Given the players remaining on the free agent market, any further fireworks this summer will likely come via a blockbuster trade. It certainly seems possible too, with more than a few major names being floated around. Who will be the first to go?
The biggest fish available for a lucky team to catch is obviously all-world defenseman Erik Karlsson. With one year remaining on his contract and on a sinking ship in Ottawa, the Senators have little choice but to trade the Norris Trophy winner. However, finding the right deal to get a fair return on a player of Karlsson’s caliber is proving difficult and talks between Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion and both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars have reportedly broken down. The noise surrounding a potential Karlsson trade has died down significantly over the past few days.
Another trade target whose apparent availability is being downplayed in Edmonton Oilers winger Milan Lucic. Early in the off-season, there was rampant speculation that a Lucic trade was inevitable. Some said that the team wanted to move on from the remaining five years and $30MM of the underachieving forward’s contract, while others said that it was Lucic who was unhappy in Edmonton and was seeking a trade. Both sides have denied claims that they are seeking a separation, but as most trade rumors go – where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
There’s also Max Pacioretty, who was close to being traded during draft weekend but ended up remaining with the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs captain is coming off of a down year and is in the final year of his contract, making his trade value the lowest that it has been in years. Yet, it has continually been reported that the Canadiens are listening on offers. Those reports have grown quiet over the last week or so and it could be that Montreal has simply opted to retain one of the faces of their franchise, but don’t rule out the possibility of a deal just yet.
As potential Karlsson, Lucic, and Pacioretty deals have lost some steam, Columbus Blue Jackets’ star Artemi Panarin has emerged as a popular trade target. Panarin, to his credit, was honest with the organization that he remains unsure if he will be willing to sign a long-term extension to stay in Columbus before his contract expires after next season. As a result, GM Jarmo Kekalainen and company have begun to explore any possible trade scenarios should they choose to mitigate the risk of losing Panarin for nothing as a free agent by dealing him away. However, Panarin is still a young and highly productive player who hasn’t flat out said he won’t resign with the Blue Jackets and the team may be understandably cautious in making a decision on what to do with him.
Another situation playing out between a team who would rather hold on to their asset is the Minnesota Wild and winger Jason Zucker. Zucker filed for salary arbitration this off-season and, after a career season, is due a major bump on his previous $2MM salary. However, the Wild have a surplus of NHL-caliber forwards and a likely shortage of cap space needed to sign both Zucker and young defenseman Matt Dumba. Dumba and the blue line are the priority, potentially making Zucker expendable. Minnesota will do what they can to keep him, but may not have a choice but to get what they can for the 26-year-old scorer.
Finally, there are the Carolina Hurricanes. Last month, there was not hotter name on the rumor mill than forward Jeff Skinner. Approaching the NHL Draft, several insider went so far as to guarantee that he would be traded in the coming days. More than two weeks later, Skinner remains a Hurricane. There is surely a market for Skinner, but the team and new GM Don Waddell have stated that they simply haven’t received an offer yet that they were comfortable with. Carolina clearly values what Skinner brings offensive and the Hurricanes need to be better at scoring next season. Where they have strength and depth is the blue line, yet they have managed to add both Dougie Hamilton and Calvin de Haan this off-season. The team is now overloaded with talented defensemen, especially on the right side, and there is an expectation that veteran leader Justin Faulk is likely going to be odd man out and interest is high in the All-Star.
There are many trade possibilities available, including deals that include more than one of these players, but assuming otherwise: Who is most likely to be the next big name traded this off-season?
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