Top 15 NHL Stars on the Hotseat

Free Agents on Thin Ice

True sports fans have experienced the heartbreak of trades, the sweetness of team loyalty and the slow decline of their favorite aging stars. No matter the sport, franchises and team managers must address the difficult situations of extending a player’s contract, letting them go to free agency or negotiating a lucrative trade deal.

 

Often times in the business of sports, franchises pay for a player’s past rather than what type of production they will receive in the future. Age, luck and longevity are all factors that play a role in how major sports teams are formatted throughout the offseason.

 

No one is safe and that includes some of the biggest stars in the NHL. The hockey world was shocked when Edmonton traded their 2010 first overall pick in Taylor Hall for defenseman Adam Larsson. How about the Shea Weber for P.K. Subban trade? No expert saw that coming either. As surprising as each of these signings have been in recent years, the 2018 offseason will feature a plethora of potential stars on the move. Whether sad to leave or dying to get out of their current roster position, these are the top 15 NHL stars on the move by the end of the year.

  1. Rick Nash

 

New York has been home to one of the most talented goal-scorers in recent years. Nash seemed to find twine every time you looked up. However, the 6-foot-4 power forward turned 33 years old in June meaning age is not on his side. The once guaranteed 30-40 man, now has a difficult time notching 20 goals.

 

Although Nash has a track record of injuries, he still has the ability to find a fairly large contract once the 2018 offseason hits. Currently the Rangers are trying to figure out the best way to put together a solid playoff run and it starts with filling the roster with younger guys. New York has six quality scoring forwards so it would make sense if this was Nash’s last season in the Big Apple.

 

  1. Tobias Enstrom

 

Despite putting up quality numbers as a solid defenseman in Winnipeg, the 2018 offseason may bring a new job opportunity for Tobias Enstrom. The Jets are stacked on the defensive front with Tyler Myers, Josh Morrissey and Dustin Byfuglien meaning somebody has got to go. That someone will be Enstrom, who should be able to cash in on a pretty hefty summer payday.

 

Winnipeg is one of many teams that will be juggling a fragile salary cap with the likes of Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers who are scheduled for well-deserved extensions. As a franchise, the Jets would make a much smarter move by letting Enstrom go and solidifying their youth.

  1. James Van Riemsdyk

Van Riemsdyk has been a great rental piece since 2012 for the Leafs. He has cleared the 25-goal mark three times in Toronto which gives him pretty solid leverage going into free agency next year. The No. 2 overall pick in 2007 had a disappointing start to his career in Philadelphia. Since then, he’s bounced back nicely and seems to be decent long-term fit for the Leafs.

 

From the front office perspective, Toronto will need to decide on what extensions will improve their team in the long run. Although not a top priority, the contracts of Matthews, Nylander and Marner are fast approaching. JVR’s $7 million salary will likely be put on the backburner come 2018. Look for the Toronto favorite to be lacing up with a new team next year.

 

  1. Paul Stastny

 

During his time in Columbus, Stastny was a top-tier center in the NHL. He notched six 50-point seasons and cleared the 70-point mark twice. For St. Louis, Stastny was the key element to building a championship squad in 2012 which never turned to fruition. The 31-year-old was riddled with injuries, leading to an inconsistent time in Missouri. He has yet to tally 50 points during his three years spent in St. Louis, meaning his short time there  may become that much shorter.

 

The Blues are one of several NHL teams desperately trying to sort out their salary cap which doesn’t bode well for the six-foot center. Expect 2017 to be his last season in yellow and blue for Paul Stastny.

 

  1. Evander Kane

 

Evander Kane has been a superstar player in the league with an unwanted amount of collateral off the ice. He was dealt to Buffalo two years ago after rubbing the Winnipeg organization the wrong way. His modest 28 goals and 43 points last season have kept him relevant in trade talks and a player to watch once his free agency hits.

 

Buffalo will take the no-brainer option to resign their superstar in Jack Eichel to a $100 million deal. Add that in with the necessary extension for their goalie Robin Lehner and it’s easy see why the Sabres would be able to let Kane go. The smart move would be to deal Kane for a profitable return by the trade deadline.

 

  1. Tyler Bozak

 

One of the most kept to himself players in the league, Bozark provides irreplaceable leadership and quality production at his position. Although it may be a tough decision to let Bozak go, the Leafs have their sights on exiting the rebuilding stage and making a legitimate run for the Stanley Cup within the next couple of years. It starts with locking down Auston Matthews to a $100 million contract which makes a huge dent in their cap space.

 

The 31-year-old Bozak will easily be a solid fit on the majority of NHL rosters, meaning other teams will offer him more than Toronto by the end of the year. His 50-point average numbers are enough to put him on the move in 2018.

 

  1. James Neal

 

James Neal was a key component to Nashville’s Stanley Cup Final run last year. If it wasn’t for the NHL expansion draft, Neal may very well still be with the Predators. However, NHL’s newest hockey team swooped him up and are hoping Neal can repeat his productive numbers. The nine-year veteran seems to be setup as a pawn in the Knights chess game of foundation.

