As we lick our chops, scroll through rumours, and anxiously await a flurry of trades within the next 18 days, we decided to take a look at the players least likely to be moved, be it due to their cumbersome contract, low trade value, or both.
In our NHL Power Rankings: Most Untradeable Players Edition, we examine the 31 guys who should feel pretty safe not packing a suitcase.
Per tradition, all 31 teams are ranked in descending order according to their current level of awesomeness.
This week’s write-ups tackle the anchors, as we single out the most difficult contract to trade on each club’s roster. (A tip of the cap to the essential CapFriendly.com for the bookkeeping.)
Tampa has famously done an excellent job of extending its core players at reasonable rates (tax-free state!), so it would be difficult to single out a bad deal in the bunch. We do wonder, however, how the $47.25-million Ryan McDonagh deal — which carries another six years and a no-trade clause — will look when the defenceman is 36.
We’re not big fans of giving big term to bottom-six wingers. Richard Panik, 28, and Carl Hagelin, 31, are fine role players, but they’re on the books through 2022-23 and could get surpassed by up-and-comers as age catches up with them.
A cap casualty of 2016, the Great Summer of Overpay, David Backes cleared waivers last month and may have played his final NHL game. Still, he’s due another year of paycheques after this one on his juicy $30-million contract.
It’s difficult to win a Stanley Cup after signing a bunch of bad deals. (Those usually occur after the parade, when a GM’s mind state lies somewhere between loyal and delirious.) Sure, 35-year-old Alex Steen is no longer worth his $5.75-million cap hit (through 2020-21), but the Blues will tell you his leadership is priceless.
Patric Hornqvist is a winner with edge, but at age 36 (in 2022-23) he’ll still be raking $5.3 million in salary and could be a strain on the Penguins’ budget.
Owners of the biggest steal in the biz — Nathan MacKinnon’s prime for a $6.3-million cap hit — Colorado’s cash-conscious approach has resulted in way more overachievers than underachievers, monetarily speaking. Maybe Erik Johnson’s contract ($6-million cap hit through 2022-23, modified no-trade clause) will start looking rough at the end, but the Avs’ CapFriendly.com page is a work of art.
Loui Eriksson ($6-million cap hit through 2021-22) is the Canucks’ oldest and most expensive player. He ranks 14th in club scoring.
Jarmo Kekalainen has made a lot of good decisions. Betting on centre Alexander Wennberg to the tune of $29.4 million the same summer he let William Karlsson walk to Vegas is not one of them. Wennberg scored two goals last season and is up to five this year. Age 25 might be a little early to tag a player as a bust, but he’s drastically overpaid.
Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau in their prime at $5.9 million apiece? Yes, please. Sergei Bobrovsky — or any goalie in the world — at a $10-million cap hit when he’s 37 years old? No, thanks.
10. Dallas Stars
We love us some Joe Pavelski. We don’t love the chances of another team wanting to pay the 35-year-old as much as he’s making in Dallas to score just 23 points in 53 games. That Pavelski’s actual salary jumps to $8 million in the final year of his deal (2021-22) suggests he probably won’t have to uproot his family again.
James van Riemsdyk ($7 million through 2022-23) is likely to see his goal total drop for a second-straight year. He’s on the books until he’s 34.
It would be difficult to say Nino Niederreiter is untradeable when he was dealt just a year ago, but the power forward is producing less than a half point per game and holds the worst plus/minus of all Hurricanes forwards, under-delivering on his $5.25-million salary.
Andrew Ladd ($5.5-million cap hit through 2022-23) played once for the Islanders this season and is a minus-11 through 34 games with AHL Bridgeport.
Kyle Dubas actually managed to move his most immovable objects, Patrick Marleau and Nikita Zaitsev, last summer (for a hefty price), leaving them anchor-free. While the Leafs are certainly not interested in dealing their captain, John Tavares’s signing-bonus-heavy, no-move-clause-featuring contract through 2025 (when he’ll be 34) is structured in a way that makes him nearly impossible to trade.
