The NHL’s Olympic Roster Freeze has now been lifted, and teams have until 3:00 p.m. on March 5th to make their moves before the NHL’s trade deadline. This is expected to be a very active trade deadline, with a number of high profile players potentially finding themselves in new homes. This week, I look around the league and try to look at some of the top names who could be available.
Monday we looked at the goaltenders. You can read it by clicking here.
Yesterday we looked at the defencemen. You can read it by clicking here.
Today we move on to the Top 25 forwards who may be available. Of the three articles we are doing this week, this is clearly the strongest position available, with a number of high quality players available. Due to this reason, I’m only going to do predictions on the top 10. They just become too hard to call after that point.
NHL Trade Bait: The Forwards
1) Thomas Vanek, New York Islanders
2013-14 Stats: 57 GP, 19 G, 30 A, 49 PTS
Contract Situation: $7.143 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the Season, 30-years-0ld
Vanek has already been traded once this year, moving from the Sabres to the Islanders. At that time, Garth Snow believed he needed a little more offence and the Isles could take the next step after making the playoffs in 2012-13. It hasn’t worked, and while it was likely he would be traded even before the Tavares injury, that is the final nail in the Isles coffin. With reports of Vanek turning down the Isles long-term contract offer at better than $7 million per season, Snow will now look to recoup some of the assets and draft picks they traded to get Vanek in the first place. He certainly can be a big-time goal scorer and would add offence to almost any team’s top six. Many believe that Vanek wants to play in Minnesota and is going to sign with the Wild this summer and that is why he rejected the Isles offer outright. With that in mind, the price for him is lowered, as he’d be a pure rental to any team, unless….
Prediction: The Isles trade Vanek to Minnesota.
2) Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers
2013-14 Stats: 42 GP, 11 G, 13 A, 24 PTS
Contract Situation: $4.275 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the Season, 28-years-old
Contract negotiations are reportedly not going well between the Rangers and their captain, and general manager Glen Sather does not want to lose the team’s heart and soul player while getting nothing in return as a UFA. Yesterday, there was a reports from TSN’s Darren Dreger suggested that there was a 99% probability that Callahan would be traded before the deadline. Callahan is a gritty winger, with a non-stop motor and never say die attitude. He can also score some goals.
Prediction: Callahan is a perfect fit for the St. Louis Blues as they push to try and win the first Stanley Cup in team history. He is moved for a package including another forward on this list, Chris Stewart.
3) Matt Moulson, Buffalo Sabres
2013-14 Stats: 52 GP, 15 G, 19 A, 34 PTS
Contract Situation: $3.133 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the season, 30-years-old
Moulson was part of the package traded to the Sabres for Thomas Vanek earlier this year. The winger had great chemistry, and multiple 30-goal seasons playing on a line with John Tavares in Long Island. With that in mind some questions were raised as to how he would perform without one of the best centres in the NHL on his line, with just nine goals in 41 games for the Sabres, he may be more of a 20 goal scorer than a thirty goal scorer when he isn’t playing with an elite linemate like Tavares. That said, playing with the Sabres also may have the almost opposite effect that playing with Tavares did, as there is almost no one to play of first line (but non-elite) level on that team right now. So perhaps his true potential is somewhere in the middle of what we’ve seen.
Prediction: Moulson is traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he gets to play with another elite centre in Sidney Crosby.
4) Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers
2013-14 Stats: 55 GP, 11 G, 12 A, 23 PTS
Contract status: $925,000 Salary Cap Hit + $2.825 million Bonuses Cap Hit, RFA after the 2014-15 season, 20-years-old
Its been a trying season for Yakupov who has been benched by head coach Dallas Eakins on multiple occasions. The 2012 NHL Draft first overall pick certainly has talent, but there is some question if he will be able to realize that potential in Edmonton, and given the make up of the Oilers team, they may be better off moving the winger for help on the blue line. Craig MacTavish promised big changes in the organization when he became general manager last spring, and so far there hasn’t been a blockbuster move. Could Yakupov be the first?
Prediction: Yakupov is not traded by the Oilers at the Trade Deadline. However he is moved at the NHL Draft, for a young defenceman. Perhaps a Yakupov to Florida for Dmitri Kulikov move would make sense for both teams.
5) Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
2013-14 Stats: 60 GP, 20 G, 18 A, 38 PTS
Contract Status: $5.0 million cap hit, UFA after the 2015-16 season, 29-years-old
Kesler’s name has surfaced in rumours lately, as the Canucks have been struggling losing six straight in regulation before the Olympic Break. The Canucks are currently one point back of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, but must catch both the Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars. The two teams they are chasing have also played less games than the Canucks. Still that may not be enough to convince general manager Mike Gillis to give up on this season.
