NHL Trade Bait – The Wildcards

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.

Tuesday we looked at the defencemen.  You can read it by clicking here.

Yesterday I looked at the forwards who may be available.  You can read it by clicking here.

Today I’m going to look at another group of players, ones who seemingly can’t stop popping up in trade rumors and discussions, but who I believe will not be traded at the deadline.  This group doesn’t include the various soon to be UFAs who dominated the previous three articles, or the players who are obvious candidates to be on the market based on their salary, value and role on their respective teams.  Now while its possible these players can be traded, after all Wayne Gretzky was traded, twice! I just don’t believe they are being as actively shopped as those on my previous lists, despite all the chatter to the contrary.

NHL Trade Bait – The Wildcards

Unlike previous lists, these players are in alphabetical order.


Dustin Byfuglien, D/RW, Winnipeg Jets
2013-14 Stats: 60 GP, 14 G, 29 A, 43 PTS
Contract Situation: $5.2 million cap hit, UFA after the 2015-16 season, 28-years-old

Is he a defenceman?  Is he a forward?  The Jets don’t even seem to know as they have used “Big Buff” in both positions this season.  Recently he’s been playing on the wing.  He has a great point shot, but is also extremely effective in front of the net for screens, tips, and rebounds.  Physically Byfuglien is a freak of nature, as he shouldn’t be as fast or as agile as he is for a man his size.  With his versatility, and the fact he continues to produce in any position they put him, I just don’t see how the Jets can move Byfuglien as they have pulled themselves into the thick of the playoff race with a big win streak before the break.


Jordan Eberle, RW, Edmonton Oilers
2013-14 Stats: 59 GP, 19 G, 26 A, 45 PTS
Contract Situation: $6 million cap hit, UFA after the 2018-19 season, 23-years-old

Eberle, along with Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov (who were part of the post on forwards) is one of the great young forwards who are rumored to be available in Edmonton.  While it is no surprise that the Oilers have too many forwards and would like some more help on the blueline, Eberle seems to be the hardest player for the Oilers to move of these three players.  They committed to Eberle long-term when signing him to the big contract extension, and Eberle has produced great numbers in his time in Edmonton.  He’s still young and has chemistry with key core pieces like Taylor Hall, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  For those reasons I think its unlikely that Eberle is moved.


Alex Edler, D, Vancouver Canucks
2013-14 Stats: 41 GP, 5 G, 10 A, 15 Points
Contract Situation: $5 million cap hit, UFA after the 2018-19 season, 27-years-old

A recent losing streak, and falling out of a playoff spot, has fueled speculation that the Canucks  may want to shake up their team.  One player who has been rumored in to be available is defenceman Alex Edler.  However the 27 year old is signed for the next five seasons, at a hefty cap hit.  Edler still plays the second most minutes per game on the Canucks blue line, and is a key contributor on both the powerplay and shorthanded units.  It would be difficult to move him at the deadline if the Canucks still believe they can make the playoffs this season.  Oh and let’s not forget that Edler has a no trade clause.  This is a fluid situation though, and one that may be re-evaluated come the summer.


Jake Gardiner, D, Toronto Maple Leafs
2013-14 Stats: 58 GP, 5 G, 12 A, 17 PTS
Contract Situation: $875,000 salary cap hit, $242,000 in bonuses cap hit, RFA after the season, 23-years-old

Gardiner spent most of last season in the AHL, and in the early part of this season he got limited minutes and was even a healthy scratch at times as he was rotated in and out of the press box by Randy Carlyle. There were games Gardiner was sitting, while Paul Ranger and Mark Fraser patrolled the Leafs blue line. It seemed that Carlyle didn’t trust the young defenceman, and with the emergence of Morgan Rielly, there was much speculation that Gardiner was expendable and would be traded. However, Gardiner has gotten more and more responsibility recently and seems a fixture in the Leafs lineup now. He’s played very well with his increased minutes.  Gardiner and Rielly can be the future of the Leafs blueline, and moving him this early in a promising career would be a decision with the potetntial to haunt the Leafs for a long time.  I don’t believe that he is viewed as an expendable piece and think Dave Nonis will keep him unless offered an overpayment, the type of offer that no GM could refuse in the situation.


Jack Johnson, D, Columbus Blue Jackets
2013-14 Stats: 58 GP, 4 G, 17 A, 21 PTS
Contract Situation: $4.357 million cap hit, UFA after the 2017-18 season, 27-years-old

Johnson struggled early in the season, and the Blue Jackets team followed suit.  It was so bad that the man who was once a lock for a top four rule on the US Olympic Team fell off the roster entirely in just a few months.  This has led to some speculation that Johnson is on the block. However, the Jackets and Johnson have picked up their play in 2014 and with the Jackets currently in a playoff spot, I just don’t see them moving their number one defenceman, especially since he isn’t one of those late season free agent rentals.  Johnson’s contract is also extremely reasonable for a player of his caliber.


