It’s about to get silly in here.
As we call it around these parts, GM Week is kicking off, and that includes all you armchairs out there calculating what your favourite team could, or should, do.
With the off-season comes the renewed outlook for trades to occur, and this week’s draft is usually a great incubator for swaps, especially since everyone will be back under the same roof and on the same floor in Montreal for the 2022 event.
But, of course, trades have already started happening. Last week the Los Angeles Kings made a big cut and added a needed top-six scorer in Kevin Fiala from Minnesota. And, over the weekend, the Tampa Bay Lightning dumped Ryan McDonagh’s contract to Nashville, who will find plenty of on-ice use for the top-four shutdown defender.
Oh, but we’re just getting started.
There are a number of teams unhappy with how their seasons went or finished, who now are motivated to shake things up and try a new approach. Draft picks will come into play, salary cap management will be a factor too, and we can hold out hope for an old-fashioned hockey trade blockbuster. There are plenty of candidates for that kind of deal.
Here is our look at 15 off-season trade candidates whose names you’re going to hear as the rumour mill kicks into high gear. We’ll update this list as news develops.
Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks
When Kyle Davidson was introduced as the full-time GM of the Blackhawks back in March, the term “rebuild” was thrown around to describe his plan on how to get the franchise back on a winning track. The hiring of Luke Richardson as the team’s next head coach also indicates this will be the direction of choice, as Richardson is recognized as a great teacher for a younger core.
Trading DeBrincat is no easy choice though. Fresh off the second 41-goal campaign of his career, he is still just 24 years old and a youngster himself who could still be a key contributor for the Hawks on the other side of their rebuild. He has a great rapport with Patrick Kane as well, who has one year left on his own contract with a decision looming on if he has a future in Chicago. What Davidson does with DeBrincat could have a major impact on Kane, too.
“I’ve developed some chemistry with DeBrincat over the years, so if he’s here and he’s a big piece, that makes it easier for me too, right, because I’m playing with him every day and he’s such a good player, and it makes it fun to be out there with him. We’ll see how it shakes out, though,” Kane said about the prospect of playing through a rebuild this late in his career.
To trade DeBrincat, or not to trade DeBrincat. It’s a debate without an obvious answer as the Hawks try to shift gears. If DeBrincat does get traded, though, the return will have to be a doozy. Nick Kypreos suggested the asking price starts at two first-round picks and an A grade prospect.
DeBrincat has one more year left on his contract before becoming an RFA, at which point he will be one year away from being eligible for UFA status. An acquiring team may want to know they can keep him long-term before paying up to that price.
J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks
Fresh off a career-best 99-point season, Miller has one more year left on a deal paying $5.25 million before a salary increase comes next summer, perhaps via free agency.
The Canucks will want to get an idea sooner than later if Miller can be kept for a reasonable rate, or if they have to move on to Plan B. The new regime has a stated goal of clearing cap room, and while Miller isn’t a player you trade just for the payroll space he’d open up, you have to be cautious what his next contract will come in at.
“(Miller’s camp) are not surprised at these reports the Canucks are listening on Miller. In fact one source told me the Canucks have been listening to teams on Miller since February,” said Rick Dhaliwal on Donnie and Dhali. “This clearly tells me the two sides are far apart on Miller and his worth on a new deal.”
Projections have Miller up over $8 million and, in some cases, even over $9 million on an extension. It wouldn’t be ideal for a Canucks team in need of a re-tool to begin next season with an unsigned Miller still on the roster and seemingly forced into a position to deal him under a deadline, so if no extension is signed by the opening of free agency on July 13, perhaps this kicks into high gear.
And maybe it turns into a draft day trade.
There will certainly be no shortage of suitors for a versatile winger/centre coming off such a productive season, and who also plays with a gritty, playoff-friendly edge. In his last 32 Thoughts column of the season, Elliotte Friedman wrote that “it’s going to be too hard to get an extension done” here and that the Canucks will be aiming for a better return on Miller than the Wild got on Fiala.
The suitors for Miller are a plenty, including Washington and the NY Rangers.
“Now that Washington has lost (Nicklas) Backstrom and nobody seems to know what the timeline is, what are they going to do?” Elliotte Friedman asked Donnie and Dhali. “I’ve heard (Nazem) Kadri’s name connected to the Capitals, I’ve heard Miller’s name connected to the Capitals, but I think Washington is just starting to figure out, ‘What are we going to do here?’ I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the kind of guy that’s on their radar.”
