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25 NHL trade candidates to watch this off-season

As we near the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we’re bracing for an off-season window that is expected to bring a flurry of action with the NHL Draft set for Oct. 6-7 and free agency opening a few days later on Oct. 9.

We’ve already seen a few trades made: Kasperi Kapanen from Toronto to Pittsburgh, Eric Staal from Minnesota to Buffalo, Jake Allen from St. Louis to Montreal, Joel Edmundson from Carolina to Montreal. Those are just setting the table for what’s to come.

As some teams are tight to the flat salary cap of $81.5 million, others have all kinds of room and could use that as leverage to take on an overly expensive contract and get a draft pick or two. That’s what Detroit did when it acquired Marc Staal and a second-round pick from the New York Rangers for future considerations.

This year figures to bring a flurry of action on the trade market and there are a lot of names that will appear in rumours. Here is our updated list of 25 players who you are likely to hear among them. We’re not going to include those pending UFAs who could see their rights traded prior to Oct. 9, but those types of moves could also happen. So while these 25 names are worth watching, consider also the pending UFAs.

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Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets
When his entry-level contract expired in 2019, Laine agreed to a bridge deal with the Jets for two years and a $6.75 million cap hit. That contract has one more season left on it until he’ll be a restricted free agent again and, this time, only two years away from becoming UFA eligible. Laine’s desire is to play consistently on the top line with Mark Scheifele, but the Jets haven’t made that commitment. Now, as the team eyes upgrades on the blue line and searches for a second line centre, Laine could become a tradable asset, and there would be no shortage of suitors for the 22-year-old sniper.

“I don’t think Patrik Laine has asked for a trade or anything like that, but I think they can kind of see where this is potentially going in the future,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported during Saturday Headlines. “I just think everybody’s looking at the situation and saying ‘what if our way to solve the problem is, can we use Patrik Laine to find No. 2 centre or a right-hand shot defenceman?”

Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights
Ever since his agent, Allan Walsh, posted a controversial photo to social media of Fleury being stabbed in the back by a sword with coach Peter DeBoer’s name on it, questions about Fleury’s future in Vegas have been raised. The original face of the franchise, it would certainly be a surprising way for his time in Vegas to end, but since Robin Lehner was their playoff starter there could be a succession plan in place. Lehner, however, is set to become a UFA next week, so first an extension with him would need to be made official. Fleury makes $7 million for another two seasons, so it would be a tough contract to move under a tight cap. For his part, Fleury said he’d be happy to continue with Lehner and hasn’t asked for a trade.

“I want to stay in Vegas,” Fleury told The Athletic. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I’ve loved every moment since I got here.”

Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs
It’s not that the Leafs have to trade their goaltender or are destined to do so, but all options are on the table this off-season. If Andersen goes, the Leafs will need to have a replacement lined up, which could be easier said than done. This off-season is shaping up to be a buyer’s market for goalies, though, so it may fall into place for Toronto. Andersen is heading into the final season of his contract that comes with a $5 million cap hit, but only $1 million in base salary.

Phillip Danault, Montreal Canadiens
As Montreal considers various changes (and has already made a couple of moves) surprisingly Danault’s name has popped up. One of the better emerging defensive centres in the league, Danault finished with 13 goals and 47 points this regular season, but struggled to produce in the playoffs as younger players helped carry the load. Danault, 27, has one year left on his contract before becoming UFA eligible, so the Habs must weigh that next deal against what other centres they have coming up in the organization.

Wrote Elliotte Friedman in the Sept. 17 edition of the 31 Thoughts column: “The Phillip Danault situation is interesting. His name is ‘out there,’ and there definitely is interest, but opposing GMs aren’t truly certain Bergevin wants to do it. He’s a good two-way centre possibly asking for a bit more in free agency (after next season) than Montreal wants to do. Does Danault want to stay or go? And will the rumours alter his approach?”

Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning
Until Tampa moves out some money, it seems to be a potential target to offer sheets for RFAs Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev. The problem is that it has nine players with no-move or no-trade clauses. The only skaters on the team making more than $2 million that don’t have trade protection are Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point — and neither of them is going to get traded. Killorn then becomes a candidate to move because he makes $4.45 million against the cap and has a 16-team no-trade list that kicks in now, transitioning out of a full no-move clause. There’s flexibility to move him that wasn’t there before. Killorn scored 49 points in 68 games this season and has 10 points in 23 playoff games.

“Conceivably we could be watching the Lightning win a Stanley Cup tonight or on Wednesday and in a week’s time Julien BriseBois is going to have to make some trades to shed salary to position himself best to be able to match one of those offer sheets if it comes in,” Chris Johnston said on Hockey Central.

Josh Anderson, Columbus Blue Jackets
Injuries got in the way of Anderson’s season and limited him to 26 games, but he only managed to score once in those games. That follows a season in which he scored 27 times in 82 games. The six-foot-three, 222-pound power forward is an RFA this off-season and just one year away from being UFA eligible for the first time. He was a trade candidate at the deadline, but is more likely to go now in the off-season, if a deal happens at all. While the two sides work on a contract, Anderson’s agent said his client wanted to remain in Columbus.

