We’re roughly 20 percent through the 2015-16 NHL regular season. Does that mean it’s time to start taking trade scuttlebutt seriously? Maybe. The latest Patrick Marleau chatter out of San Jose suggests as much. The Sharks’ all-time leader in games, goals, assists and points would reportedly accept a trade to three teams.
The Marleau rumor is fascinating because it feels more out of nowhere than, say, an Eric Staal or Cam Ward rumor out of Carolina. The latter two players are unrestricted free agents next summer. They’ll be talked up all year as potential trade deadline rentals.
The UFAs to be are obvious choices as trade candidates, but are there any other Marleaus out there, guys with multiple years left on their contracts who could be dealt? Here are 10 non-rental names to watch in the coming months. Note how many of these players have no-trade or no movement clauses. I don’t put much stock into clauses during trade speculation. Many players who pop up in rumors have reasons to want out of their situations, and being asked to waive a clause tells a player he’s not wanted, often prompting him to comply with a trade (like Scott Hartnell in Philadelphia last summer).
10. Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings
Signed through 2021-22, $5,875,000 cap hit, limited no-trade clause
Brown sure was something to behold during the L.A. Kings’ 2012 Stanley Cup run. He was plenty good with his physicality and leadership during the 2014 title crusade, too, even if his scoring touch had waned. But there’s no denying Brown’s eight-year, $47-million extension, signed in 2013, is one of the league’s biggest albatrosses. The former 30-goal man is an “old” 31. His $5.875 million cap hit won’t attract many suitors – unless some team has a big contract of its own to move and a “change of scenery” trade goes down. I like the idea posed by this blog, in which the Kings acquire Marleau, who listed L.A. as one of his potential destinations, for Brown.
9. Ryan Miller, Vancouver Canucks
Signed through 2016-17, $6,000,000 cap hit, limited no-trade clause
Consider Miller more an idea than a rumor. He’s the Canucks’ starting goalie, and they intend to make the playoffs again, but if their play goes south, Miller becomes a trade target. He’s only signed one additional year at $6 million. He’s not quite a rental, but he wouldn’t be a massive investment for a contending team in need of goaltending help. It’s not an option unless the Canucks start to struggle and/or Jacob Markstrom excels whenever he’s given chances to start as Miller’s understudy.
8. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
Signed through 2017-18, $6,916,667 cap hit, no-movement clause
The Boston Bruins desperately need Chara right this second. Their D-corps lost Dougie Hamilton in the trade with Calgary this past summer, and Dennis Seidenberg still hasn’t returned to the lineup, though he’s close. Chara, 38, isn’t the all-world talent he was even a few years ago, sure. Forwards beat him to the outside with increasing regularity. But he’s still the best shutdown presence Boston has. If Boston shows any signs of sliding out of the playoff race, GM Don Sweeney has to pursue a deal aggressively. There would be a market for Chara’s services. Imagine how devastating he’d be as a second pair guy on a contender? Some suitor could stomach his two remaining years at a $6.9-million cap hit. I say $6.9 million because the cap-crunched Bruins likely wouldn’t want to eat any of his salary in a trade. For now, this is a backburner idea, as Boston remains very much in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.
7. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche
Signed through 2018-19, $5,900,000 cap hit
Calvin Pickard is too good for the AHL. He was one of the best goalies in the NHL whenever he spelled the injured Varlamov last season. Alas, the Avs have Pickard parked in AHL San Antonio to ensure he gets a nice fat workload. He’s predictably posted a .935 save percentage there. The analytics, not to mention calling the Central Division home, suggest Colorado’s playoff hopes are dim already. Varlamov is just 27 and capable of playing a ton. He’s not an overpay at $5.9 million. A team looking for a long-term answer in goal can acquire him. And the Avs, knowing they have an NHL-ready replacement, can move him and land some assets to plug other organizational holes. I wouldn’t see a deal happening soon in this case, though, as not enough teams know they have goaltending needs yet.
