Antti NiemiAP Photo/Chris CarlsonThings didn't end so well for Antti Niemi in 2013-14. Might a change of scenery help?
With a vast majority of unrestricted free agents having found a home for 2014-15 in the opening days of the summer shopping season, the primary way for teams to improve between now and opening night is via trade.

While it will be less frenzied than at the trade deadline and the draft, it's worth taking a look at the top trade targets by position. Cap hit information provided is from CapGeek.com, and advanced stats are via ExtraSkater.com. Ages are current as of July 11.

We've looked at centers, top-six wingers and defensemen. Closing out the series, we look at the goaltenders:

1. Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks
Age: 30 | 2014-15 cap hit: $3,800,000 | UFA: 2015-16


Call it a rebuild, call it a re-tooling, the end result is largely similar: The Sharks need a change of direction heading into 2014-15 after another early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs. And some are pointing to the goaltender in order to start that change:

"Antti Niemi had his moments in Game 7, but in the first five games of this postseason he had a save percentage of .882," our Craig Custance wrote following the Sharks' elimination. "In 61 career playoff games, Neimi has a save percentage of .907, which isn’t going to get it done for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations."

The Sharks don't necessarily have a brilliant fallback option on hand if they move Niemi, but perhaps this is a case where a goalie-for-goalie deal would make sense, as it would give each man a chance to get back on track after wearing out his welcome with his incumbent club.
Mike GreenMike Stobe/NHLI/Getty ImagesIs Mike Green the odd man out of the blue-line group for the Capitals?
With a vast majority of unrestricted free agents having found a home for 2014-15 in the opening days of the summer shopping season, the primary way for teams to improve between now and opening night is via trade.

While it will be less frenzied than at the trade deadline and the draft, it's worth taking a look at the top trade targets by position. Cap hit information provided is from CapGeek.com, and advanced stats are via ExtraSkater.com. Ages are current as of July 10.

On Monday, we looked at centers possibly on the move, and on Tuesday, it was top-six wingers; today, we continue with defensemen:

1. Mike Green, Washington Capitals
Age: 28 | 2014-15 cap hit: $6,083,333 | UFA: 2015-16


A funny thing happened after the Caps spent $69 million on two new defensemen in free agency: The team claims to be committed to incumbent Mike Green:

"He’s a good player,” GM Brian MacLellan said. “He had a little bit of struggles with injuries last year. He had an okay year. But we’re hoping to get him back on track, yes."

It's strange to think that a position that was once a major liability has turned to a strength from which to trade, but here we are. Despite scoring a meager (by his early-career standards) 38 points in 2013-14, Green was the Caps' leading driver of possession, with a 51.7 percent Corsi percentage, and a plus-4.6 relative Corsi (which takes into account his work relative to his teammates'). Green's shooting percentage has been a bit all over the place through his career, but it's undeniable that his 5.2 percent rate in 2013-14 was notable for being especially low.

Maybe he turns it around and has a bounce-back campaign in Washington, or maybe he's dealt and has that bounce-back wearing another sweater. Thus far, clubs like the Avalanche and Red Wings have been mentioned as possible landing spots, but they are certainly not the only teams in need of a right-handed shooting blueliner.

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 Evander Kane #9 of the Winnipeg Jets Rich Lam/Getty ImagesEvander Kane is a tantalizing player for the Jets to dangle, if they so desire.
With a vast majority of unrestricted free agents having found a home for 2014-15 in the opening days of the summer shopping season, the primary way for teams to improve between now and opening night is via trade.

While it will be less frenzied than at the trade deadline and the draft, it's worth taking a look at the top trade targets by position. Cap hit information provided is from CapGeek.com, and advanced stats are via ExtraSkater.com. Ages are current as of July 8.

On Monday, we looked at centers possibly on the move; today, we continue with top-six wingers:

1. Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets
Age: 22 | 2014-15 cap hit: $5,250,000 | UFA: 2018-19


As with the first center we profiled Monday, Vincent Lecavalier, Kane is signed through the 2017-18 campaign; however, he's 12 years younger. Kane has been a dynamic player for the Thrashers and Jets, and would certainly fetch a hefty haul in trade. The question is whether the Jets are willing to move him for assets (prospects and picks) that may not pan out as well at the NHL level.

Of course, a promising young center would be more in line with current team needs than a promising young winger, and our Craig Custance reported recently that the Jets are listening to offers on him.

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Rangers vs. Flyers Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesVincent Lecavalier's play for the Flyers in 2013-14 was not in balance with his salary.
With a vast majority of unrestricted free agents having found a home for 2014-15 in the opening days of the summer shopping season, the primary way for teams to improve between now and opening night is via trade.

While it will be less frenzied than at the trade deadline and the draft, it's worth taking a look at the top trade targets by position. Cap hit information provided is from CapGeek.com, and advanced stats are via ExtraSkater.com.

