Down Goes Brown: 10 who might star in another summer NHL blockbuster

Gary Bettman address the media about the state of the NHL before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

We don’t see many trades in the NHL these days. Making deals is a dying art among NHL GMs, many of whom seem like they’d rather not pick up the phone at all. The few trades we do get are often relatively small ones, and sometimes it feels like the days of the true blockbuster are all but over.

Of course, we would have said all of that a year ago, too. And we know how that turned out.

Last June, hockey fans lived through one of the craziest days in hockey history, when we saw a pair of massive trades break within minutes of each other. First came word that the Oilers had sent all-star winger Taylor Hall to the Devils for Adam Larsson. Then came the P.K. Subban-for-Shea Weber deal, one that’s still being debated to this day thanks to Subban’s appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. Before that day back in June, most fans would have called all of those guys untouchable. In one hour, they were all on the move.


So now that the calendar has flipped over to June once again, let’s see if we can figure out who this year’s Subban, Weber or Hall might be. Let’s work our way through 10 big-name NHL stars who might — and we’ll use a big, thick magic marker to underline the “might” — be on the move this summer.

Most of them won’t, of course, and it’s possible nobody on our list gets dealt at all. But after last summer’s day of madness, we can’t rule anything out completely. So let’s start with some names that have a good chance of moving, and work our way down to the biggest long shots.

Matt Duchene, Avalanche

Why a trade could happen: We’ll start with the easy one. Of all the stars on our list, Duchene is the one who actually seems likely to move. The Avalanche have been openly shopping him for months now, and it seemed as if he might be moved at the deadline. That didn’t happen, largely because the team felt like they could find a better deal in the off-season. Now, the pressure’s on to get it done, and Duchene has been linked with teams like the Canadiens, Islanders and Blues.

Why there’s a chance that it wouldn’t: Duchene didn’t do much to help his value after the deadline, going pointless in 18 of 21 games down the stretch, so it’s possible that Colorado finds the market is even weaker now than it was in February. Even so, Avalanche GM Joe Sakic almost has to make a move here — the situation has just come too far to get cold feet now.

But we’re not actually sure that Sakic will be the team’s GM. Their recent play for Kyle Dubas paints a picture of an Avalanche organization that might be looking to kick Sakic upstairs and hand the reins over to new blood. If they do, that new GM might decide to take their time on any major moves, holding onto Duchene at least into the season.

And yet…: At some point, letting a star player twist in the wind gets to be too much. You’d have to think this gets done around the draft.

Renaud Lavoie: Take time to appreciate these Penguins
June 01 2017

Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins

Why a trade could happen: While Fleury has had his moments in Pittsburgh, including much of this year’s playoff run, this is Matt Murray‘s team now. Normally, the team might be happy to have two solid goaltenders on the roster. But the Golden Knights throw a wrench into things; if Fleury is on the roster when it’s time to submit the expansion list (and doesn’t waive his no-movement clause), the Penguins would have to protect him and expose Murray. That’s not going to happen.

The easiest solution would be to work with Fleury to find a destination he’d be willing to waive his no-movement for. The market for his services probably got a boost from this strong playoff run, so some team out there should be willing to give up some value to acquire the veteran Cup-winner.

Why it’s not a sure thing: If the Penguins can’t find a trade, or Fleury won’t waive his NMC, they could always just buy him out. It’s also possible that they could cut a side deal with the Knights to bypass Murray and hold onto both goaltenders.

And yet…: A trade to a team where Fleury could be the starter still seems like the best option for everyone involved.

Jordan Eberle, Oilers

Why a trade could happen: Everyone in Edmonton seems to want it to, after the winger laid an egg in the playoffs. With other holes in the roster to fill, it would make sense for the team to move somebody like Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, just like they did with last year’s Hall deal.

Why it might not: Moving Eberle after the post-season he just had would seem like a classic case of selling low. And with two years left on a deal that carries a $6-million cap hit, Eberle would be a tough fit for most teams. The market wasn’t exactly lining up for the guy at the deadline, so you can imagine what it would look like now. It might be better to hold on to him, if only until he can build back some value during the season.

And yet…: Between Leon Draisaitl‘s new deal and Connor McDavid‘s extension for 2018, the Oilers’ cap room is going to vanish quickly. Underachieving players with big cap hits don’t really seem to fit the long-term plan.

Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

Why a trade could happen: Ah, the big one. No name on the market carries the weight of Ovechkin, a three-time MVP who may go down in history as one of the greatest goal scorers of all time. And yet, after another disappointing playoff exit, the Capitals look like an organization in turmoil. All options seem to be on the table, including hitting the rest button on an entire era by moving the face of the franchise.

Why it’s less likely than we might think: You can understand why the Caps would look at every angle after the way their season played out. They should be open to anything. But in these sorts of situations, cooler heads usually prevail. Ovechkin is on the wrong side of 30 and carries a massive cap hit, so the market for him might not materialize the way you’d think it would. A deal here would carry some major risks, and it seems like there are safer ways for the Capitals to move forward than by blowing a gaping hole into a back-to-back Presidents’ Trophy-winning roster.

And yet…: GM Brian MacLellan finally met with the media this week, and he didn’t exactly deny that an Ovechkin trade is a possibility.

Cory Schneider, Devils

Why a trade could happen: The Devils are rebuilding, and last month’s lottery win offers up a perfect opportunity to sell a full-scale reset to their fans. If you’re going to start over, a 31-year-old goalie with five years left on his deal doesn’t really seem to fit the plan. And despite a down year, Ray Shero could still get some good value for Schneider from a team that was desperate for goaltending, especially with Ben Bishop already off the market.

