If and when the NHL season resumes, it’ll be like Christmas morning. The past two-plus months have been a challenge and a grind for many reasons beyond sports, so it will be a relief and a welcome escape when sports are able to safely return.
Not just for the on-ice action either, of course — but for all the trade talk and armchair GMing we can do. Because don’t forget, the off-season won’t be too far away whenever the league does return.
In fact, it’s still possible we’ll see an NHL Draft before the conclusion of the season, which would be weird in a lot of ways, including how that would impact trades. Some teams that may have wanted to be active in changing their look at the draft now won’t be inclined to do so if there are still games ahead.
Even if those types of trades don’t happen at the draft, they’ll still eventually come to fruition. However the schedule comes together for the next few months, there will be teams dealing with cap crunches, and teams that just don’t want to start a 2020-21 season with the same roster.
So today, we’re trying to identify one trade candidate for every team in the off-season… whenever that may be. For our purposes, we’re not including pending UFAs, whose rights could still be moved after the conclusion of a season.
Anaheim Ducks: Adam Henrique
Signed through 2023-24 at an AAV just shy of $6 million, Henrique has been a consistent producer for years in the NHL. But the Ducks are at a crossroads, still designed to win but clearly in need of a re-tool of some sort. Anaheim has been strong at the draft so help is on the way, but if GM Bob Murray needs to make room or shave salary, Henrique, a centre, would be of interest to various teams.
Arizona Coyotes: Derek Stepan
After trading for pending UFA Taylor Hall this season, the Coyotes still have a desire to sign him to a new contract and keep him around for a while. But with an uncertain salary cap Arizona could quickly find itself in a financial bind. Clayton Keller will begin a new contract that counts for $7.15 million against the cap next season, Christian Fischer and Vinnie Hinostroza need raises, and after next season nearly the entire defence corps is up for contract renewals. GM John Chayka could try and move Derek Stepan, who is overpriced in a third-line role, but it may take salary retention or another quality asset to get it done.
Boston Bruins: Nick Ritchie
The Bruins are not in a bad cap situation, even if they re-sign Tory Krug to a multi-year deal. It’s manageable for now. But after next season both goalies will be due new deals, as will Brandon Carlo, Ondrej Kase (who Boston just dealt a first-round pick for) and Ritchie. The 24-year-old hasn’t lived up to his 10th-overall-pick status and even though Boston also just acquired Ritchie, it may turn out he doesn’t fit with the team for too long.
Buffalo Sabres: Rasmus Ristolainen
Ristolainen is in the rumour mill just about every year and this year is no different. With the Sabres struggling to take a step up again, something has to give here and Ristolainen is maybe the type of player who could bring back a return that would help the team. The Sabres have a ton of contracts up after this season, so whenever the off-season hits, there will be an opportunity to give the roster a new look.
Calgary Flames: Johnny Gaudreau
It was believed that if the Flames disappointed in the playoffs again in 2020, GM Brad Treliving may do something big to change up the core of the team. Gaudreau’s name was at the top of the list alongside Sean Monahan — and if there was a time to entertain a Gaudreau trade it would be this off-season, since an acquiring team would be picking up two contract years before he becomes a UFA. Treliving has never been shy of the big trade either. But the fact this season was interrupted could change all of that. We’ll see.
Carolina Hurricanes: Jake Gardiner
How is it that the Hurricanes are seemingly always in the market to trade defencemen? Gardiner can submit a seven-team no trade list, but that still would leave the Canes with a number of potential suitors. The 29-year-old Gardiner had a diminished role on the Hurricanes compared to what he had in Toronto, but he can still be an effective offensive defenceman and has a $4.05-million cap hit that is manageable. The Hurricanes are so deep at the position, with more help on the way, that Gardiner could be expendable.
Chicago Blackhawks: Brandon Saad
There was a bit of buzz that Saad was available at the most recent trade deadline, so don’t be surprised if his name pops up again in the off-season. He’ll have one year left on his contract with a $6-million cap hit when the 2020-21 season starts up, and the Hawks could try and flip him for a future asset or two.