Brock Boeser was re-signed to a three-year bridge deal over the weekend, which effectively takes him off the trade market, and puts Miller into focus.
Conor Garland, Vancouver Canucks
While Miller is the biggest fish available out of Vancouver, Garland would be a pretty good get too, if the team decides to move him. We fully expect the Canucks will change to a marked degree this summer and Garland could be an asset to help get them what they need.
Garland is the next best trade candidate due to his combination of attractive contract, skill and potential market to return the Canucks pieces they value enough. A complementary top-six winger, Garland scored 19 goals and 52 points this season and he’s cost effective with a $4.95 million cap hit that runs another four years. Of course, theoretically, such a manageable contract is attractive to keep around.
The addition of Andrei Kuzmenko last month doesn’t necessarily indicate the Canucks are leaning in one direction or another in trade. Kuzmenko gives them added depth and a stronger top-nine at the very least. He does crowd the wing though, and so along with Garland it’s important to also mention Tanner Pearson ($3.25 million cap hit for two years) as another trade possibility.
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
You’re going to get different opinions about Gibson on such a basic question as: Is he even that good anymore?
In trade availability speculation, though, the only opinion that matters is Anaheim’s and you know they will be looking for a good haul if moving the soon-to-be 29-year-old netminder who’s under contract another five years.
It’s becoming a yearly tradition that Gibson’s name pops up in trade talk, as the Ducks sag in the standings and his age ticks up. From 2014-15 through 2018-19, Gibson’s cumulative .921 save percentage was second-best among all goalies with at least 100 games played. In the three seasons since he has a .904 save rate — 20th among 22 keepers with at least 100 games played in that time, and below league average.
Is that some sort of decline, or the result of getting a heavy workload behind a weakening team?
And who will care to spend the required assets, and take on the $6.4 million cap hit commitment through 2026-27 to find out? Gibson has some control of the situation, too, with a 10-team no-trade list. And while he denied requesting a trade out of Anaheim, the Ducks have new management in place now that could be open to a new path.
“I do think that Gibson knows the Ducks have decisions to make about the direction of their team and he knows that there’s teams out there looking for goaltenders,” Elliotte Friedman told NHL Network. “My sense of what it is, is if the Ducks want to do something and it takes Gibson’s permission they’ll just eventually go to him. I’m just not convinced yet that (general manager) Pat Verbeek sees trading John Gibson as the right move for the team.”
MacKenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils
The one-time goalie of the future dealt with injury this year and now has two campaigns of lacklustre play behind him.
With the Devils seeking to have a competition at this position and needing to fix their most glaring weakness, Blackwood could still hold some trade value to a buyer who sees the potential and upside that still exists for the 25-year-old.
“Trying to support him in what we felt he needed over the past two years at free agency time was important,” Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald said at his season-end conference. “Unfortunately, with the injury this year, him feeling 100 per cent never got there. That’s OK. There’s a clean slate right now.
“We just want him to be 100 per cent, and feel 100 per cent, believe he’s 100 per cent going into the off-season. MacKenzie is a very confident kid, which I love, and he wants to be our goalie.”
Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers
Three years into the massive, seven-year contract Bobrovsky signed with the Panthers, could the team now be looking to move on from him in trade?
“Florida is pushing Bobrovsky hard,” Nick Kypreos recently said on the “Real Kyper & Bourne” show. “In terms of takers, who needs a goalie, and we are willing to hold cash back. And I’m told as much as 50 per cent.
“They’ve got cap issues as much as anyone.”
According to Friedman in 32 Thoughts, the Panthers reject the idea they’ve been laying groundwork to move the goalie.
If you’re a fan of a goalie-needy team, would you take Bobrovsky if Florida retained half his salary and he was coming in at $5 million? He had a bounce-back .913 save percentage season for the Presidents’ Trophy winners and wasn’t to blame for their post-season loss (look more to a disappearing offence and power play for that). But he’ll also be 34 by the time next season starts and still have four years to play out on his contract.
It’s key to note, too, that Bobrovsky has a full no-movement clause and thus is in control of the situation.
Martin Necas, Carolina Hurricanes
Seth Jarvis was one of the best stories of this NHL season, as the 13th overall pick from 2020 hit with a 17-goal, 40-point season in 68 games as a rookie. His quick ascension, it seems, has left open the possibility that another first-rounder could find his way to the trade block if the right offer is made.
