Draft day has usurped trade deadline day and free agent day as the NHL’s most exciting off-ice event, and it’s not because of the drafting. The last weekend in June has become a lightning rod for blockbuster trades because, unlike at the trade deadline, almost every franchise is a theoretical suitor for any available player. The market doesn’t necessarily split between buyers and sellers. Every team has winning in mind, albeit some make moves for the short term and some trade for long-term assets.
Last June gave us the jaw-dropping Dougie Hamilton deal on draft day, and that was just the beginning. Milan Lucic, Martin Jones, Ryan O’Reilly and Carl Hagelin, among many others, also changed teams over the weekend. Phil Kessel, Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad followed days later.
It’s a virtual guarantee some marquee names move next week in Buffalo, with all 30 GMs scurrying around the First Niagara Center’s floor. Who are the top 10 draft-day trade candidates? Ponder these players, ranked from least to most likely.
10. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
The all-but-confirmed 2017 expansion draft should be this off-season’s greatest trade catalyst, especially for goalies. Teams will only be allowed to protect one stopper, and it appears players with no-trade clauses extending through 2017-18 won’t be exempt and must be protected should teams want to keep them. That means any franchise with the “nice” problem of two good goalies would be silly not to consider dealing one this summer. The emergence of Andrei Vasilevskiy makes things interesting for GM Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay. Vasilevskiy is no flash-in-the-pan late bloomer, a la Andrew Hammond last year. Vasilevskiy is a first-round pick and has been among the best two or three goaltending prospects in the world for a few seasons now. When he plays competently as a playoff fill-in two straight seasons at age 20 and 21, we count that as him fulfilling vast potential rather than bamboozling our expectations.
Vasilevskiy has one year left at a bargain price of $925,000 before becoming a restricted free agent next summer. Starter Ben Bishop (a) carries a $5.95-million cap hit; (b) becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2017 and (c) has missed at least one playoff game due to injury three straight seasons. He’s only 29, but his 6-foot-7, 216-pound frame seems to wilt every spring. The pros of trading Bishop thus might outweigh the cons. He’s a great goaltender and may win the Vezina Trophy next week, but it’s wiser to retain the younger, cheaper, healthier goalie, especially when that goalie is too good to be a backup. Heck, if Yzerman wants to retain UFA Steven Stamkos, trading Bishop’s cap hit could be the difference between success and failure.
The only problem with dealing Bishop: he’s a one-year rental unless the team acquiring him can sign him long term. If I’m Calgary or Dallas or Toronto or Carolina, I’d want to be confident about keeping Bishop before paying a steep price for him.
9. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Gordie Howe’s passing delayed Pavel Datsyuk’s meeting with Red Wings GM Ken Holland, in which the two will discuss Datsyuk’s future. We should have a clearer picture of his fate before next Friday, however. If ‘The Magic Man’ stays, he stays. He’ll be a Red Wing should he choose to play one more year in North America. If Datsyuk heads to the KHL to finish his career, Holland obviously must try to move Datsyuk’s $7.5-million cap hit, which will count on Detroit’s books with or without him there since he signed his contract after age 35. Enter the salary-floor teams. The Arizona Coyotes picked up Chris Pronger’s cap hit last year to help them reach the floor and would be a prime candidate for Datsyuk’s contract.
8. Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks have a surplus of talented, mobile young D-men. Shea Theodore is too good for the AHL now and could barely find a spot on the NHL blueline last season. It makes too much sense for GM Bob Murray to clear space for Theodore with a trade. Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm, both RFAs, would command the biggest return. Lindholm is too important to the future and more versatile than Vatanen, so the latter would be the smarter piece to deal. Plenty of teams could use Vatanen’s right-handed shot and superb power play skills. The Edmonton Oilers are the obvious fit. Detroit could use another young and fleet-footed D-man, too.
7. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
‘The Nuge’ or a winger such as Jordan Eberle should be Edmonton’s trading chip in its hunt for a top-four defenseman. Nugent-Hopkins is an underrated two-way pivot and still just 23, but he’s redundant on an Edmonton team boasting Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl up the middle. Nugent-Hopkins is too good to be a third-line center. Draisaitl can play the wing but is meant to be a center. So GM Peter Chiarelli may as well find a trade partner willing to pay a big price to make Nugent-Hopkins a cornerstone forward.
6. Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues
Shattenkirk, like Bishop, feels more prudent to trade than to acquire. Colton Parayko’s emergence makes it easier to stomach the idea of moving Shattenkirk, one of the NHL’s best pure puck-moving blueliners, especially if the Blues believe they can’t re-sign Shattenkirk when he becomes a UFA next summer. But, like with Bishop, any team acquiring Shattenkirk would feel much more comfortable surrendering high-impact assets knowing it could retain Shattenkirk on a multi-year extension. Otherwise, what teams might give up for him might not be enough to justify GM Doug Armstrong weakening St. Louis’ D-corps.
5. Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks
Andersen and John Gibson, whose bridge contract runs through the end of 2018-19, give us another goalie dilemma that should be resolved thanks to the expansion draft. Andersen started the bulk of Anaheim’s playoff games, but Gibson is four years younger. Andersen is also an RFA and has almost twice as much NHL experience as Gibson. In other words, Andersen probably doesn’t want a bridge deal, and with good reason. He’s earned a bigger commitment.
