The 2015 NHL Draft weekend promises to be one of the more active ones in recent history, at least according to conventional wisdom. That's due in large part to the lower-than-usual increase in the salary cap, to $71.4 million, and the impact it has on several teams pushing the cap ceiling.
Add to that the fact that several goalies are on the trade market, and the tendency for general managers to treat the draft weekend as a hybrid auction and swap meet, and you have the ingredients for, as the late NHL GM Ron Caron used to say, "meat on the burner."
Here is just a tip-of-the-icberg sampling of the names, trades and rumors out there:
Expected to be Moved
This one has a whole separate sub-category for goalies. As Pierre LeBrun says, that market is about to get serious.
- Cam Talbot: did a good Henrik Lundqvist impression this season, is still cheap. Several Western teams have been rumored to be interested, especially San Jose, Calgary and Edmonton.
- Eddie Lack or Jacob Markstrom: The Canucks are keeping Ryan Miller, and Markstrom has at long last started to show he might reach his potential. That means Vancouver has a goalie to deal.
- Robin Lehner [TRADED]: With the emergence of Andrew Hammond, the Senators' incumbent goalies became trade bait. Bryan Murray clearly preferred to trade Lehner, who could fetch more as a cost-controlled youngster and be packaged with some other salary going out the door. That's exactly what happened, as Friday morning Murray acquired one of the Sabres' 1st-round picks (21st overall, previously belonging to the Islanders) in exchange for Lehner and David Legwand.
Non-goalies expected to be moved:
Phil Kessel: This is a hard one because of large contract and supposed "personality" concerns, but the Leafs are definitely testing the waters on an auction of their best player. The question is whether they'll go through with it, and that entirely depends on the cost-benefit analysis of keeping their star vs. how much a trade return would help their rebuild several years down the road.
Kevin Bieksa: The Canucks defenseman has a no-trade clause, but we all know those are basically "I have a say in where I'm traded once you make it difficult for me" clauses. Apparently he's been asked if he would waive it, and San Jose is very much interested. This is another cap-casualty situation, as he has one year left on his deal with a $4.6 million cap hit.
Michael Grabner: Maybe "expected" is too strong here, but the speedy Islander forward's injury-laden season, rumored additional surgery, and last year of his contract (higher salary, low cap hit) make him a candidate to be traded as surplus.
Patrick Sharp: The Chicago Blackhawks need to create cap room (again...woe is the life of a champ), and Sharp's talent and salary make him a great candidate to be moved. Rumors were briefly hot about the Stars, but it appears that was more manufactured fantasy than reality. Still, Sharp is "expected" to be moved within the next week, though that timeline may just be the Hawks' way of trying to increase the bidding.
Bryan Bickell, Kris Versteeg: Sharp is the attractive name that could actually fetch something, but Bickell and Versteeg are obvious names to remove as Chicago seeks to steer under the cap. All three of them could be dumped later this summer though (see Nick Leddy, 2014).
Ryan O'Reilly: His career is marked by excellent two-way play and repeated contract disputes with Colorado. His demands reportedly remain sky-high. The Avs want to keep the player, don't want to keep the problem (i.e. giant contract demands).
Wouldn't Be Surprised if He's Moved
These are names that have come up in at least a few legit trade rumors, pointing to their teams at least testing the waters to see what price is out there.
The 3rd Overall Pick: Lots of buzz on the Coyotes shopping this pick. Each year at the top of the draft there is always a team saying they'll "listen to offers," but this has been noisier than usual. The Coyotes are in an interesting spot, as they seem to need a rebuild but have some key pieces (longtime captain Shane Doan, coach Dave Tippett) who don't really have the appetite to start from scratch. If they aren't sold on Dylan Strome, and they can get multiple good NHLers for that pick, there might just be a move here.
Dion Phaneuf: The Leafs say they are happy to keep the controversial defenseman, but given their rebuild, his salary and his value, no one would be surprised if he is dealt. Supposedly the Leafs and Red Wings were close on a trade valuation during this spring's trade deadline.
Milan Lucic, Dougie Hamilton [TRADED]: Yes, that's right. Two Bruins -- one who "defines" them but at a ridiculous salary, the other who is a prime return from their Kessel trade but is about to command a major contract -- are reportedly in play. The Bruins have to navigate the cap (again) and probably alter their mix after missing the playoffs. A Hamilton deal would be insane. A Lucic deal would be a get-out-of-jail move. Both possibilities are cap-related.
UPDATE: Indeed, the Bruins traded Hamilton to Calgary for a first-round pick and two seconds. Insane. They may not be done, either, as rumors are increasing about Lucic and Los Angeles.
TJ Oshie: The Blues disappointed again in the playoffs but decided against firing coach Ken Hitchcock. That means they are strong candidates for the ol' "scenery change" trade, but they have very few players who don't have trade limitations via contract clauses or recent signings.
Patrik Berglund: See above under "Oshie, TJ."
Kyle Okposo: Newsday's Arthur Staple heard from two non-Islanders sources that Okposo's (and Grabner's) name was out there. TSN's Darren Dreger followed that up a couple days later with a quote from Garth Snow saying he had "no intention" to deal the Isles winger. You know the deal here: Okposo's talent, recent injury and contract status mean he's an asset that could be parlayed into something better from the right cap-stressed team. Apparently, offers did not meet price for a player who is integral to the Isles.