Colorado Avalanche: First-round pick
Maybe a bit of a cop out here by suggesting a draft pick instead of a player, but the Avs could be in a relatively favourable position. They have a number of contracts to sign, sure, but are well under the cap, even if it stays flat. If other teams are struggling with personnel, there could be some enticing players available who the Avs could try and add to boost their contender status even more.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Josh Anderson
It was a difficult season for Anderson, who played just 26 games and scored only once after notching 27 a year ago. But he’s big (six-foot-three, 222 pounds), in his prime years, and has proven his ability as a goal scorer. He’s making less than $2 million right now, but this up-and-down two years will make for a tricky salary arbitration process. He was mentioned in rumours at the 2020 trade deadline, making him a prime candidate to move in the off-season now.
Dallas Stars: First-round pick
The Stars’ cap situation isn’t as good as Colorado’s, but it’s not bad either with $62 million committed to next season. Denis Gurianov, Roope Hintz and Radek Faksa are all RFAs and a decision needs to be made on tandem goalie Anton Khudobin, but all together Dallas should maintain some wiggle room. It’s hard to pick out a player they’d trade away because the team was assembled with a clear intention to win now, so shedding is probably not an option. The Stars have used a first-round pick every year since 2008, so it could be time to move out of the round to add another player for the current squad.
Detroit Red Wings: Anthony Mantha
We’ll say that it’s probably not likely Mantha gets moved — after all, he’s in his prime, will be 26 next season, and Detroit still needs players to score if they’re going to emerge out of this rebuild any time soon. But Mantha could also bring a haul of futures back to the Red Wings if they decide to do that rather than re-sign him to a big-money contract this off-season. He’s still an RFA, but the Wings would likely be buying up some UFA years as well, which would bring up the price.
“It will be complicated, I think,” Mantha said to the Detroit News about his upcoming contract negotiations. “But it’s not in my power. My power is to play hockey. My agent and Stevie are going to talk, maybe they’ve started. I don’t even know.
“It’s hard to base right now. I played 40 games this year. I missed so many games, so it’s hard to go for the extension before the end of the year. We’ll see in the off-season.”
Edmonton Oilers: Jesse Puljujarvi
Until GM Ken Holland moves Puljujarvi, he will remain the top trade candidate in Edmonton. The 2016 fourth-overall pick and his agent have made it clear that the 22-year-old wants a fresh start elsewhere and after finishing fourth in Finnish Liiga scoring this season — perhaps another team will finally move on him.
Florida Panthers: Michael Matheson
Easily the most disappointing team of 2019-20, the Florida Panthers will want to make some changes in the off-season. There could be room for some young forwards to move into the lineup, such as Owen Tippett or recently-signed Grigori Denisenko, as pending UFAs Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov remain without contracts. Sergei Bobrovsky was the story of what went wrong in Florida this season, but the defence shouldn’t escape blame here. It was porous and a weakness, too, so expect some sort of turnover there. Matheson is 26, signed through 2025-26, and doesn’t have any trade protection.
Los Angeles: Jeff Carter
Another player who was rumoured as a possibility to get moved at the deadline, Carter doesn’t have any trade protection and as the Kings try to get younger and faster he’s less a fit there now. Carter hasn’t scored even 20 goals since 2016-17, but if Los Angeles were to retain some salary there would probably be interest in taking a shot on a declining goal-scorer who could find some level of new life within a more dynamic offence.
Minnesota Wild: Matt Dumba
It’s Dumba or it’s Jonas Brodin. Both were part of trade deadline rumours, but it was always more likely one would get moved in the off-season instead, when teams can go over the cap and have generally more room to maneuver. The thing is, the Wild were actually playing good hockey before the pause, so will that give GM Bill Guerin a reason to keep this squad together? The Wild have been spinning their wheels for a while, so it would seem some change is necessary.
