The 10 Biggest Trade Rumors Among 2014 NHL Playoff Teams

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2014

The 10 Biggest Trade Rumors Among 2014 NHL Playoff Teams

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    As the Stanley Cup playoffs move into the Conference Finals, the NHL teams eliminated through the previous two rounds head into the offseason with roster issues in need of addressing.

    Each team has its unique set of needs, though a few share some similarities: several clubs need to improve their depth at center, some must bolster their defensive depth and few are in need of scoring punch.

    While they could address their problem areas via free agency, there's not much quality talent available this summer. The trade market, on the other hand, could hold more promising opportunities.

    The ability to retain salary to facilitate a trade, along with the expected increase of the salary cap from $64.3 million to around $70 million, could stimulate considerable trade activity.

    The following is a listing of the 10 biggest trade rumors involving NHL playoff teams, with analysis of each and predictions of their possible outcomes. The rankings are in part based upon the players involved, as well as the viability of each rumor.

     

    Note: All contract information via CapGeek.com.

10. Red Wings Could Pursue an Impact Defenseman

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    The Speculation: Following the Red Wings' ouster in five games from the division semifinal by the Boston Bruins, ESPN.com's Craig Custance suggested the Wings need to add an impact defenseman this summer. With a projected $20 million in cap space, GM Ken Holland has room to address this need via trade or free agency. Custance suggested Vancouver's Alex Edler or Buffalo's Christian Ehrhoff as possible trade target.

     

    Analysis: Edler has another five years at $5 million per season left on his contract and a full no-trade clause. Ehrhoff carries an annual cap hit of $4 million per season for another seven seasons plus a modified no-trade clause. Even if they were willing to join the Wings, their respective teams won't just give them away. The Wings have depth in young talent—notably Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Danny DeKeyser and Riley Sheahan—that the Canucks or Sabres could seek as part of the return.

     

    Prediction: Free agency might be a better way to go. Pittsburgh's Matt Niskanen is this summer's best potential free agent blueliner. A more affordable short-term option could be Dan Boyle, who found out this week he won't be re-signed by the San Jose Sharks. Neither will be cheap, but they won't cost the Wings any of their young talent.

9. Lightning Could Trade for a Blueliner

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    Francois Lacasse/Getty Images

    The Speculation: Following the Montreal Canadiens' sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opening round of the playoffs, The Tampa Tribune's Erik Erlendsson listed five things to watch from the club during the offseason. Among them was bolstering their blue-line depth, which was exposed as a weakness in the series against the Canadiens.

     

    Analysis: Erlendsson reported the Lightning were linked to defenseman like Vancouver's Alex Edler and Phoenix's Keith Yandle in previous trade rumors. He also noted GM Steve Yzerman could go the free agent route to address this need, but the market is thin on quality defensemen.

    The Lightning have a projected $23 million in cap space if ownership is willing to spend up to the cap ceiling. A good chunk of that could disappear by re-signing winger Ryan Callahan prior to his eligibility for free agency on July 1. They must also re-sign Calder Trophy nominees Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. It could cost them one of those players to land a high-caliber defenseman via trade.

     

    Prediction: If Yzerman re-signs Callahan, he could be forced to consider more affordable defense options. He does have depth in promising youth to use as trade bait, but he won't part with Johnson or Palat. Perhaps he tries to bring back former Lightning blueliner Dan Boyle through free agency. 

8. Dallas Stars Shopping for a Second-Line Center

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    Glenn James/Getty Images

    The Speculation: The Dallas Morning News' Mike Heika reports Stars GM Jim Nill will be shopping this summer for a number-two center.

     

    Analysis: The Stars lack scoring punch beyond their first line of winger Jamie Benn and center Tyler Seguin, who carried the bulk of the offense during the regular season. Heika listed several options for Nill via trade and free agency to address this issue. Among them is Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza, Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler and long shots like Eric and Jordan Staal of Carolina.

     

    Prediction: All those options could prove costly, as the asking price could include promising young Stars like Valeri Nichushkin, Alex Chiasson or Cody Eakin, or prospects like Jason Dickinson or Devin Shore. Last summer, Nill demonstrated a willingness to make a major trade with his acquisition of Seguin from Boston. Don't rule out the possibility he goes that route again.

