Eric Staal (Len Redkoles/Getty Images)
New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic, Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal, San Jose Sharks left winger Patrick Marleau, Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen, Chicago Blackhawks blueliner Trevor Daley and Calgary Flames rearguard Dennis Wideman are all on the trade block.
Heading into the American Thanksgiving long weekend, USA Today's Kevin Allen listed six NHL players most likely to be traded this winter. The candidates are New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic, Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal, San Jose Sharks left winger Patrick Marleau, Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen, Chicago Blackhawks blueliner Trevor Daley and Calgary Flames rearguard Dennis Wideman.
Of this group, the closest to a certainty is Hamonic. The 25-year-old requested a trade during the off-season for family reasons and Isles GM Garth Snow is trying to accommodate him. A Manitoba native, Hamonic's preference is Winnipeg or another Western Canadian NHL city. The Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche are also possible destinations.
Hamonic lacks a no-trade clause, meaning Snow could ship him anywhere. However, the Isles GM wants to do right by the blueliner, who isn't forcing the issue. Finding the right return from one of those preferred Western Conference destinations isn't easy, which explains why Hamonic remains an Islander.
Media speculation suggests the Jets, Oilers, Flames and Wild as the likely trade partners, though Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman also believes the Anaheim Ducks could get involved. Snow reportedly seeks a comparable blueliner in return. Those clubs all have considerable defensive depth.
Snow's asking price, however, makes a deal difficult to do right now. The Oilers reportedly won't part with Darnell Nurse or Oscar Klefbom. The Calgary Sun's Eric Francis claims the Flames won't part with T.J. Brodie or Dougie Hamilton.
Jets blueliners Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers are frequently mentioned as trade candidates. Snow could also have interest in promising Wild blueliner Matt Dumba.
Staal is the next most likely to move. His unrestricted free agent status in July is creating uncertainty over his future with the Hurricanes. If serious contract talks haven't started by the New Year, the 31-year-old could be shopped by the Feb. 29 trade deadline. Staal carries a full no-trade clause, giving him complete control over potential trade targets.
As for the rest, there's less certainty any of them will be playing elsewhere by the end of February.
Marleau is reportedly willing to waive his no-movement clause for the Ducks, Los Angeles Kings or New York Rangers. It's highly unlikely Sharks management ships him to a California rival, while the Rangers lack the cap room to absorb his $6.6-million annual salary. Unless Marleau widens his wish list, he's not going anywhere this season.
Johansen's name popped up in the rumor mill after TSN's Darren Dreger claimed Blue Jackets management was at least willing to listen to trade offers. If they're serious about moving him, however, the asking price will be steep. Johansen's their top-line center and trading him creates a big hole in their scoring lines. Dealing a player of his calibre won't happen this season, if at all.
Daley's name also surfaced earlier this month amid reports the Blackhawks sought a proven top-four defenseman. Signed through 2016-17 at an annual cap hit of $3.3 million, it's assumed the Blackhawks want to move him to create cap room for a new blueliner. That kind of deal could take place closer to the Feb. 29 trade deadline. However, if Daley's performance improves in the coming weeks, it'll remove the necessity of replacing him.
As for Wideman, it's doubtful he gets dealt this winter. The combination of his age (he'll turn 33 in March), salary ($5.25-million cap hit through 2016-17) and no-movement clause should keep him tied to the Flames for the remainder of this season.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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