Prediction: I can’t see the Canucks moving Kesler. This is an aging team (Sedin, Sedin, Luongo, Hamhuis, Bieksa, Burrows) and are fighting for a playoff spot. I see the team more likely to be buyers than sellers at the deadline as they need to try and go “all in” now as the window for this core winning a Stanley Cup is closing quickly, and they need to make a move before it slams shut.
6) Jaromir Jagr, New Jersey Devils
2013-14 Stats: 59 GP, 17 G, 32 A, 49 PTS
Contract Status: $3.3 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the season, 42-years-old
Jagr continues his remarkable NHL career with another strong season, this time in New Jersey playing for the Devils. As I said in the defenceman piece yesterday, the Devils position in the standings is extremely precarious. They may only be three points out of a playoff spot, but they also must pass five teams in order to get to that wild card spot. It certainly doesn’t make things easy. The decision to sell their assets and try to acquire draft picks, or keep these players in a push for the playoffs will likely be largely dependent on the Devils results over the next week.
Prediction: If the Devils do become sellers, they move Jagr to the Montreal Canadiens, where he could play with Tomas Plekanec as the two have chemistry and have been used together in many tournaments by the Czech National Team, including the recent Sochi Olympics.
7) Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche
2013-14 Stats: 52 GP, 17 G, 24 A, 41 PTS
Contract Status: $6.6 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the season, 28-years-old
Stastny has long been the subject of trade rumours, as he is a free agent at the end of the season, and with the Avalanche drafting Nathan MacKinnon last year, and having Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly (currently a winger), they could still have three excellent centres even if Stastny was moved. However, those rumours were all based on the idea that the Avalanche were still a rebuilding club who would struggle this season. This hasn’t been the case, as Colorado finds themselves solidly in a playoff spot right now.
Prediction: As stated, the Avalanche can survive without Stastny, and I think it is unlikely they re-sign him. However the team needs help on the blueline. I think he is moved in a “hockey move” to a team looking for a centre, and willing to give the Avalanche a defenceman. A move for one of the Devils young defenders, with New Jersey signing Stastny to an extension would make a lot of sense. His career would also mirror his father’s, going to New Jersey after leaving the Avalanche (Nordiques) organization.
8) Chris Stewart, St. Louis Blues
2013-14 Stats: 57 GP, 15 G, 11 A, 26 PTS
Contract Status: $4.15 million cap hit, UFA after the 2014-15 Season, 26-years-old
Stewart seems to either be playing great, and putting up a ton of goals and points as a top six forward on the Blues, or in Ken Hitchcock’s dog house and playing on the fourth line for the team. There doesn’t seem to be an in between with him, and he has always seemed to be on a short leash ever since Hitchcock took over behind the Blues bench over two years ago. It doesn’t take much to realize that he’s a player who would welcome a change of scenery and a move to a coach and team who would put some long-term faith in him, as he’s a talented winger.
Prediction: The Blues trade Stewart as part of a package deal for Ryan Callahan of the Rangers.
9) Mike Cammalleri, Calgary Flames
2013-14 Stats: 41 GP, 13 G, 8 A, 21 PTS
Contract Status: $6 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the season, 31-years-old
According to Brian Burke, The Flames offered Cammalleri a contract extension yesterday. Whether he can get a deal done with the sniper before March 5th remains to be seen. If Cammalleri isn’t re-signed before the deadline, you can expect the Flames to trade him. They just can’t afford to lose him for nothing as a free agent, again. Cammalleri has a good reputation as a playoff performer as he was leading the NHL in playoff scoring when the Habs were eliminated in both the 2010 and 2011 playoff runs. He’d probably score a few more goals on a team with a true number one centre to pass him the puck, as he’s lacked that in Calgary.
Prediction: Cammalleri is moved to the Los Angeles Kings who need all the help they can get scoring goals. Brian Burke keeps part of Cammalleri’s salary and cap hit to make the deal happen, and to get a better asset out of Los Angeles.
10) David Legwand, Nashville Predators
2013-14 Stats: 59 GP, 10 G, 30 A, 40 PTS
Contract Status: $4.5 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the season, 33-years-old
It will be the end of an era if Legwand leaves Nashville as he is the franchise’s first ever draft pick, and all-time leading scorer. In many ways Legwand has been one of the key faces of this franchise since the day they entered the NHL. However the Predators will likely miss the playoffs this season, and Legwand is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. If they are not going to re-sign him, then they should definitely move on.