7. Brad Marchand to the Phoenix Coyotes or Vancouver Canucks

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    The Speculation: Following the Boston Bruins' playoff exit at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa suggested the Bruins need a fast, skilled, puck-moving defenseman. He cited the Phoenix Coyotes' Keith Yandle and the Vancouver Canucks' Alex Edler as fitting that profile. To land such a defenseman, he believes winger Brad Marchand could become a trade chip.

     

    Analysis: In his five-year NHL career, the 26-year-old Marchand has reached the 20-plus goal mark three times and the 50-point plateau twice, including this season. He brings what Shinzawa calls “a unique mix of speed, skill and feistiness.” The Canucks and Coyotes are in need of scoring depth at forward.

     

    Marchand has tormented and taunted the Canucks since the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. As deliciously ironic as trading him to Vancouver would be, the bad blood between he and the Canucks players might be too much to overcome. Edler could also be unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to go to Boston.

     

    Prediction: Though a long shot, a Marchand-for-Yandle swap is plausible. Marchand is a second-line player, so the Coyotes could ask for a promising young player as part of the return. Yandle lacks a no-trade clause, but carries an annual cap hit of $5.25 million. Unless the Coyotes agreed to pick up part of Yandle's salary, it could prove difficult for the cap-strapped Bruins to absorb.

6. Evander Kane to the Philadelphia Flyers

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    Lance Thomson/Getty Images

    The Speculation: The Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi believes the Flyers' new GM Ron Hextall could go shopping this summer for a skilled left winger for captain Claude Giroux's line. Carchidi considers Winnipeg Jets winger Evander Kane an “intriguing trade possibility.”

     

    Analysis: Kane's been the subject of trade rumors for months, but the Jets appear reluctant to part with him—and for good reason. Only 22, he's yet to fully reach his potential as a physical scoring winger. Two years ago, he reached the 30-goal mark for the first time. While hampered by injury this season, he still managed 41 points in 63 games. He's also completing the second year of a six-year, $31.5 million contract. The cap-strapped Flyers must free up space to add him to their lineup.

     

    Prediction: Unlikely to happen. The Flyers have only a projected $6.5 million in cap space. They are allowed to go over the cap during the offseason by 10 percent but must be cap compliant when next season begins. They'll also get some cap relief by placing Chris Pronger ($4.9 million) on long-term injured reserve.

    Still, that won't leave enough to absorb Kane's contract and fill out the remainder of their roster. The Jets won't just give Kane away. He's a valuable asset, so they'll want a solid return. The Flyers could offer up center Brayden Schenn, but the Jets could seek center Sean Couturier or Wayne Simmonds, and either guy's a deal breaker.

5. The Sharks Could Shop Joe Pavelski

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The Speculation: Following the San Jose Sharks blowing a 3-0 series lead to fall in seven games to the Los Angeles Kings in their division semifinal, CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz speculated changes could be coming to the Sharks' core. He suggested Joe Pavelski as a possible trade chip for a center to anchor the third line.

     

    Analysis: Kurz noted Pavelski is coming off a 41-goal season. He believes this might be the best opportunity to “sell high” on the 29-year-old, as the bulk of his goals came from playing wing on Joe Thornton's line. Pavelski's new contract (five years, $30 million, limited no-trade clause) begins next season, so it would be worthwhile to move him prior to July 1.

     

    Prediction: Unlikely. Moving Pavelski would certainly be a bold move, but a tad extreme if the return is a third-line center. Kurz recently reported that Sharks GM Doug Wilson announced that defenseman Dan Boyle and winger Martin Havlat won't be back. That could be the extent of Wilson's core shakeup.

4. The Wild Might Shop Mikko Koivu

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Speculation: Following the Minnesota Wild's elimination by the Chicago Blackhawks, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo examined the complicated offseason issues facing GM Chuck Fletcher. Among them could be captain Mikko Koivu's future with the club.