15. Edmonton Oilers
Even with James Neal returning to 20-goal form, the veteran has become more one-dimensional with age. Only 41 per cent of Neal’s points have come at even-strength. He is a team-worst and career-worst minus-21. Is he a more valuable player than Milan Lucic? No doubt. Would another club want him on the books for $5.75 million annually through 2023? No way.
Including playoffs, Marc-Andre Fleury has logged more than 900 NHL games. The Knights have no interest in moving the smiling face of their franchise, of course, but Fleury’s save percentage is tracking to be his lowest in a decade. How will he and Father Time be getting along in 2021-22, when he’ll be a 37-year-old with a $7-million cap hit?
17. Arizona Coyotes
Every few years Phil Kessel gets traded, but Arizona could well be his final stop. The Thrill has dramatically underwhelmed this season. Four even-strength goals by February for a man paid $8 million a year to fill the net — and a team-worst minus-21 rating for a defensively solid team — is simply not cutting it.
18. Calgary Flames
Bard Treliving has already bought out contracts for Troy Brouwer and Michael Stone. Is Milan Lucic next? We can’t see him keeping up with the league in 2023, when his monster deal is finally up.
As incredible a career Carey Price has had, no team wants to assume a $10.5-million cap hit for a goaltender from ages 32 to 38.
20. New York Rangers
The Rangers’ crowded crease issues could be solved by trading Henrik Lundqvist, but with the King holding a full no-move clause, we can’t see that happening.
What happens if Brent Seabrook comes off IR next fall and wants to play out the remaining four years on his contract at a $6.875-million hit? The lifelong Hawk also holds no-move protection.
Neither Ryan Johansen’s nor Matt Duchene’s contract features trade protection, but $8 million is first-line-centre money for second-line-centre production. Committing longterm, Nashville has to hope both forwards find another gear in their 30s.
23. Winnipeg Jets
If Winnipeg ever decides to move on from Mathieu Perreault, 32, and clear space for more youth, the team may have to eat some of his $4.125-million cap hit. Nice contributor, but it’s a hefty tab for a guy playing 13 minutes a night.
24. Minnesota Wild
In 2025, a 40-year-old Zach Parise will still be a $7.54-million cap hit on the Minnesota Wild.
25. Buffalo Sabres
Jeff Skinner spun one 40-goal year into generational money. At $9 million a pop through 2026-27, Skinner is making a pretty penny to rank seventh in club scoring. Granted, he’s battled injury and hasn’t seen as much time alongside Jack Eichel, but no one wants that much of their cap eaten by a player who can’t drive his own line.
26. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have had a better chance of winning this season when they start backup Aaron Dell over Martin Jones, their intended franchise goalie for the foreseeable future. What’s more frightening than Jones’s second consecutive sub-.900 season is that San Jose is tied to him for four more seasons beyond this one at a $5.75-million hit.
27. Anaheim Ducks
The contracts of Ryan Kesler and Patrick Eaves have been stuffed on injured reserve, so we’ll go with Ryan Getzlaf. Heckuva player, of course, but at this stage in his career he’s paid to be a No. 1 centre ($8.25 million) but can’t be a No. 1 centre on a team with Cup dreams. Getzlaf’s full no-move clause suggests the captain is staying put.
28. Ottawa Senators
Great news that Bobby Ryan has been cleared by the NHL Player Assistance Program and returned to practice. In a world where it’s possible to trade Ryan at his $7.25-million cap hit, Erik Karlsson probably becomes a Golden Knight at the 2018 trade deadline.
Jonathan Quick has surpassed Dustin Brown as the most difficult King to trade. For years he was the best American goalie in the sport. But for the second straight year, Quick’s save percentage is below .900 and his goals-against average is about 3.00. He’s on the payroll for three-and-a-half more seasons at $5.8 million per.
Cory Schneider has had a rough go. That the goalie still has two more seasons on his $6-million-per-year contract is only softened by that fact that the Devils don’t have cap issues. Schneider has played more AHL games than NHL ones this season, and his save percentage up in the bigs is .852.
Justin Abdelkader ($4.25-million cap hit through 2022-23) has zero goals and three assists all season.