Necas, the 12th overall pick from 2017, played 10 more games than Jarvis and finished with the same point total, but also saw his time on ice drop this season. It dropped further in the playoffs, where Necas was shut out, compared to Jarvis, who continued to excel with three goals and eight points in 14 games.
While Jarvis has two years left on his ELC, Necas is a 23-year-old RFA this summer and seemingly a candidate for a bridge deal.
Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes
A popular trade candidate who was discussed plenty around this season’s trade deadline, the belief still is the Coyotes want to move the 24-year-old defenceman. It was a down year offensively for Chychrun, who only played in 47 games, but that follows an 18-goal campaign that really showed off his two-way presence.
When Gabriel Landeskog was asked after Colorado’s Cup win what other teams could take away from their championship, the captain quipped “find your Cale Makar somewhere,” a wild goose chase for a rare talent. And while Chychrun isn’t exactly Makar — who is a very unique and special player — he does bring immense upside, is still very young, and under contract at a $4.6 million cap hit for another three years. This is the kind of player GMs drool over.
The Coyotes are about to move into a roughly 5,000-seat arena for a couple of years and are embracing a deep rebuild. While it’ll be imperative to smack a home run on a Chychrun return if he is moved, we should also mention Lawson Crouse here as a possible trade target as well, as the 25-year-old comes off his career-best season (20 goals, 34 points) and is an arbitration-eligible RFA.
Tyson Barrie, Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers must find a way to clear some salary cap space this off-season if they have any hope of keeping Evander Kane, or replacing him, while also addressing the team’s netminding situation. And that’s before considering improving the depth up front, too.
There are potential avenues for GM Ken Holland to do that, such as buying out Zack Kassian, or if Duncan Keith decides to retire (though there’s no indication yet he’s leaning that way). Trading offensive defenceman Barrie is another possible option.
With Evan Bouchard ready for an increased role and the next wave of youngsters, such as Philip Broberg, ready to push for spots as well, Barrie could become something of a casualty here. He makes $4.5 million against the cap for another two seasons and if the goal is to just drop his cap hit and accept whatever offers come along to accomplish that, there should be some suitors for an offensive defenceman who can quarterback the power play and be counted on for 40 points.
Pavel Zacha, New Jersey Devils
His name popped up a few times on Jeff Marek’s in-season trade candidates list and as the Devils move into an off-season where they have plenty of possible moves available (Blackwood and the second overall pick to name two), we should expect Zacha to stay on these lists as GM Tom Fitzgerald charts the path ahead, with a desire to improve in net and on the blue line.
The sixth overall pick from 2015, Zacha hasn’t fully hit on his potential on offence but did post a career-best 36 points this season, which followed a 35-point season in the shortened calendar. With Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier cemented in their roles as the top two centres on the team — and the possibility of adding another in the first round — it leaves the RFA Zacha as a potentially expendable part in the right deal. Although, we should note, running it back and having that centre depth isn’t a bad option either.
Jesper Bratt, New Jersey Devils
How much will Kevin Fiala’s extension with the Los Angeles Kings affect Bratt’s number with the Devils, and how much could that influence their plans? Fiala got a $7.875 million AAV on a seven-year contract with the Kings, which followed a breakout 85-point season as a 24-year-old. Bratt, at 23, had his breakout season in 2021-22, scoring 26 goals and 73 points in 76 games.
Arbitration eligible and coming off a two-year bridge contract, Bratt is two years away from being UFA eligible and may be seeking a long-term commitment at the right number now. The Devils have $25 million in cap space, but have a few of their own RFAs to deal with, including Zacha and Miles Wood, and have a priority to improve their situation in the crease.
New Jersey is also connected to a lot of wild draft week possibilities, and the second round pick is believed to be in play. Add Bratt to the list of potential trade candidates as the Devils have a few options that could set off fireworks on the trade front this week.
Jeff Petry, Montreal Canadiens
A lot of things either never got going, or took a while to start up, in Montreal this season and Petry was one player who started slowly before he finally began to come around again. The defenceman had just two points in the first quarter of the season before missing some time. It wasn’t until Martin St. Louis was hired behind the bench that Petry returned to form, finishing as the league’s 23rd-highest scoring defenceman after the coaching change.
