Lyle Richardson looks at 10 players who will be free agents at the end of this season and are likely to appear in rumors throughout 2013-14.
A new NHL season not only brings excitement to hockey fans, but also ramps up speculation over which players will become trade bait.
Here are 10 players eligible for free agency next summer who could feature prominently in this season's NHL trade rumor mill.
Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek. Neither player has rejected the idea of staying in Buffalo, but if the Sabres are out of playoff contention before the February Olympic break, both could be on the move. Given their star status, Miller and Vanek could fetch fine returns for the rebuilding Sabres.
Ales Hemsky. The Oilers shopped Hemsky during the summer, but his $5-million salary and injury history hurt his trade value. A healthy, productive Hemsky would be easier to move before the trade deadline, especially if the Oilers are once again out of playoff contention.
Paul Stastny. He's been a fixture in the rumor mill for several years, but his $6.6 million per season cap hit remains a stumbling block. Given his free agent status next summer, however, Stastny could be shopped later in the season if the Avalanche falls out of the playoff race by March.
Jaroslav Halak. The Blues begin this season with Halak and Brian Elliott as their goalie tandem, but promising Jake Allen outplayed both during the pre-season. With Allen waiting in the wings, Halak could be moved if management loses confidence in him.
Matt Moulson. Since joining the Islanders in 2009, Moulson has blossomed into a reliable 30-goal scorer. Coming off a three-year, $9.4-million contract, he could command considerably more next summer as a free agent. If the Islanders are struggling by mid-season, rival GMs could come calling for Moulson.
Dany Heatley. His value has significantly declined since his glory days with the Ottawa Senators. Heatley will have to accept a significant pay cut from his current $7.5 million (cap hit) per season to remain with the Wild. If an agreement can't be reached, Heatley could hit the trade block later this season.
Mike Cammalleri. Injuries in recent years hampered Cammalleri's production. Despite the Flames being in the midst of a long-overdue rebuild, the 31-year-old winger is open to re-signing. It remains to be seen, however, if he fits into their long-term plans.
Andrej Meszaros. Another potential UFA with a lengthy injury history, Meszaros has been dogged by trade rumors since mid-summer. His $4-million salary makes it tough for the Flyers to move him early in the season, but if he stays healthy, his trade value could increase as the year progresses.
David Legwand. Some Predators fans wonder if this season will be the final one of Legwand's long tenure with the club. He will have to accept a pay cut from his current $4.5 million cap hit to remain in Nashville. Legwand could prove attractive later in the season for clubs seeking skilled depth at center.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays 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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