It is now late-July, and for the most part teams are content with the roster they are set to ice for the upcoming season. They are, at the very least, resigned to who and what they will be icing on opening night. But the sport being as ultra-competitive as it is, even the most lax general manager’s will still be open to anything that they feel improves their roster.
A lot can happen in a very short period of time and I wouldn’t be surprised by the odd move here and or there. There’s a lot of high-quality, young players who for whatever reason aren’t necessarily appreciated by their current clubs. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as the saying goes and I expect that theory to be put into practice. A few candidates for this will be put into my comprehensive list below. Enjoy.
Ten Players in an Unenviable Position
Cody Franson: It just wouldn’t be right starting this list with anyone else, especially after my comments about under appreciated players earlier. Teams were checking into Franson’s availability well before the defenseman re-signed prior to his arbitration hearing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was rumoured at one point that Franson was the piece going to Montreal in return for Josh Gorges — had Gorges not vetoed that trade. Since then Franson has been linked to both the Alberta clubs, with the Calgary Flames taking a particular interest in Franson. This makes sense, since it was Brian Burke who originally acquired Franson as a member of the Maple Leaf’s front office.
Friedman “obviously the relationship between the Leafs & Franson isn’t easy. Have had contract battles for a few years in a row now”
— Hope_Smoke (@Hope_Smoke) July 21, 2014
James Reimer: You could very easily make a case for James Reimer being the best backup in the league right now. You could do so because Reimer should, in reality, be starting… somewhere. Just not Toronto. I’m not entirely sure what about Reimer’s last season as the starter in Toronto made them feel a goaltending upgrade was necessary, but clearly there was something. As soon as the Maple Leafs traded for Jonathan Bernier, the clock began to tick down on Reimer’s time with the club. Reimer has now demanded a trade and his time with the club seems to be diminishing. I could see a team like the Winnipeg Jets swooping in for the disgruntled Reimer, who is from Manitoba.
Friedman “Reimer’s in a tough spot right now, there’s no question about it. If he handles it well it increases his value”
— Hope_Smoke (@Hope_Smoke) July 21, 2014
Evander Kane: The Winnipeg Jets just don’t have a clue what they have in this kid. Well, maybe they do since he’s still there, but the media certainly doesn’t. Kane is on an affordable contract that carries a very reasonable cap hit of just $5.25 million and he’s a lock for 25+ goals on the left wing. Those kinds of players are hard to come by. Still, that hasn’t stopped the young winger from being a frequent fixture in rumour mills. This summer Kane has been linked several times to the Nashville Predators, but James Cooper of the Tennessean believes character issues could and or should scare the Predators away from him. One thing is perfectly clear: it doesn’t sound like Kane is too happy being a Jet anyways.
Johnny Oduya: For the Chicago Blackhawks to get under the cap for just this season alone, they will need to dump about $2.3 million in salary cap space. It was originally assumed that Patrick Sharp would be shown the door, but the focus has since then shifted to blue liner Johnny Oduya. The Blackhawks acquired Oduya at the deadline just before their most recent Stanley Cup run and the move paid off greatly. Oduya is the kind of slick, puck-moving defenseman every team wants in their top-four and should he become available, the Blackhawks will be overwhelmed with suitors. Oduya has one-year left on his current contract that actually pays less than his cap hit. This would make him increasingly attractive to budget teams.
Dimitri Kulikov: It was rumoured frequently this last season that Kulikov was bound for the KHL. Kulikov was in the last year of his contract and apparently none-too-happy in Florida — the feeling was apparently mutual. Kulikov has since signed a new contract with the Panthers for three-years at $13 million. According to Elliotte Friedman this contract simply “makes him more attractive to teams that like him”. I could see a team like the Dallas Stars looking into Kulikov’s availability. Defense is the only part of their roster that needs work and with an older mentor in Sergei Gonchar there to aid the maturation process, Dallas might be the perfect fir
Vincent Lecavalier: Lecavalier has spent much of this off-season linked to the Nashville Predators, who became increasingly desparate for centers after Mike Fisher’s injury. The Predators then addressed this move by signing Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy to one-year prove it deals. Since then, trade chatter has lessened on the aging star. The Flyers are looking to offload Lecavalier for the purpose of gaining cap space, as they are currently right up against it. It’ll be hard for Philadelphia to find a suitor and they will almost certainly have to retain salary to make it happen. Still, I could see another low-budget team, like the Arizona Coyotes, taking interest in Lecavalier.
Jeff Petry: The relationship between Petry and the Oilers seems to be souring. Petry is currently set to play on a one-year deal, valued at just over $3 million. The Red Wings have apparently inquired on Petry’s availability already. Petry is just one year away from unrestricted free agency and the Oilers could wind up losing him for nothing. As it currently stands, Petry also represents a block to some of the younger defensive prospects that could be looking to make the jump.
Braydon Coburn: Coburn’s name popping up in trade rumours is nothing new. Since developing into a top-four defenseman, it seems like Coburn’s name has been a constant fixture in rumours, with his name being linked to the Edmonton Oilers most often. With the Flyers desperate to clear cap, Coburn’s at risk of being traded… again. If the Flyers fail to move Lecavalier, the risk of Coburn being moved increases quite a bit. Coburn has two-years left on his contract, at a cap-hit of $4.5 million. Can see why teams have inquired about him.
Antti Niemi: Niemi’s name has been mentioned as one that could possibly be on the move ever since the Sharks playoff loss. Niemi is coming off a rough season and has but one year left on his contract with a reasonable cap hit under $4 million. For teams looking to upgrade in net, Niemi could be an affordable low-risk option. Niemi is just one season removed from being a Vezina candidate, which makes it hard for me to believe the Sharks are serious about moving him. If it was going to happen, I imagine it would have already. Then again, nothing Doug Wilson could do would surprise me.
Johnny Boychuk: Boychuk has one year left on his contract and is apparently looking for Brooks Orpik money on his new deal. That, in combination with the Bruins salary cap troubles, have made his name come up in the rumour mill. It would make sense for the Bruins to deal Boychuk, who will be a UFA next off-season. The Bruins have a steady group of young defenseman ready to make the leap and Boychuk presents an obstacle to that. The Bruins would be mise to move Boychuk, but I’m skeptical it happens.