     

    Analysis: Russo noted Koivu struggled in the postseason for the second straight year. Given the emergence of young centers Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula, Russo wondered if Fletcher might consider trading Koivu, who has four years (at $6.75 million per season) remaining on his contract.

    That contract is more unwieldy than the cap hit suggests. Koivu's contract is staggered so that he receives $5.4 million in actual salary next season and in 2015-16, but jumps to $7.29 million in 2016-17 and a staggering $9.18 million in 2017-18, the final year of the deal, when he'll be turning 35.

     

    Prediction: Won't happen. Koivu is 31, has a lengthy injury history and may be slowing down. While there are worthwhile reasons to trade him, they also work against it. So does his hefty contract with its no-movement clause.

3. Dion Phaneuf to the Colorado Avalanche

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Speculation: Sportsnet.ca's Nick Kypreos recently claimed there's “lots of interest” around the league in Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf. His colleague Chris Johnston recently cited Hockey Night in Canada analyst Elliotte Friedman speculating the Colorado Avalanche as a trade destination.

     

    Analysis: Friedman pointed out the Avalanche relied too heavily on their goaltending this season, which cost them in the playoffs. He also noted earlier this season the Avs had interest in Florida Panthers blueliner Dmitry Kulikov. Should the Avalanche re-sign forward Paul Stastny, they might be forced to trade one of their young forwards to avoid salary cap problems.

     

    Prediction: Unlikely to happen. The Toronto Star's Kevin McGran reports Leafs president Brendan Shanahan sounds as though he would prefer to retain Phaneuf as team captain. If so, the Avalanche must look elsewhere for blue-line depth this summer.

2. Kris Letang for Ryan Kesler

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    The Speculation: In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh Penguins' recent collapse to the New York Rangers in their division final, Sportsnet.ca's Pat Pickens listed making a blockbuster trade among their offseason options. He suggested a deal between the Penguins and Vancouver Canucks, with Kris Letang and Ryan Kesler as the centerpieces.

     

    Analysis: Leading up to the March trade deadline, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Rossi reported then-Penguins GM Ray Shero aggressively pursued Kesler, who apparently included the Penguins among six NHL clubs to which he would accept a trade. Attempts at a deal fell through before the deadline.

    NBC Sports' Jason Brough believes now's the time for the Penguins to consider dealing Letang. While acknowledging the defenseman's health concerns and a new expensive contract, Brough points out the 27-year-old logs 25 minutes per game, while among NHL blueliners since 2010-11, only Ottawa's Erik Karlsson has more points per game.

     

    Prediction: Unlikely to happen. With Shero now fired, the Penguins could go in a different direction. Such a swap favors the Penguins while doing nothing to address the Canucks lack of scoring depth at forward. The Vancouver Province's Jason Botchford speculates the Penguins' recent post-season collapse could take them out of the running for Kesler.

1. Jason Spezza to the St. Louis Blues

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    The Speculation: The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports four teams may have expressed interest in Senators captain Jason Spezza, with the Blues considered the front-runners.

     

    Analysis: Garrioch claims Spezza won't stand in the way if Senators GM Bryan Murray decides to shop him, but the center has a limited no-trade clause, in which he lists 10 teams he won't accept as trade destinations. Garrioch also claims Blues GM Doug Armstrong was interested in Spezza before the March trade deadline, and he could revisit that interest owing to his club's need for a big center. He speculates the Blues might offer up center Patrik Berglund and possibly a prospect like Ty Rattie.

     

    Prediction: This one's plausible. Spezza's an unrestricted free agent next summer and might be unwilling to commit long term to the Senators. If so, the Sens should explore his trade value now. The Blues are in “win now” mode, and Spezza could accept being dealt to a potential Cup contender. They also have a projected $22 million in cap space. They can afford Spezza's $7 million cap hit ($4 million in actual salary) next season and re-sign key free agents like Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Sobotka. Sorting out the return for the Senators could be the only sticking point.

    The Blues are also promoting promising Jake Allen into their goalie tandem. They must decide if they'll re-sign Ryan Miller or Bryan Elliott, or seek another experienced netminder to share the duties with Allen. That could also affect attempts to acquire Spezza or another big center.