Prediction: Legwand is moved to the Chicago Blackhawks in an attempt to finally solve the hole they have at the second line centre position.
11) Sam Gagner, Edmonton Oilers
2013-14 Stats: 47 GP, 6 G, 18 A, 24 PTS
Contract Status: $4.8 million cap hit, UFA after the 2015-16 season, 24-years-old
Trade rumours have surrounded Gagner for several years. He is a good player, but he’s never lived quite lived up to the full potential he showed early in his NHL career always falling just a step below the expectations he created. Of the Oilers current group of young forwards, he probably has the lowest ceiling right now, still he can be a useful offensive contributor for some other team and a change of scenery might do him good. If the Oilers don’t move Yakupov to try and get help on the defensive end, then Gagner is the next best option for them to move in a trade to address this weakness.
12) Marian Gaborik, Columbus Blue Jackets
2013-14 Stats: 18 GP, 5 G, 7 A, 12 PTS
Contract Status: $7.5 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the season, 32-years-old
It feels like Gaborik is always injured, but he is scheduled to come back from his broken collarbone on Thursday. If the Blue Jackets want to trade him this return can’t come a moment too soon. He needs to play some games and prove he is healthy to have any value as a rental. The Blue Jackets are in a playoff spot, and my want to keep him for their own stretch drive and playoff drive, but the truth is that this team has been just fine without him, and could afford to move him for younger assets as they continue to build the team around players like Bobrovsky, Murray, and Johansen. Moving him won’t be easy though as many teams will have issues with his huge cap hit.
13) Steve Ott, Buffalo Sabres
2013-14 Stats: 57 GP, 9 G, 11 A, 20 PTS
Contract Status: $2.95 million cap hit, UFA this year, 32-years-old
The Sabres are in full fire-sale mode and would love to get young assets for their soon-to-be UFA and captain. Ott plays the type of gritty, tough style that teams love to add for the playoffs, and can also kill penalties. He may fetch a good return, even as a rental given the style of game he plays.
14) P.A. Parenteau, Colorado Avalanche
2013-14 Stats: 46 GP, 10 G, 18 A, 28 PTS
Contract Status: $4.0 million cap hit, UFA after the 2015-16 season, 30-years-old
Parenteau isn’t putting up the great offensive numbers that he did the last two seasons, one of which was with the Avs. He’s even been a healthy scratch at times, and it was rumored that the Avalanche were heavily shopping him. Some rumors even said that the team was close to a deal with the Montreal Canadiens for Rene Bourque, but a straight up swap of these two players seems unlikely. In fact the chances that Parenteau is traded at all may have dropped somewhat after the Avalanche learned that Alex Tanguay’s hip injury required season ending surgery.
15) Ray Whitney, Dallas Stars
2013-14 Stats: 51 GP, 7 G, 15 A, 22 PTS
Contract Status: $4.5 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the season, 41-years-old
The Stars are currently in a playoff spot, but will have a fight on their hands to keep it. The team must decide whether to keep the 41-year-old Whitney, or move him for a younger prospect or a draft pick. He seemed to be ageless when he was in Phoenix, but father time may have finally caught up with Whitney in Texas as he is now merely a secondary scoring option, and not a top-line player.
16) Olli Jokinen, Winnipeg Jets
2013-14 Stats: 60 GP, 13 G, 19A, 31 PTS
Contract Status: $4.5 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the season, 35-years-old
Jokinen has a real bounce back year with the Jets after struggling in 2012-13. He would definitely have some value as a trade deadline rental. However, a recent hot run by the Jets may have them thinking about the playoffs instead of selling assets. This is another situation where the team’s play in the next week will determine whether he is traded or not.
17) Dave Bolland, Toronto Maple Leafs
2013-14 Stats: 15 GP, 6 G, 4 A, 10 PTS
Contract Status: $3.375 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the season, 27-years-old
Bolland should be returning from his tendon injury this week and the Leafs will be happy to get him back, as his presence should help a team that keeps winning despite a bad penalty kill unit, and being outshot in nearly every game. Bolland’s presence and his two-way game can help the Leafs address both these issues. However, reports from Darren Dreger indicate that the Leafs may consider trading him if he’s not signed to a long-term extension by the deadline. Given the Leafs spot in the standings, I would bet on them keeping Bolland though.
