All month I’ve been looking at potential trade targets for the GM Ken Holland to look at this offseason and now, it’s time to give you the fourth and final group of teams that I think will be very active this summer. These teams all suffered very disappointing seasons in 2018/19 and I think their General Managers will be itching to change things up in the next couple of months.
I put Nashville at the top of this list simply because they have plenty of defensemen and are clearly upset with how their season ended. Their powerplay was horrendous and despite the additions of Mikael Granlund, Brian Boyle, and Wayne Simmonds, they could not get it going when it mattered most. On top of that, they have young, right shot defenseman Dante Fabbro, who appears to be ready for more responsibility.
If they’re comfortable with elevating Fabbro and want to upgrade their forward group then I could see one of PK Subban (three more years at $9 million) or Ryan Ellis (eight more years at $6.25 million) being sacrificed. Both of those guys are pricey and would likely command a big return. If the Oilers wanted one of these defensemen, they’d likely have to sacrifice Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I’m not sure if that’s a good deal for the Oilers.
As a parting shot, I’ll throw this out there: Eeli Tolvanen for Jesse Puljujarvi. The Oilers may have the prospect with more upside, but Tolvanen is very talented and still has two years left on his ELC. If Holland isn’t high on Puljujarvi, that’s a deal both sides may be intrigued with.
For the second straight season, expectations were very high in Winnipeg and for the second straight season they came up short of their ultimate goal. This year they came up very short.
In part two of my trade targets, I mentioned that the Jets could look at trading away some veterans like Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault, or Dmitry Kulikov. But what if they take it a step further and look at dealing off Nikolaj Ehlers. He’s averaged 25 goals a season over the past three seasons and based on the fact that he’s only 23-years-old and his shooting percentage has been incredibly consistent, it’s fair to assume that he’ll continue to produce at that level or higher.
Still, in 21 career playoff games, he hasn’t scored. That’s left a sour taste in the mouths of some Jets fans and there’s a chance that feeling is shared by management. Could the Oilers take advantage of that in a similar way to how the Islanders took advantage of a poor postseason run by Jordan Eberle? It’s certainly possible. I’ll add that the Oilers would need to move out salary if they want to bring in Ehlers and his $6 million cap hit.
One other name I’m intrigued by is Jack Roslovic. There are rumblings that he’s frustrated by the lack of opportunity he’s been given throughout his career and could ask for a move. Could these two teams swap prospects?
There are wild rumours that the Penguins will consider moving names like Kris Letang, Phil Kessel, and even Evgeni Malkin. I don’t think any of those names are going anywhere. But I think we’ll see them shift around some depth pieces.
Up front, there are a few names I like. Nick Bjugstad would be a nice third-line centre in Edmonton, but he carries a $4.1 million cap hit. I don’t think the Oilers would be able to find a way to afford that. Bryan Rust is a little more affordable at $3.5 million and he can play both wings, but he’s usually on their top line. They also have Dominik Simon and Jared McCann as affordable wing options. It’s a pipe dream, but if the Penguins need to shed cap space, I think Rust would be an absolutely perfect fit in Edmonton.
On the backend, they currently have four left-shot defensemen who are NHL calibre. They’re high on Marcus Pettersson and Jack Johnson has a big contract and is likely going to stay. That leaves Olli Maatta and Brian Dumoulin as potential moves. Both guys had poor offensive seasons and could be on the move. The Oilers have three left-shot defensemen (Klefbom, Nurse, Sekera) and if all three are still here, I don’t think the Oilers would view any of the Penguins left shot d-men as upgrades.
The other three teams were all eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, well the Sabres didn’t even get that far. After a scorching hot start, they fizzled out in a truly tremendous way. Resigning Jeff Skinner is likely priority number one and I expect they’ll get that done. After that, they need to revamp the supporting cast around Skinner, Jack Eichel, and Sam Reinhart.
They have some bad contracts (Kyle Okposo and Vladimir Sobotka) and while they’ll no doubt want to try to get rid of those, it isn’t a priority considering they’ll have well over $20 million in cap space.
On the backend, they have Rasmus Dahlin on the left-side and it appears that they’re very high on Brandon Montour. For a while, I thought that could mean that the Rasmus Ristolainen could shake loose, but I don’t see that happening based off of the injuries the Sabres will be facing at the start of the 2019-20 season.
They’ll be missing Zach Bogosian and Lawrence Pilut to start next season, so I wonder if the Oilers could dangle Kris Russell to the Sabres. Russell can play both sides of the ice, which might intrigue the Sabres. As I said earlier, they have a bad contract is Vlad Sobotka. Sobotka scored just five goals in 69 games with the Sabres last season but he has just one more year on his contract at $3.5 million. He doesn’t have the value that Russell does, but the fact that his deal expires a year earlier would be tempting to me. Buying out Sobotka is also very team friendly. I would still think the Oilers could get some more in that kind of deal, but it would save them money for next season.