The dog days of NHL summer are winding down.
Which means it's time to ramp up speculation about who is still (potentially) destined to be traded before fall is in full swing.
Because unless you're Kyle Dubas giving the Pittsburgh Penguins a significant facelift -- that three-team Erik Karlsson swap was a nifty piece of business -- most general managers have been low-key enjoying the post-July 1 holidays without running up their respective phone bills gauging the trade market.
Or we can only assume that's the case given the lack of movement over these past two months and the selection of tantalizingly trade-eligible players just begging to be moved.
Does that put us on track for a frantic start to September?
Before the offseason cottages are closed up and players head to training camps, we're breaking the proverbial big board down (alphabetically!) into bite-sized trade categories -- the ones that should happen, the ones that could happen and the ones that, given the right incentive, would just make too much sense not to happen.
It's like the end-of-summer reading assignment you actually want to do!
The (seemingly) inevitable trades
It's not often a true No. 1 goaltender is available on the trade market.
Hellebuyck could be the exception.
Winnipeg's starter is in the final season of his six-year, $37 million contract (which includes zero trade protection) and reportedly hasn't shown an interest in extending with the Jets long term prior to becoming a UFA on July 1. In that case, Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff must at least explore the option of moving Hellebuyck to pull in players who -- ideally -- improve the Jets' roster now.
Hellebuyck isn't down on the idea of being traded, either, although he has carefully toed the line with public commentary on the subject. When discussing the possibility of a move in June, Hellebuyck stuck to the facts:
"I'm a Winnipeg Jet right now," he said. "And wherever I end up playing -- it could be in Winnipeg -- I'll just give it my all. It doesn't matter where I'm playing, I'm going after a [Stanley] Cup."
The 30-year-old certainly could fetch a fine return for Winnipeg if the right deal materialized. Hellebuyck led the NHL in starts last season with 64 to go with a strong .920 save percentage. He also has a history of handling heavy workloads, appearing in more games (445) and making more saves (12,465) than any goaltender since entering the league in 2015-16. It won't surprise anyone that he wants to be paid like a top netminder, somewhere in the range of a Sergei Bobrovsky (at $10 million per season) or Andrei Vasilevskiy ($9.5 million).
Winnipeg might not be in a full teardown, but it's not primed to be a Cup contender right now, either. If the Jets can get better in the long run by shipping out Hellebuyck now, then Cheveldayoff can't be afraid to pull the trigger on a trade.
The Capitals forward has reportedly asked for trades in the past, and GM Brian McLellan acknowledged an "aggressive" approach at the June entry draft to making a move (or two). So far, McLellan's been unsuccessful in finding a suitable landing spot for Kuznetsov, or his teammate Anthony Mantha (another viable trade piece in the final season of a four-year, $22.8 million deal).
Naturally, Washington does lose leverage in negotiations when it's widely known a player like Kuznetsov wants out. However, the Capitals should be able to net a solid return for their 31-year-old center with redeemable upside.
Kuznetsov is past his heyday, when the Russian produced a career-best 27 goals and 83 points in 79 games during the 2017-18 season. But he is still steady and skilled. He put up 12 goals and 55 points in 81 games last year -- a decidedly down season for Washington -- and with the right team (and in the right role) Kuznetsov could easily add to those totals in 2023-24.
Which brings us to the factor most likely slowing the trade process -- Kuznetsov's contract. He has two years remaining on his deal with an AAV of $7.8 million, plus there's a 15-team no-trade list to grapple with, too. Unless Washington is willing to retain salary, it'll be tough finding a contending club (or one Kuznetsov hasn't vetoed) that's able to shoulder the weight of his cap number.
There's still time, though, and the closer teams get to camp, the more urgency there will be to fill out rosters. That could play out well for the Capitals, who look to be deep into a rebuilding mode.
The would-make-sense trades
Let it be known that Gibson denies having ever requested a trade from Anaheim (his agent released a statement to that effect last month).
However, that doesn't preclude Gibson from actually being moved.
The Ducks are rebuilding, and Gibson is aging. He's midway through an eight-year, $51.2 million contract that comes with a 10-team no-trade list. If Anaheim wants to capitalize on the many years of solid work on Gibson's résumé, now is the time. The 30-year-old took a downturn in 2022-23 (14-31-8, .899 SV% and 3.99 GAA) but was among the NHL's most consistent netminders before last season (Gibson has a career .912 SV% and 2.83 GAA).
Depending on where Anaheim sees itself heading in the next few years, it would make sense to kick the tires on a Gibson trade. It could provide the fresh start both player and team need to reach their fullest potential.
Back in early June, there was a flurry of conversation around Philadelphia about possibly trading Hart. In fact, it sounded like a move might be imminent -- until suddenly, it wasn't.
It's feasible GM Danny Briere had a potential deal he liked in the works that simply didn't make it over the finish line. The devil, as they say, is in the details. But past failure shouldn't deter the Flyers from exploring another trade involving Hart before the start of this coming season.
