It was a busy summer in the NHL. Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri, P.K. Subban, Jacob Trouba, Tyson Barrie, Justin Faulk and a number of other players were all traded to new destinations and while things may have slowed slightly, there’s no indication teams are done making moves.
A busy week on the NHL waiver wire saw only two names claimed, partly because teams simply can’t afford to pick up NHL contracts without employing the practice of one-in-one-out. Any player joining a club these days often means one player has to exit and that could equate to an exciting 30 days in terms of trades — which of course here at NHL Trade Talk, we love.
The 2019-20 regular season officially kicks off tonight and while we’re not expecting trades today, or for any particular organization to sell the farm if they lose opening night, moves might be right around the corner. Who? Let’s take a look:
Jack Johnson, Pittsburgh Penguins
We’ll start with Jack Johnson because his name has been the rumor mill more recently than perhaps anyone else on our list. Both Johnson and GM Jim Rutherford responded to rumors of Johnson being on the block with harsh criticism of the “journalism” that suggested the team was going to move him, but let’s not mistake that response to the team not interested in a trade.
Moving Johnson is by far the easiest way for the Penguins to get back under the salary cap ceiling or alleviate some of the pressure that’s coming with his five-year deal in free agency last summer. Some might argue defenceman Erik Gudbranson and winger Nick Bjugstad could also be used as trade chips but that might be only if the Penguins don’t find a taker for Johnson and his contract, which is entirely possible.
The report, that was apparently shot down, is that Johnson was informed he could be traded in the next 48 hours. Will it happen that quickly? Maybe not. Will it happen. I believe Pittsburgh is hoping so, no matter how upset they act at the accusations they are shopping him.
Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres
Ristolainen has been in the rumor mill since the start of offseason, dating back to even before that. There were whispers he’d requested a trade and while he didn’t confirm as much when camp kicked off, those whispers never really quieted. The Sabres almost always seem to be a team that makes at least one expected move. Is Ristolainen that move this year?
At six-foot-four and offensively gifted, there can’t be a shortage of teams keeping an eye on that situation in a Buffalo. A few insiders are wondering if the Jets are the team to watch? Their depleted blue line could certainly use someone like Ristolainen.
The Sabres have Rasmus Dahlin as their blue line cornerstone and recently acquired Brandon Montour and Colin Miller in trades. Montour was unfortunately injured and might miss up to a month of NHL action but that doesn’t mean Ristolainen isn’t being shopped, especially if he can be used to pick up a top-six forward.
Any Ristolainen deal might depend on how the Sabres do out of the gate. If they begin to panic, watch the rumors swirl and watch teams line up. At 24, his best years are hardly behind him and with three years remaining on his $5.4-million AAV deal, he’s not an albatross contract an team would be afraid to pick up. In fact, a number of teams likely see him as a deal since he’s an automatic top-four almost any NHL franchise.
Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers
Things have been relatively quiet on the Jesse Puljujarvi trade-front since he went over to play in Finland. Ken Holland said in a recent media scrum that there’s not much to report on the Puljujarvi situation because most teams are focused on players in their own camp and who and who didn’t make their respective NHL clubs. Once that calms down, talks might pick up.
Expect trade talk surrounding Puljujarvi to increase as teams get off to a rocky start or a prospect under-performs and an NHL team thinks it’s better to move on than wait it out. With how important the first 10 games of the season can be in an NHL that offers such parity, it might not take long for the Oilers to hear their phone start ringing.
Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
The defending Stanley Cup Champions have already proven they aren’t afraid to make moves, adding Justin Faulk on a long-term deal and shipping out Joel Edmundson. What else might they have up their sleeve?
It’s a near guarantee the team can’t keep everyone and Brayden Schenn could become an expensive luxury the team can’t afford. A recent report by Elliotte Friedman in his latest 31 Thoughts column is that the team is “taking a big run” at a Schenn extension. What if he chooses not to sign? Will that be an indication for the Blues they should consider moving on?