18) Brad Boyes, Florida Panthers
2013-14 Stats: 56 GP, 15 G, 11 A, 26 PTS
Contract Status: $1.0 million, UFA at the end of the season, 31-years-old
Another player who was a late summer signing off the scrap heap by the Panthers and has had a good season, like Tim Thomas and Tom Gilbert who were profiled in my last two reports. Boyes could provide secondary scoring to a playoff team and with the Panthers going nowhere this year, he’s likely to be moved.
19) Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers
2013-14 Stats: 51 GP, 7 G, 17 A, 24 PTS
Contract Status: $5 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the season, 30-years-old
The Oilers would love to recoup assets for Hemsky in the final year of his contract. I can’t see much chance that he re-signs with Edmonton as they have so many better, younger forwards. However, he can still provide some secondary offence to a club as a rental. One issue may be the number of other rental forwards available, and Hemsky’s high cap number. This could make him difficult to move unless the Oilers retain part of his salary.
20) Drew Stafford, Buffalo Sabres
2013-14 Stats: 49 GP, 10 G, 12 A, 22 PTS
Contract Status: $4 million cap hit, UFA after the 2014-15 season, 28-years-old
Another player who the Sabres would love to dump for young assets as they go into full fire-sale mode under Tim Murray. He’s regressed since his 30 goal season in 2010-11 and will likely never see those numbers (aided by an unusually high shooting percentage) ever again. While he does provide some offence, the fact he has another year left on his contract at a $4 million cap hit may mean the Sabres are unable to move him until next season.
21) Daniel Briere, Montreal Canadiens
2013-14 Stats: 46 GP, 9 G, 8 A, 17 PTS
Contract Status: $4 million cap hit, UFA after the 2014-15 season, 36-years-old
Believe it or not Briere is one of the Habs best forwards in terms of PTS/60 minutes. He seems to score when he’s on the ice. The problem? For whatever reason, Briere doesn’t seem to have the trust of head coach Michel Therrien as he gets limited minutes and has even been a healthy scratch on occasion. And so Montreal’s biggest free agent acquisition from this past summer is seen as someone who isn’t producing enough points for the team given his contract. The Canadiens would likely love to move him if they could get any type of value back, but given his age and cap hit, that will be difficult.
22) Lee Stempniak, Calgary Flames
2013-14 Stats: 51 GP, 8 G, 15 A, 23 PTS
Contract Status: $2.5 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the season, 31-years-old
Part of the Calgary Flames version of a fire sale, Stempniak is a relatively cheap option who could provide secondary scoring to a playoff team. He will almost surely be moved.
23) Tomas Fleischmann, Florida Panthers
2013-14 Stats: 56 GP, 5 G, 18 A, 23 PTS
Contract Status: $4.5 million cap hit, UFA after 2014-15 season, 29-years-old
He’s in an almost identical situation to Drew Stafford. He’s on a bad team who would love to move him. His numbers have declined from a big season in 2010-11, he is signed through 2014-15 and has a big cap hit number. This means he is likely in the same position as Stafford and will stay with the Panthers one more year before being moved sometime during the final year of his contract.
24) Rene Bourque, Montreal Canadiens
2013-14 Stats: 46 GP, 8 G, 3 A, 11 PTS
Contract Status: $3.33 Million cap hit, UFA after the 2015-16 season, 32-years-old
Acquired in the Mike Cammalleri trade, Bourque has never lived up to expectations in Montreal. He was rumored to be moving to the Avalanche in a move for P.A. Parenteau before the Olympic break, but that seemed to break down. Isn’t providing $3.3 million worth of production right now, so while the team would love to move him, finding a suitor may be difficult.
25) Martin Erat, Washington Capitals
2013-14 Stats: 51 GP, 1 G, 21 A, 22 PTS
Contract Status: $4.5 million cap hit, UFA after the 2014-15 season, 32-years-old
When the Capitals made the move for Erat last year at the trade deadline, I thought it was a mistake. However, I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how big of a mistake it would be. Its pretty bad when the 19-year-old prospect you traded to as part of the futures package to get the 31-year-old offensive winger has the same number of goals as that 31-year-old the very next season. The Caps would love to fulfill Erat’s wishes and grant him the trade he requested, but he again is an expensive player with a big cap hit, and signed through next season, meaning he’s difficult to move.
Note: The predictions are for fun and are all basically an exercise in educated guess work. I’m not claiming to be an NHL insider here. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments, or tell me why mine are off-base.
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