 

He is a pending free agent and will definitely be looking to come up big on a free agency signing. Alternatively, Vegas may keep Neal as a prime trade piece before the deadline during the current season. If played correctly, the Golden Knights could easily get two lucrative assets in return for the 6-foot-2 left winger.

  1. Patric Hornqvist

 

Patrick played an integral role in the Pittsburgh offense en route to their 2017 title run. Hornqvist was also responsible for the Cup-clinching goal late in Game 6. Despite his clutch performance and reliable 20-goal seasons, Hornqvist may be on the outs from Pitt.

 

The artic birds have just under two and a half million dollars in cap space and a considerable amount of roster spots to fill. Hornqvist is looking at a $6 million contract after the 2017 season which he will likely get somewhere else. After attempting a three-peat title run, expect Patrick to be on the move.

 

  1. Gabriel Landeskog

 

As the No. 2 overall pick in 2011, Landeskog came into the league with high expectations for the Avalanche. He paired well with Matt Duchene as both players have been able to tally 20 goals and 50 points respectively. Unfortunately, it hasn’t added up to a solid playoff run.

 

Colorado’s captain has led the team to a playoff berth just one time in six years. The team and ownership may be thinking of an alternative plan with their future. At this point in the rebuilding process, it may be smarter for the Avalanche to load up on defense in exchange for the gifted left wing.

 

  1. Matt Duchene

 

Following up on our list of NHL athletes on the move, is Landeskog’s teammate Matt Duchene. He has been amidst trade rumors for sometime now, which hints that he will be dealt in the near future. Aside from Landeskog, Duchene is the only other bright spot to an otherwise dismal Colorado squad.

 

The Avalanche are clearly in a rebuilding mode meaning there is tremendous upside in the ability to get key pieces in return. It would be in Colorado’s best interest to stock up on young players and draft picks in exchange for the two studs that headline their roster.

 

  1. Henrik and Daniel Sedin

 

The glorious Vancouver run by the Sedin twins will soon come to an end. It’s amazing that it has lasted this long to begin with as the 37-year-old duo were due for a trade a while ago. Nonetheless, the Canucks kept their precious twins who will go down as some of the best players in franchise history.

 

Hockey is the one of the most physically demanding sports, so players pushing 40 won’t help out your roster very much. It is very unlikely that the Canucks will get much of return for the Sedin twins, however the organization has a decent foundation in several of their younger players. Look for this season to be the last of the Sedin legacy.

 

  1. Josh Anderson

 

A late bloomer in his own right, Anderson’s breakout season last year really put his name on the map. The fourth round draft pick racked up 29 points and 17 goals. With his newfound success, Anderson seems to be letting it get to his head. The 6-foot-3 winger recently requested a trade but both sides were unable to reach a deal.

 

Columbus has plenty on their plate in the next two years when it comes to contract extensions. The Blue Jackets will most likely ink a deal with Cam Atkinson and Sergei Bobrovsky before they even think about a new contract with Anderson. With plenty of depth at the forward position, Colombus would benefit greatly by inducing a trade or letting him go to FA.

 

  1. Drew Doughty

 

The L.A. hockey golden boy is still well within his prime and could contribute greatly to any contending team across the league. Doughty brought home a pair of rings in 2012 and 2014 and took home the gold twice with Team Canada in the Olympics. In 2016 he won the Norris Trophy. Safe to say Doughty is the cream of the crop when it comes to NHL defenseman.

 

The 27-year-old has publicly stated that he doesn’t care who he plays for as long as he can win more Cups. Great attitude in an athlete, but somewhat concerning for a franchise that seems to be in a bit of rebuilding mode. Don’t be surprised if Doughty is involved in a big-time trade before the deadline.

 

  1. Joe Thornton

 

Northern California will always regard Thornton as a sports hero. And for good reason. The gritty center has led the Sharks to the playoffs every year but one since 2005. His recent one-year signing for $8 million is a clear indicator that if the Sharks are unable to take home the Cup, Thornton will sign elsewhere.

 

The 38-year-old seems to have plenty left in the tank and could be a valuable asset to a contending team in the NHL. His 20-year career is still going strong and his intangible leadership qualities could greatly help teams that will be shopping on the free agency market.

 

  1. John Tavares

 

The former No. 1 overall pick by the Islanders in 2009 has lived up to the hype and expectations set out nearly a decade ago. He’s led the team to three playoff appearances and seems to fit nicely with the players that the front office has put around him.

 

As one of NHL’s top superstars going into a talented free agency pool in 2018, Tavares has all the leverage in the world. The Islanders do not seem to be a contending team anytime soon so it makes sense why he would want to leave on a max contract. Rumors have circled that the Leafs and Canadiens are possible destinations but just about any team in the NHL would take him if they could afford him.

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