Montreal Canadiens: Max Domi
An RFA this off-season, Domi’s production dipped dramatically this season, which could complicate arbitration. But he’s still a valuable young centre who would draw attention around the league. So, why would the Habs even entertain this deal? Well, Nick Suzuki could soon push for the 2C role, while Jesperi Kotkaniemi is also likely to return to the NHL soon. Ryan Poehling is a centre for the future as well — the fact is Montreal has a number of promising forwards on the way up. It may be hard for a GM on the hot seat to trade a player like Domi ahead of a season he needs to get this team back to the playoffs, but asset management could be a factor that makes it palatable to move the 25-year-old Domi.
Nashville Predators: Kyle Turris
The Predators will do something after such a disappointing season and if there’s a taker for Turris, the Preds would gladly move on from his long-term $6-million cap hit. Of course, that contract also means it’ll be hard to deal him and may require salary retention, or another asset being included. It’s unlikely the Preds would move one of their cornerstone defencemen, or a forward at the same pay level as Turris.
New Jersey Devils: Pavel Zacha
This could all depend on what the Devils do at the NHL Draft. Currently in the sixth spot, if the Devils were to end up with Marco Rossi or Cole Perfetti, it could make Zacha expendable. It would be hard to move on from a 23-year-old centre for sure, but the team also can’t be tied down to the fact that he was a sixth-overall pick for too much longer. If a trade makes sense to add to their prospect base, and if the team drafts another forward this year, a Zacha move should be explored.
NY Islanders: Johnny Boychuk
The 36-year-old has certainly lost a step and his role on the team is in decline, so his $6-million cap hit is becoming an issue on a capped-out team. He’ll have two more years left on his deal when next season starts. He wouldn’t bring back a lot, but the Islanders have $71 million committed to next year’s roster before Mathew Barzal has signed. They need to find a way to reduce payroll.
NY Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist
If this happens — and that’s a big if — Lundqvist would be in complete control. First, he has a full no-move clause so he gets to sign off on anything, but also the Rangers organization won’t want this to end badly. However, the fact remains that Igor Shesterkin looked the part of a starting goalie when he joined the team mid-way through 2019-20 and Alexandar Georgiev is an affordable, capable, and young backup for him. Can the Rangers really go into next season with three goalies? It makes little sense to move Georgiev a year before Lundqvist likely enters retirement anyway.
Ottawa Senators: Anthony Duclair
You have to wonder what Duclair really is as an NHL player after this season. On one hand, he scored 23 goals in 66 games, up from 19 and 11 goals the past two seasons. On the other, he scored only two of those goals after Jan. 1. Duclair is up for salary arbitration, where he’ll get a raise, but you have to wonder if this is a sell high opportunity for the Sens just as a number of young forwards on their AHL team could make a push for the NHL roster.
Philadelphia Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere
Gostisbehere scored 17 goals as an NHL rookie four years ago, but he hasn’t approached that since and his 2019-20 was especially disappointing, with just 12 points in 42 games. Gostisbehere was essentially a third-pair blueliner this season making $4.5 million. He should be a top-four guy, though, and he’s been in the rumour mill recently as well, so don’t be shocked to hear him pop up again in the off-season.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Tristan Jarry/Matt Murray
The Penguins have an interesting situation in goal. Matt Murray is the Cup winner, but Tristan Jarry was the better performer of the two this season. They’re both 25 and they’re both RFAs this off-season. Meantime, 28-year-old Casey DeSmith spent this season in the AHL, following a strong 36-game NHL performance in 2018-19 where he posted a .916 save percentage and earned a three-year contract.
“Well, I’ll say this: If we are going to keep both of them, we’d have to move a few things around on our team,” Penguins GM Jim Rutherford told The Athletic recently. “There is a way to do things and to make that work, yes. There are some very, very tough decisions ahead.”
San Jose Sharks: Martin Jones
This feels more like a ‘This player doesn’t fit my team anymore but someone else will trade for him’ kind of candidate, more than a likely thing to happen. The fact is San Jose’s goaltending has not been good enough for a couple years now and they need to find a way to upgrade. They’d almost certainly have to retain some of Jones’ $5.75-million salary because he’s no more than a tandem option elsewhere. The Sharks should be looking to target one of the UFA goalies in the off-season to improve here.
