Trade candidates you’ll hear about during the 2019-20 NHL season

NHL insider Eric Engels joined Ken Reid to discuss whether the Montreal Canadiens are looking to trade Jonathan Drouin and the expectations for Nick Suzuki.

After a summer that saw Phil Kessel, P.K. Subban, Jacob Trouba, Nazem Kadri, Tyson Barrie, J.T. Miller, James Neal, Milan Lucic, Andre Burakovsky and Justin Faulk all traded, plus a pre-season chock full of rumours and speculation, the 2019-20 campaign is shaping up to be a fascinating one when you look at possible trade chips heading into the season.

Most trades are likely to occur closer to the trade deadline, but last season there were a handful of notable deals made before the turn of the calendar. The same could ring true this season.

Below you’ll find some players whose names you could hear in trade rumours throughout the season.

Rasmus Ristolainen, D, Buffalo Sabres
The six-foot-four Finn arrived at training camp saying all the right things after a summer fraught with trade speculation. That he wouldn’t say whether or not he requested a trade in the off-season speaks volumes and places him on this list. After lucking into the other Rasmus (Dahlin) in 2018, acquiring right-handed blueliners Brandon Montour and Colin Miller in trades and flipping Alex Nylander for Henri Jokiharju, Ristolainen is now far more expendable than he was at the beginning of 2018-19.

The Sabres could end up moving nearly half their roster (they’ve got nine pending UFAs) if they struggle the way they did from late November on last season after a 17-6-2 start. Ristolainen is 24 with three years remaining on his $5.4-million AAV deal. He’s also a damn good blueliner, especially when he has the puck, who could slide into pretty much any team’s top-four seamlessly, so he would demand a significant return.

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Brayden Schenn, C/LW, St. Louis Blues
As we’ve seen with past Stanley Cup winners, the Blues won’t be able to retain all the talent they boast moving forward thanks to the salary cap. The team’s three most prominent pending UFAs are captain Alex Pietrangelo, veteran blueliner Jay Bouwmeester and Schenn. In theory, the 36-year-old Bouwmeester could hang them up after the season or the Blues could simply let him and his $3.35-million cap hit walk in free agency. GM Doug Armstrong’s top priority is to sign Pietrangelo, which would make it rather difficult to keep Schenn — especially considering pending RFAs Vince Dunn, Robby Fabbri and Samuel Blais will need new deals and that Armstrong recently acquired Justin Faulk and inked him to a big seven-year extension that kicks in next season. It would hurt losing a talent like Schenn, 28, without getting anything back in return, and in order to balance the budget he might be the easiest body to move.

Jonathan Drouin, LW, Montreal Canadiens
According to a recent report from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Canadiens are looking to move a forward and one Eastern Conference executive told Eric Engels that Drouin’s “name is definitely out there.”

Drouin was acquired by the Canadiens two years ago when they sent Mikhail Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 24-year-old matched his career high of 53 points in 81 games a season ago yet Drouin has yet to take his game to that next level and become an undeniable first-line talent. He also hasn’t blown people away during camp.

“He’s a skilled player, he has talent, he has a lot of attributes, and I know last year he had a tough finish,” Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said of the third-overall pick from 2013. “He had a good summer. Training camp is training camp. I mean he’s not the only one who’s not up to par right now.”

Bergevin isn’t shy about dealing prominent skaters either. Just ask Subban, Sergachev, Alex Galchenyuk, Andrew Shaw, Nathan Beaulieu, Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais, Lars Eller… you get the idea.

Kyle Turris, C/RW, Nashville Predators
If the Preds want to part ways with Turris and his remaining four years, they might have to make some concessions in the form of salary retention or tossing in a pick or prospect. Turris only has 20 goals and 65 points in 120 games with Nashville since being acquired from Ottawa. That’s not living up to his $6-million annual price tag. In an attempt to get him back on track, the team has played Turris at wing on a line with Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson frequently throughout camp.

“I played pretty good at Worlds,” Turris recently said. “Had a good summer. I can tell you it’s not lost. I know how I can play and how I need to play. Being on the wing is a new position I’m excited about.”

Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith are the more likely Predators to find themselves on the rental market.

Mike Hoffman, RW/LW, Florida Panthers
Coming off a career year, Hoffman has realistic 40-goal aspirations entering his second season in South Florida considering all the firepower the Panthers boast up front. However, like with so many pending UFAs, he fits the bill as an ideal rental player should the Panthers not feel great about their playoff chances early in 2020. The Panthers already have more than $64 million in cap commitments through 2021-22, so it won’t be easy to re-sign him long-term. Hoffman has a modified no-trade clause that limits the number of teams with whom the Panthers could potentially do business.

Jack Johnson, D, Pittsburgh Penguins
GM Jim Rutherford is not shy to make trades, so it’s possible he’ll try to move on from Johnson whom Rutherford signed to a puzzling five-year deal in free agency last summer. Even though his cap hit is just $3.25 million, Johnson isn’t the same player he once was and the lengthy term is a risky proposition to take on. Defenceman Erik Gudbranson and winger Nick Bjugstad could also be used as trade chips for cap space. Both have two years remaining on their respective deals.

Jason Zucker, LW/RW, Minnesota Wild
Just because Paul Fenton is no longer the GM doesn’t mean Zucker is safe. He was rumoured to be involved in trades with both the Penguins and Flames before talks dissolved. Then Bill Guerin was named Fenton’s replacement and the rumours subsided. Minnesota is reportedly looking for depth at centre, though, and in order to land an impact player they could part with one of their many talented wingers. Zucker, 27, has scored at least 21 goals in four of the past five seasons and is locked up for the next four years at a reasonable $5.5 million AAV.

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Chris Kreider, LW, New York Rangers
As the Rangers continue their ongoing rebuild, don’t be surprised if they continue selling off assets for future pieces. Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton moved Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, Adam McQuaid and Cody McLeod to clear space before the 2019 trade deadline and flipped Jimmy Vesey to the Sabres on July 1. Unless the new-look Blue Shirts exceed expectations and look like playoff contenders early on, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if a few bodies get moved. It was a surprise when they dealt Zuccarello but if Kreider, the team’s oldest forward, gets moved this year it won’t be such a shock.

Vladislav Namestnikov, LW, New York Rangers
The 26-year-old Russian is another pending UFA the Rangers could turn into a future asset. Namestnikov had an uninspiring 31-point effort in 2019-20 and his $4-million cap hit might be a bit much for a bottom-six role if he gets overtaken by rookies Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, or even Lias Andersson on the depth chart.

Tyler Toffoli, RW, Los Angeles Kings
The Kings were a bit of a tire fire last year and if that doesn’t change then the roster will. Toffoli only mustered 13 goals in 82 games last year and his contract’s up at the end of the season. They parted way with Toffoli’s former linemate Tanner Pearson last year after a slow start. It wouldn’t be out of the blue if Toffoli had a similar fate — we could also see him having a big bounce-back campaign. Jonathan Quick is another name that might eventually be bandied about in Kings rumours, but considering L.A.’s franchise netminder is coming off his worst season, his stock is relatively low at the moment.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

Chris Tanev, D, Vancouver Canucks
The right-shot blueliner is a pending UFA that many teams preparing for a lengthy post-season run will take a look at. The Canucks have some uninspiring contracts at forward and they might not have a first-round pick in 2020 (it’s contingent on them making/missing the playoffs) so supplementing future assets is a priority. Unlike Loui Eriksson’s deal, Tanev’s $4.45-million cap hit is a manageable short-term contract to take on. Tanev has only been able to suit up for more than 55 games in a given season three times during his nine-year NHL career.

Julius Honka, D, Dallas Stars
It appears it’s only a matter of time before the 14th-overall pick from 2014 is moved out of town. The 23-year-old defenceman has never been able to find a permanent spot on the Stars and he requested a trade at the beginning of training camp after not signing the qualifying offer extended by the team earlier in the off-season. The Canadiens and Hurricanes were previously thought to be among the interested parties.

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