The 25-year-old goalie will be a restricted free agent in July (with arbitration rights) when his three-year, $11.937 million deal expires. Hart's qualifying offer will be a fairly reasonable $4.479 million. And there's a good amount to appreciate about Hart's game as well -- he produced a 22-23-10 record last year with a .907 save percentage and 2.94 goals against average while backstopping a poor Flyers' team. It's likely Hart's numbers will go up if he's playing behind a more established roster. That could turn him into a trade commodity who, for the right price, spurs Briere into getting another deal for Hart over the hump.
This isn't the first offseason in which Konecny's name has floated around the trade sphere. And for good reason.
The Flyers forward has two seasons remaining on his six-year, $33 million deal. Given where the Flyers are in their rebuild -- Briere has made no secret just about everyone is available for the right return -- their priority is to bring along the next generation of skaters drafted and developed via the Flyers' system. That leaves less room in the long term for players like Konecny -- especially those likely to be gunning for lucrative deals when free agency eventually comes around.
Therefore, Philadelphia would be wise to listen on any offers for Konecny. The 26-year-old is capable of excelling in a top-six or top-nine role while making solid contributions on special teams and would fit nicely within a contender's lineup. Konecny put up 31 goals and 61 points in 60 games last season, and those stats might skyrocket if he was surrounded by the right support.
If Philadelphia can haul in a decent return -- think high draft choice or talented prospect -- then trading Konecny to a team that needs depth to win now (St. Louis? Boston? Even Carolina?) wouldn't be the worst idea.
Here's another hot potato for Cheveldayoff to contend with.
Like Hellebuyck, Scheifele is in the final season of his eight-year, $49 million contract, with UFA status looming in July. And Scheifele has, in the past, publicly questioned where the Jets are headed and whether it's toward Cup contention. If Scheifele isn't all-in on remaining in Winnipeg, then Cheveldayoff should be scoping out interest for Scheifele's services. Unlike Hellebuyck, though, Scheifele does have a modified no-trade clause. That could make a transaction harder to come by -- although not entirely impossible.
Could Scheifele be intriguing as a rental for some club eyeing depth for a deep run this season? Definitely. The 30-year-old remains a highly productive center, producing 42 goals and 68 points in 81 games last season. Scheifele's cap hit, clocking in at over $6 million, could get in the way. That's a large number for some cap-strapped contenders to take on.
The for-the-right-return trades
It's not likely Hanifin will stick with Calgary when his six-year, $29.7 million contract runs out in July. That knowledge should rocket the blueliner up GM Craig Conroy's trade board ASAP.
The 26-year-old is a top-pairing defenseman after all, who's only now entering what projects to be the prime of his career. Hanifin put up seven goals and 38 points in 81 games last season and given his skill set would likely slot in well just about anywhere.
The sticking point is what Calgary can negotiate in return. While the Flames don't want anyone walking away for free this summer, they won't be fleeced in a Hanifin deal. It could be that once training camps are underway -- and possible injuries pile up -- teams will be more willing to open productive dialogues on a move for a player like Hanifin. Calgary can be patient, but Conroy should also be prudent in accepting a decent return if one reveals itself.
Calgary would do well to avoid another Johnny Gaudreau-like situation with Lindholm.
The Flames lost their former top forward for nothing in free agency two years ago. Now Lindholm -- the club's top center -- is in the final season of his six-year, $29.1 million contract, and it's unclear whether he intends to re-sign with Calgary. Conroy has called keeping the 28-year-old a priority, but will Lindholm feel the same about staying as he approaches unrestricted free agency? It's (another) risky gamble for the Flames.
If Calgary gets an inkling Lindholm doesn't see himself in the fold long term, then maximizing his trade value now should be a new priority. Getting that done might require moving a player like Hanifin first to free up some cap space (the Flames have less than zero room at the moment). Difficult, but possible.
One thing is for sure, though: Lindholm would have ample suitors in free agency. He's recently removed from a career-best campaign in 2021-22 (42 goals and 82 points in 82 games) and can pitch in on both the power play and penalty kill.
The Flames might not want to trade him, but Conroy has to be strategic if there's a better-than-good chance Lindholm is ready to move on as a free agent.
There has been all sorts of talk around Carolina trading Pesce if they can't agree on a new contract before next season starts. As it is, the Hurricanes' blueliner is in the sixth and final year of his $24.15 million contract (which includes a 15-team no-trade list) and Carolina wants to know now whether Pesce plans on re-signing.
The Hurricanes stacked their backend, acquiring Dmitry Orlov in free agency, and that will inevitably change Pesce's role on the blueline come fall and beyond. The open market value for a currently 28-year-old right-shot defenseman could be high in July, and Pesce will have every right then to explore his own opportunities.
What will Carolina do with its dwindling chance to cash in on a possible Pesce trade? It's a tricky spot. The Hurricanes are coming off a run to the Eastern Conference finals that they clearly want to try duplicate and improve on in 2023-24. Pesce helps them do that. Is losing Pesce for nothing in July worth retaining him as a short-term asset now? He is, after all, a solid stay-at-home defender who added five goals and 30 points in 82 games a year ago. But of course, Pesce does have some say in where he would land via trade.
One way or another, Pesce can have an impact on Carolina's future -- within the organization or by being moved outside it.