St. Louis Blues: Tyler Bozak
The Blues are a solid, well-built team and there are no great candidates to move here. But consider this: St. Louis has about $79.5 million committed to next year’s roster before signing pending UFA and captain Alex Pietrangelo. If he stays, someone will need to move to clear space. That could be 36-year-old Alex Steen or 27-year-old Jaden Schwartz, who will both be entering the final year of their deals in 2020-21, but they both play much more significant roles than Bozak, whose $5-million hit is a lot for his bottom-six role. He’s also a year away from contract expiration, though, so a team in need of a third-line centre could pursue him.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Alex Killorn
The Lightning has $76 million towards next year’s roster already, before Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev get new deals. There are a number of forwards with no-trade clauses on this team, including Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson, who would all be candidates to go if they didn’t have that protection. But, as of July 1, 2020 Killorn moves from a full no-trade to a partial one, where he can submit a list of 16 teams to which he wouldn’t accept a trade. Tampa Bay would still have about half the league with which to try and work out a trade to move Killorn’s $4.45 million.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Alexander Kerfoot
The Nazem Kadri trade just didn’t work out for the Leafs and they’re likely to let Tyson Barrie walk to UFA. That would leave only Kerfoot behind from the trade, but even he could be a candidate to move on in the off-season. Toronto is facing a cap crunch so there are a few possibilities — and, no, we’re not including William Nylander here. Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen would join Kerfoot among the forwards, and there is some question as to whether Travis Dermott could be added on to the pile after the Mikko Lehtonen signing.
Vancouver Canucks: Olli Juolevi
It’s not that the Canucks would be looking to trade Juolevi — on the contrary, if he could make it to the team next season and be effective the team would be over the moon. But look at this D-core: Alex Edler and Tyler Myers have no-move clauses. Quinn Hughes is the star. Troy Stecher is an RFA still under control. If pending UFA Chris Tanev re-signs, that’s five spots taken up already, and Jordie Benn is under contract for another season. Juolevi has a contract that runs through next season, so there’s no need to panic into a trade, but if he can’t crack next year’s roster at age 22, you have to wonder if the team uses him to upgrade the roster as it tries to rise to another level.
Vegas Golden Knights: Marc-Andre Fleury
Alright, of the few true long shots to be moved on this list, Fleury is the least likely to occur. But that deadline acquisition of Robin Lehner sure was interesting. Lehner was always pretty good in Buffalo, great for a year with the Islanders, and terrific again even behind Chicago’s porous defence. He’s also only 28, whereas Fleury will turn 36 in November. So, maybe it’s not crazy to think Lehner could start to take over here. He’s a pending UFA, so he’d need to be inked to a new contract, which wouldn’t be cheap, and that would mean the Knights would have to shed some salary. Is it more likely they trade a top-six forward that was here from the start, or the original face of the franchise? Fleury still has two years left on his contract, but his numbers have been in decline for two years and you have to worry about what comes next if you’re trying to contend.
Washington Capitals: Nick Jensen
For a contending team the Capitals aren’t in a terrible cap situation just yet (although next summer’s negotiations with Alex Ovechkin will be interesting). If the Caps re-sign pending UFA Braden Holtby, however, then they may start to feel a pinch right away. If the Caps have to shed some salary it’s most likely to come off the back end and be between Jensen and Michal Kempny, who hasn’t been quite as impactful as he was during the 2018 Cup run.
Winnipeg Jets: Jack Roslovic
GM Kevin Cheveldayoff doesn’t make a lot of trade off his roster, but with the way some contracts are developing in Winnipeg, he may soon have to. The Jets don’t have any huge names in need of new deals, but just have a lot of expiring contracts from Cody Eakin to Sami Niku, Mason Appleton and more. And they would like to upgrade their blue line somehow. We could identify Bryan Little or Mathieu Perreault as trade candidates, but their cap hits could complicate things. Roslovic, however, is an RFA this off-season and he’s previously aired a frustration over how he was used in the Jets’ lineup. It’s going to remain difficult for him to permanently crack the top-six here, but he’s young and full of potential, so perhaps Cheveldayoff can swap him for a greater roster need on the blue line.