Nazem Kadri, C, Toronto Maple Leafs
2013-14 Stats: 56 GP, 15 G, 26 A, 41 PTS
Contract Situation: $2.9 million cap hit, RFA after the 2014-15 season, 23-years-old

After the a stellar 2012-13 campaign, Kadri and the Leafs were involved in a long contract dispute.  It seems the team did not want to make the long-term commitment Kadri was looking for, and they instead settled on a two-year “bridge” contract.  This season, Kadri started slowly and wasn’t playing as well as he did in 2012-13.  An inability to produce on the first line when Tyler Bozak was injured in December, and some comments about potentially being surpassed on the depth chart by Randy Carlyle on HBO’s 24/7 fuelled speculation that Kadri was available for trade, and that the team was not happy with the youngster.  However Kadri has played his best hockey of the season since that happened, and given his recent run things seem to have calmed on the rumour mill.  The Leafs have been searching for a big-time offensive centre since the loss of Mats Sundin, and Kadri still has the potential to become that player.  Moving him now seems to go against what the Leafs need to do to keep building their team.


Evander Kane, LW, Winnipeg Jets
2013-14 Stats: 42 GP, 15 G, 14 A, 29 PTS
Contract Situation: $5.25 million cap hit, UFA after the 2017-18 season, 22-years-old

Earlier this season, alleged problems between Kane and former Jets coach Claude Noel and a disagreement over whether Kane was injured or a healthy scratch have fueled trade rumors around the Winnipeg left winger.  However, Noel is long gone and Kane is ready to return to Jets lineup after a subsequent injury to his hand.  With Paul Maurice now in charge, I think it is doubtful that the Jets move one of the best young power forwards in the NHL.  It seems strange that he is only 22, as Kane has been in the NHL for five seasons now.  He’s young enough that he may be on the verge of a true breakout season if he can stay healthy and find consistent linemates on the Jets second unit.


Adam Larsson, D, New Jersey Devils
2013-14 Stats: 20 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 PTS
Contract Situation: $925,000 cap hit, RFA at the end of the season, 21-years-old

Selected 4th overall in the 2011 NHL draft, Larsson has failed to live up to the hype in his first three professional seasons.  Over the last two, he has been yo-yoing between the NHL and AHL, and currently finds himself in Albany.  The emergence of Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas have some speculating that the Devils may move the talented Swede.  However, two players do not a defence core make, and Lou Lamiorello has always believed in building from the net out.  He has his goaltender in Cory Schneider, but his defence as a whole is aging with players like Marek Zidlicky, Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador, and Anton Volchenkov eventually needing to be replaced.  The Devils would be smart to continue to develop Larsson, as he is still young and has talent, as he can become an internal replacement for these players and help New Jersey build a strong, young, blueline group again.


Martin St. Louis, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning
2013-14 Stats: 58 GP, 25 G, 31 A, 56 PTS,
Contract Situation: $5.25 million cap hit, UFA after the 2014-15 season, 38-years-old

St. Louis name has recently surfaced in rumours and has been connected to the New York Rangers.  The reason is that there are some rumours that St. Louis was upset with being snubbed by Lightning/Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman and asked to be traded shortly after the announcement of Canada’s Olympic Team on January 7th.  Even if St. Louis did request a trade, we must remember that his situation has changed greatly in the nearly two months between that date and the deadline.  First, St. Louis went on a scoring tear.  Then teammate Steven Stamkos had to pull out of the Olympics due to the fact that his leg injury was not fully healed, and St. Louis was promptly named as his replacement.  Lastly, St. Louis returned from Sochi with an Olympic Gold Medal.  Any wounds that may have existed between the Tampa general manager, and the team captain, are likely to have healed at this point.


Cam Ward, G, Carolina Hurricanes
2013-14 Stats: 6-8-5, 3.14 GAA, .893 SV%
Contract Situation: $6.3 million cap hit, UFA after the 2015-16 season, 29-years-old

It seems that Anton Khudobin has taken over the role of number one goalie in Carolina this year, leading to speculation that Cam Ward is on the block.  However there are two big problems here.  Firstly, Khudobin will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, can the Hurricanes trade Ward, and also risk him walking away from the team?  Such a trade, prior to Khudobin signing an extension, would put a lot of power in the hands of Khudobin and his agent who will know that Carolina are now forced to sign him or look elsewhere for a number one goalie.  Secondly, the goalie market is so soft right now, I don’t know that the Hurricanes can get good value for Ward. Most contending teams aren’t really looking for a new number one goalie, and given the fact that Ward has had injury issues and declining stats in the last two years, I’m not sure he’s worth his contract.  There will be other options available such as Ryan Miller and Jaroslav Halak this summer.  We saw how hard it was for the Canucks to deal a goalie last year, I don’t know that things are any better for a team with Ward, who really is overpaid to be a backup, and would be the third best starter on the market.


Thank you for reading. Please take a moment to follow me on Twitter – @lastwordBkerr. Support LWOS by following us on Twitter  –@LastWordOnSport – and “liking” our Facebook page.

Interested in writing for LWOS? We are looking for enthusiastic, talented writers to join our Hockey writing team.  Visit our “Write for Us” page for very easy details in how you can get started today!