“There is a misplaced opinion on the temperature of negotiations with CBJ out there,” agent Darren Ferris told Arron Portzline of The Athletic. “That’s the social-media world we live in, I guess. This is the business side, and there will be discussions and no animosity as some would try to make people believe.

“One thing I know: Josh would like to be in (Columbus) for a long time.”

Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils
You can bank on Palmieri, who has scored between 24 and 30 goals in each of the past five seasons. So why would the Devils entertain trading him? Well he’s a year away from free agency making $4.65 million against the cap, so perhaps New Jersey could seek out a younger player or draft pick from a playoff hopeful that needs a bit more scoring from the wing. If the Devils even retained a bit of that cap hit, they could increase Palmieri’s value. He has a modified no-trade clause in which he can submit a list of eight teams to which he will not accept a move.

Max Domi, Montreal Canadiens
A lot of speculation started to swirl when Domi switched his agent to Darren Ferris after the Habs were eliminated. Domi is an RFA now, but he dropped from 72 points in 2018-29 to just 44 in 2019-20. Domi’s role on the team diminished in the playoffs, too, as some younger players took lead roles. All this has made Domi a candidate to be traded this off-season, though he has not asked to be moved.

“Max’s desire is and always has been to stay in Montreal,” Ferris told Sportsnet’s Eric Engels.

Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Following another playoff season where their core couldn’t break through, the Calgary Flames are likely to make some notable changes this off-season and Gaudreau tops the list of trade candidates. He has two years left on a contract that pays him $6.75 million against the cap, but the Flames aren’t going to give him away for the sake of it. Though Gaudreau has had back-to-back disappointing playoffs, scoring four goals and eight points in his past 15 post-season games, he’s also only a year removed from a 99-point campaign that followed an 84-point season. He’s a massive producer who could possibly shine even more where he isn’t the focal point of an offence.

Vince Dunn, St. Louis Blues
The Blues are among the teams facing a cap crunch this off-season and they still have two blue-liners to get signed: UFA Alex Pietrangelo and RFA Vince Dunn. Without other moves, they can’t afford both. So, could it be that in order to keep Pietrangelo, Dunn must go? He’s still only 23, moves the puck well and would be a welcome addition to top-fours around the league. At the same time, Pietrangelo’s negotiations are reportedly not going in a positive direction and if he were to leave as a free agent, the Blues’ $5.1 million in cap room would be more than enough to keep Dunn.

Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes
Speaking of capped out teams, Arizona has barely over $1 million to work with and a few contracts to sign, even if Taylor Hall leaves in free agency. In a recent 31 Thoughts article, Elliotte Friedman noted that the Coyotes may be looking to recoup draft picks lost when the NHL penalized them for prospect testing violations. Kuemper has been fantastic for the team and everyone saw that in the playoffs. It is a loaded goalie market, but Kuemper would come with two years on a contract that pays $4.5 million against the cap. Pretty good value for the work he’s put in.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
Arizona isn’t done at its goalie either. On a Saturday Headlines segment a few weeks ago, Elliotte Friedman reported that the Coyotes could explore moving their top defenceman as well.

“I think there’s a possibility he gets traded,” Friedman said on a recent Sportsnet 960 the Fan appearance. “I think he’s open to it and I do think they’re getting calls about him already. It’s a tough contract, but I think there’s interest.”

Ekman-Larsson has seven years left on a deal that pays him $8.25 million against the cap, so any acquiring team would be getting a top-pair defender for the long term. With the cap staying flat, though, it may be trickier to move a contract like this right now. Ekman-Larsson also has a full no-movement clause, so he’ll have the final say on any trade. Niklas Hjalmarsson was also previously on this list, but he has chosen not to waive his no-move clause at this time.

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Matt Murray/Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford himself said there was a “very, very good chance” that he’ll trade one of his goalies this off-season. There are a couple reasons for this. One is that Pittsburgh has other needs in its lineup as they try to keep the Stanley Cup window from closing and AHL netminder Casey DeSmith is a fully capable replacement for the backup job. The other reason is that both Murray and Jarry are tradable assets and it’d be wise to get out in front of that now rather than wait and face the prospect of losing either to Seattle in next summer’s expansion draft.

Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks
Even though they really weren’t sniffing the playoffs back in March and seem a ways away from contending again, Chicago does not have much cap space to try and reload its roster. They could try and move out some money from the defence, but more likely is that once again Saad’s name will appear on these lists, as it did around the trade deadline. In 58 games this season Saad scored 21 goals and 33 points, then added five points in nine playoff games. He’s one season away from free agency now and though he could still help the Hawks, he’s the player who could give them the best combination return of a helpful asset or two and cap space.

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Andreas Johnsson, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs are looking to make some changes (and already moved out Kapanen), but the chances that any of the big-money players get moved are small right now. It seems GM Kyle Dubas would rather take at least one more run with that core of players. But there are a few mid-range contracts that could be valuable to other teams in the league. Kapanen was one of those and Johnsson is another. If the Leafs can get something back that helps them right away, or an asset or two they can use to get that help, then Johnsson would become expendable.

Alexander Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs
Kerfoot is another one of those mid-range contracts that could be had out of Toronto. Where Johnsson makes $3.4 million against the cap for another three seasons, Kerfoot comes in a $3.5 million for another three years and he’s got some added value as a centreman.

Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg Jets
The Jets just didn’t quite have the depth they used to this season, especially on the blue line, and for the first time under GM Kevin Cheveldayoff it seemed like they lost a step or two in their quest for the Cup. They’re still a well-built team with some young help on the way, but if they dangled someone like Ehlers he’d surely demand a large return. The 24-year-old had one of his best offensive seasons this year and comes with a $6-million cap hit. Ehlers was a trade candidate last off-season and, if he’s at all available this time, would be one of the better scoring wingers on the market. If Winnipeg were to move Laine instead, it’s unlikely both of these players would get traded in the same off-season.

Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes
The reason Hamilton is on this list has more to do with his contract situation and Carolina’s overall strength on the blue line more than it does his play. Hamilton was on track to be a factor in the Norris Trophy race before injury limited him to just 47 games (he scored 40 points). But, he’ll be heading into the last year of his contract in 2020-21, after which he’ll be UFA eligible. Carolina has more depth on the blue line than any other part of their roster, so if the right deal comes along Hamilton could be the player moved to upgrade something else.

P.K. Subban, New Jersey Devils
We’ll start by saying this: if the Devils find a trade partner interested in Subban, the only way that could likely happen is if New Jersey retained some of his $9 million cap hit. That’s just too much money for any playoff team to absorb the next two seasons as the cap stays flat. But remember, the Devils gave up next to nothing to get Subban in the first place, so the money wouldn’t be too much of an issue if they could get a pick or a prospect to help them down the road. Subban is no longer the top-tier Norris caliber defenceman he once was and only managed 18 points in 68 games this season, but if you’re looking to fill out your top-four Subban could be attainable without giving up too much.

Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers
Making $4.5 million for another three seasons, Gostisbehere played only five games in Philadelphia’s return to play and had 12 points in 42 regular season games. His opportunity on Philadelphia’s blue line has diminished, but he’s still just two years removed from a 65-point season. If there’s a team out there willing to bet some cap space on a Gostisbehere rebound, he could be had from the Flyers.

Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild
A year out from the Seattle expansion draft, the Wild have to be planning how their defence corps will shape up when it comes time to protect players from the Kraken. Some of the toughest choices may have to be made on defence, so when Jonas Brodin was given an extension recently, it opened a bunch of questions about Dumba’s status. Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Suter already had no-move clauses and Brodin got one as well on his extension, which even covers next season (his last of the old deal). Since expansion rules dictate that a team may protect either seven forwards and three defencemen or eight skaters, the Wild would seemingly be forced into the latter if Dumba is not traded. He is a right shot who can score goals from the back end, which are both highly valuable in the NHL. He makes $6 million for the next three years as well, so there’s contract certainty here.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild
Add another name to the long list of available goalies this off-season. Neither Wild goalie was particularly outstanding this season (though Stalock had a .910 regular-season save percentage) and by the time they returned to play in August, Dubnyk was the backup who didn’t see any playoff game action. At 34, he has one year left on a $4.3 million contract and wouldn’t cost a lot in trade, but could also be a buyout candidate. Either way, the Wild are likely to change their look in the crease next season, and are likely to promote prospect Kaapo Kahkonen.

“The hierarchy is not clear. I was disappointed in the goaltending this year,” Wild GM Bill Guerin said at his end of year presser. “Al (Stalock) had a tremendous year and Devan had an off-year and it needs to be better, that’s just the way it is. If I told you anything different I’d be lying to you. It was not a strong point for us.”

Alex Goligoski, Arizona Coyotes
Goligoski may be 35 now and making $5.475 million against the cap, but he’s got one year left until his contract expires and he’s been a pretty consistent producer from the back end over the years and finished with 32 points in 70 games this season. Arizona may have to retain some of his salary to make it work, but he was an all-situations defender for them. Goligoski was second among all Coyotes defencemen in average even strength and penalty-kill ice time per game this season.

Adam Larsson, Edmonton Oilers
As Edmonton still tries to find a way to take another step next campaign after a successful 2019-20 regular season, they must try and add depth to their forward unit. The best way to accomplish that may be to look to their defence, where they have a decent amount of depth comparatively, and move one out. Adam Larsson is an in-his-prime shutdown defender who also shoots right, so there should be suitors out there if he’s made available. He has one year left on a contract that pays $4.16 million against the cap and doesn’t have trade protection. It’s not a lock that Edmonton would trade Larsson, but outside of Oscar Klefbom, Larsson is the best veteran blue-liner they have to use in trade for some help upfront.

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