Why it’s a long shot: The market for goalies is always tricky, and there aren’t that many teams that need one this summer. In recent years, the trend has been to go after solid backups like Cam Talbot, Martin Jones or Scott Darling instead of established stars; if it’s a choice between trading a pick for Antti Raanta or giving up a big package for Schneider, teams might decide to gamble on the cheaper option.

And yet…: If there was a good young team that looked like it was one top goaltender away from contending right now, there could be a fit for a blockbuster here. And as it happens, there does seem to be a team like that out there.

[snippet id=3317575]

John Tavares, Islanders

Why a trade could happen: Tavares has one year left on his deal, meaning he could sign an extension as early as July 1. Does he want to commit to the Islanders for the long term? He might — this has been his only NHL home, after all. But after yet another playoff miss and with questions looming about the team’s future home, it’s possible Tavares would rather go elsewhere, or at least make it to free agency to hear what other teams might offer. If so, the Islanders wouldn’t want to risk losing him for nothing.

Why it’s extremely unlikely: Repeat after me: Superstar players don’t make it to free agency. Sure, Steven Stamkos technically made it to the window period to talk to other teams, but he quickly re-signed with the Lightning. And everyone else ends up signing long-term deals with their teams.

Tavares is a guy that any team in the league would want to bid for. That’s what makes all this feel like wishful thinking from places like Toronto and Montreal, and the sort of story we’ll all feel a little silly about discussing when Tavares inks a new deal on July 1.

And yet…: According to reports, the Islanders would consider moving Tavares if they didn’t feel like they were making progress towards an extension. That’s a big “if,” but it’s worth keeping an eye one.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Canucks

Why a trade could happen: The Canucks seem to have finally embraced reality and accepted that they need to rebuild. After a season that saw them finish 29th, it would have been nice to get some lottery luck and a high pick. That didn’t happen. So instead, why not pull the trigger on a trade involving the one valuable veteran asset – OK, technically two assets — the team still has? Remember, the twins’ contracts expire after this season, so it may be now or never to get a trade done.

Why it almost certainly won’t: Both twins have NMCs, and there’s been no indication they have any interest in waiving them. The team has repeatedly said that they want the Sedins to retire having played their whole career as Canucks. And they carry a combined cap hit of $14 million, meaning there may not even be any teams in the league that could afford them.

And yet…: If Jim Benning could find a way to pull it off and get something decent in return, it would be impressive. If he could also sell it to the fans, it might be a miracle.

Corey Perry, Ducks

Why a trade could happen: When the Ducks were eliminated by the Predators in 2016, GM Bob Murray took aim at his veteran core, saying they “have to be held accountable”. After the team lost to Nashville yet again this year, albeit a round later, you wonder if Murray is running out of patience.

If so, Perry would be a good candidate to be moved. He’s got four years left on a big-ticket deal, and is coming off his least productive season in years. If Murray could find a way to move him, wouldn’t he have to seriously consider it?

To make matters worse, the Ducks are one of the teams facing an expansion draft crunch. Murray already has to figure out a way to move a defenceman, and the NMC trio of Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler means the Ducks could lose one of Jakob Silfverberg or Richard Rakell. Unless, of course, Murray could find a way to move one of those three veterans.

Why it’s silly to even suggest it: Murray’s not going to be able to find a way to move him. Perry has that NMC, but he may not need it – an $8.6-million cap hit for a 19-goal scorer pretty much screams “no movement.” Sure, the Ducks could take back a bad deal or retain salary, but it’s hard to imagine a team wanting to gamble on a 32-year-old who’s showing signs of a decline.

As mentioned, Murray has his hands full with the expansion draft and other off-season questions. Chasing down a trade that has virtually no chance of happening doesn’t seem like the best use of his time right now.

And yet…: Phil Kessel was an $8-million player coming off a bad season when he was traded in 2015, and that’s worked out pretty well for both teams involved.

[snippet ID=3322139]

Drew Doughty, Kings

Why a trade could happen: Along with Erik Karlsson, Doughty might be the only defenceman in the league for whom a trade would be more jaw-dropping than Weber or Subban. But while Karlsson’s playoff run has probably moved him into true untouchable status, Doughty’s situation is at least slightly less secure.

The Kings have won just one playoff game in three years, and they just cleaned house at coach and GM. Doughty will need an extension next summer, and the Kings are already facing a cap crunch. If new management was ever going to make a monster move to start fresh by adding a ton of future assets, this would be their chance.

Why it absolutely positively definitely won’t: He’s Drew Doughty. New GMs don’t typically show up and get to work on trading away their team’s most popular player. And if anyone would understand the important of a two-way defenceman, it would be Rob Blake.

And yet…: Weber. Subban. You can never really say never, right?

Carey Price, Canadiens

Why a trade could happen: Price has just one year left on his contract, meaning he can sign an extension as soon as July 1. That won’t come cheap; you’d assume the 2015 MVP will become the league’s highest-paid goalie on a max-length deal. Most teams would have to at least think about their options before making that sort of commitment to a guy who’s about to turn 30. That has at least some folks in Montreal thinking the unthinkable.

On top of that, the Canadiens desperately need a legitimate No. 1 centre, but those guys are almost never traded. Well, here’s one way to get one.

Why it absolutely never would and the author is a scurrilous cretin for even suggesting it: Marc Bergevin has spent the last few months getting carved up by furious Canadiens fans who’ve watched Subban lead the Predators to the Stanley Cup Final. The absolute last thing he’d want to do as an encore is to trade an even more popular superstar.

Mix in the fact that getting fair value for Price would seem just about impossible and that the goalie has a limited no-trade clause, and this one seems like it should be dead in the water.

And yet…: Bergevin has already made it absolutely clear that he won’t trade Price. Gosh, that sounds awfully familiar.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.