Saturday, June 9, 2018

Ten big names that could totally be traded this summer (but probably won't)

We’re on to the NHL off-season, which means it’s time to start wildly speculating about which big-name players are about to be traded.

That’s been an annual tradition for hockey fans over the years, even if deep down we always knew that almost all of those blockbusters would never happen. But ever since the NHL off-season went haywire on a June afternoon in 2016, this time of year has felt just a little bit more exciting. If Shea Weber, Taylor Hall and P.K. Subban could all be traded within a few minutes, who’s to say that any big name is really off the table?

So today, let’s run down 10 of the biggest names that could be moved over the next few weeks. Will any of these players actually end up being traded? There’s a chance that at least one or two could be. Will most of them stay with their current teams, at least through opening night? Undoubtedly. Will at least a few these seem so ridiculous in hindsight that the author will feel embarrassed to have even mentioned them? Not if we remember to come back and delete this post, no.

Either way, let’s get to the trade bait. We’ll start with the most likely big name to be moved, and work our way further out from reality as we go.

1) Erik Karlsson, Senators

Why a trade could happen: We’ll start with a player who may be the biggest star on this list, yet also seems like the most likely to move. The Karlsson trade saga was one of the biggest stories of the regular season, springing to life after some eyebrow-raising comments from the Senators’ captain about his impending free agency, blossoming into a full-blown bidding war by the deadline, and then ending without a deal being struck.

That last part sure feels temporary, as we head into an off-season that figures to see plenty of teams finding enough cap space to take a serious run at one of the best defencemen in the league.

Why we shouldn’t assume that it has to: The Senators don’t have to trade their star, and in a perfect world they’d sign him to a reasonable extension and get on with the work of building a contender around him. Back in February, it felt like there was just way too much smoke for there not to be a fire here — remember, Bobby Ryan told reporters that he and Karlsson actually thought a deal was done. But a lot can change in four months, and even if Karlsson doesn’t want to re-sign, the Senators could hold onto him through the summer in hopes of finding a better deal during the season.

And yet…: Players don’t normally make a point of collecting souvenir pucks when they think they’re sticking around. Karlsson seems like a guy who’s made up his mind to be elsewhere by 2019. And if so, it would be in the Senators’ best interest to get a deal done soon rather than let this situation hang over everything the team does for most of the next year.

2) Ryan O’Reilly, Sabres

Why a trade could happen: Few players should be untouchable after a last-place season. And that’s especially true when that player ends the season by suggesting the team has “been OK with losing” and that it’s cost him his love of the game. That’s not really what you want to hear from one of your leaders.

GM Jason Botterill came over last spring and played his let’s-wait-and-see card. That approach works for one year, but after watching his team finish dead last, it’s time for action. Finding a new home for O’Reilly would be the kind of shakeup move that teams occasionally need, if only as a reminder that the status quo isn’t good enough.

Why it doesn’t have to: After what we’ve seen recently in Toronto, New Jersey, Colorado and Vegas, anybody who suggests that a team as bad as the Sabres must be years away from a playoff run hasn’t been paying attention. Turnarounds can happen quickly these days, and O’Reilly is a good-enough player to be a key part of one in Buffalo. Besides, with a $7.5-million cap hit for five more years, it may be tough to get top value for him.

And yet…: After those end-of-season comments, bringing O’Reilly back for another year would almost seem cruel.

3) Phil Kessel, Penguins

Why a trade could happen: He’s been in Pittsburgh for three years now, which is about the maximum length of time Kessel can last anywhere before the trade talk kicks in.

Why there’s a chance it might not: You may recall that the Penguins did pretty well in two of those three years, and Kessel had a lot to do with that. Given his production, his cap hit (which the Leafs are already paying a chunk of) is fairly reasonable. In a league where every team could use at least a little more speed, skill and scoring depth, you’d think a team might want to hold onto a guy who brings as much of all three as Kessel.

And yet…: Those are all good reasons to trade for a guy, too, which means Jim Rutherford should be able to extract a decent return on a deal. Whether the Penguins are tired of Kessel behind the scenes or just see him as an asset that could provide a nice return, Rutherford has never been shy about making big moves.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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