Nine NHL trade candidates to watch in 2017-18

New York Islanders’ rookie Josh Ho-Sang weighs in on the John Tavares 2018 free agency decision, and the acquisition of Jordan Eberle.

Trades! They’re the most fun part of the NHL from a fantasy perspective and a test to figure out who could move, what they could move for, and who benefits most from any change of scenery.

While we might not see any big moves between now and the start of the season (although it’s not inconceivable!) there are more than enough impactful players who could find themselves in a different place by the trade deadline.

A couple of these names were candidates to get moved last year, and one of those in particular is a constant presence in rumour mills. We’re looking forward to some potential roster shake-ups with our 10 trade candidates to keep an eye on this season.

MATT DUCHENE, COLORADO AVALANCHE
He topped most trade candidate lists at last season’s trade deadline and nothing has changed for Duchene, who is Colorado’s top available asset it hopes to get a good chunk for in return.

The rumours have been stoked by both player and team. Joe Sakic had this to say about the possibility to the Denver Post on Aug. 17: “I will be listening to offers. Right now it’s quiet on all fronts. But I’ll listen to offers on how we can get better. I’ll never name names, but I’ll sit there and if something makes sense for the way we want to go, with our team, we’ll really look at that.”

Meanwhile, Duchene wasn’t in attendance when his Avalanche teammates started a pre-training camp last week. The only other player not to attend was Nathan MacKinnon, who was in New York for the NHL’s media tour.

Maybe that absence isn’t a big deal since it was optional and he had just attended a wedding. But it is worth noting.

Sakic’s reported ask for a return in a Duchene trade has been something along the lines of a first-round pick, a former first-rounder and a couple more young assets. Defence is definitely an area of need for Colorado, so if Duchene is moved you’d have to imagine they’d get someone who can play a big role on the blue line in return.

Boomer in the Morning
Elliotte Friedman returns to Boomer and Warrener
September 08 2017

The problem here is that for such a big ask, the 26-year-old Duchene isn’t the most controllable or convincing asset. He will make $6 million against the cap for this season and next before becoming UFA eligible so there’s a chance he could leave whichever team he’s on. And while he’s a big piece for the Avs, Duchene hasn’t reached 60 points in three years and dipped all the way to 41 in 2016-17.

We think Duchene is more than a 41-point player, but it’s hard to pin down just what he would bring since his scoring has been all over the map during his career. After whiffing on the Ryan O’Reilly trade a few years ago, Colorado can’t lose the Duchene trade, too.

Potential Destinations: Columbus, NY Islanders, Montreal, Boston, Nashville, Pittsburgh

JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK, TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Another player some thought might possibly get moved by last season’s deadline, van Riemsdyk is the most obvious player Lou Lamoriello could use to get a defenceman.

At 28 years old, JVR regularly approaches the 30-goal mark and would be a great addition to any team in need of more scoring punch on the wing. His controllability is even less than Duchene’s, though, as van Riemsdyk is about to enter the last season of his contract before becoming a UFA.

By bringing in Patrick Marleau, Toronto has a speedy two-way veteran to fill in for an absent JVR and the Leafs’ depth at forward and especially wing is well known, with some notable youngsters still likely to end up in the AHL. Because of that, it’s hard to see how the team could afford him on a re-sign, which could be upwards of $6 million per.

Toronto’s biggest need is on the blue line, although van Riemsdyk alone will not be enough to get the elusive No. 1 defenceman Toronto could use. If they don’t package van Riemsdyk as part of a much bigger deal, the outlook for a return on a defenceman could be more of a second-pair guy.

Potential destinations: Carolina, Calgary, Florida, Columbus, Anaheim

JONATHAN MARCHESSAULT/JAMES NEAL, VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
The Golden Knights passed up on some expansion draft picks that could have helped them right away in lieu of acquiring assets to build towards a brighter, steadier future. So don’t expect them to re-sign either Marchessault or Neal and instead ship them off for picks and prospects.

Both are pending unrestricted free agents so their values take a hit in any deal. But with that said, both could be valuable scoring assets that a team with Stanley Cup hopes would go all-in for.

In Neal, you mostly know what you have: a $5-million player who could reach 30 goals and has 40-goal upside (although he hasn’t done it in six years). Marchessault, though, is a really interesting piece.

Last year was his big breakout with 30 goals and he makes just $750,000 against the cap for one of the best bargains in the league. But since he’s only done it once, we need to see what he does to back it up in a worse situation with the expansion lineup in Vegas. He’s in a contract year, too, so this season will define Marchessault’s value as a player.

Potential destinations: Pittsburgh, Calgary, Carolina, Montreal, NY Islanders, Boston

Ryan Dixon and Rory Boylen go deep on pucks with a mix of facts and fun, leaning on a varied group of hockey voices to give their take on the country’s most beloved game.

THOMAS VANEK, VANCOUVER CANUCKS
On a one-year, $2-million deal with the Canucks, no one is expecting Vanek to be on the roster after this year’s trade deadline.

For now, he’ll add veteran presence to the roster and scoring upside that will at least be a good example for any kids in the lineup, and at most gets the Canucks to the mushy middle.

