Sharp, Kessel highlight talent-heavy trade market

The Hockey Central at Noon crew gets a little giddy at the chance that we could see some serious movement within the first round of the NHL Draft, which kicks off on Friday, June 26th on Sportsnet.

The 48 hours prior to Day 2 of the National Hockey League’s Entry Draft has become the new trading deadline. If not more, certainly more meaningful trades are consummated on the day before the draft, than during the Friday night Round 1.

This year there are six clubs with two picks in the first round and six without, which makes some ready-made trade talk for teams like the Blackhawks and Rangers — cap-challenged clubs looking to recoup a first round pick.

So, before Gary Bettman steps up to the podium on Friday, we give you — in no particular order and from a variety of sources — 10-plus players who are on the trade market as we speak. And, of course, our opinions on them:

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T.J. Oshie/Patrik Berglund

We’ve all heard about how the Blues are ready to take one more run at it with head coach Ken Hitchcock, but with some slight alterations in their core group of players.

Here’s the deal: The Blues outwork everybody, but they’re not quick enough. They need some scoring from the centre ice position. Berglund is a 30-point centre who is available, and Oshie a winger who will score 60 points.

It’s time to make a big move in St. Louis. Oshie, and perhaps Berglund, will be used as bait for a big-time centreman.

Eddie Lack

Vancouver GM Jim Benning has decided to move Lack, and promote Jacob Markstrom from Utica to back up Ryan Miller for the next couple of seasons.

One source said that Benning sees Markstrom as a better goalie down the road, which may or may not be the case, but short-term, Lack is a UFA after next season who will bring back more in trade this week than Markstrom would.

Benning wants a second-round draft pick for Lack. He may find the GM who will bite on that. I have not found one yet.

Phil Kessel

When I suggested Kessel as a possible acquisition to one NHL executive this week, he replied. “God no.” Despite that, Kessel can be moved.

The crux of the deal won’t be the return for the 27-year-old; it will be how much salary Toronto is forced to retain to move Kessel. The erstwhile winger has seven years left with an AAV of $8 million — simply too much money to move entirely.

A team like Phoenix might need to get to the floor, but they could find two players with far less term (and baggage) than Kessel. We predict Kessel gets moved to a US-based club like a Florida or Arizona, where the media presence will allow Kessel to be Kessel, without the constant critiquing of his body type and off-ice habits.

Brandon Sutter

Pittsburgh is stale and needs some change. Sutter, a second line centre on an average team, has an AAV of $3.3 million this season as a third-line centre in Pittsburgh, but is a UFA next summer.

As always, the Penguins need scoring wingers for Crosby and Malkin — and no, we are hearing Penguins don’t wish to insert Kessel into that spot.

How about RW Jiri Hudler in Calgary? We’d bet Flames GM Brad Treliving would put Sutter behind Sean Monahan up the middle, with Michael Backlund at No. 3. Both are UFA’s after next season, though Sutter is five years younger. Throw in a 2nd round draft pick going Pittsburgh’s way and that’s a deal that Calgary may favour.

Jiri Hudler

OK, we’ll say it. Hudler was great all season long, but was invisible for the entire playoff run. He had a four-point night in the clincher versus Vancouver, yes, but had points in just three of 11 games.

He’s a year away from unrestricted free agency, and in his quest to get bigger up front we think Treliving would move Hudler for something younger and bigger in a heartbeat.

Kyle Okposo

When a team like the Islanders is shopping a 27-year-old, 50-60 point player like Kyle Okposo, you always wonder why. Well, he’ll be a UFA after next season, and it’s clear Isles GM Garth Snow has decided he’s not worth a big raise and a four- or five-year term.

So, why would another GM want to give up fair value for Okposo, and have to face the UFA music after one season? Well, usually the first trade makes for a better player. Okposo could be a nice fit in Pittsburgh, but that’s not going to happen.

Look West for this trade. Maybe Vancouver? How about Kevin Bieksa and Zack Kassian to Brooklyn?

Cam Talbot

The New York Rangers backup will be moved, maybe by the time you read this piece.

Edmonton is first in line, but let’s face it: Peter Chiarelli isn’t giving up the No. 16 overall pick for Talbot, unless he can forge a deal that brings a defenceman to Edmonton as well. Forget the Flames and Talbot — this is a game of chicken between Edmonton and Buffalo. Buffalo has picks at No. 21 and 31, and Edmonton would deal No. 33 right now for Talbot.

Rangers GM Glen Sather would rather not trade Talbot in State, and remember, Talbot is a UFA after next season. It’s a pick ‘em.

Patrick Sharp/Bryan Bickell

Look, Chicago simply HAS to move some money with the Kane and Toews extensions kicking in. Problem is, if you can’t take any back you’re limited to dealing with the floor teams like Arizona and Nashville. And the Predators and Blackhawks aren’t in the business of helping each other.

Sharp is a good player, still relatively productive at age 33. Bickell fell off a cliff after signing a big deal — a bad sign. Either way, we predict Florida gets one of them for a song. Because all ex-Hawks end up in Florida, don’t they? Or perhaps Montreal takes on Bickell in their quest to add size. Just a thought.

Nicklas Grossman

Here’s a 30-year-old defenceman with one year left before going UFA, who could be a steadying force if paired with a young player like Morgan Rielly or Justin Schultz, the way Francois Beauchemin has helped along players like Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm.

Yes, Beauchemin is better, but we’ve always thought of Grossman as Mattias Norstrom Light — an excellent, trustworthy defender who makes your team more confident. How about Toronto or Edmonton?

Robin Lehner/Craig Anderson

Ottawa has to deal one of these guys. Anderson is the surer thing, but more expensive. There are some GMs however, who believe Lehner could blossom into a much better goalie.

Sadly for the Sens, the goalie scene is flooded. It’s a buyer’s market, so there is no impact player coming back for either of these two.

Jeff Skinner

Yes, the former Calder winner is on the block. Scouts say he’s not the same player, post-concussions, as he was before, and that’s just sad. If that feeling prevails however, GM Ron Francis will have a hard time getting value for a player who had less than half the points last season (31 in 77 games) than he had as a rookie in 2010-11 (63 in 82 games).

I bet GM David Poile would take a chance on him in Nashville. Just a hunch.

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