The NHL’s silly season is upon us.
And with things being more condensed than usual due to the lockout, including Sunday’s draft backing right up into free agency on July 5, that means we can expect news on three fronts this weekend: buyouts, draft picks and trades.
The trade market, in particular, could get interesting.
With the cap dropping nearly 10 per cent next season and the free agent crop thin in terms of high end talent, a substantial number of teams are looking at that route to either ease their cap burden or improve their roster.
That could mean that high profile deals overshadow draft day even more than usual, especially with the Colorado Avalanche calling their shot with the No. 1 pick.
Here’s a look at nine key players who could be dealt in the coming days:
1. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh
Penguins stud defenceman is looking for a huge payday after seeing Shea Weber and Ryan Suter get big money a year ago. Pens GM Ray Shero can go into the $7-million a season range, but beyond that and Letang is likely in for a chance of scenery. There may be some animosity involved here.
2. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver
The question? Is he still tradable. Canucks GM Mike Gillis believes so, but he appears to have botched moving his high priced goaltender by waiting too long, as the market has cooled and the whispers are all about compliance buyouts. Philadelphia and Tampa have both gone that route with huge salaries – could Vancouver be as well? Or can they eat some salary on Luongo’s deal and find him a home that way? Either way, this will be compelling, especially with some solid goaltenders set to be available as free agents.
3. Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton
The Oilers captain is getting a new address, and to the surprise of some, it likely won’t come by way of a buyout. His team will almost definitely have to eat some salary, however, to move the final two years of his deal, which carries a $5.5-million cap hit. Still a useful player, especially in a defensive role.
4. Paul Stastny, Colorado
Just what will the new Avs brass do? After acquiring Alex Tanguay from Calgary on Thursday and with Nathan MacKinnon expected to be added in the draft on Sunday, Colorado would seem to have a glut of forwards and a need on the blueline. New coach Patrick Roy recently said publicly he’d be surprised if Stastny is moved, but he appears to be the likeliest candidate given the backlog at (and demand for) centre.
5. Dion Phaneuf, Toronto
One way or the other, the Leafs have to decide what to do with their captain as well. Phaneuf has one year remaining on his contract, and if he’s not going to sign a (likely pricey) extension, moving him makes sense. His name has emerged in trade rumours of late, and GM Dave Nonis will assess his value as a way of determining his options. Phaneuf is always a polarizing player, but his minutes will also have to be replaced and big minute blueliners aren’t in wide supply this year.
6. Mike Cammalleri, Calgary
Another player with a big contract with just one year remaining, Cammalleri could well be shuttled out as part of the Flames wholesale rebuild. There’s nothing urgent on this front after already moving Tanguay, but it also appears unlikely Cammalleri gets an extension, which means a move may be a matter of time.
7. Dave Bolland, Chicago
As per usual, the Stanley Cup champs have some retooling to do to try and keep their team together. And there will be casualties. Bolland has one year left on his contract at about $3.4-million, but his duties can be taken over by someone like Marcus Kruger as GM Stan Bowman tries to keep playoff hero Bryan Bickell.
8. Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller, Buffalo
Buffalo is in an interesting situation as they try to rebuild more slowly than they’d imagined, as two of their stars have just one year remaining on their deals and neither are interested in a prolonged period in the basement. The Sabres have a lot of cap space and suddenly deep pockets so they’re worth keeping an eye on at this draft.
Others potentially on the move: Ales Hemsky, Edmonton; David Perron, St. Louis; Jeff Schultz, Washington; John-Michael Liles , Toronto; Tom Gilbert, Minnesota; David Booth, Vancouver; Cory Schneider, Vancouver; Tyler Seguin, Boston