There’s a chance Vanek fits in on the wing with the Sedins, and if that helps out his production at all it might also raise his trade value to a degree. At last year’s deadline, Detroit traded Vanek to the Panthers for Dylan Mcilrath and a conditional third-rounder, so the return on this inevitable trade won’t be huge, but it should be a couple of lottery tickets.

Potential destinations: NY Islanders, Ottawa, Montreal, Buffalo — as long as they’re in the playoff race

JASON DEMERS, FLORIDA PANTHERS
The defence market is always interesting because, well, everyone is always searching for them.

As the Panthers move back into their second Dale Tallon era the team has already experienced some significant changes. Jaromir Jagr won’t be re-signed. Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith are in Vegas. And rumours were they also tried to trade Demers.

When the defenceman was asked by Sportsnet’s Luke Fox about the report that Demers nixed a trade to the Vancouver Canucks, he didn’t deny it. Averaging 19:36 on Florida last season as a second-pair guy, Demers is 29 and signed for the next four years so he’s under control and in his prime.

The curveball is that he has a modified no-trade clause in which, according to capfriendly.com, he provides the Panthers a list of eight teams to which he won’t accept a trade. It seems Vancouver is on that list and although we’ll include Colorado in our “potential destinations” it’s highly possible it’s on there, too.

Potential destinations: Colorado, Detroit, Montreal, New Jersey, Dallas

JACOB TROUBA, WINNIPEG JETS
Last year, Jacob Trouba was without a contract and arbitration rights and asked for a trade out of Winnipeg. He later signed a contract in November and reported back to the team.

But although his request out of town has since been rescinded, the fact he’s on the last year of his contract opens up the possibility that he’ll move again. In a perfect world, the Jets would probably like to keep him around for the long term and be part of the hopeful eventual rise of this young core. But if the next contract is going to be a battle as well, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff may have to explore other avenues.

If Trouba was available, teams would be lining up to get him. There are all sorts of suitors for a 23-year-old defenceman who logged big minutes (24:57) and career-high totals (33 points) last season. The trouble is that the Jets may need a defenceman in return. Winnipeg has a number of young forwards that project to be big pieces of the team over the long haul, but fewer defencemen to choose from.

Potential destinations: Toronto, Montreal, Detroit, New Jersey, Dallas, Vancouver

A CAROLINA DEFENCEMAN
Speaking of teams looking to take the next step, the Carolina Hurricanes made some off-season moves to put them on that path. From Scott Darling for the net to Justin Williams as the veteran scorer, the Canes are a team many are expecting will be a tough customer in the years to come. Just maybe not this coming season.

If it’s possible to have too many defencemen, this team could be it. What they boast in young talent on the blue line, though, they lack in firepower and depth up front. If Carolina had one or two more significant scorers that would probably punch their playoff ticket.

To get that, we figure eventually one of the young defenders will be gone via trade. The question is, which one? Over the past six years Justin Faulk has grown as an underrated but steady defenceman who has scored more than 15 goals three years in a row now. He averaged just over 23 minutes a night last season and, at $4.8 million for the next three years, he’s affordable and fairly controllable.

Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce are two other solid blueliners, but they seem less likely to go since the Canes just signed both of them to long-term extensions that don’t kick in until next season. Noah Hanifin, the fifth-overall pick in 2015, has quietly flown under the radar, but is still an exciting player and a left shot. He is entering the last year of his entry-level contract. So by this time next season, all four of these players will be making significant dollars and the bonus of sub-$1 million contracts will be gone. It may be getting close to the time where GM Ron Francis has to pick which three he wants to move on with, and which one he dangles for the big forward addition he needs.

Potential Destinations: Toronto, Colorado, Winnipeg, Dallas, Boston, Montreal

JOHN TAVARES, NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Here’s the big one. And we’re not saying Tavares will be traded, or should be traded or is even likely to be traded, but just as Steven Stamkos was two years ago, the longer Tavares goes unsigned, the greater chances the team decides to recoup whatever assets it can get.

Aside from needing to make a push for the playoffs, the Islanders also have to get their arena situation figured out, which could be a factor in Tavares’ decision.

“Things are a lot more complicated than (people) think,” Tavares told Brian Compton of NHL.com. “I think everyone’s situation is different, everyone’s circumstances are different, but you look at some of the situations with guys in similar situations that I’m in, it doesn’t always happen the first day or that first month. It takes time.

“It’s a big decision in your life and you want to make sure you’re thorough and you understand everything going forward, so I think anybody making any decision like this in life would approach it the same way.”

If the Islanders do move Tavares, the return would have to be huge. His expiring contract and massive extension to follow would be factors as any acquiring team would like some kind of assurance that he’d at least be interested in sticking around. That team would also be able to offer eight years on an extension, one more than anyone else.

Make no mistake: this one is a long shot. Every time we come up on a star player with an expiring contract and contemplate the trade fall out, they almost always sign and stay. But it’s a situation worth watching this season. You have to wonder if we get to the trade deadline and Tavares isn’t yet locked up if GM Garth Snow would risk heading towards the deadline with nothing to show for his best player.

Potential destinations: Montreal, St. Louis, San Jose, Calgary… let’s be honest: anywhere.

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.