his worth as a top-four NHL defenseman under interim coach Peter Horachek. He is signed long-term at a reasonable rate of $4.05 million per season, and could give the Avalanche a dependable puck-moving blueliner behind the emerging Tyson Barrie.
The Maple Leafs lack a dependable top-six centre and adding a local product like O’Reilly would be a shrewd move, both in the upcoming rebuilding phase and long-term. The Maple Leafs are about to enter a rebuilding phase and could, barring the departures of multiple veterans, afford to offer O’Reilly a new contract before he hits the open market. Tyler Bozak is a talented pivot but is better suited to be a second or third line centre, a role he could fill perfectly on the offensively talented Avalanche.
While O’Reilly would have many suitors if Colorado were to make him available, it seems the Leafs have the best combination of NHL-level defensemen, solid replacement centres and cap space to both entice the Avalanche and to absorb the potentially large new contract O’Reilly will command.
Calgary Flames trade Jiri Hudler to New York Islanders for Griffin Reinhart and Sebastian Collberg
After posting a career-best 76 points last year, some may ask why Calgary would even think of moving Hudler. For one, he is a free agent next year, and will certainly demand a raise on his current salary of $4 million per year. Now is the best time to maximize the Czech star’s trade value, and there would be no shortage of suitors were Calgary to make him available. Craig Custance of ESPN recently wrote that the Flames should continue their youth movement, handing the team’s leadership to young stars like Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau.
The New York Islanders are one team that would certainly be interested in acquiring an elite playmaking winger such as Hudler. Alongside team captain John Tavares and first-line winger Kyle Okposo, they have struggled to find stability. Hudler could provide that, and the Isles have the prospect depth to swing a noteworthy deal. The Flames are a young team stacked with young talent, but their prospect pool lacks an impact player on the blueline. Adding Reinhart to a current group that includes captain Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and NHL blocked shots leader Kris Russell could solidify the Flames’ defense for years to come.
Griffin Reinhart’s stock seems to have dropped a bit, and despite remaining one of the team’s top prospects, he appears to have been passed on the team’s depth chart due to a breakout AHL season from fellow blueliner Ryan Pulock. Collberg, acquired from Montreal for Thomas Vanek, struggled in his first North American season but remains very talented and could help replenish what has become a bit of an organizational weakness for the Flames at right wing. While Hudler was a key member of a surprise Flames team last year, his expiring contract and sky-high trade value could entice the young Flames to move him for younger pieces.
Joseph Aleong is an At-Large writer for THW from Toronto, Ontario. He is a graduate of Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. Follow him on Twitter @josephaleong11