With the NHL Olympic break finally over and a week away from the NHL trade deadline the rumor mill is in full effect.
Over the past few years the trade activity surrounding the trade deadline has been less exciting and significant. Just ask the hosts of the live deadline coverage shows like TSNís James Duthie.
This year offers hope of a more significant experience however as there are several players with expiring contracts who have asked for a trade. The salary cap is increasing significantly next season and that factor will have an influence on teamís willingness to acquire players with non-expiring contracts as well. And as always, there are teams on the outside of the playoff race looking to the future.
With all these factors at work, here is a look at my list of the top 10 player who could be available, why, where they may be headed, and what the return may be.
1. Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Rumors of St. Louis asking for a trade have been swirling since his Olympic snub by Canada GM and Tampa GM Steve Yzerman. When asked about it, St. Louis had this to say "I've had conversations with Steve about my future with the team and I'll leave it at thatĒ Reminds me of a quote from the movie slapshot, ďtrade me right fucking nowĒ St. Louis has one year remaining on his contract that will pay him $5.625 million. There was a ST. Louis for Ryan Callahan
rumor which apparently Yzerman rejected. If he has asked for a trade, every team would have interest, but with the Lightning in a playoff spot it would not be a deal for future assets such as prospects and draft picks. The LA Kings could use the offensive help Marty would bring and the Ottawa Senators are looking to add a scoring winger for Jason Spezza. Those teams while logical destinations may lack the assets Yzerman would want in return. My prediction is he stays in Tampa.
2. Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers
Callahan is reportedly asking for a raise from his $4.275 million contract to a new seven year contract averaging around $6.75 million. The Rangers have no intention of paying him that much or giving that much term in what I consider to be a wise decision and are shopping their captain. If Callahan is determined to test the free agent market in pursuit of his target deal, he will be a rental. The Rangers are in a playoff position and would want roster players in return as evident of the St. Louis trade offer. The Rangers and Vancouver Canucks traded Coaches in the summer, could we see a Callahan for Kesler trade?
3. Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks are currently out of a playoff position trailing the Dallas Stars by one point for a wild card spot. However, heading into the Olympic break the Canucks were about the worst team in the NHL, if they fail to rebound in the next week they could very well consider their window of opportunity to challenge for a Championship to be closed and look to the future. However, almost every player including Kesler has a NTC in their contract. Former Canucks GM and current Leafs GM Dave Nonnis may be interested and Kesler would fill the centre position the Leafs have long been searching for. A young offensive defenseman such as Jake Gardiner could be made available from the Leafs
4. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
Miller is a pending UFA, he wants out of Buffalo and they want to move him. Simple right? The problem is there are not many teams who really need a goalie and there are other goalies who will be available such as Tim Thomas, Jonas Hiller, and James Reimer. Two popular rumors for Miller are the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues. The Wild have injuries to their goalies Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, while the Blues may lack confidence in their starters. Another suitor may be the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have typically been buyers of big assets in deadlines past and have had brutal post season performances. The Sabres are seeking a roster player, pick and prospect. The Penguins could offer Beau Bennett, Simon Despres and a pick.
5. Thomas Vanek, New York Islanders
The injury to John Tavares in Sochi all but assured the Islanders will be selling at the deadline this year. If there was any doubt if the Islanders would trade Vanek, there should be none now. It is speculated that Vanek wants to play in Minnesota, where he played his college hockey and where his wife is from. The Wild own a wild card spot and may consider early negotiating rights to Vanek. Heatley is also an expiring contract so the Wild could use his $7.5 million to sign Vanek. A first round pick should be enough to secure Vanek. Ottawa may make a bid and hope to catch lightning in a bottle with a Spezza Vanek combination.
6. Marian Gaborik, Columbus Blue Jackets
Gaborik is another pending UFA but has been limited to only 18 games this season due to injury. This is a recording. The Blue Jackets are only one point out of a playoff wild card spot but have not depended on Gaborik in order to get there. If a team were asking, I am sure he would be available. The price tag on Gaborik should be lower than that of Vanek and St. Louis, look for the Los Angeles Kings to be players here with assets such as Matt Frattin to offer in conjunction with a draft pick
7. Mike Cammalleri, Calgary Flames
The Flames have finally embraced the rebuild and while they have offered Cammalleri a contract extension, GM Brian Burke has not ruled out a trade. TSN insider Darren Dreger says the Flames are seeking draft picks, young players and players with size which should be attainable for a player of Cammalleriís stature. There is familiarity with the Kings who need scoring and the Kings offered Kyle Clifford for Sam Gagner but that deal fell through. Could this be plan B? The Leafs were also interested in signing Cammalleri back in 2009 and there is definitely a familiarity with the management teams of Toronto and Calgary.
8. Dan Girardi, New York Rangers
Another Ranger contract impasse may see Girardi out of Broadway. TSN insider Bob MacKenzie says if Girardi is unsigned by the deadline there is a 99% chance he is traded. He would be the premier defenceman available and there could be a bidding war for his services even if as a rental. The shot blocking and defensive defenceman would be a highly sought after post season addition for any contending team. The Rangers could make out like bandits in a trade here as every playoff contender will bi in on Girardi
9. Matt Moulson, Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres have already acquired a first round pick from the Islanders when they acquired Moulson, and now since the Sabres are the last place team in the NHL expect them to flip Moulson for even more. New GM Tim Murray is renowned for his ability to evaluate talent and potential in young players so look for the Sabres to seek more draft picks. His familiarity with the Ottawa Senators prospects could make the Sens a front runner if he has a particular player he likes such as Shane Prince, Mark Stone, or Matt Puempel.
10. Tim Thomas, Florida Panthers
Thomas made his NHL return and while he may not be a Vezina winner anymore at the age of 39 he is still a reliable goalie with playoff pedigree, a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smyth. Florida will be sellers at the deadline and teams with goaltending needs include Pittsburgh, Washington, St. Louis, and Minnesota. The loser of the Ryan Miller sweepstakes will step up to the plate on Thomas.