The Canadiens, like the Devils, have options to re-tool this summer, and finding a new home for Petry may be one of them.
“Hughes is not waiting for anything on that front. Whether Petry wants to stay or go — and it’s still believed it’s his preference to go — Hughes intends to trade him and replace him via free agency,” Sportsnet’s own Eric Engels wrote about the situation in a season-ending mailbag last month.
Petry, 34, has three years remaining on a contract that pays $6.25 million against the cap and is able to submit a list of 15 teams to which he would not accept a trade.
Matt Murray, Ottawa Senators
The Senators don’t have the best history of drafting goaltenders — an area they’re focusing on improving, as outlined here by Wayne Scanlan — but right now they have three NHL-quality netminders on the roster with Murray, Filip Gustavsson and Anton Forsberg. None are waiver exempt anymore.
So, while Senators GM Pierre Dorion has said his team could go into next season with three netminders on the roster, that’s a situation which almost never works out as roster space pinches due to injuries, and workloads become erratic.
Forsberg, who could have been an in-season trade candidate but was instead re-signed to a three-year deal with a $2.75 million cap hit, seems part of the plan now, while the 24-year-old Gustavsson has one year left on a cheap deal. Murray, then, appears the odd man out.
“The only prediction I feel super comfortable making is no matter what happens I think Anton Forsberg is Ottawa’s opening night starter. That’s even if Murray is in the equation,” The Athletic’s Ian Mendes said on the Jeff Marek Show last month. “I do think the trade is probably best for everybody involved. I know for a fact there were hurt feelings certainly from the player’s side on the AHL demotion.”
Murray, who has had trouble staying healthy and then performing when on the ice, still has two years remaining on a contract that pays $6.25 million against the cap, so the Sens would likely have to retain some of that salary to find a taker. And, once again, with a lower cost there could be interest as the need for goalies abounds at various places across the league.
If a trade can’t be had, the other option for Ottawa is to buy out Murray’s contract, though that would leave a cap charge on the books for an extra two years, perhaps when the Senators are ready to start paying up for a roster they expect to win.
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
GM Kevin Cheveldayoff isn’t one to rush into trades and though his long tenure can be defined by his loyalty to the core, he has made a few big deals along the way. And now Cheveldayoff goes into an off-season that follows Mark Scheifele openly wondering about his long-term future with the team, Pierre-Luc Dubois reportedly signalling his intent to walk to free agency and test the market in 2024, and a playoff miss for the team.
Change, it seems, will be coming to Winnipeg at some point, but will it happen so soon in 2022?
While trading either of their top two centres would be difficult to deal with in the short-term, perhaps there’s another road to change. Friedman reported that the team and its captain, Blake Wheeler, will work together to find a possible trade this summer. Wheeler has two years left on a deal that pays him $8.25 million against the cap. He’ll be 36 next season and coming off a 60-point season (in 65 games), but the Jets may need to retain some of that cap to make the value worth it.
Anthony Beauvillier, NY Islanders
The Islanders could be an interesting team this summer, but you know whatever plans they have is a closely guarded secret by GM Lou Lamoriello. This is a team that could surprise us with something, because some turn over is necessary after missing the playoffs.
The Isles have about $12 million in cap space and just three blueliners signed. They have six forwards making $5 million or more, and while most of them aren’t trade candidates, you do wonder about a player like Josh Bailey.
The forward name that most often pops up in rumours around the Isles this off-season is Beavuvillier, a 25-year-old making $4.15 million who happens to be coming off a disappointing season. Beauvillier was a rising scorer in this lineup when he scored 15 goals in 47 games in 2020-21, but then scored just 12 times in 75 games this season.
Lamoriello said he was in the market for “hockey trades” this off-season to re-shape the lineup and Beauvillier is the type of player you can get that sort of a deal done with.
Our trade candidates list will be updated early this off-season as rumours mature and others pop up. In the meantime, these are some other names to monitor on the trade market as their futures could be determined by what occurs over the next couple of weeks.
David Pastrnak, Boston; Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary; Patrick Kane, Chicago; Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg; Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin, Detroit; Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia; Matt Dumba, Minnesota; Jordan Binnington, St. Louis; Brent Burns, San Jose; Petr Mrazek and Rasmus Sandin, Toronto; Jonathan Drouin, Christian Dvorak and Josh Anderson, Montreal; Patric Hornqvist, Florida.