Dustin Byfuglien (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)
With opening night in the books, it’s time to look forward to some of the top trade targets for the upcoming season. From veteran players looking for their final shot at Stanley Cup glory to potential big-money free agents, a number of interesting names are already in the rumor mill.
With another NHL season underway, here's a look at the NHL players most likely to be dealt by the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes. The 30-year-old Hurricanes is an unrestricted free agent next summer. His production's declined in recent years and the club is rebuilding. If there's no progress in either the Hurricanes' performance or Staal's contract talks, he could agree to be dealt to a contender at the deadline.
Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets. Like Staal, Byfuglien is also a UFA next summer. The usually budget-conscious Jets are deep on defense and could be unwilling to pay a substantial raise for the 30-year-old blueliner. They could place more emphasis on re-signing captain Andrew Ladd. If they're out of playoff contention by the deadline, Byfuglien could hit the trade market.
Kyle Okposo, New York Islanders. Another pending UFA, the Islanders could balk at paying Okposo a substantial raise. He's now skating on their second line, and their depth in promising young forwards could make the 27-year-old winger expendable. The New York Post's Larry Brooks wonders if they might move Okposo in an early-season trade, just like they did two years ago when they dealt Matt Moulson to Buffalo for Thomas Vanek.
Shane Doan, Arizona Coyotes. Doan turns 39 on Oct. 10 and his NHL career is winding down. He's in the final season of his contract with the rebuilding Coyotes. His chances of winning a Stanley Cup are rapidly dwindling. Doan's been very loyal to the Coyotes, but it could finally be time to move on to a Cup contender.
Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes. Recently acquired Eddie Lack is seen as Ward's eventual replacement. Like teammate Eric Staal, Ward is eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. It's doubtful he has a long-term future with the rebuilding Hurricanes.
Tyler Bozak, Toronto Maple Leafs. Bozak was the subject of off-season trade speculation. The rebuilding Leafs will take this season to evaluate the 29-year-old's performance, role and trade value. Bozak could resurface in the rumor mill leading up to the trade deadline. While he's carrying a $4.2-million annual average salary with a modified no-trade clause, his contract should be easier to move than those of Dion Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul.
Jonas Hiller, Calgary Flames. Karri Ramo has taken over as the Flames starter and promising Joni Ortio is knocking on the door. Last month, Sportsnet's Mark Spector claimed the Flames tried to move Hiller at last season's trade deadline and the 2015 NHL Draft. It's only a matter of time before he's dealt, but the Flames might have to pick up part of his $4.5-million cap hit.
James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs. It's obvious the Leafs consider Jonathan Bernier their starting goaltender. Reimer's a UFA next summer and could seek greener pastures. In the coming weeks, he could attract interest from clubs seeking depth between the pipes.
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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