For everyone but the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues, the off-season is already in full swing and with the NHL Draft less than three weeks away, the rumor mill is starting to heat back up. TSN’s Frank Seravalli has updated his Trade Bait list and it features a whopping ten new names out of 25 total players. Leading the way among the newcomers is talented, young Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. Gostisbehere has emerged as a candidate to move if the Flyers can land a top-six forward in exchange, as they look to be aggressive this off-season. Also new to the list are names included in the overturned Phil Kessel-to-Minnesota trade, Jack Johnson and Victor Rask, with Jason Zucker and Kessel now long-time fixtures. Another player tied to recent rumors making his trade bait debut is the Vancouver Canucks’ Loui Eriksson, who has been linked to former teammate Milan Lucic, also on the list, and the Edmonton Oilers, but could move in any number of possible deals. As the Florida Panthers look to shake up their roster in free agency, James Reimer and Mike Hoffman have made the list as possible cap space casualties. So too have Toronto Maple Leafs teammates Nazem Kadri and Mitch Marner, even though Seravalli himself agrees that a Marner trade is a long shot. With plenty of talent filling the early off-season trade bait board, it could be a busy summer for high-profile trades, some of which could begin even before the draft kicks off on June 21st.
- A seemingly curious continued presence on the trade bait list is that of Artemi Panarin. It was one thing for Panarin to be atop the list as the trade deadline approached and the Columbus Blue Jackets were unsure whether or not they would sell the all-world forward. However, after keeping Panarin, an impending unrestricted free agent, it may seem that his trade value has now disappeared, since he is weeks away from hitting the open market. However, as a 27-year-old premiere free agent, both Panarin and his suitors will be interested in that eighth year of contract term that is only available to the incumbent team. As such, the Blue Jackets could look to squeeze the very last drops of value out of Panarin by trading his rights before the league year ends, allowing a new team to sign him to an eight-year extension rather than a seven-year free agent contract. While possible, and often valuable, acquiring UFA signing rights is not as frequent a move as one might expect. The last team to do so was the Florida Panthers in 2016, adding an expiring Keith Yandle for a a sixth-round pick and conditional fourth-round pick. That same year, the Arizona Coyotes did the same, bringing in Alex Goligoski on the tail end of his contract with the Dallas Stars for a fifth-round pick. Not since Ilya Bryzgalov in 2011 has a player’s UFA rights drawn more than a fourth-round pick at best, but Panarin is a unique player and Columbus could land a third-round pick or more in exchange for the opportunity to sign him to that one extra year – and to keep him from testing the market.
- Unsurprisingly, the extension of goaltender Anders Nilsson in Ottawa has prompted speculation that the Senators will try to move overpaid third-string option Mike Condon. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch writes that Condon’s “days are numbered” with the team, as there’s no room for him in Ottawa behind Nilsson and Craig Anderson and he’s not wanted in Belleville with Filip Gustavsson, Joey Daccord, and possibly Marcus Hogberg in the mix. Cap space is not a problem for the Senators, but Garrioch still believes they would prefer to trade Condon and all or part of his $2.4MM salary next season rather than buy him out at the cost of $400K next year and $1MM the year after. Garrioch can only make a case that perhaps some team with weak goalie depth would be interested in Condon as a strong AHL option next season, as the 29-year-old is unlikely to be considered a regular NHL option. Perhaps after the free agent goalie market shakes out in early July, the Senators will be able to find a partner who missed out on their targets and could use Condon’s services. Otherwise, a buyout does seem to be the more likely route.