To get things rolling, let's look at the top centers rumored to be on the block:

1. Vincent Lecavalier, Philadelphia Flyers
Age: 34 | 2014-15 cap hit: $4,500,000 | UFA: 2018-19


The first season of Lecavalier in a Flyers uniform went essentially as expected: he wasn't a superstar, but he proved to be a decent source of points (37 in 69 games) and leadership. However, with that albatross of a contract -- and seemingly perennial cap issues -- the Flyers would be open to moving him, as the club gave Lecavalier's agent permission to speak with other teams. One club that popped up in talks was Nashville, who is seeking a more offensive identity under new head coach Peter Laviolette. It was thought by some that those talks were dead after the Predators signed Olli Jokinen, but that's not the case, per the Philadelphia Daily News.

In any event, the Flyers should hope that other teams aren't hip to the advanced stats game, because Vinny's metrics were not good in 2013-14: Despite starting 57.1 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone (third-highest on the team), only 45.3 percent of the shots were at the opponents' goal when he was on the ice (the second-worst mark on the team).

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We are still one day away from the official start of free agency, but the reshuffling of NHL rosters is already underway.

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Well, today's the day. After months and months of pondering the next wave of top talent set to join up with NHL teams, the first round of the draft is set to begin at 7 p.m. ET on Friday night. Will this be the year the "no defenseman at No. 1" streak is broken?

Erik Johnson (2006) was the last blueliner to go first overall, but there is thought that Barrie Colts rearguard Aaron Ekblad could join him in that exclusive fraternity. The Florida Panthers currently hold the first pick, and sure, they could use a guy that could become a high-minutes, every-situation D-man; then again, they could use a lot of things, and we've been hearing for weeks that GM Dale Tallon is open to dealing out of that No. 1 spot, if another team steps up with an offer the Panthers shouldn't refuse (likely chock full of talent already at the NHL level). According to Darren Dreger of TSN, Tallon has been telling other GMs that he has one really good offer for the No. 1 pick, though it's unclear whether "really good" is going to get it done.

Meanwhile, the trade market for veteran players appears to be heating up as well.

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Dan Bylsma looked like a favorite for the coaching vacancy in Florida, but Panthers GM Dave Tallon decided on Canadiens assistant Gerard Gallant over the weekend. With the Vancouver Canucks finalizing a deal with Texas Stars coach Willie Desjardins on Monday, Bylsma is without a gig for next season.

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Forget any talk of East Coast bias. The best team in the NHL resides out west, where the Los Angeles Kings are enjoying their second title in three seasons.

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Dan Bylsma is hardly keeping a low profile just days after being canned as coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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The offseason began a couple weeks earlier than expected for the Chicago Blackhawks, who looked like a team of destiny before Sunday’s overtime ouster at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings.

There is no need for an overhaul, but it could still be an eventful summer in Chicago.

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Trade intrigue increases as draft nears 

May, 23, 2014
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Even as the Stanley Cup playoffs continue, it's hard not to notice several situations that could produce a flurry of trade activity in the early offseason, particularly come the NHL draft.

In fact, Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill told USA Today's Kevin Allen he believes there could be "a lot of moves" made over the two-day draft in Philadelphia.

Allen's article notes seven teams who could be motivated to make a move, including the Florida Panthers, who hold the No. 1 overall pick and the only guarantee of selecting highly touted defenseman Aaron Ekblad. Add in the new GMs for the Vancouver Canucks, Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins (whoever those last two GMs turn out to be), who will likely look to re-shape the rosters that forced out their predecessors, and there should be no shortage of names on the trading block -- and some high profile names at that. Here's a look at some of the most prominent that have popped up recently, starting with one that won't be read until June 27:

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Could the Washington Capitals' slow and methodical search for a general manager finally speed up following the firing of Ray Shero?

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Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NBA have experienced a statistical renaissance in recent years, but the NHL has the reputation, and a well-deserved one at that, of being less willing to embrace the advanced metrics.

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How much is P.K. Subban worth? 

May, 9, 2014
May 9
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It's a rare occurrence when a defenseman is in the conversation for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Stanley Cup Playoffs' MVP, but in 2014 both Drew Doughty and P.K. Subban have placed themselves front and center in any such talk, and Subban could use it to cash in big-time this offseason.

Subban will enter the summer as a restricted free agent for the second time, though likely with a very different result this time around. In the summer of 2012 -- after some tense negotiations with the Habs -- he signed a two-year bridge deal worth a total of $5.75 million. Montreal shouldn't expect any such bargain this time around.

In January, TSN's Bob McKenzie reported Subban would likely seek $8-9 million a year on a new contract, an average that would potentially give him the single largest cap hit among NHL defensemen.

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Could the Washington Capitals be looking to make a big front office splash?

According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, there is “mutual interest” between Ted Leonsis and Wayne Gretzky for the position of president of hockey operations, “which the owner has yet to commit to creating.”

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