“We have a trade to announce…”
They are the six most exciting words in hockey, and chances are that at some point during the first round of the NHL draft Friday night in Vancouver, commissioner Gary Bettman will step to the podium to deliver them only to have the boos that are being rained down upon him to turn to cheers. Chances are, of course, that even before Bettman is able to speak the words, those of us watching from home will know exactly what he’s about to say. Such is life in the Twitter era, when trade breakers often scoop the league commissioner by several minutes on draft day and have the details of every deal worked out before he so much as steps foot on stage.
Nevertheless, there are few things as exciting as draft-day deals, of which there could be at least a few on Friday night. Over the past few weeks, and particularly in the days leading up to Friday’s first round, there has been an increasing number of rumors and reports about who is available, what the asking price might be and how a team could go about prying a prized player away from his current team.
So, who moves on draft day? It’s anyone’s guess. But before the proceedings begin Friday night, here are four potential trades that teams should explore:
EDMONTON ENDS PULJUJARVI SAGA
Carolina Hurricanes receive: Jesse Puljujarvi
Edmonton Oilers receive: Julien Gauthier
Earlier this off-season, we could have been convinced that Puljujarvi was bound for the Oilers’ roster next season, that something could get worked out and he’d remain. But, uh, yeah, that’s not going to happen. He’s made it clear it’s anywhere-but-Edmonton, going so far as to keep his European options open if the Oilers decide not to trade him. At this point, though, there’s nothing to be gained by holding onto Puljujarvi any longer than you have to. The Hurricanes have long seemed a potential fit, particularly given their top-end Finns could help their compatriot feel at home in a way he hasn’t been able to in the NHL. That said, Carolina will have to give something to get something, and Gauthier feels like the right price. He had himself a nice 27-goal, 41-point campaign in the AHL with the Calder Cup-winning Charlotte Checkers, but he’s been passed by others in the Hurricanes’ system, including Martin Necas and Janne Kuokkanen. There’s upside-for-upside here, even if Gauthier’s is slightly lower than Puljujarvi’s.
BARRIE PACKS BAGS FOR VANCOUVER
Vancouver Canucks receive: Tyson Barrie, 16th-overall pick
Colorado Avalanche receives: 10th-overall pick, Jake Virtanen
This wasn’t pulled out of thin air. It’s something that’s been discussed at length on social media. So, don’t shoot the messenger on this one. The others? Maybe. But not this one.
It is a deal that makes some sense, though. Colorado moves up into the real meat of the draft with a shot at someone like Cole Caufield, Peyton Krebs or Alex Newhook if they’re after a forward, and the opportunity to land Philip Broberg, Victor Soderstrom or Moritz Seider if it’s a defenseman that the Avalanche desire. (Albeit, Soderstrom or Seider would be reaches.) Meanwhile, the Canucks get a top-pairing defenseman who can replace Chris Tanev, who is reportedly on the block.
One note, too: some are of the mind moving Barrie makes no sense, but Colorado GM Joe Sakic has to keep a few things in mind. First, Barrie has the opportunity to command a big payday next summer, and though the Avalanche have the cap space, it might be Barrie’s preference to test the market. An offensive-minded right-handed rearguard is going to draw serious interest, and nothing Colorado does might be enough to convince him to stay. Second, Barrie could become a redundancy in short order, particularly if Cale Makar’s post-season performance is at all indicative of what he’s going to be capable of as a rookie next season. And third, the expansion draft isn’t far off. If Barrie is retained on a long-term deal, he’s likely to end up exposed given the Avalanche are required to protect Erik Johnson, who has a no-movement clause, and are all-but-guaranteed to protect Makar and Samuel Girard. Move on now instead of losing Barrie for nothing later.
WILD, ZUCKER FINALLY SPLIT
Calgary Flames receive: Jason Zucker, Joel Eriksson-Ek
Minnesota Wild receive: Sam Bennett, Michal Frolik
The Wild have seen not one, but two attempts to trade Zucker blow up in their faces, and given it’s so evident that Minnesota doesn’t have the winger in their plans, it only makes sense to do what they can to send him packing before the season begins. The most recent failed trade was between the Wild and the Pittsburgh Penguins, which was all but done before Phil Kessel vetoed the deal. Here’s an idea, though: why not circle back to the original trade destination, Calgary, and see if a swap can be figured out?
In order to bring in Zucker, money will have to be moved out by the Flames. It was reported earlier this off-season by The Athletic’s Michael Russo that the proposed deal for Zucker included Michal Frolik, and that still seems like a reasonable trade chip that makes the money close. He is in the final year of his deal with a cap hit for $4.3 million, he’s a decent middle-six player and he can be flipped at the deadline for more pieces that can aid in a Minnesota rebuild. To further entice the Wild, the Flames can toss in Sam Bennett, who is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights but is almost certainly third on Calgary’s RFA To-Do List behind Matthew Tkachuk and David Rittich. Eriksson-Ek is the throw-in here, but it levels out the deal and provides a depth replacement for Bennett.
THE TRADE IS TWO-FOR-TWO
Edmonton Oilers receive: James Reimer, Mike Hoffman
Florida Panthers receive: Adam Larsson, Zack Kassian
The Edmonton Oilers have two glaring needs: goaltending and offensive support for its top trio. The Florida Panthers have two glaring needs: defensive help and cap space. This deal meets both needs.
Though Reimer isn’t exactly a top-tier keeper – and maybe a bit expensive for Edmonton’s liking – he’s one of the better options available this off-season and adding him to the mix makes sense if only to give Mikko Koskinen some support. Plus, it’s not as though Reimer’s deal is interminable. It has two seasons remaining at $3.4-million per campaign. The added bonus is that taking on Reimer’s cap hit, which frees up valuable cap space for the Cats, can be the pot-sweetener that helps bring Hoffman to town. Imagine him on McDavid’s wing? It seems like a match made in heaven, so long as he doesn’t have the Oilers on his no-trade list. Meanwhile, the Panthers get Larsson, who has two years at $4.17 million remaining on his deal and a fill-in depth forward in Kassian, who can occupy a middle-six role. The cap savings for the Panthers? Somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.5 million. That will help in the pursuit of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, who are surely at the top of Florida’s list of desires.
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