Rather then invest in Andersen long-term, the Ducks seem likely to roll with Gibson and parlay Andersen into other helpful pieces, be they picks or a forward. Andersen would arguably be a more attractive goalie to acquire than Bishop or a certain someone topping this trade list. Andersen is 26, still plenty young for a goalie. He’s big, he’s poised, and he’s started 21 post-season games in his past two seasons. The Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs would be wise to chase Andersen. They each need a No. 1 and aren’t yet in win-now mode, so the younger option trumps a veteran like Bishop.
4. Andrew Shaw, Chicago Blackhawks
Excuse me while I cut and paste.
“The Blackhawks are in a salary cap crunch and will be forced to move a key veteran to clear space.”
There we go. Pasted from 2015, when the casualties were Saad and Sharp. Shaw, an RFA, might be next. He’s a heart-and-soul Hawk who can play on pretty much any line and at wing or center, and he led the team with four goals in the 2016 playoffs. He deserves to double his $2-million cap hit, however, and Chicago can’t afford that right now. The only problem with Artemi Panarin’s stellar rookie season? It unlocked well north of $2 million in bonus overages that count against the cap. There goes Shaw’s raise. If the Blackhawks do find some money to spend, it really should go toward a defenseman, as their lack of a No. 4 to fill the Johnny Oduya void became their Achilles’ Heel in 2015-16. Retaining Shaw, then, would be a luxury. It will take a miracle to keep him in the Windy City.
UPDATE: The miracle happened! In the form of a Teuvo Teravainen trade to Carolina, which also cleared Bryan Bickell’s cap hit from Chicago’s books. The Hawks are expected to re-sign Shaw now.
3. Tyson Barrie, Colorado Avalanche
Should the Avalanche, a team that could stand to gain some help on defense, trade Barrie, their best offensive defenseman? No comment. Regardless, Barrie’s name has dominated trade talk since Colorado’s season ended in April. Writers close to the team believe Avs coach Patrick Roy views Barrie as a bottom-pair defenseman. The most respected news breakers in the game, Bob McKenzie and Elliotte Friedman, have predicted a Barrie trade. The Avs couldn’t hammer out a long-term extension with O’Reilly last June, and O’Reilly at least had a year left on his deal, but they still shipped him to Buffalo. Barrie, who shares an agent with O’Reilly in Newport’s Pat Morris, needs a contract right now. Barrie’s an RFA. And there seems to be discrepancy between how the Barrie camp values him and how Roy publicly values him. That likely adds up to a trade, and Barrie would have plenty of suitors. Any team interested in Vatanen should want Barrie. He brings similar tools to the table, though his superior offensive numbers should earn him a slightly pricier contract than Vatanen’s.
2. Scott Hartnell, Columbus Blue Jackets
Hartnell isn’t the sexiest name on this list, but he’s as likely as anyone to have a new team before next weekend. He waived his no-trade clause this week. A trade is mutually beneficial for him and the Blue Jackets. Hartnell is 34 and still seeks his first Stanley Cup ring. He remains a high-impact power forward who can top 25 goals and add size and grit to a contending team’s top six. How about a Nashville homecoming? His contract isn’t the hardest thing to move in the world. He carries a $4.75-million cap hit for three more seasons.
The Jackets, meanwhile, have regressed after many prognosticators had them returning to the playoffs in 2015-16. Seth Jones and William Karlsson need new deals as RFAs, and Columbus has four forwards earning more coin than Hartnell. Someone has to go, and he’s the oldest of that wealthy group.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
Every Matt Murray playoff start pounded a nail into the coffin of Fleury’s Pittsburgh tenure. Switching back to Murray after Fleury took the reins during the Eastern Conference final was the ultimate vote of confidence for Pittsburgh’s freshman netminder, and winning a Cup with Murray etched his name alongside Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy and Cam Ward in great rookie champion lore. There’s just no way the Penguins can reinstall Fleury in their crease next season as long as Murray plays for them – not even after Fleury’s best regular season in years, not even if he’s healthy, and not even when he leads the franchise in all-time wins.
The expansion draft dilemma makes the decision even easier for GM Jim Rutherford. A goaltender will have to go, Fleury’s limited no-trade clause does not protect him, he carries a $5.75-million cap hit for three more seasons, and a goalie almost 10 years his junior just took Pittsburgh to the Cup. A Fleury trade will happen, and he should welcome it. He’s only 31, with many good years left, and he’s already 18th on the NHL’s all-time wins list with 357. He has a chance to crack the NHL’s top two all-time. He trails Roy by 194 wins, meaning Fleury could pass him by averaging roughly 32 wins for six more seasons. If I’m Fleury, I want to my waive no-trade. Both parties should work to make this deal happen. How about on draft day? Jim Nill and Brad Treliving should be all ears.
Honorable mentions: Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Jordan Eberle, Brian Elliott, Jimmy Howard, Patrick Marleau, Rick Nash, Jacob Trouba, Nail Yakupov
Matt Larkin is a writer and 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