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Insider

Trade intrigue increases as draft nears

5/23/2014

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:

The No. 1 pick, Florida Panthers: Florida GM Dale Tallon told Allen he's already received inquiries from teams coveting the top overall pick, and also voiced his desire to add "a couple of top-notch veteran [defenders]." The question is how Tallon might choose to obtain those veterans and just how talented a blueliner he could get in exchange for the No. 1 pick.

The Canucks, who could use both youth and roster flexibility, could provide one potential partner. The No. 1 pick could hold appeal for a team with scant few prospects of the cornerstone variety. An offer that includes one of their veteran defensemen like Alexander Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Jason Garrison or Dan Hamhuis might be enough to get a conversation started -- assuming any of those four would waive their no-trade-clause, which seem to be a standard component of nearly every recent Vancouver contract. With RFA Chris Tanev growing into a top-four role, the Canucks could certainly afford to part with one of their veterans, particularly if it meant an opportunity to add a potential franchise player with the top pick.

Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks: Kesler may have been the biggest name atop rumor lists around the trade deadline, with many believing Anaheim could be his ultimate destination. Again, with the Canucks seeking to create some cap space and obtain some younger pieces -- and with new GM Jim Benning in place -- there's plenty of motivation to make a move. And short of spinning off the Sedin Twins, Kesler is probably the team's biggest asset. There were also rumors the center had asked to be dealt this season, though his agent subsequently shot that talk down.

Dion Phaneuf, Toronto Maple Leafs: Nick Kypreos tweeted in early May that the Leafs' captain was being shopped to Western Conference teams after Toronto fell short of the playoffs. It would be a surprising turn after Phaneuf signed a seven-year, $49 million extension with the team this past season, but given the high demand for veteran defensemen -- particularly those with Phaneuf's size and heavy shot -- he's likely the Leafs' best trade chip. Phaneuf does have a modified no-trade clause that allows him to submit a 12-team trade list.

Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators: Similarly mentioned in the Kypreos tweet, Spezza may be the more likely player to pull on a different sweater at the start of the 2014-15 season. With just a year and $4 million remaining on his contract (that carries a cap-hit of $7 million) he could present a very tempting target for teams in win-now mode. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch suggests St. Louis and Anaheim as potential suitors. Spezza also has a partial no-trade clause that allows him to submit a list with 10 teams to which he can't be dealt.

Brayden Schenn ... or someone else, Philadelphia Flyers: Facing a cap crunch, it seems certain that the Flyers will need to make a move in order to re-sign Schenn, their talented RFA who averaged half a point a game last season. But could that move be trading him? Ron Hextall's ascent to GM may argue against that course of action, as the former Flyers goalie has a history with Schenn from their time with the Kings, who drafted him fifth overall in 2009. But if they want to avoid exposing Schenn to an offer sheet though they're going to need some flexibility. They have 17 players under contract, with just over $6.5 million in cap space for 2014-15 per CapGeek.

Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers: With the Oilers' rebuilding project starting to rival the Big Dig and the Second Avenue Subway, it might be time to accelerate the process by trade. As Kevin Allen noted, Yakupov is the most likely trade candidate among Edmonton's young and enticing prospects. In exchange for the former No. 1 overall pick, Edmonton GM Craig MacTavish would likely shop for a high-end top-four defenseman to pair with restricted free agent Justin Schultz and prospect Oscar Klefbom.

Teams to watch

Pittsburgh Penguins: The GM search continues, but the need for a roster change was made perfectly clear by the ouster of Ray Shero. Embattled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will almost certainly be discussed as a trade candidate -- though it figures to be a buyer's market for goaltenders this summer, so it could be tough to get equal value in a trade. In his Friday mailbag, Insider's Craig Custance suggested the Flames as one potential new home for Fleury. Should the Penguins opt to re-sign defenseman Matt Niskanen, it could create a log jam at the blueline, with several prospects pushing for playing time. Whatever it is the Penguins are seeking -- scoring depth or young forwards, perhaps? -- they should be able to capitalize on the defensive depth Shero built up for Pittsburgh over the past several drafts.

Washington Capitals: Like their rivals above, the Caps are certainly going to change something on their roster this summer. But what? Defenseman Mike Green seems to be the most likely candidate from the Caps' core to be dealt, but with a crying need for another top-four defenseman, sending Green away would require another such player to come to Washington. And there's also the consideration that Green's stock has plummeted since his days as a Norris Trophy nominee, with injuries and costly miscues as notable as his impressive skating and offensive prowess. Washington could try to cash in on Joel Ward or Troy Brouwer, both coming off strong offensive seasons, but that tandem accounted for a huge chunk of the Caps' secondary scoring, combining for 49 of the 174 goals not notched by Alex Ovechkin. Whoever is hired as the team's next coach and GM will be expected to return to the playoffs next season, which perhaps argues in favor of swapping picks and one or more of the team's younger defensive prospects for a more veteran presence.

New York Islanders: Garth Snow already addressed the Islanders' most pressing need by acquiring the negotiating rights and then signing goalie Jaroslav Halak. That move alone should pay considerable dividends for a team that had the worst save percentage in the league last season. But thanks to the Matt Moulson-Thomas Vanek trade -- which will now send the Isles' 2015 first round pick to the Buffalo Sabres -- it wouldn't be at all surprising to see Snow apply the full-court press to return this team to the playoffs ... and make sure that traded pick falls as late as possible in Round 1. Free agency hasn't been too friendly for this franchise, which makes a trade the most likely option for a significant roster upgrade. Don't be shocked if the team's picks or prospects (the NHL's No. 2 pipeline in 2013, per Corey Pronman) are put in play to bolster the supporting cast around John Tavares as he returns from a knee injury.