6. Scott Hartnell, Columbus Blue Jackets
Signed through 2018-19, $4,750,000 cap hit, no-movement clause
Columbus is far better than its record, and new coach John Tortorella already has them playing improved hockey. But a 4-12-0 start is awfully hard to overcome in the era of the loser point. The chances of making the playoffs have already plummeted to 1.9 percent. Contenders will start picking at the bones of Columbus’ roster soon enough, and few players make for a more attractive stretch-drive acquisition than Hartnell. He can play in the top six and on the power play and he has the size and mean streak any team covets for playoff success. He’s signed three more years at a reasonable $4.75 million per. It’s also possible the Jackets, deep at forward but desperate on defense, move Hartnell in a “hockey trade.” The size-starved Oilers have reportedly kicked the tires with Columbus on a Hartnell-for-Mark Fayne swap.
5. Joffrey Lupul, Toronto Maple Leafs
Signed through 2017-18, $5,250,000 cap hit, limited no-trade clause
The scorched-earth Leafs are willing to move anyone on their roster not named Morgan Rielly, and Lupul’s name pops up in the trade mill time and again. No deals went down over the past couple years largely because the oft-injured Lupul had too many years left on an ugly contract paying him $5.25 million annually. But now he has just two years to go after this one. The Leafs could eat a bit of his cap hit to facilitate a trade. He still has enough scoring touch that he could flourish in a top six if he had talented enough linemates.
4. Mark Streit, Philadelphia Flyers
Signed through 2016-17, $5,250,000 cap hit, limited no-trade clause
Given how much Streit can help a team’s power play, even at 37 years old, one more year at $5.25 million is palatable. He’s as close to a rental as you’d get without him being an actual rental. The Flyers, with just $95,000 in cap space at the moment, don’t look like a candidate to eat any of Streit’s salary, however.
3. Jarome Iginla, Colorado Avalanche
Signed through 2016-17, $5,333,333 cap hit, no-movement clause
Colorado columnist and long-time Avs beat writer Adrian Dater believes ‘Iggy’ is as good as gone, that he’ll accept a trade to a contender as the deadline approaches, as he’s hungry for that elusive Stanley Cup run as he enters the twilight of his career. Colorado looks years away from a championship right now. Iginla’s best shot is to waive his no-trade clause if and when a team inquires. I love the idea of him in a Montreal Canadiens sweater. What a fit that would be.
Nov. 12 update: Dater reported today that Iginla has said he will not waive his on-trade clause, citing family reasons. So that’s off the table for now, though things can change.
2. Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes
Signed through 2018-19, $5,275,000 cap hit
Is it the concussions? Tentativeness? A lack of confidence? For whatever reason, Skinner looks little like the kid who scored 31 goals at 18 and won the Calder Trophy or the resurgent youngster who sniped 33 goals two seasons ago. He’ll only be halfway through his six-year, $34.5-million contract this off-season. But he’s still just 23 years old. He’s only just entering what should be his prime years. There are worse gambles to take than 23-year-old two-time 30-goal scorers. Skinner could still be lightning in a bottle should he find the right situation. He’s young enough to have appeal even to rebuilding teams. He’s a Toronto native, and the Leafs could afford him.
1. Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
Signed through 2016-17, $6,666,666 cap hit, no-movement clause
Plenty has been said about Marleau already over the past few days. He’s the most likely trade candidate among the non-UFAs in the NHL considering the reports indicate he’s the one trying to punch his own ticket out of town. He’d be a phenomenal fit on several contending teams looking for a responsible veteran two-way forward who can play in all situations. If his desired destinations, reportedly Los Angeles, Anaheim and New York, don’t work out, plenty of other teams could make good use of him if they can find room for his $6.67-million cap hit this year and next. And if Marleau gets moved… is Joe Thornton long for San Jose?
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin