On Twitter and also within the weekly Canes Chronicle post that has links to some of the week’s best Canes coverage from other sites, I talked about the perfect storm forming for the NHL trade market this summer.
Recap of trade perfect storm conditions
1-An expected modest increase/nearly flat salary cap will put a pinch on numerous teams and make for even more teams needing to make moves to squeeze under the cap.
2-A high number of restricted free agents set to earn big raises will further pressure some teams and force them to choose who to keep and who to let go.
3-An expected expansion draft next summer will limit the number of players that a team can protect/keep at each position maybe most notably in goal where teams can protect only 1 netminder.
Team by team target list
This is a bit of a rehash of bits and pieces of the same that have appeared in other posts. (It is early June. New stuff is scarce.) Below is a team by team target list of players that I would love to seize if they become available especially under if under salary cap duress for a discounted price – i.e. the Canes netting Kris Versteeg, Joakim Nordstrom and a third round pick for 3 futures arguably worth less than the third round pick that the Canes received as part of the deal. The Blackhawks needed to do something to make room to sign Marcus Kruger and Ron Francis and the Carolina Hurricanes benefited.
Frederik Andersen (Expansion Draft/Salary Cap): As an RFA due a significant raise and also part of a 2-goalie duo who could be lost next summer to the expansion draft, he could be a really good option for the Canes second goalie slot.
Zemgus Girgensons (Young Reclamation Project): As an RFA who has yet to yet to find a permanent role with the Sabres and yet to find more than a third/fourth-line type scoring pace, he could be available. I am NOT at all certain that he can find the higher gear offensively to be more than a depth forward, but this “young with high potential and/or draft pedigree but yet to figure it out” is exactly the category of player where Francis’ scouting team could make a huge difference if they could find a bargain or 2. Girgensons is only 22 years old, is from the power forward mold that the Canes could use and was a #14 overall pick.
Teuvo Teravainen (Young Reclamation Project): Teravainen is not nearly the disappointing reclamation project like most in this category. But I think a chain reaction of Chicago’s other issues could make him available. First, the Hawks continue to have salary cap issues. Last season, the team had to let key secondary players (Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Kris Versteeg) go because of inability to make the math work. The same could be true this summer for Andrew Shaw. Trading Teravainen and his sub $1 million entry level salary obviously does not directly help with the cap issues, but indirectly it could. He was quickly surpassed by Artemi Panarin and became a depth forward during the 2015-16 season. Might he be packaged with Bryan Bickell and his problem contract? Could Teravainen also be the trade chip necessary to gain the #4 defenseman that the team has been without since Oduya’s departure? The Blackhawks signed 25-year old Czech defenseman Michal Kempny seemingly with the hope that the veteran European blue-liner can step straight into the NHL. It worked wonderfully last season with Artemi Panarin but obviously comes with risk. If Kempny does not work out (and before Kempny arrived), I thought a deal with Brett Pesce and Teuvo Teravainen could have made a ton of sense. The Blackhawks get a young defenseman, importantly with 2 years remaining on his contract at $900k per year who just might be good enough to be a serviceable #4 defenseman on the cheap. He was last season for the Canes. The Canes in return trade a similar age defenseman for a forward which they need more.
Matt Duchene (GM’s decision): I have no idea what category to put Matt Duchene in. I guess “Patrick Roy lunacy” fits as well as anything. If truly available, he could be the top line scoring center that the Canes really need to balance out Jordan Staal’s very good but scoring-light other top line.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Kerby Rychel (Young Reclamation Project): Rychel is yet another high-pedigree draftee who has yet to find his way at the NHL level. He is another power forward type that the Canes covet. Again, it comes down to the Canes scouting staff sorting through the bargain bin and making the right call on which 1-2 players are just late bloomers with upside and which are just busts at this point.
Ryan-Nugent Hopkins (GM’s decision): I have written a ton about Nugent-Hopkins, so I will be brief here. He, like Matt Duchene, could be a young but proven offensive center to lead a line to complement what Jordan Staal’s line did so well in 2015-16.
Nail Yakupov (Young Reclamation Project): He is an incredibly high pedigree draftee – the highest possible at #1 overall. He is also a player who has yet to figure it out on any kind of consistent basis at the NHL level. He actually scored at a 29-goal and 53-point pace as an 18-year old rookie but has declined since. He is still only 22 years old and has 1 year remaining on his contract at a reasonable (not cheap but reasonable) $2.5 million before becoming a restricted free agent next summer. People often grumble when I consider players like him, but 22-25 year olds who are playing incredibly well just are not available. Francis’s scouting team really earns its keep if they can identify 1-2 players from the reclamation pile who are just late bloomers or need a change of scenery and can be had for cheap right now.
New York Rangers
Chris Kreider (Salary Cap): It is hard to say exactly who will be available from the Rangers, but between the early exit that should drive some shake up and a number of players being restricted free agents needing raises, at least a couple players should ultimately become available. Rick Nash’s name has been bandied around the trade block a ton lately, but more likely might be availability of 1 or more of Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes who are all restricted free agents this summer. I am on record as making a playmaking center the top forward priority, but I like Kreider for his size, speed and decent raw skill as far as well-rounded wings go. The urgency and volume of players who might need to be cut loose would only increase if the Rangers get in on the Steven Stamkos sweepstakes.
Marc-Andre Fleury (Expansion Draft): With the emergence of Matt Murray, Marc-Andre Fleury could be the odd man out as early as this summer to collect a return before he could be lost for nothing in an expansion draft next summer. I actually like Fleury to bridge the time until Alex Nedeljkovic is hopefully ready, but his $5.75 million salary is definitely full price for what he brings. The more salary Pittsburgh would be willing to eat, the more appealing he becomes. Otherwise, there are other options at different price ranges that could work.
St. Louis Blues
Jake Allen (Expansion Draft): The Blues goalie tandem of Brian Elliott (older but also playoff #1) and Jake Allen (younger but not really part of playoff mix) is another that could see 1 become available this summer before the impending expansion draft likely to take place next summer. Who knows if Allen would be available, but if so he is another interesting option.
Tampa Bay Lightning
???? (Expansion Draft/Salary Cap): The Lightning’s success and general roster depth has them pressed up against the wall both in terms of good players who might be exposed to the expansion draft and also trying to re-sign key players and still stay under the cap limit. The salary cap situation changes significantly based on Steven Stamkos’ situation. If he stays, the Lightning will obviously need to fit another big salary into their structure. If he departs, at least the salary cap challenges would shrink. General Manager Steve Yzerman has many options to try to resolve everything, but 1 part of it is likely to be the availability of a good player or 2 via trade.
When the dust settles, I would be thrilled with Frederik Andersen, Ryan-Nugent Hopkins and whichever of Girgensons, Rychel, Yakupov or Teravainen the scouting staff likes and can be had for cheap.