Along with Schenn, St. Louis has two prominent pending UFAs in captain Alex Pietrangelo and veteran blueliner Jay Bouwmeester. Bouwmeester may elect to retire but there are murmurs the Blues could try to move Pietrangelo considering the relationship between the player and the team hasn’t always been ideal. Still, our prediction is Schenn chooses to hold off on signing and he moves before the stud defender does, simply because teams are eager to add scoring and the asking price won’t be as high. St. Louis can’t afford losing Schenn for nothing in free agency.
If there’s a move that happens outside of our 30-day window, this one might be it.
Blues GM Doug Armstrong also said he’s made it a top priority is to sign Pietrangelo thus adding another hurdle to getting Schenn back under contract. When you consider RFAs Vince Dunn, Robby Fabbri and Samuel Blais need new deals, things are aligning for a move. Should the Blues come out if the gate cold or with a Stanley Cup hangover, expect a move sooner than later.
Julius Honka, Dallas Stars
The asking price is too high right now, but when it comes down (and it likely will), expect the Dallas Stars to trade disgruntled defenseman Julius Honka.
The last restricted free agent on the market for this season, there seems to be no happy ending in Dallas as far as Honka is concerned and if the Stars can get anything close to the 2nd or 3rd-rounder they are seeking, the trade will happen.
Jonathan Drouin, Montreal Canadiens
The rumblings that Montreal may look to move Jonathan Drouin certainly exist, even if Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin says he has no idea where the rumors came from. A recent report by Elliotte Friedman and another report by Eric Engels, both confirm that Drouin’s “name is definitely out there.” There’s plenty of good reasons to think something is coming.
Who knows what it is about Drouin that seems to follow him wherever he goes but he fizzled out in Tampa Bay and became expendable and the Canadiens are finding that he’s unable to elevate his game. He’s not a bad player, but he’s paid to produce and he’s not showing a consistency to do so.
Bergevin said, “Training camp is training camp. I mean he’s not the only one who’s not up to par right now,” but that he’s aware Drouin has under-performed and the Canadiens will be looking to improve their roster means the team might be making phone calls to see what’s out there.
Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles Kings
Quietly in the background seem to wait the Los Angeles Kings. Willing to make moves, there hasn’t been much noise coming out of that organization.
The Kings were not good last season. They’re older, they have contracts they want to move and the only trade piece that might fetch a decent return is Tyler Toffoli, a player who had a down year. With only 13 goals in 82 games last season, he either turns it around quickly or the Kings think they’ve got a player who’s lost a step.
In LA, there is another name to watch and that’s Jonathan Quick. There are questions around the goaltending situation and who is going to get the money and the starting job as the franchise changes things up over the long-term. Quick is making $5.8 million over the next four seasons but didn’t perform well last season. Is that really where the Kings want to invest so much money? The reason we’re not sure Quick moves first is because the Kings would be selling low. It’s never wise to knowingly do that.
Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild
One of the questions that will remain in Minnesota until it happens is, ‘Who will new GM Bill Guerin move in his first big trade?’
Jason Zucker nas been in the trade rumor mill for a while in Minnesota. Maybe Guerin likes Zucker more than former GM Paul Fenton did, and Zucker has played a lot in preseason, but the Wild are looking for a center and may move a winger to try and land one. Zucker can score so there should be interested teams.
A running theme for this trades is that much depends on how the team jumps out of the gate. This will be the case in Minnesota as well.
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
Are the New York Rangers rebuilding? Are they not rebuilding? The answer to that question isn’t always clear because the actions of the team are not always consistent.
The Rangers let their fans know last season that they’d be moving certain contracts, getting younger and looking forward to the future. Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton moved Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, Adam McQuaid and Cody McLeod, then he traded Jimmy Vesey to the Sabres. Then they went and spent a fortune on Artemi Panarin in free agency.
So, is the team going to continue to sell? If they do, the obvious name to move is Chris Kreider who was in the rumor mill a lot this summer. He’s coming up on a contract year and with the deals that have been going out to wingers who can score, he’ll be in for a nice raise. The buzz is that the Rangers aren’t prepared to pay him what he might be asking for.
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